The 2008 financial crisis was the most severe economic disaster since the Great Depression, wreaking havoc on big and small investors alike. It first hit headlines with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the largest investment banks in the United States. While economies have largely recovered, many people never regained their trust in the institutions that failed them.
Boulianne says this disillusionment, paired with widespread internet adoption, has elevated cryptocurrencies from a niche technology to a thriving market that topped $3 trillion USD in November 2021. They have also branched into other assets that don’t exist in traditional finance, such as the digital art of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The genesis of blockchain-based currency can be traced to a nine-page paper published in 2008 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the person or people who created Bitcoin.
“The initial intention of cryptocurrency was not to replace the American or Canadian dollar — it was an experiment,” says Boulianne.
“It became a revolution for those who disagree with the established financial system.”
Bitcoin was issued in 2009 as the world’s first digital currency. As of February 2022, more than 10,000 cryptocurrencies have been created, often by companies seeking to raise money through initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Boulianne, along with Melissa Fortin, professor at Université du Québec à Montréal, was the first researcher to study how Montreal-based Impak Finance raised money through a legal ICO with Quebec’s financial regulators providing a fast-tracked “sandbox” system.
“The old, regulated system was very involved, very complicated and took a lot of time. But if you do it unregulated, you could go to jail,” notes Boulianne. “What our research suggests is that there is a possibility to make it legal and work with financial regulators.”