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NYSE-Backed Bitcoin Exchange Snags PayPal & Google Veteran

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:44 PM
Gerelyn Terzo
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:44 PM

The first quarter has come and gone, and there’s still no Bakkt. Nonetheless, the regulated exchange for bitcoin futures contracts, whose backers include NYSE-owned Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and Microsoft, is boldly building out its team. Most recently, they’ve added PayPal and Google alum Mike Blandina as the chief product officer to round out the C-suite. Problem is, there’s no bitcoin futures product to speak of.

Nonetheless, it’s another sign of legacy tech talent leaping into the emerging crypto space. In this case, Blandina is also making a leap of faith considering that the bitcoin futures exchange has yet to physically deliver its first contract.

bakkt nyse bitcoin exchange
Bakkt was originally supposed to launch in late 2018. More than a quarter later, there’s still no launch date in sight for the regulated bitcoin exchange. | Source: Twitter

Mark Yusko: Bitcoin Is ‘From the Fringe’

Blandina is a payments veteran. He boasts experience at leading plays including Google Wallet, where he was engineering director of payments, and as PayPal’s vice president of engineering. He joins a growing executive team at the bitcoin futures exchange that extends to former Worldpay exec Balaji Devarasetty. Bakkt recently poached former Coinbase executive Adam White as its chief operating officer.

Clearly, Blandina brings a lot to the table. But make no mistake — legacy tech needs crypto and the blockchain, not the other way around. The influx of tech talent into the crypto and blockchain space is a testament to the disruption that has taken place. A theme Morgan Creek Capital Management CEO Mark Yusko spotlighted bears repeating:

“Bitcoin didn’t come from JPMorgan or PayPal. It is from the fringe.”

Bakkt: Still No Launch Date in Sight

Something noticeably absent from Bakkt’s hiring announcement was any mention of a launch date for the regulated bitcoin futures exchange. Instead, Bakkt appears to be mired in “regulatory approvals” that are taking far longer than anyone could have predicted. So much for Bakkt’s year-end 2018 launch . Meanwhile, Fidelity Digital Assets is up and running and has drowned Bakkt out as the catalyst for institutional adoption of bitcoin, at least in the short-term.

According to Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler, they’re working closely with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“While we’re not yet able to provide a launch date, we’re making solid progress in bringing the first physical delivery price discovery contracts for bitcoin to the U.S., where price formation will occur in federally regulated, transparent markets.”

Loeffler used to run marathons, and she likens the launch of the “first physical delivery price discovery contracts for bitcoin to the U.S.” to training, saying that “race day is approaching.”

The irony of hiring a chief product officer when Bakkt has yet to launch its physically deliverable bitcoin futures contracts was not lost on Twitter , with one follower saying:

“But there is no product, lmao.”

Another good one was,

“When coffee?”

The latter comment was in reference to Starbucks, which is one of Bakkt’s high-profile backers. Incidentally, Starbucks isn’t interested in adding bitcoin as a payment method but will instead help customers convert crypto to USD. It’s a step.

Bakkt must have confidence in the regulatory green light because they’re hiring.

  • Director of blockchain engineering
  • Blockchain developer
  • Director of security engineering
  • Senior full-stack engineer
  • Mobile developer
  • Software development engineer in test
  • Director of finance
  • Institutional sales
  • Senior Java engineer

When Bakkt does eventually launch, the pain of the waiting game will likely be forgotten.