By Sheevika Senanayake,
Tron Coin is winning. Priced at just fractions of a cent last November, the TRONIX, or Tron Coin (TRX) token was essentially worthless. Come December, however, and it shot up to a peak of around 25 cents, before sliding back to around 6-7 cents in mid-January. With a market capitalization of around USD 6 billion (similar to Dash) Tron coin sits amongst the top 20 digital assets — inspiring many to ask… well… why?
Part of the answer is the ‘a rising tide floats all boats’ argument which was true for TRON and most other cryptos during December as they all rode high on Bitcoin’s coattails. Another part of the answer is investor confidence in its founder, Justin Sun. Featured in Forbes magazine Asia’s 30 under 30 in 2017 (he’s 27), Sun is the founder of the popular voice streaming Peiwo app, which currently has around ten million followers in China.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he was the chief representative of Ripple China and led the company through its initial round of financing. He claims to be the only millennial attendee at Hupan University — to which he was personally invited, according to Forbes — and was one of the first forty students to receive tutelage under billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
The young entrepreneur is something of a social media sensation and his ultra-positive twitter feed, filled with metaphors of TRON being the David of a decentralized internet versus the mighty Goliaths (a picture of Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister charging Dragon features in one of his posts), further fuels the hype and growing cult of personality which surrounds him.
In terms of TRON’s utility, its proclaimed mission is to ‘heal the internet’ by providing an alternative means of sharing, storing and owning entertainment content online, while cutting out middlemen like Apple, Google, Facebook, and YouTube. A noble ambition, to be sure, but exactly what the content sharing or online storage problem is that TRON would solve isn’t really clear.
TRONIX tokens cannot be mined, and operate under a Proof-of-Stake protocol (vs a Proof-of-work protocol for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin). Although the TRONIX token has had a meteoric rise recently, its whitepaper is clear that its goals are long-term in nature — very long term in fact. Its six uniquely named stages of development (Star Trek, Odyssey, and Apollo for example) extend through until 2027. While an extended roadmap is understandable when funding is tight, Tron’s current 6 billion market cap must have investors hoping Sun and his team will pick up the pace.
To that point, the Tron team is growing — with many new recruits sourced from the Alibaba Group. Former Alibaba Chief Data Mining Expert Zhao Hong, for example, joined TRON in December, while security expert Zhang Anwen, who has worked on systems development for major banks such as Bank of China, CCB, and ICBC, joined in January.
The promotion of big name partnerships is often the impetus behind price spikes, and Tron has certainly been vocal about its latest hookups. The recently announced technology cooperation agreement with Baofeng (which Sun describes as the Chinese Netflix) certainly sounds compelling from Sun’s perspective. “Baofeng Group is one of the best Internet companies and a prominent public company in China. This cooperation reflects Baofeng’s clear understanding of the Internet’s future and its high recognition of [the] TRON project and team.”
Taking more than a cursory look over the media release, though, reveals the agreement is with a subsidiary, Baofeng BFC, which is focusing on building hardware.
Certainly, its CEO Tianlong Cui was somewhat less effusive in his statement about the agreement. “As a large-scale P2P network operator, we know how difficult this network is and how great the technical challenges are. We look forward to the TRON team overcoming the difficulties and launching the network,” he said. Still, Baofeng devices supporting TRON nodes couldn’t hurt, as it aligns well with the company’s future vision and might well help it integrate more quickly into the entertainment world.
Other partnerships, such as one with Singapore’s bike sharing company oBike, are not as easy to understand, however. Apparently, the deal is to develop a cryptocurrency called oCoins to pay for oBike rentals. Depending on certain criteria, oCoins can also be earned by oBike members, and can then be used on TRON sponsored apps, such as Peiwo. Conversely, the system would allow TRONIX holders to use their tokens as payment for oBike products and services. Sure, bike sharing is neat — no argument there — but one does have to ask what its relevance is to a 6 billion dollar blockchain company?
Also throwing some shade on the TRON vision of late is the allegation that major sections of its Whitepaper were actually plagiarized from the IPFS and Filecoin Whitepapers — with no references or citation. Sun’s response that this had occurred due to the English version being translated by volunteers with inadequate language skills didn’t wash with critics either — especially when it was pointed out that the equations and other technical data does not change with language, and they had appeared the same in both versions.
Despite the controversy, however, it appears that at least for now, investors remain bullish about TRON and the entrepreneurial skills of its founder. How long that enthusiasm will last remains to be seen, but with 2018 being touted as the year when many existing ICOs and blockchain projects are going to need to ‘prove it’, the onus is certainly on Sun to deliver on Tron’s huge market cap.
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