At a press conference in Barbados on Friday, alongside the Minister of Finance, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne announced closing a US$4 Million Series A investment in Barbadian bitcoin exchange Bitt. The funds constitute the first installment of a staggered investment from the retail giant, totalling US$16 million, and places Bitt’s valuation at US$50 million, according to the company.
Mainstream media in Barbados has covered the event heavily, providing details of the service and the investment.
Overstock's share price rose 2.8% on news of the announcement, in a buoyant US market. The up tick follows a long bear run for the stock, following Byrne's initial foray into the world of cryptocurrencies.
Barbados Finance Minister Christopher Sinckler pledged the government's “full support” to the partnership, and Bitt's initiative to modernize the financial infrastructure of Barbados and the Caribbean.
Near the end of February, Bitt launched a mobile wallet complete with a digitized version of the Barbadian dollar, using the Bitcoin blockchain to keep track of this digital fiat currency. What's more, this digital Barbadian Dollar has the full backing of the Central Bank of Barbados, a first of it's kind for Bitcoin.
Bitt's leadership has stated that they intend to digitize every fiat currency used in the Caribbean, placing them on the blockchain. The goal is to ease bottlenecks in trade between the islands, and bring a modern, digital solution to a part of the world that historically has been hampered by outdated or missing exchange and settlement systems. Less than two months after announcing these plans, the team has already met with many of the central banks in the Caribbean.
“We respect and endorse that vision,” said Overstock CEO Dr. Patrick M. Byrne, "and share a common desire to see online consensual exchange flourish globally.”
“Bitt has a vision for the Caribbean of frictionless mobile cash, beginning with central banks transparently issuing digital fiat which is then exchanged using a blockchain mechanism (with proper regulatory oversight).”
- Dr. Patrick M. Byrne, Overstock CEO
“Bitt’s financial technology revolution will bring to consumers a faster, better, cheaper and more traceable way of banking – and we now have a new, multi-billion dollar backed investor to help make this vision a reality,” said Oliver Gale, Bitt CFO and Co-Founder. “Bitt is bringing modern financial solutions to a region long denied efficient settlement systems.”
Along with the launch of their wallet and digital currency, Bitt has separately announced other upcoming services, including merchant and remittance solutions. All of this is built on top of the existing business as a bitcoin exchange, which is already the largest one in the Caribean by volume. The exchange platform offers trading bitcoin for two currencies, Trinidad and Tobago dollars and Barbadian dollars.
The team plans for the exchange to become a trading hub for all the currencies in the Caribbean, a solution called for by the UN's economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) at the beginning of February. Such a move would be a historic first, opening the region up to trade in a way that simply hasn't been possible before.
“Our aim is to use cryptography and digital ledger technology to turn our regional citizens into global citizens, giving them the ability to send or receive money directly via their phones, in seconds, from all corners of the globe.”
- Gabriel Abed, Bitt CEO & Co-founder
This isn't the first investment in Bitt. The organizers of Friday's announcement, Avatar Capital, invested US$1.5 million in a seed round last year. The well-funded company outlined their intentions to bring digital currency to the region, and break down trade barriers, at the time. With Overstock's investment announcement this week, it appears they may now have the funding they need to make the dream a reality.