Ether (ETHUSD), the digital currency native to the Ethereum ecosystem, is nearing a $2,000 milestone as more institutional buyers have boosted their positions in recent weeks. One Ether is currently equal to $1,962.09, an increase of more than 22 times compared to a year ago.
"We believe investors are looking to diversify and are growing increasingly comfortable with Ethereum fundamentals," wrote James Butterfill, an investment strategist at CoinShares, in a research note on Feb. 8. The asset manager noted that the total fund flows were "unusually focused" on Ethereum, with 80% of the totaling $245 million allocated to Ethereum.
Grayscale Investment Holdings, the biggest global crypto asset manager, now has 3.16 million Ether under management as of Feb. 18, with Ether accumulation showing the biggest change in its portfolio over the past seven days, according to data compiled by bybt.com.
Institutional buyers, inclusion by companies like PayPal Holdings, Inc. (PYPL), and praise from individual investors like Mark Cuban have helped to make the case for ether. Cuban has said "ETH has an advantage over bitcoin as a store of value," noting he's buying more Ether, not Bitcoin (BTCUSD), in an interview with The Defiant podcast.
That makes sense, as Ethereum is more than just a cryptocurrency by design, allowing for so-called "smart contracts" on the blockchain. "Thanks so Ethereum, a blockchain could be about much more than digital currency," writes Jeff Roberts in his book Kings of Crypto: One Startup's Quest to Take Cryptocurrency Out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street. "It was now also a one-stop shop where people could sign contracts over anything from sports wagers to investment agreements to data storage."
In that sense, Roberts compares Ethereum to an ecosystem like Apple, Inc. (AAPL). "It served as a platform much like what Apple provides developers so they can build apps for its iOS operating system," he wrote. "And unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum offered an easy-to-learn programming language, called Solidity, for anyone who wanted to build applications."
Like any cryptocurrency, Ethereum exposure is not without inherent risk, with some analysts noting that the behavior of top traders at Huobi, Binance, and OKEx may suggest a "lack of appetite for long positions." However, other observers forecast the cryptocurrency's price pushing through to $2,700. Ether is still a relatively new digital currency, and its promise and applications across different industries may take time to unfold.
"Smart contracts on blockchain are real and they remind of the early days on the internet when people realized there was a network effect,” Cuban said, noting that it took 25 years from that early stage of development. "We are right at that point right now where smart contracts on top of blockchain allow people to take anything that's digital and turn into a product and sell it."