Overstock Ups Investment in Bitt, Furthering Digital Currency Issuance by Central Banks
Today, Overstock’s Medici Ventures doubled down on its investment in the realm of digital currency for central banks. The additional $3 million dollar investment in Caribbean blockchain-based digital payment provider Bitt.com signals a reaffirmation of Overstock and Medici’s belief in the ability of digital currencies to become the de facto means of payment transactions.
Medici Ventures originally invested $4 million in the Barbados-based fintech company in 2016. At the time of the initial investment, Overstock CEO, Patrick Byrne, stated, “Bitt has a vision for the Caribbean of frictionless mobile cash, beginning with central banks transparently issuing digital fiat which is then exchanged on a blockchain (all under proper regulatory oversight, as with our tØ offering to Wall Street).”
In a recent conversation with Bitcoin Magazine, Byrne reaffirmed his company’s continued belief in that vision. He pointed out the ubiquity of payments in the island nation, citing that people use digital currency for all kinds of purchases at 150–200 stores around the island, even at the fried-chicken restaurant chain Chefette. “You can walk into this charming chain and buy a drumstick with your phone,” said Byrne, “so it's basically mobile banking but it’s not tied to any bank.”
To Byrne, the local utilization and adoption of blockchain-backed digital fiat for small purchases, such as a meal, is a positive signal that the Bitt success could spread to other countries. In late February 2018, Overstock announced Bitt had signed a memorandum of understanding with another Caribbean island: Montserrat.
“As goes Montserrat, so goes the globe,” said Byrne.
Hyperbole aside, Montserrat is technically a British Overseas Territory. “There are other countries behind them … we have ‘central bank in a box,’” Byrne said. “The difference between us and all the other people who say they are doing it … is we are going step by step and taking these steps.” Those steps seem to allow Bitt.com to provide a turn-key solution for central banks to issue new fiat currencies digitally on a blockchain, something Byrne suggested is not being adequately fulfilled by others attempting to provide a similar solution.
By exercising its option to increase its ownership stake in Bitt’s total Class A and B common shares by 8.6 percent in exchange for $3 million in additional funding, Overstock’s ownership stake in Bitt has increased by 8.6 percent.
The new investment underscores what Medici Ventures president, Jonathan Johnson, stated in today’s press release: “[Bitt] has positioned itself as a clear leader in applying blockchain technology to solve real-world problems … Bitt has taken a good idea and grown it into a viable product able to make the financial lives of Caribbean residents easier. We’re pleased to take a larger stake in this forward-thinking company, as it aligns with Medici Ventures’ goals of re-democratizing capital.”
For his part, Bitt CEO Rawdon Adams stated that the “reaffirmation” of his company’s promise by Medici Venture was “a tremendous reflection on the dedication, motivation and execution skills of my colleagues.”
He added, “Bitt is in a unique position to provide the solutions to boost both financial inclusion and overall economic performance through its blockchain-based software. That’s already being recognized by regional governments overseeing economies characterized by large informal sectors, persistently high rates of poverty and expensive traditional financial services.”