Is Starbucks having an ICO?

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Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz raised a few eyebrows when he brought up cryptocurrency during a conference call discussing the company’s latest quarterly earnings. The former CEO told listeners he believes that widely-accepted digital currencies will arrive within the next few years. Schultz also expressed his doubt that bitcoin will be one of them, saying “I don’t believe that bitcoin is going to be a currency today or in the future.”

Schultz joins a group of recent high-profile bitcoin skeptics that includes legendary investor Warren Buffett, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, and J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (who went so far as to call out bitcoin “a fraud” although he later stepped back from those comments). However, unlike many of these skeptics, Schultz’s critique of bitcoin was mostly based on its utility as an actual currency. Regardless of one’s opinion on cryptocurrency in general, this is not a particularly controversial viewpoint. The extreme price volatility of bitcoin and most other digital tokens has severely limited their usefulness for simple, day-to-day consumer transactions like buying gas, groceries, or a cup of coffee.

So, does all this mean that Starbucks is getting ready to dip its toe into the world of crypto? Unfortunately for blockchain enthusiasts, the answer is no. During the call Schultz was quick to clarify, saying “I’m not bringing this up because Starbucks is announcing that we are forming a digital currency or we’re investing in this.” Rather than signaling a desire for internal blockchain investment, the comments were intended to shed some light on the future of the company’s digital payments strategy. Starbucks has already experienced rapid growth in its Mobile Order and Pay service, and current CEO Kevin Johnson revealed that the company has recently been testing a no-cash policy in one of its downtown Seattle locations.

Schultz clearly believes that blockchain will play an important part in that strategy in the future, illustrated by his further comments during the call:

we are heading into a new age, in which Blockchain technology is going to provide a significant level of a digital currency that is going to have a consumer application. And I believe that Starbucks is in a unique position to take advantage of that… We think we have something to offer the companies that are chasing this because we are in a position to create the trusted legitimate place in which this could be accepted and possibly take advantage of the mobile payment digital platform that we have created.

Given the power of the Starbucks brand and the leading role they have played in increased consumer acceptance of digital payments for daily purchases, any blockchain currency that receives their full support would have a huge advantage over competing tokens.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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