Online retailer Overstock.com has closed the first-ever Series A preferred funding round with shares sold on a blockchain.
Of the total $10.9m raised from existing shareholders, about $1.9m was raised via shares traded on the tØ blockchian platform developed by Overstock.com subsidiary Medici.
The Series A consisted of 126,565 shares sold on the tØ blockchain platform for $15.68. A separate Series B consisted of 569,333 shares sold using traditional technology. The company had originally set out to raise as much as $30m from selling 2m shares.
Shares traded on the blockchain platform settle almost instantly, as opposed to the three days post-trade typically takes on a traditional exchange. The blockchain shares are also intended to help prevent third parties from trading on shares they don’t actually own.
Johnathan Johnson, Medici president and Overstock’s chairman of the board, told CoinDesk:
Trading of the stock on the tØ’s blockchain platform is expected to coincide with Nasdaq’s trading hours, which kick off at 9:30am ET and cease with the closing bell at 4pm ET.
Though the closing of the round today concludes a years-long effort, when the first-ever trading of shares on a blockchain-based platform commences in the coming days, the company’s work has only just begun, according to representatives.
While the tØ is currently configured so that it can only trade Overstock’s shares, Johnson said it will be customizable to other corporate offerings “in short order.”
"If other companies want to use it to issue shares we’d love to take their call," he explained.
Blockchain vs. Wall Street
Founded in 2014, Medici is the formalization of Overstock founder and CEO Patrick Byrne’s bid to replace certain stock trading functions with distributed, cryptographic systems.
Specifically, Byrne has said he is seeking to combat a practice of what is called naked short-selling, in which investors drive down the price of a stock by shorting it using stocks they don’t actually own.
By issuing financial products on a blockchain, the argument goes, the practice can be prevented by prohibiting traders from taking action based on assets they don’t actually control.
To test that theory, Byrne purchased for $500k what he called the first-ever cryptosecurity using the tØ platformm back in June 2015. A month after that, Overstock sold a $5m cryptobond to FNY Accounts, a New York-based trading firm.
But the $1.9m raised today from shares sold on a blockchain marks the first time subscribers were allowed to invest directly in a company. Overstock (Nasdaq: OSTK) is currently valued at $455m and is trading at $17.95. The blockchain stock will trade under its own ticker symbol, OSTKP.
TØ co-founder John Tabacco helped introduce the platform at its formal launch at the Nasdaq offices in New York City last year and described the fund-raise as the culmination of Byrne’s vision.
Correction: An earlier version of the article showed Overstock's Nasdaq ticker symbol as OSTKP. The article was changed to reflect that this is the new ticker symbol for the blockchain-traded shares.
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