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SEC Filing Reveals New Bitcoin ETF Tokenized On Algorand
Unlike the others though, this Bitcoin ETF is different. So much so that the fund itself is built on another cryptocurrency.
3:34 14th Apr, 2022

This ETF, filed by Florida based DIGITAL FUNDS, LLC, titled “The Digital Funds S&P 500® Bitcoin 75/25 Index ETF” is unique in many ways. According to the prospectus, the fund will invest 75% of its assets “in large U.S. companies that comprise the S&P 500 Index” and will invest the other 25% in bitcoin futures contracts. Because this is a futures ETF, by default, it has a much higher chance of being approved by the SEC. Unlike spot ETF’s, which have thus far never made it out of the SEC without a big red denial stamp.

Bitcoin futures contracts are cash-settled contracts traded on commodity exchanges registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “The value of bitcoin futures is determined by reference to the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) Bitcoin Reference Rate, which is designed to provide an indication of the price of bitcoin across certain cash bitcoin exchanges.” You may have heard of ominous “futures expirations” in regards to potential bitcoin price action. We won’t dwell on that, but you can read more about it, here.

The other very interesting wrinkle in this ETF filing is the fact that the shares are tokenized, recorded and stored on Algorand. Per the filing: “the ownership of the Fund’s shares will also be recorded – or digitized – on the Algorand blockchain.” Additionally, the shares will  become available “for purchase, sale or transfer from one shareholder to another shareholder (“peer-to-peer”) ” on the Algorand chain. That bit is particularly interesting. Trading equity shares is not something that is generally ever done peer-to-peer.

Equity shares are not liquid like crypto, not even remotely. People can buy and sell equities, but the rigidity couched in fine print strip these shares of any semblance of “ownership”. This ETF’s proposed transition to tokenization allows for flexible liquidity, providing a “crypto like” makeup for the equity. The caveat is any potential shareholder must be “whitelisted by the Transfer Agent prior to purchasing shares in a peer-to-peer transaction.” This is not a surprise; ETF’s are fully regulated and must be registered with the SEC.

As noted above, the filing states that “fund shares will be recorded on the Algorand blockchain to facilitate the Fund’s shares being available for purposes, sale, or transfer.” Because Algorand has instant finality, these tokenized shares inherit crypto native features of Algorand including (other than KYC in this instance) permissionless liquidity as well as removal of middlemen. This ETF (more or less) eliminates burdensome counterparty risks which sandbag the investor while extracting profit from their intermediary role.

The most obvious upgrade of tokenized shares is the ability to leverage the public, immutable ledger of Algorand. The global legend  for transparency and bulwark to prevent fraud, and liability protection. Page six of the filing states: “the Transfer Agent may use the Algorand as a source of information in the case of a disputed transaction, including in the case of alleged fraud or theft.” The filing notes that fees on Algorand are “nominal”. Also, they’ve deemed the consensus protocol of Algorand to be resistant enough to “tolerate an arbitrary number of malicious users.”

Furthermore, for those curious minds that question if these ETF shares will be foisted onto some private iteration of Algorand, there is an answer. Per the filing: “robust and transparent data, other than shareholder personal identifying information, will be publicly available via the published blockchain and tools such as block explorers.” It goes on to say: “only a public wallet address (and not a shareholder’s personal identifying information) will be exposed to the public on the blockchain.”

“All fees associated with the use of the Algorand network will be the responsibility of the investment manager.” This means that the fund will be utilizing the public Algorand mainnet, and thus will be require exposure to the $ALGO token in order to conduct a transaction (buy, sell, send, or receive) or execute a smart contract. Personal, KYC information however will be “maintained by [the Transfer Agent or intermediaries, such as broker-dealers, that offer wallet hosting services] and will not be available to the public.”

With all the legalese out of the way, what are the takeaways here? Is this just a contrived, new-fangled use case for Algorand and alt-coins? No. Recording, storing, and facilitating ETF shares on-chain are a major, irrefutably legitimate use-case for Layer 1 chains. While many Bitcoin maximalists will scoff at this notion, understand that by doing so they are merrily rooting for leeching centralized custodians to preside over the ‘back-end’ mechanics of Bitcoin Future ETF’s. The mechanics of which Algorand is vying to disrupt, for the better.

There is a reason that the person behind this fund, former Senior Vice President at UBS, Michael Willis, is opting to make the Bitcoin ETF reflective of the ‘crypto ethos‘ by employing Algorand. Meaning, a Bitcoin ETF deserves to inherit the functionalities, efficiencies and unshackled properties that have been made possible in smart contract chains like Algorand. The irrationality of these evergreen doubters are manifestations of the spores of scams that permeate crypto. This has turned optimists into furrow-browed cynics.

Mr. Willis chose Algorand for the ETF out of practicality, not publicity. One, has no known ties to Algorand, and Algorand certainly isn’t a “hot chain” to ride the coattails of. Moreover, this choice added a complicated wrinkle of regulatory complexity due to the open source, public nature of Algorand and the $ALGO token by which it functions. Hitherto, smart contracts, first theorized in 1990 by famous cypherpunk Nick Szabo, have yet to sustain a robust, unmistakably sound use case outside the insular confines of DeFi.

If this Bitcoin ETF gets approved, not only will it be the most veritable use-case of smart contracts and alt-coins ever implemented in the “traditional world“, it will prove once and for all that Bitcoin and alt-coins not only can co-exist, but can actually unite to establish a powerful symbiotic relationship. As crypto analyst Eric Wall famously quipped last year: “Bitcoiners protect BTC against ‘shitcoinism’, but they’re also keeping it from valid technical ideas”.

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