Before becoming CEO of tZERO, you were President of Overstock, a leader in ecommerce and one of the first Fortune 500 companies to accept Bitcoin. When did you first hear about Bitcoin, and what was your initial impression of this technology?
I first heard about Bitcoin in 2013 at a dinner party, and was fascinated by the technology. I did not actually invest in bitcoin until 2014 when I started to learn more about it, which was after Overstock signed a deal with Coinbase to accept it as a payment option.
Could you let us know how you transitioned from being President of Overstock, to CEO of tZERO?
I worked at Overstock for nearly 14 years, holding a number of leadership positions in a variety of functions at the company, including technology, product development, R&D and marketing to name a few. Having studied Computer Science in college, I have always had an interest in technology, particularly artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. When the opportunity arose to become the CEO of tZERO, I could not pass it up. My time at Overstock provided me with a strong understanding of product development, leadership and what it takes to run a business, which cultivated my professional identity as a product-focused leader. As a senior leader at a publicly-traded company, I had deep exposure to capital markets and opportunities for transforming the current ecosystem. I believe that this experience and my interest in innovative technology allowed me to transition the blockchain-based capital markets space without too much difficulty.
Patrick Byrne recently offered his resignation as the CEO of Overstock. How will this impact both tZERO and its parent company Medici Ventures?
As I said in my recent letter to investors, I was sad to see Patrick go. He is the founder of these organizations, however, his resignation has not impacted tZERO and Medici Ventures’ day-to-day operations or the execution of our roadmaps. Jonathan Johnson, who continues to be the Chairman of tZERO’s board and President of Medici Ventures, assumed the role of Interim CEO of Overstock. Jonathan is a great leader and a champion for blockchain and its potential as a contributor to evolution in a number of ecosystems, particularly its application to the capital markets through tZERO. Jonathan and the Overstock/Medici boards are committed to tZERO and our long-term success.
In July the OSTKO digital preferred dividend was announced. Can you explain the rationale behind this and how it will help to onboard new clients to tZERO?
In July, Overstock announced its intention to issue a dividend to its shareholders in the form of new shares of Digital Voting Series A-1 Preferred Stock, OSTKO. A number of OSTKO shares currently trade exclusively on the PRO Securities ATS, operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary of tZERO, and Overstock expects the new dividend shares to likewise trade on PRO Securities ATS. The dividend will be payable at a ratio of 1:10, meaning that one share of Series A-1 will be issued for every ten shares of common stock, Series A-1 or Voting Series B Preferred Stock held by all holders of such shares as of the record date.
This dividend has the potential to introduce tens of thousands of Overstock shareholders to the PRO Securities ATS. In addition, it has brought interest from many broker-dealers that would like to trade such securities, which in turn will introduce all of their clients to our platform. One of our key priorities is to introduce more investors to the platform, and this should serve as a catalyst for enhancing liquidity. The dividend is currently in the process of SEC registration and Overstock is working actively with the regulatory authorities.
Ravencoin was the third cryptocurrency added to the tZERO app. Why Ravencoin?
Ravencoin is one of the fastest growing cryptocurrencies. Additionally, Ravencoin is philosophically aligned with tZERO in making it easy to digitize assets and make them freely tradable. Ravencoin technology allows for straightforward issuance and on-chain transfer of any digital asset, including security tokens, making support for RVN cryptocurrency a natural fit for tZERO’s Crypto app.
PRO Securities is currently conducting due diligence on security tokens that utilize Securitize’s DS protocol, and we are excited about this potential to offer new assets, which will in turn attract new investors. We are aiming to have additional tokens trading by the end of the year.
You’re aiming to launch the first regulated National Security Token Exchange with Box Digital Markets sometime in 2020. Can you share with us some details regarding this partnership, and how it benefits tZERO?
We continue to work with our partners at BOX Digital Markets (BOX) on launching the first regulated national security token exchange through our joint venture, the Boston Security Token Exchange (BSTX), in 2020. With BOX’s experience in building and operating a sophisticated securities exchange and tZERO’s industry leading blockchain technology, we have brought together our organizations’ combined expertise to fundamentally improve the marketplace for digital securities. We continue to make progress and work together to establish a technical and regulatory structure that will be in place ahead of the launch of the exchange.
Where do you foresee digital securities being in five to ten years, and tZERO’s role in this?
Within five to ten years, I expect capital markets to evolve into a blockchain-based ecosystem where not only equities and fixed income on Wall Street will be tokenized, but also other non-traditional assets, such as real-estate, film, art, sports teams, athletes or anything of value. Blockchain technology has great potential to increase transparency, reduce friction costs, enhance regulatory compliance and reform the role of traditional market participants. The average retail investor will have access to the types of assets that were previously reserved for just the wealthy or connected. I see tZERO spearheading the effort of providing a platform for the next generation of asset trading.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about tZERO or Medici Ventures?
Medici Ventures is committed to advancing companies focused on blockchain technology, and tZERO is the crown jewel of Medici Ventures’s global keiretsu of companies. At tZERO, we continue to work toward our vision of creating a robust ecosystem powered by blockchain technology for investors to have venues to buy and sell digital assets (the PRO Securities ATS, tZERO’s Crypto App and, once established, BSTX), integrating the technology to tokenize assets (tZERO’s tokenization protocol technology) and establishing direct relationships with customers (subject to our wholly-owned subsidiary becoming approved as a retail broker-dealer).
Thank you for this great interview.
DLT Replacement of ASX ‘CHESS’ Program Delayed
Dating back to 2015, the ASX has been developing a replacement for their ‘Clearing House Electronic Subregister System’, also known as ‘CHESS’. While they have a plan, and it is in motion, the popular exchange has suffered various setbacks along the way.
The latest of which is due to COVID-19. With so much market uncertainty, and workforce disruption arising from the pandemic, many of ASX’s partners are simply not ready. As such, in order to provide, both, themselves and their partners with ample time to ready their systems for the eventual upgrade, ASX has postponed the event.
In their public statement, ASX clearly listed COVID-19 as the reasoning behind this delay, by stating,
“ASX is replanning the CHESS replacement implementation timetable due to the uncertainty created by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic”
This delay will see ASX reconvene in June, to discuss a new launch date for their replacement program. This launch will occur sometime after April of 2021.
In October of 2020, all users of the exchange are expected to be able to begin using the replacement system in a testing environment.
Launched 25 years ago, CHESS is a computer system operated by ASX subsidiary, ASX Settlement. It marked the exchange’s first steps towards electronic shares vs. physical shares. ASX notes that they rely upon this system for two major functions.
- Clearing and settlement of trades
- Electronic registry of shares from listed companies
The system has worked well to date, and will continue to do so until it is replaced. The ASX has noted, however, that they are always looking to the future, and what can be done to streamline operations. The implementation of distributive ledger technology, as a replacement for CHESS, is one of these forward looking moves.
Anticipated Benefits of DLT
While CHESS may have marked a major step forward at the time of its implementation, the 25 year old system has obviously begun to show its age. While fully functional, it simply is not as cost effective, flexible, or quick as what new technologies can provide. The following are a few of the anticipated benefits of DLT, once implemented.
- Clearing Times
- Settlement Times
- Cost Savings
- Reduction in Parties Involved
Once implemented, the ASX will be primed and ready to support what many feel will be a major step forward – the hosting of digital securities.
In addition to outlining the reasoning behind the delay of their replacement for CHESS, ASX Deputy CEO, Peter Hiom, took the time to comment. He stated,
“ASX remains fully committed to CHESS replacement. We continue to progress the project, including system development and testing, supporting back office software developers, and assisting users in their readiness activities. The investments we are making in the new system and in distributed ledger technology are for the long-term benefit of the financial services industry and the Australian economy.”
Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)
Founded in 1987, the ASX operates out of Sydney, Australia. Since their launch, the company has grown into one of the largest full service exchanges in the world. The company describes their full services as including listings, trading, clearing, settlement, tech & info services, and post-trade services.
Deputy CEO, Peter Hiom, currently oversees company operations.
In Other News
The effects of COVID-19 are already widespread across basically every industry. This includes tech, and the world of blockchain. We recently took a look at a few of the various ways the ongoing pandemic is changing the way many operate. Make sure to peruse the following article to learn more.
Binance Adds Tezos Trading Pairs
This week, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, Binance.US, added support for Tezos (XTZ). The addition places XTZ tokens within direct access to millions of traders in North America. As such, analysts predict the move will strengthen XTZ’s market price in the coming days.
News of the addition first came via a social media post from Binance. The post linked to a company blog in which the firm goes into more detail about the maneuver. According to company documents, XTZ trading pairs are active as of Monday, March 16th. Interestingly, the platform allowed investors to deposit Tezos starting the previous day.
Notably, Binance created numerous XTZ trading pairs. These pairs include one stablecoin, BUSD. Additionally, Binance added support for fiat pairs as well. However, the documentation does point out that users will need to complete both AML and KYC security protocols to participate in fiat trades.
Tezos Security Token Issuance
Tezos continues to gain ground across the security token sector. Importantly, the firm managed to secure a bevy of strong partnerships in the industry. For example, XTZ partnered with Latin America’s largest investment bank, Brazil’s Banco BTG Pactual S.A. back in 2019. The deal gave Tezos considerable pull in the region as it involved the tokenization of $1 billion in assets.
Since that time, Tezos continued to gain market positioning due to a combination of technology and networking skills. The company saw heavy media coverage earlier this year after the security token issuance platform Vertalo announced the platform would transition from ETH to XTZ. This decision echoed that of another major player in the field, the German-based issuance platform, Fundament, who also made the switch over to Tezos back in 2019.
One of the biggest partnerships Tezos was able to secure to date was with TokenSoft. TokenSoft is a leading security token issuance platform with a huge clientele base. The partnership significantly expanded Tezos’ market penetration as it was reported that $3 billion in security tokens were added to the company’s pipeline.
Tezos found a home in the security token sector for a number of key reasons. For one, the Ethereum blockchain has certain limitations imposed by its technical aspects. For example, ETH utilizes a Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm. This style of consensus is both expensive and slower than many other options now available in the market. Basically, ETH can handle only 15 transactions-per-second (TPS).
Additionally, ETH-based smart contracts are written in Solidity. Consequently, this programming language doesn’t allow for an easy formal verification process. Also, the decentralized and open nature of the Ethereum blockchain raises concerns about transactions receiving approval from unauthorized locations. Specifically, issuers shared concerns about individuals in sanctioned countries approving US securities transactions.
Tezos eliminates these concerns with a combination of helpful features. For example, Tezos can both create and verify smart contracts directly from the platform. Also, Tezos doesn’t need to perform hard forks to make major protocol upgrades to the system. This feature is important when you consider the shifting regulatory landscape currently in place. Notably, XTZ can create geo-locked regions to ensure no sanctioned regions participate in transactions.
Importantly, Tezos utilizes a Proof-of-Stake algorithm. This consensus mechanism is less costly compared to PoW and unlike other PoS protocols, any stakeholder can participate in the consensus process and be rewarded for contributing
Tezos Advance Security Token Blockchain
Today, XTZ is one of the key players in the STO sector. As more firms choose this protocol over ETH, more developers gain interest in the blockchain. As it stands now, Tezos is set to overtake ETH’s market dominance in the coming months.
ECSE to Enter STO Pilot Program with Blockstation
Another securities exchange, the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE), has seen the merit behind digital securities, and signed a fresh letter of intent (LOI) with Blockstation.
This letter represents an upcoming pilot program, which will see Blockstation act as a service provider for the ECSE.
With Blockstation touting a comprehensive tokenization platform, this means offering a variety of capabilities. It is anticipated that these will allow for the ECSE to support the trading of various assets, such as BTC, ETH, and, of course, STOs.
At this point, it would appear as though the Caribbean has spoken, and made their choice of service provider clear – Blockstation
Each of the following are examples of pilot programs involving Blockstation that have either been completed, are off the ground, or are about to launch.
With regards to the LOI, the ECSE has indicated that they intend to leverage the Blockstation platform, providing their clients with access, but not limited, to the following perks:
- asset insurance
- compliant KYC/AML measures
- SLAP (a Blockstation solution which provides companies looking to host an STO with a streamlined process for creating a prospectus)
Upon announcing this newly signed partnership, representatives from each, Blockstation and ECSE, took the time to comment.
Trevor Blake, Managing Director at the ECSE, stated,
“The ECSE is proud to take a leading role in increasing access to and participation in our securities market through digital assets…This pilot follows the pilot being undertaken by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) of a digital EC dollar (DXCD) that will be the world’s first central bank-backed digital currency, supporting the ECCB’s goal to remove financial frictions, promote financial stability, and expedite growth and development in the member countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).”
Matt Singh, VP of Sales at Blockstation, stated,
“It’s inspiring to see the vision of shared prosperity resonate so strongly in our conversations with the ECSE and financial regulators in the region…We look forward to advancing the ECSE’s goals of leveraging the blockchain to bring transparency, improved security and new economic opportunities to their citizens and global investors.”
Speaking with Marko
In our ongoing interview series, we were fortunate to have recently interviewed the President and CEO of Blockstation, Marko Hafez. In this discussion, we learn more about what Blockstation has to offer, and how they found themselves helping exchanges like the JSE transform the way they operate.
Since being founded in 2015, Blockstation maintains headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Blockstation looks to service and establish the digital securities sector, through their comprehensive tokenization platform.
CEO, Marko Hafez, currently oversees company operations.
Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange
Acting as a subsidiary of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the ECSE maintains operations in the island nation of St. Kitts.
CEO, Trevor Blake, currently oversees company operations.
In Other News
For those that may recognize the ECSE mother company, ECCB, it may be due to recent news of their decision to create a central bank digital currency. The ECCB fully intends to be first to market, globally, with their own digital variant of a central bank issued currency.