Overstock.com could begin first Bitcoin-based stock trades

I’m a stringer for VentureBeat this week at the #Money2020 conference, looking for good stories about blockchain. Here’s one about how Overstock.com is about to offer stock (in itself) via T0, its Bitcoin-based equities trading platform. (Just don’t call it an exchange, even though it is.) Official news announcement to come tomorrow.

Overstock.com could begin first Bitcoin-based stock trades

 Overstock.com has had it with the inefficiency of today’s equity markets, and it’s not going to take it anymore.

The company announced a new blockchain-based platform for trading equities(stocks and bonds) called T0 last year. Today, at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, Overstock.com’s communications director, Judd Bagley, detailed T0’s advantages over traditional equities trading systems and made statements that lead to the conclusion that a company — likely Overstock.com itself — would soon begin selling its stock on the T0 platform.

While other financial technology innovators might tread lightly for fear of offending the Wall Street types they eat lunch with every day, Bagley said Overstock is not going to hold back.

“We’re from Utah. We don’t care. We’re really taking a ‘burn it down and start over’ approach,” Bagley said.

After the panel, Bagley clarified that for regulatory reasons, T0 cannot be called a “stock exchange.” It is, he said, a platform for trading “widgets,” and the first use case will be equities (stocks and bonds).

Bagley did not actually say that stock trading would begin on T0. All he said onstage was that T0 would be in operation some time this year, and pointed to an upcoming Tuesday morning announcement by Overstock.com.

However, circumstantially, it seems quite likely that “being in operation” means trading stock, and that it would likely start with the stock of Overstock.com itself, which started accepting Bitcoin as a payment method a couple of years ago and has received SEC approval to sell stock for Bitcoin via T0.

Overstock.com’s beef with current equities trading processes came about a few years ago, when the company was on the receiving end of some stock market manipulation. Investigating the problem, it found that the trouble came in part because of the complexity of settling trades. This is a complex process that involves many intermediaries and is aimed at ensuring that the transaction is legitimate. However, the complexity introduces vulnerabilities — and also means that trades aren’t fully settled for three days. (After the Trade is Made describes the process in detail, although Bagley said the book is unreadably dense.)

“It shouldn’t take three days in this day and age,” agreed panelist Emmanuel Aidoo, who heads up cryptocurrency and blockchain strategy at Credit Suisse.

By contrast, blockchain-based equities transactions can complete in 10 minutes.

Yolanda Goettsch, a VP and associate general counsel at NASDAQ, begged to differ. “Our markets are very liquid, very efficient,” she told the panel, pointing to the extreme speed of the exchange’s electronic trading system. However, she did seem to acknowledge the three-day span required for full settlement, when it’s necessary to validate that the parties to a transaction have the funds, have the rights to the stock, and are meeting regulatory requirements.

In other respects, all of the panelists agreed on one thing: Banks and exchanges can, and should, take blockchain technology very, very seriously.

“Everybody’s in active trials,” said Jacob Farber, general counsel for R3, referring to financial services companies testing blockchain technologies. “There’s an assumption now that it will be deployed. The question is how and when.”

R3 is a consortium of 75 financial institutions and is building an open-source platform for distributed ledgers, called Corda.

NASDAQ, for its part, is testing a blockchain-based proxy voting system in Estonia, a country noted for its openness to fintech and digital identity technologies.

The panel reflects a broader trend. There’s robust interest in blockchain in the financial services industry, according to a recent study by IBM, which found that15 percent of top global banks plan blockchain products in 2017. Sixty-five percent are planning blockchain products within three years, IBM’s study found. And 80 percent of exchanges are testing blockchain, Goettsch noted.

Updated 10/24/2016 to clarify details about T0 launch.

Overstock.com could begin first Bitcoin-based stock trades

Happy Sukkot.

Today I learned about Sukkot, the Jewish holiday celebrating agriculture and … living in huts? As I was walking up to the pool today I saw a U-Haul pickup with a big wooden structure on the back of it. Coming around, I saw it was open to the back, and there was a semicircle of folding chairs facing the back of the truck. “Putting on a show?” I asked the man standing inside the hut. No, he said — he was there to celebrate the holiday with a few Jewish students from the high school. He was still waiting for them to arrive when I walked by. His hut, I learned, is called a “sukkah,” though I am pretty sure I am both spelling it and pronouncing it wrong. I think I’ve seen them before, but never on the back of a pickup truck, and I told him so.

“Are you Jewish?” he politely asked me, though I’m pretty sure my total ignorance gave me away. “No,” I said. “Well, happy holidays!” he said to me. “Happy holiday to you too,” I said. And off I went to swim.

My takeaway: There is always more to learn about Judaism. And there is no end of useful things you can do with a pickup truck. crossposted from Facebook
October 19, 2016 at 02:48PM

Happy Sukkot.

The South End Rowing Club (review)

The South End (aka SERC) is one of two swimming-rowing clubs that share a building in Aquatic Park, right next to Hyde St. Pier. It’s a terrific group of welcoming, fun-loving people who are into all things aquatic. What’s more, it’s a San Francisco institution, dating back to 1873. Serious history here! Visitors are welcome for a day use fee of $10. Membership is about $400 for a year, which is an incredible deal.

For occasional bay swimmers, the chief attractions are the warm showers and toasty sauna. But once you join, the real benefit becomes clear: It’s a welcoming community with incredible depths of knowledge about the Bay and a willingness to share their experience with any and all.

If you’re have trouble telling the difference between SERC and the Dolphin Club next door, here’s my take:

– SERC’s building is a bit “saltier” (though a new wing is under construction). The Dolphin Club has a prettier interior, with lots of wood paneling and more of a “clubhouse” feel.
– SERC members tend to be a little more wild and fun loving; Dolphins are more concerned with rules and tradition.
– SERC organizes more swims outside the cove (i.e. outside Aquatic Park).
– SERC has a vibrant handball program. I don’t think the Dolphin club offers this.
– SERC was founded by Irish Americans; Jameson’s whiskey often shows up in the sauna after swim events. Dolphin Club was founded by German Americans and doesn’t allow drinks in the sauna.
– It’s easier to join SERC. Dolphin Club only accepts members at specified times.

Both of them have tons of members who are into swimming in the Bay (both with and without wetsuits, but mostly without), kayaking, rowing, and running. Both have excellent athletes in all of those sports. Both have good safety records and take care to run their events responsibly.

I’m biased, as I’m a South End member — but then, I joined because the Dolphin Club wasn’t accepting new members and I didn’t know the difference anyway. Over time I’ve realized that I was lucky to join the group that suits me best. But at the end of the day, both clubs are great stewards of the Bay and Aquatic Park.

crossposted from Facebook
October 17, 2016 at 09:21AM

The South End Rowing Club (review)

Swimming, cold water, and a bunch of awesome veterans.

I was a kayaker this morning for a group of veterans swimming from Alcatraz to SF. It was a great morning… Beautiful, flat water, warm… And a bunch of men and women hauling ass through the water. Including guys missing limbs but swimming just the same. It was pretty cool.

Before the swim I was talking with a vet about the virtues of cold water. In addition to its beneficial effects on the immune system, blood thickness, endorphins, and testosterone levels, I pointed out how cold water swimming really settles my nervous system down. It calms me and levels me out. Now I don’t have PTSD, but the guy pointed out that this effect might be really beneficial for combat veterans, many of whom have stress through the roof. Pretty interesting thought.

He was a photographer for the swim, so he rode in a boat. But he’s thinking about doing the swim next year.

 

crossposted from Facebook
September 25, 2016 at 07:38PM

Swimming, cold water, and a bunch of awesome veterans.