Perth-based BitCar is seeking more than $US20 million ($A26 million) in a cryptocurrency IPO that offers shares in exotic cars such as the Ferrari 250 GTO, Bugatti Chiron and McLaren P1 via a blockchain platform.
Subscribers to BitCar’s initial coin offering (ICO) who are active users of the platform could even be in the running to win a Lamborghini Huracán for “consistently and over a period of time” contributing to the growth of the platform and ecosystem.
Iconic cars can sell for tens of millions of dollars – the $US22 million fetched by a curvy triple Le Mans winning blue 1955 Jaguar D-Type in 2016 was just the third highest price ever paid – and outright ownership is beyond the chequebooks of even well-heeled professionals.
Co-founder Gov van Ek says BitCar is counting on middle income supercar enthusiasts and young tech investors who’ve made money from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to want to park some of their spare wealth in the rare cars.
Even so, the combination of exotic cars and cryptocurrency makes BitCar sound like yet another sign that the market in virtual currencies is getting overblown.
Blockchain – the distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin and leaves an unalterable record of independently verified transactions without any need for a centralised clearing authority – is seen as revolutionary for finance and asset ownership.
The value of cryptocurrencies has swollen to more than $US200 billion – Bitcoin’s value has surged tenfold to $US123 billion in a year – and JP Morgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon says he will sack any employee he finds trading in Bitcoin. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission warns ICOs are riskier than conventional investments because they can be conducted anonymously.
But Mr van Ek said he and co-founder John Bulich are “dead serious” about the project, and owning rare cars is like owning art, only the provenance is easier to prove than with collectible artworks or wine.
He subscribes to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s view that while Bitcoin could correct it won’t crash, because the supply is limited.
“It’s just like an art collection in our view. We don’t see in any way that’s it’s frothy or toppy because it’s an asset class,” he said. “It’s the only one of these collectible asset classes that can not be faked. We thought that was the lowest risk.”
BitCar comes from the same blockchain technology stable as Power Ledger, a blockchain energy trading company that raised $34 million in an ICO last month and has entered the top 100 cryptocurrencies at number 82, and medical startup E-nome.
But in an unhappy twist for Australia’s ambitions to be a regional hub for blockchain and fintech, BitCar’s ICO token sale – unlike Power Ledger’s – will likely be conducted in Singapore because their regulations and tax laws are more accommodating for cryptocurrencies.
Mr van Ek says feedback from Power Ledger’s members reveals they are mostly young, have made a bit of money and are “obsessed with Lamborghinis and Ferraris”.
Mr van Ek says it is great to be able to own a supercar collection outright – the Sultan of Brunei, Ralph Lauren and Jay Leno own large collections which they keep in temperature controlled garages and occasionally put in display.
But for every rich person who can afford to do that there are many who can’t but still want to share in the kudos of part-owning a supercar and the 50 per cent plus capital gains the asset class has achieved over the past decade – which spans the global financial crisis and includes a recent correction of about 13 per cent.
Rare classics such as the Porsche 918 Spyder have more than doubled in price and the Ferrari 1992 F40, 1997 Ferrari F50 and Ferrari LaFerrari have increased in value by four to five times.