Twenty-three years ago Barry Silbert passed his Series 7 exam to become, at 17, the youngest licensed stockbroker in the U.S. In 2004 six years after graduating with a bachelors in business administration from Atlantas Emory University he left New York investment bank Houlihan Lokey to found SecondMarket, a pathbreaking platform for trading privately issued shares, now owned by Nasdaq. Those breakthroughs were mere preliminaries for what he hopes to accomplish with Digital Currency Group, which he formed in New York in 2014 to capitalize on Bitcoin. He believes the cryptocurrency will do no less than change the way people think about money and change our financial system in a significant way. Arriving at this conclusion after a couple of years of playing the Bitcoin market on his own, Silbert chose to structure DCG as a company rather than a fund, which gives him the flexibility to buy or invest in ventures at various stages and to own digital currency. To be totally clear, my enthusiasm is very much around Bitcoin, explains the 40-year-old CEO, adding that he is skeptical of many of the private, non-Bitcoin blockchain efforts that Wall Street is experimenting with. He has such notables as former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers on his board of advisers and RRE Ventures James Robinson IV (No. 4) and Bain Capital Ventures Matthew Harris (No. 2) on his investment committee. The framework allows me to bring on permanent capital from strategic investors without a five- to seven-year time horizon, and at some point in the future I will be able to take DCG public. Silbert cites long-term-minded portfolio builders Berkshire Hathaway, Liberty Media Corp., and SoftBank Group Corp. as role models for DCG. He boasts his company is the most prolific investor in the industry, with stakes in 88 businesses worldwide prominent among them Blockstream, Chain, Coinbase, and Ripple and a subsidiary, Bitcoin Investment Trust, which is the first vehicle of its kind that lets the public take positions in the sector. In January, DCG acquired the CoinDesk news and events business, and more than 20 new cryptocurrency and blockchain investments followed. Silbert says he devotes much of his time to fostering connections and synergies among the portfolio companies, making sure theyre all collaborating while helping them make strategic decisions about what they want to do with blockchain and Bitcoin.
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