迄今为止,区块链行业主要由包括谷歌旗下风险投资公司Alphabet、高盛、Digital Currency Group及Draper Associates在内的少数风投公司主导。不过,亚马逊最大的竞争对手之一、电子商务巨头Overstock正迅速成为区块链投资领域最被看好的传统参与者之一。据报道,Overstock首席执行官Patrick Byrne正在重组公司,优先区块链投资。

就在不久前,Overstock旗下专注投资区块链创业公司的子公司Medici Ventures刚刚为波士顿投票技术创业公司Voatz提供了220万美元资金。Medici专注投资资本市场、银行、数字身份、选举投票、房地产和房地产相关项目。通过这些项目,Voatz已经与包括工会和自由党在内的许多不同群体达成合作。至今为止,从市政选举到预算会议,已经有7万名选民参加了由Voatz技术支持的选举。

据《盐湖城论坛报》报道,由于一系列官僚错误,加上迟发邮件和忘记签名的选民在内,2017年被否决的邮寄选票达到数百份。据郡书记官Sherrie Swensen说,犹他州邮寄选票的投票率非常低,只有约18%的选票被寄出。

这不仅仅是一个州的问题。《财富》杂志报道称,美国有48个州要求国土安全部帮助修复2016年大选所用机器的安全漏洞及缺陷。许多人提倡使用以区块链为基础的投票系统,认为它更便宜、更方便,而且出错几率也更少。在澳大利亚和欧洲,如Horizon State和Waves等公司也在探索类似的解决方案。或许有关选举舞弊的辩论很快就会变得无关紧要。

Medici总裁Jonathan Johnson表示: "通过区块链技术,我可以注册并使用生物识别技术投票。我可以在智能手机上扫描虹膜或指纹,然后进行投票。使用区块链的投票加密、安全、匿名……我可以在系统上确认我的选票有效。"他还说,只要登记选民有智能手机,基本就可以在任何地方进行投票,这会极大地提升选民的参与度。


Johnson说:"我们静待监管环境如何发挥作用。我们认为市面上许多声称自己是可用代币的代币可能会被认为是有价证券,成为证券交易委员会的监管对象。如果像我们认为的那样,许多代币最终都被认为是有价证券,证交会将会以有价证券的规则来管理这些代币,那么它们就需要在证交会认可的交易所进行交易。 除tZero外,如今的其他代币都将不复存在。"tZero 首次代币发行在预售前12个小时就筹集了1亿美元。

到目前为止,Medici投资的其他加密货币项目包括拉美金融技术创业公司Ripio。据CoinDesk报道,该公司通过首次代币发行筹集了3700万美元;还有比利时投票创业公司SettleMint。到目前为止,Medici投资组合中只有不到12家区块链创业公司,因此一些分析人士忽视了Overstock在这个领域的影响力。然而,Medici的发展有其独特性,它与ConsenSys Ventures在以太坊领域的投资类似,是一种更全面的投资方式。



There are a few venture capital firms dominating the blockchain industry so far, including Google’s venture capital arm Alphabet, Goldman Sachs, the Digital Currency Group, and Draper Associates. However, one of Amazon’s biggest competitors, the e-commerce giant Overstock, is fast becoming one of the most bullish legacy players in blockchain investing. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is reportedly reorganizing the corporation to prioritize blockchain ventures.

Meanwhile Medici Ventures, an Overstock subsidiary strictly focused on investing in blockchain startups, recently led a $2.2 million funding round for the Boston-based voting technology startup Voatz. Medici is focused on projects that relate to capital markets, banking, digital identities, voting, real estate and property. Along those lines, Voatz has already worked with many different types of communities, including labor unions and the Libertarian Party. From town hall elections to budget meetings, 70,000 voters participated in Voatz-powered elections so far.

“Part of what we are trying to do at Medici is invest in an ecosystem of blockchain companies that are involved in specific industries,” Medici Ventures president Jonathan Johnson told International Business Times. “We think that having a robust voting application will also help our capital markets companies. There’s synergy that they’ll have there.” Johnson has firsthand experience with how inefficient and unreliable the voting process can be. As a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, he relies mostly on vote-by-mail ballots for local elections.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported hundreds of mailed ballots were rejected in 2017 due to a slew of bureaucratic errors, including late mail and voters who forgot to sign the envelope. Utah’s vote-by-mail turnout was strikingly low, around 18 percent of ballots sent out according to County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. “You had this trusted institution, the country clerks, who made huge mistakes,” Johnson said. “People got ballots who shouldn’t have gotten ballots...Our state auditor did a study of the confidentiality sleeves and found many of the sleeves are see through. So now I’ve lost my secret vote...Never once in my life have I known with certainty if my vote was counted as cast.”

This isn’t an isolated issue. Fortune reported 48 states asked the Department of Homeland Security for help fixing security holes and vulnerabilities in the machines used for the 2016 election. People who advocate for a blockchain-based voting system argue it is cheaper, more convenient and offers less opportunities for mistakes along the way. In Australia and Europe, companies such as Horizon State and Waves are exploring similar solutions. Debates about voter fraud could soon become almost irrelevant.

“With blockchain technology, I can register to vote with biometrics. So I can get the ballot on my smart phone, scan my iris or use my thumbprint,” Johnson said. “Voting on the blockchain is cryptographically secure and anonymous...I can confirm on the system that my vote was counted as cast.” He added the convenience of being able to vote almost anywhere, as long as the registered voter has his or her smartphone, could dramatically increase voter participation. “That’s good for democracy,” he said.

Blockchain voting technology isn’t the only type of innovative Medici is pushing forward in 2018. Overstock also launched the cryptocurrency branch tZero, which will closes its month-long initial coin offering on January 18. These tokens will represent digital assets, such as securities, traded among accredited investors and institutions on through proprietary tZero marketplace. As a policy, Medici does not invest directly in tokens. This is partially because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued repeated warnings that some cryptocurrency projects may be offering unregulated securities. Instead of buying tokens, Medici invests through equity.

“We are waiting to see how the regulatory landscape plays out. We think that a lot of the tokens out there that have claimed to be utility tokens will probably be deemed securities, and as such subject to SEC regulation,” Johnson said. “If, like we think, many of the tokens are ultimately securities and the SEC is going to rule that way, then they are going to need to trade on an SEC sanctioned exchange. And that doesn’t exist today, other than tZero.” The tZero ICO raised $100 million in the first 12 hours of its presale.

Some of the other cryptocurrency projects Medici has invested in so far include the Latin American fintech startup Ripio, which CoinDesk reported raised $37 million through an ICO, and the Belgian voting startup SettleMint. With less than a dozen blockchain startups in Medici’s portfolio so far, some analysts still overlook Overstock’s growing influence in the space. Yet one unique aspect of Medici’s growth, which mirrors ConsenSys Ventures in the Ethereum community, is a more holistic approach to investing.

Some of the most reputable institutional investors in the cryptocurrency industry, from crypto hedge funds to VC firms, are offering portfolio companies expertise and opportunities for collaboration, not just capital. Experienced blockchain experts are scarce, so this type of support is especially appealing to startups.

“We have a team of around 35 blockchain developers who can build enterprise-grade software. Many of our portfolio companies are taking advantage of the human capital that we offer to jumpstart their technological work, in addition to venture capital,” Johnson said. “The timeline on all these blockchain companies is still yet to be determined...But we’re very bullish on it because we think it’s sound and this the capability to eliminate middle men, in the end of the day it will win the day.”







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