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It’s important to put money where your mouth is. Of course, if it is BTC, then putting bitcoin where your mouth is makes all the difference.

The proclamation of former Facebook executive and investor Chamath Palihapitiya that he owns $5 million in bitcoins, around 23,000 bitcoin at current CoinDesk BPI prices, is an exercise in confidence for the electronic currency.

And the fact that he wants to own at least $10 million more shows serious investor interest in a new type of asset class that some critics have in the past considered worthless.

The Winklevii

The Winklevoss brothers, benefactors of an early relationship with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, have been considered some of the biggest investors in bitcoin, but that has been relatively underreported in comparison to Palihapitiya publicly discussing his bullish views of bitcoin.

Business Insider reported back in April that the twins own 108,000 BTC. At recent prices, that’s over $26 million.

No one can say for sure when the Winklevii purchased their hoard of bitcoins, but they’ve probably made off quite well.

The Winklevoss brothers were the keynote at the San Jose Bitcoin 2013 confernce in May. Source: CNN Money
The Winklevoss brothers were the keynote speakers at the San Jose Bitcoin 2013 confernce in May. Source: CNN Money

Their investment in BitInstant, however, doesn’t appear to being doing as well.

That company has had a number of public relations problems, as the decision to include the word “Instant” in the company’s name has proven that actions need to be backed up by words.

At least the Winklevosses are backing up their words with bitcoin actions. But sometimes, their comments can be a bit too much.

For example, the comment that a country could switch its currency to bitcoin is rather far-fetched since that would effectively isolate it from trading partners, North-Korea style.

Chamath Palihapitiya’s stance

There’s no lack of enthusiasm about bitcoin from Palihapitiya, who like the Winkleoss twins has a connection with Facebook, being at AOL and then the social network in it early stages.

Palihapitiya told an audience at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this year that bitcoin is ”everywhere that you have currency pressure, everywhere you want to basically shield your assets.”

“After that, it will probably become a payment mechanism,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY conference, held last April 27-May 1.

But unlike the Winklevoss twins, Palihapitiya doesn’t believe that investing in bitcoin companies is really a good idea, at least not yet. However, he does believe in the asset itself.

"Right now you just want to own the underlying commodity," he told journalist Robert Scoble in an interview.

"Google didn't choose to be in the US dollar business, Google is a business that is amazing that just happens to get paid in US dollars."

"Similarly, I'd rather own bitcoin", than try to find a great bitcoin company, he said. And that makes sense. No one knows right now what will happen with bitcoin in terms of regulation.

It's still very murky water for an investor to wade into. Bitcoin-based businesses may have to shift strategy based on governing bodies and the type of policies they enact on decentralized electronic currencies.

But no matter what happens, Palihapitiya's philosophy is that bitcoin won't have that same type of pivot that bitcoin companies will likely face.

Growing investment interest

Bitcoin prices are reaching a high level once again. There is renewed interest in the currency after a lull during the summer months, particularly in July and a significant drop when Silk Road met its demise last month.

BPI 3 months
The three month chart for aggregated bitcoin prices. Source: CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index

Yet there is resilience, especially in more mainstream investment circles. An executive of Fortress Investments, a hedge fund that manages over $54 billion in assets, has recently become advocate for bitcoin.

“Put a little money in bitcoin,” Michael Novogratz, chief investment officer for Fortress, said at a conference held by the bank UBS. “Come back in a few years and it’s going to be worth a lot.”

There are vehicles for investors to get involved in bitcoin now, a stark difference from last April's bitcoin price bubble when there was very little access to this type of investment.

SecondMarket, for example, which courts accredited investors with verifiable net worth (income exceeding $200,000, a trust worth $5 million, etc.) has been raising money for a bitcoin trust since September.

And the Winklevoss brothers have registered with the SEC a bitcoin trust, an exchange traded fund (ETF) that would be available to the average stock market investor.

It hasn't launched yet, but with the frothy valuation of bitcoin and other virtual currencies as of late (litecoin is currently at vaunted $2.98, according to BTC-E) it seems like the demand for it is there, should anyone be interested.

Litecoin 3 month chart
The three-month chart for litecoin. Source: Litecoin Charts

The price attracts investors seeking a return, but one has to wonder where the top might be.

For those paying attention, volatility is a concern. Bitcoin may be a wise investment, but its not for the faint of heart.

These are the good days, but the price is destined to go back down. All it takes are negative stories about it, sure to come alight as it is used as a tool for a number of things other than speculation.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

BitInstantWinklevossLitecoinChamath Palihapitiya

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