Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne sat down with Business Insider’s Sara Silverstein to discuss the company’s ICO – tZERO – passing $US100 million, the tokenization of Wall Street, and what people get wrong about blockchain. Following is a transcript of the video.
Silverstein:Anything you can tell me about tZERO? Any new announcements coming out?
Byrne:Well I can announce that we have – we’re just putting out the announcement. We’ve crossed the $US100 million mark in our security token offering. So it’s now to the public – accredited investors. However, I want to emphasise this is extraordinarily risky – extremely dangerous. The general public should think of coming nowhere close. In fact, most of these ICOs you should stay – get nowhere close to. But ours is very risky – accredited investors only. Even if you are accredited, it should be. But we’re raising $US250 million, finishing up some acquisitions, and building an ecosystem that we intend to challenge Wall Street with. Whether we can pull it off or not, that’s – I just can’t emphasise enough – it’s really risky and make your own decision.
Silverstein:And what is tZERO? Can you explain that?
Byrne:tZERO is the application of blockchain to capital markets or Wall Street. We believe we can, you know, recreate Wall Street on the blockchain. Really eliminate a lot of opportunities for mischief around here. So that’s tZERO. And it’s been in business – we’ve been at it a few years. I think we have a good head start on most people.
Silverstein:So you can only sell an asset once?
Byrne:You can only sell an asset once.
Silverstein:Which makes sense –
Byrne:And you’re selling the asset. You’re not selling someone’s claim, to someone’s claim, to someone’s claim, to someone else who owns the asset.
Silverstein:And what kind of assets would be on tZERO then?
Byrne:Well we issued the world’s – two and a half years ago – we issued the world’s first – it was a blockchain bond. It was a private deal – $US5 million – nothing big. But we tested the system. And then a year ago, we issued the world’s first public blockchain security – common stock. And in the future, you know, I recently saw somebody on Wall Street – somebody notable – said that 100% of the stocks and bonds being issued on Wall Street today could be tokenized and in five years 100% will be tokenized. If he’s right, that means the current architecture and plumbing of Wall Street will obsolete over five years. And what we have – we have had like a three-year run on building up this alt – this new system.
Silverstein:And has it been difficult having a public company – is it easy to just have an ICO and to create a blockchain investment company that’s fully owned by a public company?
Silverstein:How does that work
Byrne:It’s been kind of weird.And four years ago, when I started telling my shareholders, “look I’m diverting tens of millions of dollars to this thing called blockchain and I’m sorry. Trust me this is going to be huge.” And I did hear a lot from shareholders about, you know, isn’t this, you know, we hear bitcoin is about ecstasy dealing and gunrunning and all this stuff. And I kept, you know, if you remember in the late 90s, there were these ads were like the chimpanzee rides into town on the back of a horse. Remember that? I forget what the company was, but a lot of those companies went under. But if somebody had concluded from that, “gee a bunch of these internet companies are going under. This internet thing is just a fad. It’s not going anywhere.” That would have been the wrong conclusion. Similarly, there have been a lot of riffraffy types of elements involved in bitcoin – some good people too. But there have been some criminals and such. Last I checked, there were some criminals who used US dollars, too. But anyway, there was a lot of that kind of element. But that shouldn’t get people to overlook the fact that the underlying technology – this thing called blockchain – is going to remake civilisation as we know it.
Silverstein:And what do you think people get most wrong about blockchain?
Byrne:What they get most wrong is the stuff about, “well doesn’t this amount gox and I heard about these companies went down and I heard about silk road and people, you know, selling ecstasy on the internet and stuff.” And it still suffers from that stigma. And it’s really a shame because that’s just some companies who came into the industry. That’s just – you know, the main event is the technology underlying. Everything that’s going is this new type of technology called blockchain, which you can think of as like a ledger. That is a magic ledger. That people can have copies of the ledger and when you change one place, it changes everywhere. And it’s cryptographically protected and immutable. So we can finally have a version of the truth that is the truth. And we don’t have to depend on third parties to sprinkle holy water on it and say, “yes, this is the truth.” We know that the laws of mathematics have cryptographically protected it. So that’s an application that can apply with which you can disrupt Visa cards, capital markets, land titling, birth and death records. You can disrupt government.
There’s all kinds of aspects of government that can be made foolproof and in a way so there’s no corruption. So governments have started joining, you know, looking into blockchain and saying, “oh, this is great. This is going to get us, you know, complete surveillance of society.” Well actually what it’s going to do is give society complete surveillance of government.
So it’s really – it’s breathtaking in what’s it going to do for the world.
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