It’s no secret that the bitcoin bear market is bad right now. According to some metrics, it’s one of the worst downturns in Bitcoin’s young history. And few sectors of the Bitcoin economy are as harshly affected by current market conditions than miners. But bear markets are precisely when mining winners are separated from losers: The agile and smart teams build and survive as the overleveraged and unprepared teams fall prey to an adverse environment.
One company that has continued to grow, acquire and build through the bear market is CleanSpark, a publicly-traded bitcoin mining company based in Nevada. This article highlights some of the moves this team has made over the past several months, contextualized with a bit of the brutal state of the mining market, making CleanSpark’s planning and execution all the more impressive and notable.
Before continuing, it’s important to note that this article is only for educational purposes. The author compiled this information and analysis to share as market commentary, not any form of advice. The author also owns no shares of CleanSpark nor has any other form of personal financial investment with the company.
The Bitcoin Mining Bear Market
The bitcoin price is down roughly 70% from its record highs. Hash price — the dollar value of each unit of hash rate — is quickly approaching all-time lows. Almost every week, a new headline appears about lawsuits, bankruptcies and more bankruptcies in mining. Miners struggle to stay operational, let alone outperform bitcoin. Almost regardless of the data someone looks at, the current bear market is messy and very much not fun.
Despite all of this, the CleanSpark team continues to grow, buy and build as the next section explains. Priced in bitcoin, shares of CleanSpark are still slightly above where they started the year, according to data from TradingView, despite consistent broader market turmoil — not bad for a bear market.
CleanSpark’s Bear Market Moves
Plenty of mining companies act as “press release heroes” by announcing and planning to grow but often failing to execute on schedule or at all. But since its first foray into the mining sector in December 2020, CleanSpark has since grown to 100 employees and 3 exahashes (EH) of online hash rate, with the hash rate tripling in the past year alone.
CleanSpark has also been on a sustained shopping spree for mining hardware even as market conditions worsened — or perhaps because of this. The company bought 4,500 Antminer S19s last October and 2,597 more the following month. In June, it bought purchase contracts for 1,800 Antminer S19 XPs. In July, the company scooped up 1,060 Whatsminer M30S. In August, it bought 3,400 more Antminer S19s, followed by an additional 10,000 Antminer S19j Pros in September.
CleanSpark has also been closing new deals, partnerships and acquisitions almost every month this year, including $35 million in new financing (April), a partnership with TMGcore (June), a co-location agreement with Coinmint (July), an 86 megawatt (MW) mining facility acquisition in Georgia (August), and acquiring a turnkey mining site from Mawson (September).
And amid all this growth, the company’s sound financials set it apart for having one of the lowest debt-to-equity ratios in the entire public mining sector. Jaran Mellerud, a mining analyst at Arcane Research, said of the company: “CleanSpark's combination of quality and low valuation makes it one of the most interesting bitcoin mining stocks going forward.”
A Brief History Of CleanSpark
CleanSpark represents a unique type of mining company unlike most other teams in this sector of the bitcoin market, namely an energy company that transitioned into a mining company. Founded in 1987 as a software and energy company, CleanSpark started watching the mining industry only in the past couple of years. According to Matthew Schultz, CleanSpark’s executive chairman, the company was performing its diligence on the mining sector throughout 2020 and saw the series of high-profile bitcoin investments from Square, Tesla and MicroStrategy as “further validation” of the legitimacy of the industry. And in early August, it completed its transition from energy to mining by selling its remaining energy assets to “focus completely on bitcoin mining.”
This transition gives CleanSpark a unique perspective on the market and something of an advantage to other mining-first companies that are merging or partnering with the energy industry. For example, CleanSpark knows well the obstacles facing partnerships and negotiations between the two industries, as CEO Zach Bradford said on a mining panel during the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami.
“Nobody knows how to price in that much power for that consistent of a load,” Bradford said, referring to obstacles miners face when structuring deals with power companies.
The End Of The Bear Market
It’s anyone’s guess when the bear market will be over. Miners and everyone else in the bitcoin market could be in for an even longer, more painful period ahead. But mining companies are already separating themselves during the market downturn in preparedness and capitalizing on opportunities in a depressed market. Bull markets are times of celebrations for all the effort put into growth during bear markets. Winners are truly made during bear markets, and this is no truer for any industry than bitcoin mining.
Based on its path thus far, it would seem that CleanSpark has set itself up to be a winner.
This is a guest post by Zack Voell. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.