NYSE owners team with Microsoft, Starbucks and more for Bitcoin ecosystem

Tim Maytom

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, has announced plans to enter the cryptocurrency market with a digital asset platform that serve as an "ecosystem" for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

ICE plans to form a new company, Bakkt, which will leverage Microsoft cloud solutions to create an open, regulated global ecosystem for digital assets. The new company will work with firms including BCG, Microsoft and Starbucks to create an integrated platform for consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets, as well as allowing for federally regulated markets and warehousing.

The first use cases of the new ecosystem will be for trading and conversion of Bitcoin versus fiat currencies, as Bitcoin is the most liquid of digital currencies presently in circulation.

With H1 2018 investment in blockchain technology already exceeding the total sunk into the technology in 2017, cryptocurrencies are developing alongside the regulatory frameworks needed to manage them. ICE hopes that Bakkt will address the evolving needs of the digital asset marketplace, which is estimated to be worth $270bn.

"In bringing regulated, connected infrastructure together with institutional and consumer applications for digital assets, we aim to build confidence in the asset class on a global scale, consistent with our track record of bringing transparency and trust to previously unregulated markets," said Jeffrey C. Sprecher, founder, chairman and CEO of ICE.

"Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security and utility," said Kelly Loeffler, CEO of Bakkt. "We are colaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce."

Starbucks may seem like an odd choice of a partner for such a venture, but their involvement in Bakkt seems aimed at addressing one of the increasing problems with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies - that they are mainly viewed as investment opportunities, rather than legitimate currencies. As one of the leaders in mobile payments, Starbucks will play a role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications that will enable consumers to convert cryptocurrencies into US dollars. These platforms may well be integrated into Starbucks' own highly-successful app.