Skip to navigationSkip to content

Nasdaq used a bitcoin-style blockchain to sell shares. Was it really the first?

A trader gazes into a screen at Nasdaq.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
So, what’s a blockchain?
  • Joon Ian Wong
By Joon Ian Wong

Technology Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Nasdaq has trumpeted a recent share transaction as the first-ever private securities issuance documented with a blockchain, the technology that underpins crypto-currencies like bitcoin.

The exchange announced on Dec. 30 that it used its blockchain-powered platform, Linq, to allow a startup called Chain to sell shares to an unnamed private technology investor in the US.

But the Linq transaction looks like a bit of PR-posturing from the exchange. For starters, it probably isn’t the first time a company’s share transactions were recorded on a blockchain. As the Financial Times pointed out, Symbiont, a startup backed by former New York Stock Exchange chief executive Duncan Niederauer, issued its own shares on the bitcoin blockchain on Aug. 4.

In September, Digital Asset Holdings, led by former JPMorgan bigwig Blythe Masters, also used blockchain tech to enable a startup called Pivit to distribute shares to investors. Nasdaq is unfazed by these precedents. “This is the first-ever private securities issuance documented with blockchain technology and we stand by this view,” Nasdaq spokesman Ryan Wells told Quartz.

Blockchains promise to cut out a lot of the administrative costs and paperwork that’s currently required when private companies want to distribute shares. That’s because a blockchain is a shared ledger that all the parties in a transaction maintain, which cuts out the need for manual work, like mailing paper-share certificates and updating individual ledgers. That’s why so many firms are experimenting with the technology’s potential to sharply reduce securities settlement times.

But there’s a bit more bluster to cut through in Nasdaq’s claim. Chain, the company that sold its shares, is also the technology vendor that helped build the Linq platform. This isn’t mentioned in Nasdaq’s latest release, although it was announced in June. “Chain is a blockchain developer and worked hand-in-hand with Nasdaq as we created the technology,” Wells said.

Nasdaq’s blockchain transaction, then, is starting to look more like a technology vendor testing its product and less like a milestone on the road to a financial technology revolution.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.