Last year, cybersecurity legend John McAfee came out of hiding and made a play to reinvigorate his name and brand by heading MGT Capital Investments and rebranding it as a cybersecurity company.
He has just announced the launch of the first commercial fruits of this move, a cybersecurity network device called Sentinel, and markets are watching MGT closely in an attempt to gauge initial interest for the product. This first product will enable investors to see how successful McAfee has been toward his aim in returning to public markets.
His success though does not only rest on Sentinel.
McAfee has also spent the past 12 months positioning himself as a leader in the bitcoin and cryptocurrency space from a public market perspective, having built one of the biggest bitcoin mining facilities in the United States in Washington – a facility that continues to grow in line with the rise in price of the underlying bitcoin asset. Bitcoin continues to knock at the $5,000 door.
Sure, he set out to make a splash in cybersecurity, but he’s ended up rebranding himself as a cryptocurrency enthusiast. At what point he decided to make the shift we can only guess, but to take a cutting-edge technology and attempt to position himself at the forefront of it is very much his remit and is something he has been successful at before.
Add in the fact that bitcoin flies against the idea of government and centralization, something on which McAfee has made very public his stance through his efforts to run for office in the United States at the helm of the Libertarian party, and cryptocurrency, for McAfee, looks like a perfect fit.
His public company approach isn’t surprising either – the SEC can’t stop MGT mining bitcoin like it stopped the Winklevoss twins from creating a bitcoin ETF.
All this is great for McAfee and shareholders of MGT, but it has also had a secondary impact in the markets –investors who were initially drawn to a bitcoin exposure through a publicly traded company like MGT may be looking for a more mainstream alternative on a major exchange. MGT still only trades over the counter.
In a similar move to McAfee who took over a shell, Riot Blockchain Inc. (NASDAQ: BIOP) was just born on the Nasdaq, reincarnated from a former biotech company.
While MGT has its mining rigs set up and mining bitcoin, Riot Blockchain takes positions in blockchain firms, most notably Coinsquare.
Coinsquare is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, and Riot Blockchain now owns around 12% of it, with options to expand this interest to size 20% going forward.
This is a different approach to MGT, but it could be interesting.
Bitcoin mining operations are necessary to process transactions and to keep the bitcoin eco-sphere ticking. Exchanges like Coinsquare, Canada’s largest, are necessary to ensure that people can quickly and easily convert fiat to cryptocurrency in order to carry out the transactions that are then processed by miners like MGT.
Riot Blockchain also has a distinct advantage over MGT because it is Nasdaq-traded, and MGT voluntarily delisted from the New York Stock Exchange late last year. This obviously provides better liquidity, necessary for larger funds to take any positions.
The bottom line is that while McAfee may have started this trend a bit clandestinely, we should be seeing more and more blockchain companies popping up, making the SEC’s opinion on cryptocurrency ETFs less relevant. Riot Blockchain is the first on a major exchange, with more likely to follow.