Crypto is one of the hardest-hit tech sectors by this year’s economic downturn.
But the current market wobble — which has included sweeping layoffs at European companies like Blockchain.com and Bitpanda, and the collapse of several cryptocurrencies like Terra USD — hasn’t put VCs off investing. They still believe it will eventually bring about a financial revolution — or at least some tasty returns.
But what of the people who actually buy cryptocurrencies?
App Radar has analysed how many downloads the top European crypto apps attracted in the first half of 2022, compared with the first half of 2021 (using data from Google Play Store).
The results, shown below, reveal that these ten apps have been downloaded 4.1m times in the first half of 2022 — a 45% drop from the first half of 2021, when they clocked 7.5m downloads.
Only three crypto apps — crypto exchanges Bitstamp, Change and Coinmetro — have bagged a marginal increase in downloads compared to last year.
It may be no coincidence that the apps that saw the biggest dips in popularity have also been struggling with wider company issues.
Bitcoin mobile wallet BRD saw the biggest decrease in user downloads since last year, plummeting by 97% from 1.6m in H1 2021 to 48k in H2 2022. According to market analysts, its BRD digital assets token — “Bread”— is among the top 14% most volatile cryptocurrencies in the market.
Beleaguered Austrian crypto trading platform Bitpanda saw a 65% decrease in app downloads from 563k in H1 2021 to 197k in H1 2022. In June, the company laid off a third of its employees, admitting that it had hired too fast and needed to cut back expenditure amid the crypto market rout.
The UK’s Blockchain.com, meanwhile, saw its app downloads drop 51% year-on-year. The company recently made layoffs equating to 25% of its global staff and has been suffering from the fallout from collapsed crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital in July.
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The professional investor divide
VCs tell Sifted that the cooler economic climate means they’re scrutinising their portfolio companies’ performance even more than usual.
Metrics like user downloads are one of the key stats they’ll be keeping an eye on as a barometer of growth. Of course, an app download does not necessarily translate to engagement and therefore transactions and revenue. But if the number of potential new user transactions is starting to decline, this will spell trouble for revenue growth — which in turn will affect a business’s valuation.
All this doesn’t seem to have harmed overall VC investment into the sector just yet, however.
Last year, VCs poured $2.9bn into European crypto startups, according to Dealroom data, which was a big uptick from the $431m invested in 2020. So far in 2022, the figure stands at $1.9bn — which suggests that by the end of the year investment may be in line with last year’s figure, buoyed amid a wider market downturn by some pretty chunky later-stage fundraises from mainstream VCs.
Retail investors are naturally going to be spooked by the collapse of high-profile cryptocurrencies like Terra USD, or insolvencies from the lenders they relied on for crypto like Germany’s Nuri and US-based Celsius. Although VCs can argue they’re in it “for the long game” and dips are part of a cycle, for everyday investors putting their hard-earned cash on the line it may be harder to retain trust.