'Mistake' Corrected: Overstock Invests in Blockchain Startup Symbiont

Overstock's investment arm has backed Symbiont following the successful passage of the Delaware blockchain amendments.

AccessTimeIconJul 19, 2017 at 7:59 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:33 p.m. UTC

The blockchain branch of retail giant Overstock today announced its first investment in Symbiont, a startup aimed at streamlining the way financial instruments are traded.

The investment by Overstock's Medici Ventures in Symbiont, for undisclosed terms, is being positioned by both firms as the beginning of a collaborative effort to bring to life a new era of securities traded directly on a blockchain.

But the investment almost didn't happen. Earlier this year, Medici president Jonathan Johnson had considered joining an earlier round, only to pass on the opportunity — it turns out, temporarily.

Medici Ventures president Jonathan Johnson explained how Symbiont fits into the company’s portfolio, and why they decided to pass on the company the first time around.

He told CoinDesk:

"We made a mistake."

Founded in 2015, Symbiont has raised a total of about $7 million to build out private blockchain solutions, including most recently an undisclosed amount from Hundsun, a tech firm backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Earlier this month, Symbiont was among several organizations involved in helping push for blockchain regulation in the State of Delaware, which celebrated the successful passage of the amendments.

Both Symboint and fellow Medici Ventures portfolio company T0 stand to benefit from the amendments that explicitly recognized a corporation’s right to use a blockchain to track stock shares.

Even as Johnson acknowledged that the companies' work with stocks was "somewhat competitive," he distinguished Symbiont’s Orebits work with selling gold on a blockchain and other initiatives as potentially being of use to each other.

"There's some overlap," said Johnson. "But we see them as mostly complimentary."

Blockchain strategy

In contrast to Medici Ventures investments in Bitt and T0, which Johnson described as involving a "significant role," he said his firm’s work with Symbiont is of a more strategic nature.

Symbiont president Caitlin Long elaborated on what that means when she told CoinDesk the investment conversation was "resurrected" in the build-up to the passage of the Delaware amendments.

In conversation, Long said that while Symbiont wants to be the first private company to move all its shares to a blockchain, Medici parent Overstock wants to be the first public company to do so.

She concluded:

"They put a proposal on the table about three weeks ago, and moved very quickly once we both realized we wanted to do this."

Money image via Shutterstock


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.