An Attempt to Short Bitcoin

Analytics & AI / cryptocurrency

It makes me cringe when I hear people talk about investing in cryptocurrency.

I have been successfully investing for 25+ years. This involves understanding fundamentals, having a general awareness of the economy while committing to a lot of safe principles like asset allocation, dollar cost averaging, long term perspectives and, most importantly, a disciplined selling strategy.

In short, I am an investor, not a trader.


Bitcoin’s recent tumble is largely related to regulatory concerns and Google’s ban on advertising.

I view cryptocurrencies as a massive social experiment with the fundamental value propositions still developing. Clearly there is tremendous hype. Beyond the hype, there are stories of people in high-inflation countries exchanging their local fiat currency for crypto as quickly as possible to preserve value. In a geopolitical culture of growing mistrust of governments and institutions, the immutable and pseudonymous transparency of the blockchain, unable to be stopped by a single entity, is compelling.

Bitcoin, presently, is useless as a currency. Why would someone want to spend $30,000 on a car today when that same car could be worth $50,000, or $17,000, tomorrow? Currencies need stability and trust to be useful. Most cryptocurrencies have neither right now.

However, I do like data, big data, AI, and algorithms. The massive price swings, the changes in sentiment, the lack of fundamentals, the 24×7 trading platform and the involvement of tech all make cryptocurrencies compelling to my inner engineer. There is a tremendous amount of raw data available. It all has to be organized and mined.

BTC 1 Year Through March 2018

The euphoria and incredible volatility create a perfect environment for quants trading.

I decided to programmatically trade in the most reputable cryptocurrencies. The first problem was choosing an exchange, and did I want to hold long positions only, or also short positions and do margin trading?

The reputable cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.S. are all regulated, and, thankfully, that means there is some difficulty in shorting Bitcoin.

Most platforms for margin trading, shorting, and derivative trading of cryptocurrencies are not readily available to U.S. investors. Avatrade, BitMEX, IQ Option and Plus500 appear the be the most reputable, but a foreign bank account is required to trade on these platforms and that’s well beyond the effort level that most people desire.

In the U.S., cryptocurrency margin trading can be done at Bitfinix and LedgerX, though you must be an accredited investor to do so. If you don’t know what that means, you aren’t.

The two safest options for trading cryptocurrency in the U.S. appear to be Coinbase’s GDAX and Kraken. GDAX suspended all margin trading for non-grandfathered accounts in late 2017. Kraken appears to be the only platform in the U.S. for regular people to trade cryptocurrency on margin and has a reputation for excellence along with security, though was plagued with technical problems during Bitcoin’s astronomical December rise (possibly now resolved).

For safety and clear and obvious compliance with U.S regulators, I’ve chosen to stay with GDAX, and forego margin trading until the market stabilizes.

If you are still interested in shorting Bitcoin, check out: