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Art by Shane Burke

The Year That Crypto Shattered

Photo: Art by Shane Burke

It really has been a monstrous year for crypto. The sector climbed to stunning heights with check sizes swelling beyond comprehension. But now, a string of blowups—and crypto’s once-wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried charged with wire fraud and money laundering—have plunged markets into a cold and bitter crypto winter. 

The story of 2022 can be told in three chapters. As for what comes next? Investors may be wary of sinking even more cash into the space while they’re still just trying to get money back from bankrupt exchanges and lending companies. Many are trying to figure out if the damage has been done, or if there's another ticking time bomb, which suggests crypto markets are set to languish well into the year near. 

Chapter 1: The Hysteria (January-April)

Four days into 2022, OpenSea’s $13.3 billion valuation set the stage for a crypto craze. Here was a company that was valued at $1.5 billion just six months earlier. But hey, its NFT trading volumes were riding high—so high, in fact, that its 17x sales multiple actually appeared surprisingly low at the time compared to the 300x valuations some startups saw last year. 

Then came FTX. At the end of January, Sam Bankman-Fried served up an appetizer with FTX.US’s funding round at an $8 billion valuation. A few days later, he delivered his main course: FTX’s international exchange had notched a $32 billion valuation. Right around that time is when the flashy funding rounds really started rolling in. Blockchain infrastructure companies Alchemy and Fireblocks raised at $10.2 billion and $8 billion valuations, respectively. Circle, the issuer of USD Coin, said it not only still planned to go public via a SPAC deal, but also that it would be at a $9 billion valuation, twice what it originally said last year. 

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