Nov 11, 2018

Corporate America's blockchain and bitcoin fever is over

S&P 500 executives are dropping blockchain buzzwords less on earnings calls and during presentations to analysts and investors. Analysts are also asking about it less.

Data: Analysis of FactSet corrected transcripts; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: The hype was just that. The odds of a company turning blockchain “headlines into reality” are slim, as Forrester Research predicts.

The prospect of incorporating blockchain technology or cryptocurrency into businesses excited investors and drove up share prices temporarily — just look at Kodak, beverage company Long Blockchain, or Hooters franchisee Chanticleer Holdings — so it's no wonder executives wanted shareholders to know that they too might get in on the new technologies.

  • At the peak earlier this year, “blockchain” was mentioned 173 times, according to an analysis of company transcripts by Axios. The number has since fallen as much as 80%.
  • Bitcoin was never as popular. Dropping that word or “cryptocurrency” was most common in the first quarter of this year — with a mere 68 mentions.

Bitcoin can’t exist without blockchain, but one is clearly less controversial than the other. If you buy the way IBM sells it, the benefits of blockchain in business include "reduced time," "decreased costs" and "alleviated risk."

  • Cryptocurrency, meanwhile, has loud critics plus a reputation for volatile trading.

Two corporate examples:

  1. IBM, which is responsible for over 70 mentions of "blockchain" in the first quarter of 2017, is throwing a lot of cash at the technology, with a 1,500 blockchain-specific staff. It even recruited Walmart.
  2. Then there's technology consulting company DXC Technology. Executives there dropped "blockchain" five times during a May earnings call, without offering any concrete plans of investment. The company hasn't mentioned it in the two earnings calls it has held since then, and did not respond to a request for comment.

Yes, but: That doesn't mean in all cases companies' that bought into the blockchain or bitcoin hype haven't followed through on their announcements.

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