Winklevoss Twins: Bitcoin ETF Is GLD 2.0

September 17, 2013

Facebook twins toss in their 2 cents about bitcoin ETF concept in NYC.

Want to invest in gold? Why not try bitcoins, instead? They’re more portable and don’t cost as much to store, according to Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twins behind the proposed bitcoin ETF that created as much fascination as derision when the two put the ETF into registration two months ago.

“Bitcoin and gold have a lot of things in common, but in a lot of areas, I think, bitcoin is preferable to gold. It’s very clear to see why people are talking about bitcoin as a digital gold, or gold 2.0,” said Cameron, speaking today in front of a crowd of value investors at the 9th annual Value Investing Congress in New York City.

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer digital currency that emerged in 2008 and is not managed by any central bank or authority, could also be used—as is gold—as a hedge against the inflationary pressures caused by the Federal Reserve’s ultra-easy-money policies that have prevailed since the downturn of 2008, according to Cameron Winklevoss.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss became famous for their role in the early days of Facebook. They charged and sued Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg with stealing their idea, finally settling the case for $20 million, according to the New York Times. The twins were also on the U.S. Olympic rowing team at the 2008 games in Beijing.

The prospectus outlining Winklevoss Bitcoin Shares isn’t yet effective, meaning the twins can’t say too much without running afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “quiet period” regulations governing securities registrations. No one in the audience asked specifically about the ETF in the question-and-answer session after the presentation, and the two left quickly after their appearance.

‘Scary Proposition’

During his presentation, Cameron acknowledged that bitcoin is currently “a sort of scary proposition” for investors because it has to be stored on a USB drive by tech-savvy users.

“If you start dealing with a large amount of money, there is no real insurance aspect there,” he said.

But investors can access bitcoins via an exchange-traded product similar to the way investors can access gold via the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD | A-100).

“An ETF can help solve the purchasing friction in terms of security,” the Winklevoss twin said, comparing the accessibility with how GLD eases gold trade for countless investors.

On the regulatory front, Cameron Winklevoss said that he’s starting to see regulators beginning dialogues with bitcoin companies.

“I think healthy regulation will come to bitcoin as it does to any money-services business, and I think those will occur over the next six to 12 months,” he noted.

Healthy Skepticism

To be sure, bitcoin trading is still primarily the turf of computer programmers and tech-savvy investors who understand the risks associated with a currency that’s volatile due to its “relative lack of acceptance,” as the prospectus points out.

The Winklevoss brothers are hoping the bitcoin ETF will change that, and legitimize the currency by making exposure to it accessible to just about any investor willing to take on the risk.

"Investors who are seeking diversification away from the dollar, most notably those that have traditionally looked at hard assets such as gold, would find this interesting,” IndexUniverse ETF analyst Ugo Egbunike said.

“Regulatory risks aside, investors will need to consider the historical levels of volatility that we've already witnessed in the bitcoin market,” he added.

Egbunike also asked the question, “What if there’s a power outage somewhere?”

 

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