Bitcoin is gaining momentum in the mainstream market with the listing of an exchange-traded fund on the Nasdaq. The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF will list 1 million shares under the COIN symbol at an initial public offering price of $20.09 per share.
Entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have had prior experience with Bitcoin startups, having invested in the now-defunct BitInstant, which provided a means of paying for purchases through the cryptocurrency. The Winklevoss twins — more popularly known for their involvement in the founding of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and the resulting lawsuits over ownership — have likewise once claimed to own 1% of all Bitcoins as of 2013. The listing of the ETF has been in the works since 2013, with the first filing having been made in July that year.
According to the prospectus (PDF), the final version of which was submitted to the SEC on December 30, 2014, the ETF’s aim is to reflect the performance of Bitcoin. “The investment objective of the Trust is for the Shares to reflect the performance of the price of Bitcoins, as measured by the Winklevoss Index (“Winkdex”), less the Trust’s expenses,” it says. The Index is based on an algorithm developed by the brothers, which monitors the price of Bitcoin in real time.
The ETF will essentially enable individuals and entities with a brokerage account to invest in Bitcoin without having to hold on to the cryptocurrency itself, which may include challenges in buying, storing and safekeeping the coins. Another advantage is that the value of the ETF shares will be based on a consolidated Bitcoin price based on different exchanges around the world, which often differs in exchange rate and accessibility. And while individuals can already use and exchange Bitcoins through wallets and online exchanges, investors might not necessarily have the time nor technical know-how in doing these.
To date, investing in Bitcoin can come in the form of mining for coins (which requires significant investment in hardware infrastructure), or earning from the spread that ensues with price fluctuations. For investors, the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust will provide various strategies, such as short selling or trading the shares on margin. The ETF will also enables brokerages to buy or sell options. One longer-term benefit for the cryptocurrency and the community surrounding it is that Bitcoin gets exposure to mainstream investors and could bolster stability in its value and usage.
The SEC was earlier reported to have had positive reception of the Bitcoin ETF, noting that the fund could potentially bring stability to Bitcoin as an investment instrument and virtual currency.