There’s no doubt that Bitcoin is getting plenty of attention these days – we’ve seen folks like the Winklevoss Twins and Chamath Palihapitiya throw their financial weight behind Bitcoin in a big way – but despite all that it still hasn’t been embraced by the teeming millions just yet
Arguably, all it would take is the support of one big name to get the ball rolling, and for months Bitcoin aficionados have wondered if eBay would be willing to take up that mantle. It’s not hard to see why – in a brief interview with the Financial Times, eBay president and CEO John Donahoe said that the company was keeping its eye on Bitcoin and that in the months and years to come, digital currency is going to be “a very powerful thing”.
Granted, Donahoe’s admission that eBay is monitoring Bitcoin is far from a ringing endorsement for the cryptocurrency, but this is hardly the first time he’s tackled the Bitcoin question in this way. He told the Wall Street Journal this past April that the company was “watching Bitcoin closely” and that there may be ways to fold eventually fold Bitcoin support into PayPal. And PayPal president David Marcus is perhaps just as fascinated with Bitcoin, as he noted on multiple occasions that the notion of embracing Bitcoin isn’t completely out of the question.
While some argue that warming consumer sentiments toward Bitcoin could reduce the need for services like eBay’s PayPal altogether, a potential tie-up of eBay and Bitcoin up needn’t be so contentious. Official eBay support of Bitcoin could mean (among other things) an expansion of the markets that eBay and Paypal are able to reach, and naturally one more (admittedly massive) place for Bitcoin hoarders to spend their funds. And eBay’s PayPal – with all its experience and support systems geared toward escrow – could conceivably act as a trusted middleman for Bitcoin transactions, a known quantity that may ease the qualms of Bitcoin newbies and facilitate smoother sales between established players.
eBay’s fascination with Bitcoin apparently doesn’t end with its brass either. Back in early September, a post appeared on eBay’s official Deals blog that posed a simple question to readers: “What’s the deal with Bitcoins anyway?” The story itself offered little in the way of answers, but the company apparently thought the subject was weighty enough to warrant embedding a YouTube video featuring what has to be one of the most layman-friendly Bitcoin explanations I’ve ever come seen. That video, which was uploaded by a user named B Sil who doesn’t seem to have ever touched the account again, proclaimed at the end that it was “brought to you by eBay Deals”.
Only time (or a chatty exec) will tell if eBay ever does make a grand overture toward the Bitcoin users of the world, or how strongly those users would react if such a thing ever happened. If eBay can’t be bothered to help legitimize Bitcoin and help itself in the process, the task may come down to startups like Circle which recently raised a $9 million Series A in a bid to make Bitcoin more accessible to consumers and merchants alike.
And as far as virtual currency buffs go, they’ll have to make do with other online shopping outposts and fortunately they have more than a few to choose from. Bitcoin payment processor BitPay recently surged past the 10,000 merchant mark (a vast majority of whom are located in the United States), and those looking for a slightly more eBay-esque shopping experience often turn to sites like Bitmit.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
We already knew that Chamath Palihapitiya, ex-Facebook executive, and founder and partner of The Social+Capital Partnership, was bullish on Bitcoins. But how bullish? He actually owns the equivalent of $5 million in Bitcoins, representing one of the largest positions in the world with the Winklevoss twins.
But that’s not all, Palihapitiya wants to own even more than that – up to $10 and $15 million. He didn’t say whether he counts on an increase in value of Bitcoins or whether he will start right away to purchase more Bitcoins.
Palihapitiya seems to be very aware of the risks involved with betting on a digital currency, but is willing to take those risks. He already shared his thoughts about Bitcoins and why he believes that it is a disruptive idea. But until now, we didn’t know how much Bitcoin he actually owned.
Buckle up, people: We might be closer than ever to our first official Bitcoin IPO.
It was just a couple months back that it emerged that Winklevoss Capital, the investment firm/family trust founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (of early Facebook fame), had bought up approximately one percent of all the outstanding quantity of Bitcoins, the alternative digital currency — a portion that was then worth around $11 million. The firm has gone on to invest in startups that deal exclusively in the Bitcoin space, such as Bitinstant.
Today, it looks like they are looking to spread the ownership of some of that investment around to the public — with all its potential gains, and losses. An entity called “The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust” has apparently filed for an initial public offering of 1 million shares, to raise up to $20 million in capital.
A ticker for the stock has yet to be determined. The filing explains the entity’s mission thusly:
“The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust (Trust) will issue Winklevoss Bitcoin Shares (Shares) which represent units of fractional undivided beneficial interest in and ownership of the Trust. Math-Based Asset Services LLC is the sponsor of the Trust (Sponsor) and [TRUSTEE] is the trustee and custodian of the Trust (Trustee) using proprietary and patent-pending technology to administer the Trust. The Trust intends to issue additional Shares on a continuous basis.”
We’re reading through the filed documents, and working on getting more details from the Winklevosses directly, so this story will be updated as the information becomes more clear.
For now, check out the interview I had just a couple weeks back with Cameron and Tyler here at the TechCrunch TV studio. We talked in depth about why they’re so bullish on Bitcoin and their plans for future investments in the currency.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Facebook has found a successor to Ted Ullyot, the company’s General Counsel for the past 4 1/2 years. Facebook announced Thursday that Colin Stretch has been promoted from Deputy General Counsel to Vice President and General Counsel into the role of lead attorney.
Stretch will lead Facebook’s legal and security departments.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg welcomed Stretch to his new position in a press release:
Colin has been an instrumental leader on the Facebook legal team and has earned the trust and confidence of management, the Board of Directors and our entire company. We are very excited to have him as our new General Counsel. … Colin’s appointment is a testament both to his abilities and to Ted’s leadership. Ted built a strong team at Facebook that we have grown to depend on for world-class counsel, which made promoting from within our company the clear and best choice.
Stretch joined Facebook in 2010, after serving as a partner for Washington, D.C. law firm Kellogg Huber Hansen Todd Evans & Figel, and has been a vital force behind some of the company’s high-profile legal cases. He was the lead negotiator for Facebook’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 and led the appellate victory in the Winklevoss case. Most recently, Stretch has been advising Facebook on the legal issues regarding new products.
Stretch noted in the press release how he’s excited to start:
Helping advance Facebook’s mission of connecting the world is at the center of our team’s work, and I look forward to the opportunity this new role represents. This is an extremely talented group of lawyers, and an awesome responsibility. I can’t wait to get started.
In other Facebook business news, some top Facebook execs sold company shares recently.
Photo courtesy of Stretch’s Linkedin page.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook
The Winklevoss twins, the 31-year-old Harvard grads who are probably best known for their years-long legal fight with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook, have put $18 million of their Facebook settlement cash toward buying a brand new bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills, according to a report today out of TMZ.*
The reason for the move out west? It’s not because the statuesque pair wants to give Armie Hammer a run for his money on the silver screen. TMZ reports:
“The Winklevii have their eye on SoCal as the new Silicon Valley (which is home to Facebook and Apple) thanks to L.A.’s booming tech scene.”
The new mansion will reportedly be inhabited mostly by Tyler, who will use it as his home base while launching West Coast operations of the brothers’ new NYC-based venture capital firm, Winklevoss Capital.
I love to rib the Winklevoss twins as much as anyone, focusing more on California does seem like a smart move to show that they are serious about tech investing. The San Francisco Bay Area is still the epicenter when it comes to tech, and Los Angeles has indeed been heating up as a startup hub in recent years. We’ll have to see how often the Winklevosses jaunt up north to Silicon Valley — that could result in some interesting run-ins to say the least.
If you’re in the mood for gawking and feeling vaguely jealous, you can leaf through the photos of the Winklevii’s new house on this slideshow.
* Yes, the showbiz gossip site that some prickly readers like to compare to TechCrunch, which I think is meant to be an insult but could be a compliment? Hey, no one can say TMZ doesn’t get the best scoops in its field. I’m rubber, you’re glue, etc.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
When Yahoo chief executive Scott Thompson got on his first investor conference call after taking over in January, he bragged to media and investors about the great wealth of talent and IP that existed at the struggling company. He said that it needed to “build great innovative products and put them inside customer experiences.” The news that it is suing Facebook over alleged infringement of ten “method” patents by the social network, however, points to a different strategy to move ahead.
The action has ignited some strong opinions from the gallery: Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures pulls no punches and calls the suit a “crock of shit” because it “crossed the unspoken line which is that web companies don’t sue each other over their bogus patent portfolios. I don’t think there’s a unique idea out there in the web space and hasn’t been for well over a decade.”
But this is not the first time that Yahoo has leaned on a big company with its patents just before the target has gone public — Facebook is planning an IPO that could value the company at $100 billion — nor is it the first time that Facebook has found itself in court.
Last year alone, the social network was involved in 22 separate patent suits, according to Reuters division Westlaw, double the number from 2010. These cover areas like message transmission to large numbers of users.
Up to now, Facebook, which has only around 40 patents granted to its name (compared to Yahoo’s 3,300), has only been the plaintiff in one suit.* That small number, and Yahoo’s large size, may mean a lot more cases like this one up ahead, making social media and web services the next terrain for patent litigators.
Facebook has been in courts over other issues as well, beyond patents. That’s the price of success these days.
Just last week, Facebook lost a ruling in Germany over how it handles user information and applies its “Friend Finder” feature: both were found to violate privacy laws. That case, brought by Germany’s Central Consumer Association, an umbrella group for consumer rights organizations, was originally filed in 2010. It will be finalized in the next week or two and then Facebook will have one month to modify its services to comply with the findings. In a separate case around privacy in Germany, Facebook is being sued by the Hamburg data protection authority over its facial recognition feature.
Germany was also the focus of a copy-cat case for Facebook: The German social network StudiVZ won a case lodged by Facebook over alleged IP theft and source code theft. That was back in 2009, and to be honest the sites have evolved away from each other quite a lot since then.
Further back than this, there are also the cases involving Paul Ceglia and the Winklevoss twins.
As for Yahoo, it is not known for bringing lots of cases against its competitors or for having to defend itself against other’s allegations, but it’s not exactly a stranger to enforcing its patent rights.
According to Reuters, in 2004, Yahoo took patent claims to Google before it went public, and in exchange got shares in Google worth some $201 million at the time. It could be that this is what is behind Yahoo’s intention this time around, too.
*As Lenny Kravets points out in comments, the number of patents granted to Facebook is currently 42, with the other 120 being patent applications. Our original article had said that Facebook had around 160 patents.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
The Winklevoss twins had their original case against Facebook dismissed yesterday, causing tech media to write another slew of “The Winklevosses’ Case Against Facebook Is Over But Wait Actually It Isn’t” headlines. The seven-year battle is indeed not over, as the Winklevosses intent to file a motion under Rule 60b, which alleges that the Facebook withheld evidence during the first trial that could have been used in the settlement, evidence which would increase the value of the Winklevoss Facebook shares to around $200 million (which is about $200 million more than I or probably any of you have).
This news comes shortly after former Harvard president Larry Summers called the twins “assholes” at the Fortune Brainstorm tech conference in Aspen, in response to a question about the veracity of a scene in “The Social Network.”
“One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case,”
The twins responded to Summers’ comments by writing an official-looking letter to the current president of Harvard, condemning Summers’ actions, which only reinforced the “asshole” characterization for many.
Because wading through piles of legalese isn’t something that I (or you) can spend most of my time doing, for better or for worse, I don’t understand the ins and outs of the case. But, thanks to “The Social Network” and the simplification engine that is popular culture,