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Overstock CEO Considers Sale To Fund New Blockchain Venture

The CEO and founder of online retail giant Overstock has said he is considering selling the business to fund his new blockchain startup, as part of a joint venture led by the group’s blockchain subsidiary Medici Ventures.

Patrick Byrne, who founded Overstock in 1999 after acquiring and rebranding Deals.com, made the comments in an interview with the Financial Times, where he was discussing his plans for a specific blockchain application.

In partnership with respected economist Hernando de Soto Polar, Byrne is developing a blockchain solution for land registration, in a move that is designed to more effectively handle local property records on the distributed ledger.

According to Byrne, the system will handle rights transfers, as well as incorporating both social media and mobile technology into the mix, in one of the first systems of its kind to be built on blockchain.

In his interview, Byrne said he felt a “great moral obligation to refocus my life around” the project, with a pilot launch planned for early in the new year. This led to his suggestion that he might even consider selling Overstock, in whole or in part, as a means of raising capital to fund the development, saying “one of the possibilities is I sell the business and we have all the capital we need.”

Byrne has gone further, enlisting the help of Guggenheim Partners to solicit interest in a sale of the business, reflecting how seriously he views the opportunity posed by the blockchain application.

Beyond the project with Medici Ventures, de Soto is also involved in similar projects with the government of Georgia and startup BitFury. De Soto, noted for his work on the capabilities of blockchain, suggested the technology would play an instrumental part in resolving global poverty.

“Billions of people have resources that cannot easily be transformed into productive capital. Blockchain is a powerful tool to solve these structural issues, which are some of the principal causes of poverty and conflict.”

This is not the first time Medici Ventures or parent company Overstock have made moves in the blockchain space.

Overstock was one of the first online retailers to start accepting payment in bitcoin, while the group has developed a cryptocurrency trading exchange through its Medici Ventures subsidiary.