Overstock.com, the online retailer that has been one of bitcoin’s most visible supporters among U.S. businesses, has become the first publicly-traded company to issue stock over the Internet, distributing more than 126,000 company shares using the bitcoin blockchain, according to Wired.
Through a subsidiary called tØ, Overstock has spent the past two years building a blockchain-based technology to facilitate trading financial securities.
Overstock Foreshadowed The Offering
The company announced in October that it would allow its stockholders to purchase shares of its preferred stock. The company noted in a press release that it is making the offering to demonstrate its tØ platform, while providing its stockholders the opportunity to participate and trade exclusively using the platform, CCN.com reported in October.
Overstock’s communications director, Judd Bagley during the Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas said that tØ cannot be called a stock exchange for regulatory reasons. Instead, it is a platform for trading widgets. The first use case will be for stocks and bonds.
Company CEO Patrick Byrne has espoused the blockchain as a way to streamline not only stock exchanges like the NASDAQ, but other capital markets.
A ‘Sputnik’ Moment
Byrne called the stock offering a “Sputnik moment.” “It’s not a big Titan rocket. It’s not a moonshot,” he said. “But it demonstrates that we’re live.”
Byrne hopes to license tØ’s technology to outside organizations, including stock exchanges, banks and other financial institutions.
The company also distributed a new batch of shares for trading on the conventional over-the-counter market.
Overstock has been working to reconcile fiat currency with digital currency. It is the first company to solicit qualified institutional buyers in a digital corporate bond which will trade using blockchain technology.
To satisfy regulators, the company drove the blockchain shares through a broker and other middleman that typically accompany a stock offering—yet another sign that this young technology remains a long way from overhauling Wall Street.
Wall Street Takes Notice
Nevertheless, Wall Street has taken notice of technologies that are designed to reinvent the capital markets using the blockchain.
Last December, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and State Street joined Hyperledger, an open source project. Other financial institutions others have joined R3, a blockchain-focused consortium.
NASDAQ, meanwhile, has explored blockchain technology as a way to track the exchange of shares in private companies.
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