Gemini, the much-anticipated bitcoin exchange led by entrepreneurs and investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, has received approval from the New York State Department of Financial Services to begin serving US customers in 26 states as well as Washington, DC.
First announced in January, the New York-based startup was advertised as a "fully regulated US bitcoin exchange" for individual and institutional customers, one that its founders suggested could growth to become the "NASDAQ or Google of bitcoin".
Gemini said it is now onboarding customers and will officially open for trading on Thursday, 8th October at 13:30 UTC. Transfers to and withdrawals from the exchange will be free, though a charge of 25 basis points the value of every trade will be applied to both buyers and sellers.
The exchange launch coincides with increasing activity in the US bitcoin exchange sector, following Coinbase's entrance into the market in January and itBit's in May. The exchanges have raised $106.7m and $23.3m, respectively, but despite the headstart in the market, Gemini president Cameron Winklevoss said he believes there is room for an improved offering.
Winklevoss told CoinDesk:
"We have seen a lot of inbound interest now that people know we’re an entity, we have a long queue of individual and institutional of people waiting to sign up. I think the demand is there."
At launch, the exchange will feature email and voicemail support, and offer market and limit orders. "We’re starting off aiming to be basic and understandable," he said. It will not offer discounts to new users of the platform, with Cameron Winklevoss suggesting the company was seeking a more elite clientele.
"We’re trying to build a business and we want customers who are serious, not people who are here for a discount. You pay for what you get," Winklevoss said.
New customers of the exchange will need to verify bank accounts through online bank statement verification and answer questions related to their credit history.
Winklevoss stressed that Gemini is seeking to become the most intuitive and easy-to-use exchange for US customers, a feat it has tried to accomplish through visualization.
Exchange users, for example, will be able to observe how their orders might affect the market prior to placing either buy- or sell-side trades.
"We’re running a simulation of other exchange engines in your browser. If you have this order, it will show you the estimated price. Even if you’re buying $50 worth of bitcoin, it will show you something interesting," he continued.
More front and center is the exchange's clean design and cool color scheme, as well as alternative visualizations for buyers and sellers, a small nuance that Winklevoss suggested would better help traders avoid simple mistakes.
"Financial products tend to look wonky and we wanted to try to avoid that altogether. I think you can have a powerful product and have it be very clean and simple," he said.
Digital asset exchange
When asked about the company's long-term strategy, Winklevoss suggested that the exchange has ambitions to move beyond the sale of a single asset, but that this path forward is unclear.
"We’re a digital asset exchange, we happen to be doing bitcoin right now, but we have the ability to incorporate other digital assets," Winklevoss continued, adding:
"There will be digital assets that do things that bitcoin is unwilling or unable to do. It’s a total possibility we will be doing more assets in the future. What those assets are remains to be seen."
Winklevoss suggested that, initially, this would include expanding beyond the ability to handle only US dollar deposits to other fiat currencies. "That’s not something that happens overnight, you have to take approaches in different areas to be compliant," he added.
As for the interest in bitcoin trading, Winklevoss cited the recent macro-economic crisis in Greece as an example of why digital currencies remain a promising asset class despite declines in the price of bitcoin.
"Bitcoin has been behaving like a global macro-economic asset," he said. "Institutions are definitely a focus of our customer base. People who want to trade around global events will be attracted to and using Gemini."
Other initial customers for the exchange, he suggested, would be miners and retail traders.
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