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