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Getting started with crypto

Lesson in Course: Crypto (beginner, 6min )

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency, or crypto, is a new asset class that started with Bitcoin in 2008. Today, crypto represents a whole genre of different investible technologies through various coins.

Beginning the crypto journey 

Let's get a high-level overview of the asset class to determine if it's right for us.

What is cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital currency, often referred to as coins or tokens, used to make all kinds of transactions anywhere and with anyone in the world!

Crypto is very different than our current global cash system of fiat currency because an organization doesn't own crypto. It isn't created or distributed by an organization, like a bank or a country. Instead, crypto can freely flow between any individual without a financial go-between.

This is a big deal because now a third party or the government can't freeze our account, can't dictate what we can buy, and cannot enact monetary policy to tell us how much our money is worth.

For digital currencies to work effectively and securely, we needed a new technology to break away from the dependency of banks and financial institutions. Before investing in crypto, we need to understand the utility behind the technology and the potential economic value.


New technology has enabled us to transact and track ownership in a decentralized manner, without a central authority like a bank or government. We can break down the tech into two components.

  1. The blockchain
  2. The asset of the blockchain

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is the technology backbone that allows cryptocurrencies to be decentralized. It is a digital record-keeping system that keeps information, such as the identities of the parties involved in a transaction, secure and pseudonymous in a way that's shared like a public database or public ledger. 

New information is stored in blocks with finite storage capacity. Once filled, the block is chained to the previous filled block, making a blockchain. Everyone has a copy of this chain or ledger on their computer. A consensus algorithm makes sure everyone has the same transaction information to prevent fraud, like someone forging fake transactions/blocks.  

Keep in mind; not all cryptos are the same. For example, some blockchains are faster, more private, more secure, and more programmable. Bitcoin blockchain was the original technology but has since been improved by other organizations, such as Ethereum, to create more efficient blockchains.

The asset of the blockchain

Depending on the purpose of the blockchain, the tradeable assets can either be coins or tokens. These assets are what we refer to as cryptocurrency.

An example of a coin is BTC (bitcoin), and an example of a token is ETH (ether). While both of these are considered cryptocurrencies, the difference is significant enough to understand why ETH price is going up when BTC price is going down.


Coins are native assets of a blockchain that are meant to act as both mediums of exchange and long-term stores of value. Coins like BTC are typically only used for money we transact. All coins are cryptocurrency but not all cryptocurrencies are coins.


Tokens are units of value developed by blockchain-based organizations or projects on top of existing blockchain networks. Similar to coins, tokens have a monetary value; however, tokens are mostly created for additional purposes, like rewards in an application. Tokens effectively allow blockchains to become the foundation for other organizations to build services. All tokens are cryptocurrency but not all cryptocurrencies are tokens.

It's important for us to be clear of this distinction since many use these two terms interchangeably. By better knowing what we are investing in, we have a leg up compared to other investors.


Here are additional resources for getting started!

This video walks through the fundamentals of cryptocurrencies with Bitcoin:

This video provides a short overview of how cryptocurrencies work but with a little more technical depth:


What is Cryptocurrency?

A digital form of assets on a blockchain that acts as a currency to make transactions anywhere and with anyone in the world!

What is smart contract platform(s) (blockchain)?

Think of a public database or public ledger. They are a record-keeping systems that hold information, like the identities of the parties involved in a transaction or smart contract, secure and pseudonymous in a way that is shared without a central administrator.

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