There's no question that Shiba Inu (SHIB 4.25%) has been one of the biggest winners of 2021. The dog-themed cryptocurrency is up a remarkable 45,000,000%, climbing from just 0.000000000073 at the start of the year to $0.000033 (going from 10 zeros to 4). To express that in simple math, a little more than $2 invested in Shiba Inu at the beginning of 2021 would now be worth $1 million. 

More recently, however, the crypto token has been left in the doghouse. Since its peak on Oct. 28, the SHIB coin has declined 63% as the speculative interest in the token faded. Investors moved on to other cryptocurrencies, and Shiba Inu fell out of the top 10 cryptos by market cap. 

However, there's a good chance Shiba Inu could mount another bull run in 2022. Here are three factors that could push the coin higher again. 

A cartoon dog holding a coin

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Access to the token will expand

There's a direct relationship between access to a cryptocurrency and its value. As a coin becomes available on more exchanges, its price tends to increase with more investors able to own it. The presence on new exchanges acts as a seal of approval.

For instance, Shiba Inu initially surged in May when it was added to Binance and OkEx, and jumped 40% over a two-day span when Coinbase Global (COIN 3.56%), the biggest U.S.-based exchange, announced that it was making the coin available. That addition helped make Shiba Inu go parabolic in October.  

More recently, crypto exchange Kraken added support for Shiba Inu at the end of November, which briefly sent the coin's value up 20%.  

Shiba Inu will likely come to more exchanges in 2022. Robinhood (HOOD 2.88%), which has more than 20 million active accounts on its platform, has thus far resisted calls to make the meme token available. Its crypto chief operating officer, Christine Brown, indicated in November that the company was taking a more cautious stance than some of its peers when it comes to adding tokens. And Chief Executive Officer Vlad Tenev said on the third-quarter earnings call that the regulatory environment was making it difficult to add new coins. But that could change, and adding this popular altcoin (which is any crypto aside from Bitcoin) would seem like a smart business move for Robinhood, especially because the rally in the rival Dogecoin (DOGE 2.25%) in the spring helped drive a crypto boom at Robinhood that quarter. 

2. Whales love it

Ownership of Shiba Inu is highly concentrated among just a few large holders, known as whales. According to research from blockchain analytics website IntoTheBlock, in late October, 70% of Shiba Inu was owned by just eight whales, with one owning 41% of the circulating supply.

Those whales have a vested interest in putting a floor on the value of SHIB, and recently many large accounts have been buying. In the last week, one whale added 2.9 billion SHIB coins to a stake of 31.3 billion coins, with a total value of roughly $1 million, and another one added 6.1 billion coins.

According to WhaleStats, which tracks the top 1,000 Ethereum wallets, Shiba Inu is the leader by dollar value. Although there are no true insiders in crypto, whales are the next closest thing, and their support for the dog-themed cryptocurrency should ensure that its value doesn't disappear.

3. Utility is improving

Like fellow meme coin Dogecoin before it, Shiba Inu has been derided as a joke cryptocurrency with no real utility. Although it's true that much of the coin's value comes from its meme status, the sudden interest generated in the coin has led to increasing utility.

Online retailer Newegg Commerce , an e-commerce company focused on computers and electronics, said last month that it would begin accepting Shiba Inu tokens, and AMC Entertainment Holdings, the world's largest movie-theater chain and a meme stock itself, said it would also accept payment in SHIB. CEO Adam Aron tweeted the news in November, promising that AMC would adopt Shiba Inu in the next two to four months.

Cryptocurrency payments service platform BitPay said on Dec. 9 that merchants in its network could now accept Shiba Inu as payment. Although these are just a handful of businesses, the trend is moving in the right direction and is likely to gain momentum in 2022 -- especially if AMC follows through on its plan, making the coin acceptable at roughly 10,000 theaters.

Volatility is the only certainty

Shiba Inu bulls should be prepared for another wild ride next year as volatility in crypto generally, and Shiba Inu specifically, seems likely to persist. 

Recent history offers another reason to bet on a comeback for SHIB. The coin already mounted a similar recovery after it briefly spiked in May and then crashed 75%. Its October peak was roughly 150% higher than the top in May.   

Although the buzz around Shiba Inu in October has faded, there are a number of catalysts out there that could bring the meme coin back into vogue. Keep an eye on the three drivers above as we start the new year.