Bitcoin crorepati Akshay Haldipur, a growth hacker by day, and a recent cryptocurrency crorepati, shares the tricks of his side hustle.
It’s close to noon, and it’s taken a tedious Uber ride for me to reach the Culture Machine office in Goregaon, Mumbai. We’re about to meet their growth hacker, Akshay Haldipur, who has had an impressive run with his investments in cryptocurrencies.
Haldipur owns around 77 bitcoins at present, and also holds stakes in other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, DASH, and Ripple. Thanks to bitcoin scaling to an all-time high, he’s seen more than a 15x uptick in his holdings. We’re about to record a video in which he shares his trading strategies and tools of the trade.
“Well, I come from a background of PEN-testing (penetration testing), and web security. This kind of a thing really excited us back then (2013),” he says. On first impressions, Akshay doesn’t seem to fit the hacker persona — he looks like a guy who can bench press 300 pounds.
“I burnt my ATI Radeon GPU when I first started mining four years ago. Then I realised I should just save some money and buy bitcoins — Akshay Haldipur, cryptocurrency trader”
While Mt Gox no longer exists, bitcoin has survived many such calamitous exchange meltdowns. Last year saw considerable value appreciation for bitcoin, from $400 to $800. By January 2017, bitcoin had breached the $1000 barrier again for the first time in three years.
In March this year, bitcoin was worth more than an ounce of gold
As a cryptocurrency trader, Akshay does most of his shopping from international bitcoin exchanges, as he feels Indian exchanges are not competitive. He routes the money and gets investments done in US markets and cryptocurrency exchanges to get more bang for his buck. “So, for example, if I have to invest in one bitcoin, in a Poloniex, which is a US-centric exchange, it would be close to around $1200, but when it comes to India, it costs around Rs 2 lakh. So, there’s a margin of around Rs 50,000-60,000 because of the premium charges that they (Indian exchanges) consider,” he says.
Akshay does most of his shopping from international bitcoin exchanges, as he feels Indian exchanges are not competitive. He routes the money and gets investments done in US markets and cryptocurrency exchanges to get more bang for his buck
Given their past history, it makes sense for Akshay to remain wary of keeping his money on exchanges. “In the past, portals like Bitfinex and many others out there have got hacked. While you cannot hack into the blockchain… these exchanges are hackable,” he says.
Hong-Kong-based Bitfinex was looted of $70 million worth of virtual currency by hackers in mid-2016, the largest such attack since Mt Gox was hacked for $450 million in early 2014. In May, Bitfinex announced that it had repaid its customers after issuing them IOU tokens.
Akshay recommends turning on two-factor authentication on these sites wherever available and using hardware ledger wallets
Designed like USB dongles, these hardware ledgers help users safely store their private keys. The Czech-made Trezor, a crypto-vault, priced at $99, seems like the one to buy. Its FAQ lays out some of the most disastrous scenarios to a cryptocurrency buyer, from compromised computers and phones to hacked exchanges and servers. “Even if your host PC is compromised, the attacker has no way of getting your private key,” the product literature boasts.
“Well, there are other mobile ledgers as well, called Jaxx, which you could use. This could also act as a ledger for you to save your bitcoins on a hardware level versus just keeping it on these exchanges,” he says.
Beyond the tools of his trade, it takes a certain mindset to invest heavily in cryptocurrencies and stay invested. “Unlike the share market where shares drop overnight, or people sell them off, so they don’t make losses, in this kind of an environment, it’s important not to sell these coins when you see a drop,” he says. He cites the recent example of how bitcoin prices fell to a $1000, and then hit all-time highs, trading at up to $3000 on some exchanges. “Selling bitcoins overnight because you have seen a drop is the most foolish thing one can do,” he says.
“It’s advisable to not put all your bitcoins in one exchange. Diversify them, increase your portals to three or four different types of exchanges” — Haldipur
Deepak Shenoy, founder of Capitalmind.in, a portal that provides investment guidance to beginners in financial markets, is on the fence when it comes to investing in bitcoins. “The risk is not just of a price crash, but also of a government clampdown. But, if you take the risk you might just come out before the bad things hit the fan!” he said, over a private correspondence.
“If bitcoin transactions become the norm, you can bet that there will be demands to tax, monitor, de-anonymise and, in general, make things more difficult for bitcoin owners” — Haldipur
For bitcoin to become as ubiquitous as WhatsApp, it needs to support hundreds of thousands of transactions per second without any transaction fee, Sathvik Vishwanath, co-founder of Unocoin says. “We are not there yet and the infrastructure still needs to scale up,” he adds.
Bitcoin wins hands down over fiat currencies and other payment options in terms of fees, transaction time, and across borders, said Zebpay co-founder Sandeep Goenka. “Bitcoin’s WhatsApp moment will be when a global company like Airbnb or Uber starts accepting bitcoins,” he says.
For Akshay, who is a seasoned crypto-coin trader, none of this really matters. It’s all about finding a good bargain — buying low and selling high. “Each day, and each night you keep finding loopholes to find bitcoins at better rates, and then you can get them withdrawn at a better price.”
Also read: Bitcoins rally in India on the demonetisation move