The ideal balance between risk and reward.
You constantly hear about finding the latest 100, 200, or even an elusive 1000x gem on the interwebs, but are banking on a few killer partnerships and mass adoption of these little-known cryptos to see them go parabolic, only to have them stagnate and fade away.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the idea of BTC and ETH, let alone a few other top-10 cryptos doing a 100x (let alone 50x for the foreseeable future), is quite a stretch; I think we missed the boat on these, but will nonetheless remain solid crypto investments.
What are the alternatives here?
Enter mid-cap crypto assets.
What exactly are these, you may ask? To provide you with an exact definition, according to Coinbase, these are cryptos with a (circulating) market cap between 1 and 10 billion dollars.
Now, to be honest, that’s quite a range, but you get the gist.
As we want to see some serious price returns and don’t mind having a punt (a.k.a. taking on some risk here, I will prioritise those projects/cryptos towards the $1B mark with a solid team backing them, robust use cases, and partnerships (whether current or in the pipeline).
Enough talk; let’s jump into the list.
Stacks (STX) – Market cap: ~$1.31B, currently $0.96, ATH $3.61
Stacks allows smart contacts and decentralised apps to operate on the Bitcoin blockchain. This is achieved by utilising the Stacks layer’s consensus protocol, Proof of Transfer (PoX), which reclaims energy from the Proof-of-Work (PoW) system used by Bitcoin’s blockchain.
As a result, you can have smart contracts on a truly decentralised and highly-secure network such as Bitcoin.
Furthermore, the Nakamoto Release on Stacks accommodates quicker Stacks transactions between Bitcoin (roughly 10-minute) blocks. Even though transactions per second (TPS) are still limited on the base chain (not to mention for other layer 1s such as Ethereum and even Cardano). As technology advances in the coming years, there will be significantly greater throughput (TPS) on the base chain (Bitcoin’s main chain) through the use of a layer 2 (L2) such as the Lightning Network.
Stacks is a game-changer as it overcomes a historical criticism of the original (and still dominant) blockchain — that it lacks smart-contract functionality, something that Ethereum devotees and other altcoin enthusiasts constantly lamented. Now, the former can assist the pioneer crypto in going well beyond the idea of it being primarily/solely used as a digital store of value.
In regards to the token, where does STX fit into all of this? It will be used to cover transaction fees when using Stacks apps, which, in turn, goes to incentivise miners that maintain and update the network. More details, including the latest list of reputable exchanges that offer STX, are available here.
As per the STX price, much of the recent price action (>200% increase over the past two months) appears to have been driven by Bitcoin Ordinals (a.k.a. Bitcoin NFTs).
Ordinals represent a numbering system for satoshis (the smallest unit of Bitcoin, worth 1/100,000,000 BTC) for monitoring, sending and receiving them. On each satoshi, you can store an inscription (like an NFT for Bitcoin), all done on the identical blockchain, with Stacks aiding the process.
I know this is a basic explanation, but the focus here is Stacks, not Bitcoin Ordinals; I will elaborate on the latter in a future piece.
Visit the official Stacks website to see some of the collectibles secured by Bitcoin’s network. Moreover, this resource, with a corresponding video about Web3 on Bitcoin, will provide you with an excellent synopsis of how smart contracts work on the leading blockchain.
The Sandbox (SAND) – Market cap: $1.03B, currently $0.69, ATH $8.44
This community-oriented, blockchain-based online gaming network allows users to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs), buy virtual land and share their gaming experiences and collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain.
In a Medium post on their official page, The Sandbox aims to take on well-established game creation systems, such as Roblox and Minecraft, by providing creators with genuine ownership rights for their work in the form of NFTs.
SAND’s price skyrocketed in late October 2021, shortly after Facebook announced its new focus on the Metaverse, with a subsequent rebranding to Meta Platforms; the token’s price went from less than 80 cents to $8.35 in under a month, with many other Metaverse-related crypto assets benefiting from this hype (MANA is another notable example).
Touching on partnerships, in a tweet from the ecosystem’s co-founder and COO, Sebastien Borget, he announced the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between The Sandbox and the Saudi Arabia Digital Government Authority (DGA) in a conference earlier this month.
It was a true honor to sign our MOU partnership ceremony between @TheSandboxGame and the Saudi Arabia Digital Government Authority (DGA) during #LEAP 2023 conference, and we look forward to exploring, advising and supporting mutually each other in activations of the Metaverse pic.twitter.com/mTBYqlwvUa
— Sebastien 🏞 (@borgetsebastien) February 7, 2023
Other than this, The Sandbox boasts partnerships with musicians Snoop Dogg, Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki; The Smurfs, Care Bears and other kids’ characters; Adidas; video-gaming giant Atari and (reportedly) over 400 collabs to date.
Despite the recent price spike following the Saudi Arabia announcement, here is some food for thought:
– We have limited information (at least publicly available) surrounding the reach of this collaboration and how much involvement The Sandbox will have in this DGA’s broader operations involving The Metaverse.
– To what extent (if any) do we, as the crypto community, celebrate partnerships with (semi-) centralised entities, particularly governments and multinational corporations? Since Web3 is about decentralisation and individual control of one’s data, blockchain-based projects/protocols should be selective when forging new collaborations.
In spite of some reservations, I believe that with time, The Sandbox and other decentralised platforms will benefit from both a rise in the overall crypto market, the growing popularity of the Metaverse, and more people embracing these gaming platforms as an alternative to major centralised ones that exist today.
Check out the Blockchain Council’s guide into The Sandbox and the various aspects of its Metaverse, not to mention the range of related tokens.
Source: The Sandbox press kit
Rocket Pool (RPL) – Market cap: $0.88B, currently $46, ATH $154.73
Rocket Pool is a decentralised staking service that allows ETH holders to delegate their ETH to help run the network and be rewarded with the rETH token; you are continuously staking ETH for as long as you are holding rETH, which can be readily swapped back into ETH.
Before continuing, I am still featuring this here, despite being under the $1B minimum market cap as a “mid-cap”, as the protocol has recently been close to this figure and will most likely exceed $1B MC shortly, once again.
How will Rocket Pool and staking liquid staking derivatives (LSDs)/pools (and their respective tokens) perform after Ethereum’s upcoming Shanghai and Capella hard forks?
Whilst I envisage some initial loss in market share by people being able to directly unstake and withdraw ETH, thus bypassing LSDs, it is worth remembering two things:
– Only 15% (~$28.3 billion) of available Ether has been staked. I am unsure whether this accounts for the $11.55 billion total through LSDs. Assuming it doesn’t, this would still leave more than 75% eligible for staking; watch this figure after the Shanghai upgrade, slated for mid-March.
– As ETH’s price is forecast to increase again and eventually exceed its all-time high of about $4,800 (currently ~$1600)
Additionally, I believe Rocket Pool and other LSD will adapt accordingly to cater for the Ethereum community’s staking requirements and preferences. To clarify, its liquid staking token, rETH, is separate from RPL, the latter being the protocol’s governance token, which plays a role in insurance on the network -> a full explanation here.
I recommend viewing an article I made a few weeks ago, focusing on Rocket Pool and RPL, to get a helpful overview of the staking protocol and crypto.
Polkadot (DOT) – Market cap: $7.03B, currently $6.51, ATH $55.07
Polkadot aims to facilitate communication between numerous apps and services on different blockchains through customised and interconnected parachains. It is touted as a super cross-chain interoperability platform.
Don’t be put off by the relatively higher market cap than other projects listed here; I still see the massive potential. For starters, it, and its testnet chain, Kusama, are ranked 1 and 2 at present, in terms of developer activity over the past 30 days. On a broader scale, Polkadot has consistently ranked well in terms of DA in recent years.
In a blog post last year, announcing the change of guard at the company, Wood reiterated that he would remain the company’s majority shareholder and adopt a new role as Chief Architect.
A quote from this release reinforces his view of ensuring Polkadot’s success in the coming years:
“There are challenges but our biggest challenge is contributing to make Polkadot successful and the Web3 vision real. Björn (new CEO) and team have my full confidence to lead Parity, and Parity will remain the weird home of people who want to build something incredible. The real work is starting now.”
I want to note how he mentions “weird” here. The way I see it, even if Polkadot does not emerge as a leading interoperability platform/blockchain, there is still the prospect of being a pivotal platform to accommodate a specific niche with the broader Web3 realm or transform its focus to another aspect of technology, like IBM over the past 15-20 years.
Besides all this, Polkadot has a 1.3-million strong community of followers (and counting) on Twitter and has remained a prominent (top-20) crypto for years; there is clearly massive support for the blockchain and its digital asset.
Image from Polkadot’s brand hub
Before moving on, I am glad that Dr Wood has decided to remain active with Polkadot (through Parity), even in a different role. I remember when Charlie Lee, the founder and key spokesperson of Litecoin, made the controversial decision to almost all of his holdings of the legacy coin. This led to vast criticism, especially at a time when LTC was near its (previous) ATH that took several years to surpass again.
The Graph (GRT) – Market cap: $1.38B, currently $0.16, ATH $2.84
This project aims to streamline how data are indexed and stored by opting for open and secure networks that verify the data’s integrity. At the time of writing, this is available for public data and will soon cover encrypted private data.
What sets The Graph’s system apart from many conventional systems is that teams can bypass the need to commit considerable amounts of hardware and engineering resources to operate proprietary indexing devices and programs. Moreover, superior security is associated with decentralised systems; The Graph’s transition to a completely decentralised protocol is underway.
Large blockchain and crypto-affiliated entities such as Messari, Sushi and Lido Finance (the leading Ethereum staking pool) use The Graph’s services to run their systems effectively.
In terms of performance over time, Messari has provided a detailed synopsis of The Graph’s quarterly performance throughout 2021 and (up to July) 2022. A promising metric here is the continual increase in subgraphs (both active and in development) on the latter’s mainnet during this period.
I expect this and other metrics to continue improving, and The Graph to experience significant growth this year, partly due to the enthusiasm surrounding big data and AI-linked crypto assets; GRT has frequently featured in several recent pieces, particularly since the launch of ChatGPT.
In terms of The Graph, let alone any similar protocol aiming to aggregate and simplify access to vast swathes of blockchain data, progress in this space will take time. The organisation acknowledges that indexing gargantuan amounts of blockchain info is very complex. For this reason, progress here will take time, extensive coordination and resources to carry this out successfully.
In terms of scalability for this network, it will make use of the L2 scaling solution, Arbitrum, which featured in my list of (mostly small-cap) altcoins with significant potential from a few weeks ago. The beauty of this L2 is that it harnesses the security of Ethereum whilst simultaneously offering quicker transaction speeds at a low cost.
Algorand (ALGO) – Market cap: $1.8B, currently $0.25, ATH $3.56
Moreover, the developers behind the venture recognise the importance of incorporating post-quantum security (something I have previously discussed for other ecosystems) and boosting cross-chain interoperability. This is achieved through Algorand State Proofs.
Aside from its technology, Algorand places considerable emphasis on its green credentials, going beyond carbon neutrality to become carbon negative since 2021 — offsetting more emissions than the network produces. This is done in tandem with ClimateTrade, with more details about Algorand’s approach towards sustainability available here.
A significant partnership announced earlier this month is the cooperation between the Algorand Foundation and T-Hub, India’s leading innovation hub, boasting over 600 corporate partners, including Intel, Amazon Web Services, Meta and Microsoft, to name a few.
This collab is a very clever move, particularly with India’s economic growth potential in the coming years, akin to China’s growth over the past 25-30 years. On top of this, it is set to surpass China in the coming years to become the world’s most populous country, thus tapping into an enormous user base.
I produced an entire piece solely about Algorand, covering what it entails, the ALGO coin, news and partnerships, climate initiatives, and so on, so check it out if you’d like specific details about this project and crypto.
Hedera (HBAR) Market cap: $1.94B, currently $0.07, ATH ~$0.57
Hedera (a.k.a. Hedera Hashgraph) is an open-source, public network and governing body (more on this shortly) for creating and running decentralised applications (dApps), which runs its network using the hashgraph consensus algorithm.
Essentially, in the eyes of some crypto commentators and mainstream media sources, it is, you named it, one of the “Ethereum killers”. However, I definitely would not hold my breath, assuming it will usurp the leading smart-contracts platform.
Anyhow, an important institution behind Hedera is the Hedera Governing Council, which claims to be a “fully decentralized and transparent governing body of independent, global organizations consisting of enterprises, web3 projects and prestigious universities.”
Some renowned names on this list include Boeing, Dell Technologies, Google, IBM, LG, Ubisoft and Standard Bank, with roughly 40 members to date. Each of these is expected to advance the protocol’s innovation, stability and further decentralisation.
Unlike the vast majority of (at least mid to large) crypto projects that rely on blockchain technology, Hedera utilises something else called a directed acyclic graph (DAG). You might be familiar with IOTA and Fantom (FTM), two other DAG-based crypto projects.
In a nutshell, according to this blockchain vs DAG comparison produced by Hedera, the latter is considered more energy-efficient and offers cheaper and faster transaction fees. However, blockchains are usually simpler to decentralise than DAG. Thus, they’re not always fully decentralised. Having said this, there are several centralised blockchains or those that claim to be decentralised but barely are, so the conclusion is not so black-and-white.
With a wide range of use cases across multiple sectors and several high-profile partners with some involvement in this project, this is worth keeping an eye on, particularly as the Web3 space matures and as the entire market eventually experiences a bull run once again.
As with all projects, I recommend reading their related whitepapers or even lightpapers (a concise and simpler version for the former) to grasp what they entail. Besides this, you also have a roadmap to help gauge the project’s general direction and what milestones they’d like to achieve.
I can already imagine the backlash if I spoke highly of The Sandbox without referencing rival project, Decentraland, and its token, MANA.
This ETH-based project is also highly active in the Metaverse and digital-land realm, also benefitting from the Meta Platforms announcement mentioned earlier.
One of its largest partnerships so far this year is with the organisers behind the Australia Open (AO), one of the four annual tennis Grand Slam tournaments around the world. AO recently put out a press release announcing their participation in the Decentraland Metaverse.
Anyone fancy a Taco Bell Metaverse wedding? Apparently, that’s a thing, too, on Decentraland….I guess the opportunities are limitless here, and hopefully, the couple goes on a real honeymoon, not an exclusively virtual one.
All jokes aside, it is still a leading Metaverse-related crypto and is one of the longest-lasting ones. I imagine that it will also benefit from price increases across the broader crypto space, not to mention continuous improvements to Ethereum, on which Decentraland and MANA operate.
I have not included this in the main list as it does not (yet) fall into the mid-cap crypto category. At $561 million circulating MC give or take, there is tremendous upside potential here, as AGIX falls into the general category of AI/AGI cryptos, like GRT.
I will be covering SingularityNET and AGIX in an upcoming Crypto Watch piece; the project is definitely one to watch, as it continues to benefit (at least partly) from the enthusiasm after the launch of ChatGPT a couple of months ago.
Whilst Tezos has flown under the radar compared to other crypto assets in recent years, its community remains active, and developers behind the protocol continue making progress with its blockchain.
Some news that whets the appetite of Tezos enthusiasts was Google Cloud joining the list of Tezos bakers, allowing the tech giant’s cloud customers to help validate transactions and earn staking rewards.
One only has to look at a Tezos news aggregator, or social media feeds to see that this Google Cloud partnership and the one with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a pilot program that will use Tezos to manage records surrounding auto ownership, to see that there is still substantial interest in this project and its crypto.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Cosmos Hub (ATOM)
This interoperability platform still features prominently and regularly in the list of top 10 cryptos based on developer activity (over the last 30 days). Zooming out, the DA has continued increasing over the years, even though its price remains subdued, at least for now, like most assets in the space.
The Interchain Foundation, a core entity behind Cosmos Hub, Cosmos SDK, Tendermint and the Inter-Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC), recently announced its funding overview for 2023 to help progress the Cosmos Hub ecosystem.
In your opinion, which cryptos should have been featured here, or ones that shouldn’t be here?
I will say this straight up, even though haters will conveniently ignore this —These assets (combined) should only represent 15% of your overall crypto portfolio; I would still prioritise BTC and ETH, and to a lesser extent, ADA and MATIC.
As always, do sufficient research from multiple reputable sources before investing in any of these assets covered here.
Let’s not forget something important here: When to take your profits, and how to do so. If any of these were to achieve a 30, 40 or even 50x at some point, you need to think about how much profit to take and how to take it (i.e., straight up cash à USD, EUR, GBP; stablecoins; convert into BTC or ETH, etc.). I touch on this in a recent article.
For today’s list, I have decided to focus on projects and digital assets involved in AI/AGI, The Metaverse, an alternate smart contracts/dApp platform, and one that brings smart contracts to the leading, most robust and (what I consider to be) the most decentralised blockchain in existence, at least for its size.
Whilst I am expecting some surly comments, hopefully, you will give some justification to the general community in terms of why you dislike (dare I say, detest) a particular crypto so much, as opposed to the stock-standard response that “they’re all s**tcoins” or my favourite, a vomit emoji, as your only answer.
Before wrapping up, I would like to draw your attention to a line from an article by Market Research Future:
With most* crypto assets touting the benefits of blockchain tech as part of their project’s architecture, the AI-focused ones would be ticking at least two of the three boxes here, possibly creating even more opportunities in the future than other crypto assets.
*As I alluded to earlier, blockchain technology is a type of distributed ledger technology. Some crypto assets (e.g., HBAR, MIOTA and FTM), rather, their networks, utilise a DAG.
Perhaps I am overstating the significance here; ultimately, many reputable and secure crypto protocols that continue to build major partnerships, boost scalability and offer user-friendly dApps running on their network for cheap transaction fees will still thrive.
Anyhow, let all of that sink in…queue the Elon GIF.
- N.B. None of this is financial advice, and I am not a financial advisor. You are solely responsible for crypto investments, let alone those in any asset class.
- The opinions expressed within this piece are my own and might not reflect those behind any Energy Web or any other entity listed here.
- Just because a crypto is well below its ATH, there is no guarantee that it will eclipse it, let alone return to that number.
- Please do your research before investing in any crypto assets, staking, NFTs and other product affiliated with this space.
- I obtained price data on 28 February and 1 March 2023.
- I hold most of these cryptos, accounting for 10-15% of my crypto portfolio. Hence, their performance will have minimal impact on me, considering that I have non-crypto investments too.
- I received no incentive from companies or entities listed throughout this article to discuss their product.