Barry Silbert’s BIT wins the race to become the first publicly traded bitcoin investment vehicle


Green Bitcoin

Even for those investors interested in finding exposure to bitcoin, you could forgive them for feeling skeptical about even the most high profile of exchanges within the category. Bitcoin exchanges have proven a high profile target for hackers and internal fraud, with many of the most widely traded platforms falling victim to such attacks. But thanks to a new investment vehicle hitting a major US stock exchange, these bitcoin-specific exchanges are no longer an investor’s only option.

Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT), which launched in 2013 as a private investment fund for accredited investors, is poised to become the world’s first publicly traded bitcoin fund. FINRA, the financial industry regulatory body, has approved the company’s listing on the OTCQX, the most heavily regulated of over-the-counter exchanges (formerly known as the “Bulletin Boards”) and assigned the stock a ticker symbol of “GBTC.” The Merriman Capital will be BIT’s exclusive market maker for the fund’s first 30 days of trading.

BIT is currently trading under a temporary symbol, “BTCV, on the OTC Markets (aka, “Pink Sheet’), but founder Barry Silbert says he expects the official listing to begin shortly. Each BIT share is worth approximately one tenth of a bitcoin and unlike when BIT was raising capital privately, there will be no minimum purchase for its publicly traded shares. BIT is an open-ended trust, meaning that it sells new shares – still privately, pending SEC approval – as it purchases new bitcoin.

Silbert, who also co-founded Second Market, is not counting his chickens, however, telling Coindesk, “No assurances can be given as to when or if such trading will commence, or that an active public secondary market for BIT shares will develop or be maintained.” Silbert stepped down from his duties as CEO of Second Market to run a crypto-currency-focused spinout called Digital Currency Group.

BIT isn’t the only bitcoin fund aiming to see its shares traded on one of Wall Street’s main exchanges. The Winklevoss brothers, of Facebook lawsuit fame, are in the throes of a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) review of their aptly named Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust (WBT), which has been given the preliminary symbol “COIN.” The brothers are also seeking to launch a regulated bitcoin exchange, dubbed Gemeni in reference to the fact that they’re twins, as well as the NASA moon landing.

BIT won the listing race, in part because it has investors who have held positions in the fund for more then 12 months, a fact that allows them to sell shares publicly with far less FINRA scrutiny. Once the listing goes live, the buyers of those shares can, for the first time ever, come from any income and net worth bracket. But, given that it’s taken this shortcut, BIT cannot be officially classified as an ETF – a designation that it and WBT will both only obtain following full SEC approval. Further, the OTC Markets exchanges are still viewed as a step down in terms of legitimacy from Nasdaq and the NYSE (aka, “the Big Board”).

One downside of this approach is that Silbert and Digital Currency Group can’t control how many long-term BIT investors choose to sell their shares, and thus the size of the secondary float and the liquidity in the security. One would presume, however, that before reaching this stage the company concluded that there would be adequate interest. As an early investor itself, Digital Currency Group is also able to sell a limited number of its own shares in BIT.

Consider that when many BIT holders first invested in late 2013, bitcoin was priced around $ 100 – then again, it has been as high as $ 1,140 in the year-and-a-half since. The Coindesk Bitcoin Price Index currently sits at $ 260 – the highest level it has seen in several weeks.

Holders of BIT shares won’t actually hold bitcoin in their names, but rather will hold shares of a fund (as opposed to an operating company, like Apple) that itself holds bitcoin – similar to the way gold ETFs work today. This offers a more accessible path toward bitcoin exposure for the average retail investor, who can now buy GBTC with their existing brokerage account (Fidelity, Schwab, etc.), rather than having to create and fund a separate account with a bitcoin exchange. Retail investors now even have the option of making bitcoin investments with their tax-advantaged retirement accounts like IRAs and 401Ks (pending individual plan terms and conditions). There are $ 6 trillion sitting in American retirement accounts, alone, making this a potentially enormous pool of new capital now available to the bitcoin markets.

The hope within the bitcoin community, is that BIT and future publicly traded bitcoin investment vehicles will improve liquidity and thus help smooth out some of the price volatility that has plagued bitcoin in its early years. The fact that BIT is also now a regulated entity should help calm the (justified) fears of many prospective bitcoin investors. A more stable bitcoin market is seen as being a necessary pre-condition for widespread adoption as a payment vehicle.

The listing of BIT is a welcome bit of good news amid an otherwise brutal period of bitcoin headlines. In addition to plummeting prices, bitcoin headlines over the first two months of this year have been dominated by the trial of convicted Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht, the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings of Mt. Gox, ponzi schemes, a string of exchange and wallet platform hacks, and ineptitude at the industry’s main leadership body. (You wonder why a regulated bitcoin investment, available on a US public exchange is a big deal?) On the brighter side, earlier this year, Coindesk became the first company to launch a regulated bitcoin exchange, doing so in conjunction with the NYSE, which participated in its $ 75 million mega-round announced months earlier.

Bitcoin may still be in its angst-ridden teenage years, but the digital currency and the community of enthusiasts that have embraced it are beginning to show signs of maturity. With countless global fiat currencies in sad shape and the global payments and remittance markets operating on decades-old technology, this development couldn’t come at a better time.



What is The Right Vehicle to Drive Your Email Marketing Success?


What's Your Email Transformation Vehicle?

Author: Matt Zilli

Email marketing has gotten so sophisticated and competitive over the past half decade that it’s crucial for a marketer to find the right tools and strategy to carry campaigns forward and reach the right audience at the right time.

Depending on how fast you’re hoping to reach your ultimate marketing goals—and how deeply you aim to connect with each and every potential customer—there are four types of email vehicles you can choose to drive.

1) Batch emails

Batch emails are the Amtrak of email marketing: It’s all about moving as many people as you can from point A to point B. Amtrak aims to please the masses by stopping only in busy cities where they assume their customers want to go. But if a customer is hoping to get from one small town to another, he’s out of luck.

Batch emails are like this; they pander to the lowest common denominator. Fun fact: only 6.8 percent of Amtrak’s lines are profitable.Which is interesting, because only about 6 percent of a batch email’s recipients ever click on it!

As marketers, we get one shot to make a positive impression, lest we risk the dreaded “unsubscribe” or worse—the “spam flag.” Risking it all on a blast to a million people is an amateur approach in today’s sophisticated marketing milieu.

With batch emails, we are only right 6 percent of the time, and that’s a pretty weak number. If your entire email marketing strategy revolves around batch emails, you’re taking the slow train to nowhere.

At Marketo, batch emails are a part of our overall email strategy. Here’s an example:

batch email example

Figure 1: A Marketo Batch Email Example

TIP: It’s a given that all email marketing software can produce batch emails. The question is, can the software in question transcend the simple batch-n-blast and do more? Even if you’re not ready to move to the next level of marketing, it’s a good idea to invest in software that will give you that option down the line.

2) Triggered emails

We get a little more sophisticated with triggered emails—what I like to think of as “the Uber of emails.” Like Uber, the crowd-sourced rideshare company that has taken the Bay Area by storm, triggered emails give marketers more control over the where, when, and how of their emails.

(I’ll admit, my Uber analogy may be San Francisco–centric, since in this city, I can toss a pebble and hit seven Ubers virtually any time of day. But bear with my analogy…)

Triggered emails, like Uber cars, are responsive to the needs and behaviors of individual customers, making them vastly more personalized than the slow-train-to-nowhere that is batch emails.

Check out this triggered email example from Signature Hardware:

Triggered Email Example


Figure 2: A Signature Hardware Triggered Email Example

TIP: If you’re evaluating email software on its ability to send triggered emails, a word of advice: your marketing team has to have control over these emails so you can change and test them constantly to see what’s working (and what’s not) and the adjust the timing and frequency of triggers accordingly. Read my last post for more about A/B testing, and never work with software that automates those options for you.

3) Nurturing emails

If you live in Manhattan, you can walk out your front door and jump on the subway for a short trip.  It’s convenient and useful—the way your marketing content should be. And the subway has the same goal as your marketing: to move you closer to your destination, one stop at a time.

Nurturing emails usually have a series of small goals built in to get each customer to the next stage in her journey without making her feel rushed or pressured. But just like the NYC underground transit system is a web of paths and options, your nurturing emails need to include different routes for different customer personas.

A good nurturing email system, like a well-built subway system, will last for a really long time. The key is to start with robust engine (your software) and build in the right stops (aka email content).

Nurturing emails help encourage continued customer engagement. Here’s a great example of a nurturing email from Dropcam:

Dropcam Nurture Email

Figure 3: A Dropcam Nurture Email Example

TIP: When you’re evaluating a marketing software vendor on its ability to handle nurturing emails, make sure you look at ease of use. Your focus should be on building out your library of email content—not trying to figure out how it works.

4) Template emails

Template emails are like rental cars: you can customize them to your exact needs.

In a larger organization, marketing is often in charge of the overall message, but other teams—sales, customer service—still need the flexibility to deliver ad hoc messages of their own. This requires flexibility in your marketing software.

Here’s an example of a template email used by sales:

A Template Email

Figure 4: A Marketo Template Email Example

TIP: If template emails are important to your organization, make sure your software not only supports them, but tracks them in the same way your other emails are being tracked—opens, clicks, unsubscribes, results.

Regardless of the degree of sophistication of the email marketing vehicle you choose, be sure that your emails can be mobile. VentureBeat reports that 65 percent of all email gets opened on a mobile device first, so if your email doesn’t display well on mobile, you’re going to crash no matter what kind of marketing vehicle you’re driving.

Make sure you check out Marketo’s Consumer Engagement Marketing  products to see how we support all four of these types of emails.

What is The Right Vehicle to Drive Your Email Marketing Success? was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. |

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