Overstock has promoted Joel Wright to chief operating officer (COO) of Medici Ventures, the company’s blockchain venture fund.
Wright was previously Medici’s chief technology officer (CTO). In his new role, he succeeds Steve Hopkins, who recently resigned as COO and general counsel to lead tZERO, Medici’s long-awaited security token trading market that is set to launch this week.
The promotion underscores how important technical expertise has become for Medici’s leadership, said the venture fund’s president, Jonathan Johnson.
“Because Joel is so deep there [in understanding the tech], we can have a double level of depth in technology, and that’s going to be useful for us,” Johnson told CoinDesk.
The job of CTO so far remains vacant, while Medici is actively interviewing candidates, both inside and outside the company, Johnson added.
“Blockchain is a hot area, people are excited to work there, and I think Medici is seen as a real leader in the space,” he said. “The ability to touch different industries in the portfolio is exciting, and I’m thrilled by the list of candidates that we see, both internal and external.”
Stanton Huntington, previously associate general counsel for Overstock, will take over as Medici’s general counsel, Johnson said.
As previously reported, Hopkins’ move was part of a deal in which tZERO also acquired 100% of another Medici portfolio company, the crypto exchange and wallet provider Bisty, for $12 million. Bitsy was previously owned by Medici, Hopkins and his father-in-law Richard N. Beckstrand.
With Bitsy, tZERO has acquired technology to maintain its exchange and wallets, Johnson told CoinDesk. At the same time, Medici retained the intellectual property to key recovery systems Bitsy had developed.
“For us at Medici, it made a lot of sense, to put the pieces of Bitsy’s new technology in the right places where they are best used and commercialized,” Johnson said. “We think we or one of our portfolio companies will be able to exploit that key recovery system. We think this system is going to be revolutionary, and as it is totally outside the scope of what tZERO is doing, we wanted to make sure that the technology finds the right home.”
Medici owns 80 percent of tZERO and treats the startup with special attention, hence its deployment of Hopkins to lead the platform.
“Steve is a real doer, he gets this industry as well as anybody, he participated in so many deals,” Johnson said. “I’m really pleased for tZERO that he’s there to move the company forward.”
All of this is going on as Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is trying to sell the company’s flagship online retailing business to raise cash for Medici’s investments. Overstock’s share price lost nearly a third of its value last month, amid continued bloodletting in the crypto markets.
Johnson, however, said he remains optimistic about the future of Medici’s portfolio companies. “Blockchain has a great future that is separate from the future of cryptocurrencies,” he said, concluding:
“People were pessimistic about the internet when the dot-com bubble bust in 2001, but it didn’t mean the internet didn’t have a wonderful future. And the crypto bubble may have burst in 2018, but ten years from now blockchain will prove to be a really useful and revolutionary technology.”
tZERO image from CoinDesk archives.