Winklevoss Twins Eat, Sleep, Breathe Bitcoin

The twin Harvard graduates of Facebook fame Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss just took the stage at Disrupt NY to update everyone on their recent bitcoin projects. As a reminder, the twins have been working on an exchange traded fund (ETF) under the symbol ‘COIN’ so that old-school traders can trade bitcoins on the NASDAQ OMX. The two brothers also recently announced a new bitcoin exchange called Gemini. They want to build a fully regulated and fully compliant U.S.-based exchange.

“A lot of people don’t want to deal with the effort needed to secure your bitcoins,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “That’s why we started to build Gemini, which is a U.S.-based exchange with compliance — it’s NASDAQ, E-Trade and DTC built into one.”

We don’t just have our skin in the game, we have our whole body in the game Cameron Winklevoss

According to Tyler, there is a long-standing dilemma when it comes to bitcoin exchanges — it’s either too hard or not secure enough. Buying and storing bitcoins yourself in a cold storage wallet with private and public keys is a real burden. But startups that make it easy aren’t dealing with financial authorities enough and don’t provide enough guarantees to their customers.

Bitcoin was this really strange technology that only geeks — and even not a lot of geeks, it was geeks within geeks,” Tyler Winklevoss said. “We really wanted to make sure we built this right. And then, you have to build a great product. Most of the startups deal with that last piece first.”

And then, there is the ETF. For this project, the two brothers wanted to build a product for wall street traders, bankers. For years, the financial industry thought bitcoin was a joke and didn’t want to make any effort to diversify their portfolios with bitcoin. To make it as easy as possible, the brothers filed an S-1 registration with the SEC to create this financial product that you can buy as any other ETF. It has yet to launch, and the SEC is looking into it right now. In short, it’s a neat workaround to make bitcoin tradable on the NASDAQ OMX.

When John Biggs asked them about the vocal critics against the Winklevoss brothers, the two brothers’ answers were pretty clear. They are in bitcoin for the long term. It’s not a sudden interest to an industry they can’t understand, it’s something that they are passionate about.

“We’ve put our money where our mouth is. We don’t just have our skin in the game, we have our whole body in the game,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “We are building a company, Gemini, and the ETF, which is another company. I don’t know if we’re experts, but the goal is not to be an expert but to change the world. Does Richard Branson understand all the physics behind his space craft? I’m not sure.”

And the two brothers aren’t just building two bitcoin companies; at one time they owned 1 percent of all mined bitcoin. Or, as Tyler Winklevoss said, “we eat, sleep, breathe bitcoin.”

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