The Joke's On Us - Dogecoin
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most this year is the time to test and experiment with cutting-edge tech and apps. This issue is part of a six-week series focused on emerging tech and my unique purview into the new and innovative. I hope you enjoy it!
Hi All -
Did you manage to catch Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live over the weekend? The billionaire, tech titan, and controversial culture figure took the stage on Saturday and by all accounts did a remarkable job hosting! Of the many anticipated bits was whether Elon would reference Dogecoin. After all, what better venue to joke about a meme crypto than on the preeminent sketch comedy show.
You see, Dogecoin has always been a joke and that’s by design. But, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, in fact, I think it’s extremely undervalued not just in price, but in its power. Here’s why:
Developing a cryptocurrency is easy, maintaining lasting power is hard. Not all cryptos are created equal and there isn’t a perfect formula for success. Bitcoin is one example and has taken over a decade to successfully establish itself as viable digital money. That’s in large part due to people continuously evangelizing it, contributing to the code, the media writing about it, companies building around it, and investors actively trading it.
In the case of Dogecoin, it was developed in 2013 when the concept of crypto was still extremely new and novel. The creator Billy Markus felt that the crypto community was pretty elitist. His goal? “We wanted to make a community that was more fun, lighthearted, and inclusive.” In an attempt to parody bitcoin he chose to create a token based on the most popular meme at the time, the Doge Shiba Inu, and in less than two hours Dogecoin was born.
I first heard about Dogecoin in 2014 when I was living in San Francisco. The community was growing and the number of events throughout the City was staggering. One date even offered to take me to a Dogecoin meetup, but I declined in favor of a nearby wine bar. I really didn’t take Doge seriously until I tried to plan a happy hour with reporters and ran up against an unexpected scheduling conflict - a Doge community event. Very few things took precedence over Uber so that’s when Doge properly got my attention.
That year the Doge Army (as they’ve dubbed themselves) arranged publicity stunts to raise Dogecoin’s profile, gathered funds to send the Jamaican Bobsled team to the 2014 Olympics, and even sponsored a NASCAR driver. For a moment it seemed like Dogecoin had the potential to break out, but for various reasons, its popularity subsided and the focus turned back to the tech unicorns. Suffice to say, I never had to compete for the attention of tech journalists ever again.
Since then, Dogecoin has been used to support charities or as a way to tip on Reddit and other online forums. Very few exchanges support trading, so many early enthusiasts have simply held onto their Dogecoin. For the past eight years, it’s been worth fractions of a penny, but the faith and loyalty of the Doge Army have remained and that’s priceless.
I believe Dogecoin’s community is a key factor in its success and potential longevity. The second seems obvious, but is much harder to achieve and that’s good marketing. Despite not being actively traded or used, Dogecoin has managed to stay relevant years later. The memes of the Shibu Ina still prevail and are widely circulated through crypto forums, Reddit, and Twitter. It makes sense, we love a good joke and Doge encapsulates everything we love about the internet and crypto perfectly. Dogecoin is popular because it’s fun, approachable, and dare I say... cute!
Last summer I had a sneaking suspicion that Dogecoin was going to take off. At Blockchain.com, I had seen firsthand how difficult it was to market new coins and build communities around them. Dogecoin had both - a community of early crypto enthusiasts AND a known brand that had been around for years. I had seen many tokens try and fail to get momentum despite having huge budgets, celebrity endorsements, and the infrastructure in place. It’s really hard. In my mind, Doge had solved the toughest parts and just needed to be considered useful to have “value.” All it would take would be one person or one company using Doge as a legitimate cryptocurrency and then it would be.
I decided to test this theory and over the course of many months of conversations with members of the crypto community proposed a scenario, “what if Elon decided to make Dogecoin the official currency of Mars?” Much Wow! I was not prepared for the pushback I received. People were dismissive, annoyed, even angry, and armed with arguments about why it could and would never happen. I repeatedly heard “Dogecoin is JUST a joke Sarah, it will never be anything else.”
Then something funny happened. In February after a hiatus from Twitter, Elon Musk returned and could not stop talking about Dogecoin. This spun his 54 million followers, crypto Twitter, and the media into a total frenzy. The value of Doge quickly increased by 50% and its popularity and price started to rise. And he hasn’t stopped since, consistently putting out Doge-themed posts, even tweeting on April 1st that he was going to put Doge on the literal moon. At the same time, Elon’s foray into crypto has deepened, with Tesla announcing it’s holding Bitcoin on their balance sheet.
Oddly enough one of the only places where you could buy Dogecoin was on Robinhood, which is how I managed to get some. I’m convinced I would have run into CEO Vlad at one of those early Doge meetups. (Damn! Such a missed opportunity) Mark Cuban even announced that the NBA Dallas Mavericks would accept Dogecoin as a way to pay for tickets and merchandise because “sometimes in business you have to do things that are fun.”
On Saturday, many thought that Elon’s appearance on SNL would be a pivotal moment for the meme crypto, increasing its visibility, in the hopes it would hit $1 for the very first time. It didn’t, and while the price volatility captured most people’s attention over the weekend, something more interesting happened. The following day, SpaceX put out a press release announcing it’s launching the satellite Doge-1 next year for customer Geometric Energy. The choice of Dogecoin as the first crypto in space can easily be viewed as a stunt, but I thought the language used in the press release was more telling. “This mission will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth’s orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce.”
There is a saying that fate loves irony and the most ironic outcome is often the most entertaining one. Elon has often referred to Dogecoin as “the people’s currency” and while today it’s still very much a joke, we will see if eventually, the joke’s on us. In the meantime, I encourage you to embody the Doge motto of “Do Only Good Everyday.”
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