From having founded the pioneering digital publishing platform CNET, selling it for $1.8 billion to CBS and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy subsequently, Halsey Minor — an American serial tech entrepreneur from the 1990s dotcom boom era — has seen it all. His next big bet is digital finance, which he describes as the “last frontier of internet”, with all other consumer-facing segments having been already tapped.
Between 1993 to about 2005, Minor built or invested in a slew of tech companies like Vignette, Salesforce, Rhapsody, Open DNS and GrandCentral, and is now back with a new venture — Bitreserve, a bitcoin-wallet service, which he wants to bring to India.
Calling it the internet of money, Minor, who was in India recently to meet regulators, says banking is the last bastion that will get disrupted by technology. “After the US, UK and China, we want to now set up operations in India and we are talking to regulators and potential partners on a range of our internet-based finance offerings,” he told TOI. He believes his brand will be operational in India before it takes off in the US.
While bitcoin introduced the notion of cloud-based value and real-time transparency, Bitreserve delivers on the bitcoin’s promise of a better financial system, explains the 49-year-old. This puts consumers and businesses in direct control of their money, he adds. He wants to offer Bitreserve as a financial inclusion productwhich can be used for money transfers.
A cloud-based digital money platform, Bitreserve enables users to hold and transfer virtual assets whose value is substantiated by a reserve of real assets by the company in financial institutions. “This is subsequently also audited.” The primary businesses he is targeting in India include mobile payments and remittances. Given that India accounts for the largest remittances globally, it is a big focus area for the company, which seeks to offer its services without charging any commission.
Bitreserve, which seeks to disrupt the market for existing players in that business, has already tied up with Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego of Group Salinas to access the remittances market in Mexico.
“RBI has the understanding of how to look at us from the regulatory point of view, whereas some others did not know where we fit in,” he says about his meeting with the banking regulator. He said Bitreserve seeks to extend the banking system at zero cost, adding that in five years no financial intermediary will make money while moving money.
Just like many tech startup founders, Minor, too, quit his corporate job back in the 1990s at Merrill Lynch to launch a technology news portal CNET. Minor was an early investor in Salesforce.com, the cloud computing giant, and went on to launch Minor Ventures in San Francisco, which made investments in early-stage tech startups.
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