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Bitcoin community reacts to Winklevoss public offering plans

Bitcoin community reacts to Winklevoss public offering plans
Tyler Winkelvoss, left, and his twin, Cameron Winklevoss, want to give investors a piece of the Bitcoin virtual currency.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The Winklevoss twins earlier this week confirmed plans to make the first Bitcoin related public offering.

Their plan is for an investment vehicle that will be similar to an “exchange-traded fund” or ETF came with an unusually long list of potential risks.

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For those in the Bitcoin community who are enthusiastic about the virtual currency’s potential to disrupt just about every money-related system in the known universe, the Winklevoss’ securities filing represented a watershed moment.

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But there seems to be a split as to whether that milestone is a good thing or not.

For some, it’s a sign that that Bitcoin is growing up, and ready to take off the Huggies and toddle on its own. Others, however, are worried that if the offering goes sideways or tanks, it could damage the reputation of Bitcoin.

I circled back this week via email with some of the folks I interviewed earlier this year for a story about the Bitcoin conference in Silicon Valley. Here’s a sample of their reactions.

Barry Randall, manager of the Crabtree Technology model on Covestor: Rand says the offering is bad for Bitcoin and its supporters. “Because of the effectively finite number of Bitcoins in circulation (currently and eventually), the ETF will create a demand bubble that will drive the value of existing Bitcoins much higher. This will, in turn, discourage circulation of Bitcoins, reducing its effectiveness as a currency.”

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Jeremy Liew, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners: “What the Winklevoss ETF is doing, if successful, will make it easier for people in the U.S. to buy Bitcoin as an investment. That is good, but not as useful as a compliant U.S.-based exchange would be. It won’t actually create more liquidity for Bitcoin itself. But it is incrementally helpful.”

Michael Terpin, co-founder of BitAngels, a network of Bitcoin angel investors: “We at BitAngels support all efforts to advance and simplify investments in Bitcoins and Bitcoin companies. One can currently buy ETFs on everything from companies making water safer to drink to shorting the Australian dollar. It was inevitable that a fund would come along allowing the average investor to include buying Bitcoins in an ETF format, and the Winklevoss twins have shown an acuity in understanding the the dynamics of this market much earlier than the rest of the financial sector.”

Alex Ferrara, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners: “I think it’s DOA. The SEC is very unlikely to approve this kind of product. A better approach would have been to start with a fund for accredited investors and then expand it to retail investors once Bitcoin demonstrates that it’s here to stay. As for its impact on Bitcoin, I don’t think this matters. It’s no reflection on the Winklevoss twins, but no one in the community seems to be taking this seriously.”

Jon Rushman, Warwick Business School professor and a former manager at BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors (in a news release): “It is not going to help Bitcoin’s quest for respectability to have associations with such thoroughbred vulture capitalists. The less people think of Bitcoin as a ‘get rich quick’ investment, the better its chances of survival. For its own sake, it needs publicity for its qualities as a neutral and universally accessible currency with a transparent exchange rate and immunity from central bank manipulation.”

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