Closely-watched bitcoin startup to roll out trading platform

A Boston financial services technology startup has joined two organizations in the city designed to help young fintech companies get off the ground and will unveil a public, beta version of its bitcoin option exchange within the next week.

Alt-Options, founded last year by four Boston University students, has created a trading platform for Bitcoin options, or contracts that give investors the right to buy or sell the digital currency with leverage, as well as a pricing algorithm and other tools to aid Bitcoin investors. The platform “fills a hole and need for people’s hedging and speculative acts” in the digital currency space, according to CEO Joe Zhou.
Alt-Options CEO and co-founder Joe Zhou.

Alt-Options CEO and co-founder Joe Zhou.

Courtesy Joe Zhou

The startup has joined FinTech Sandbox, a Boston-based nonprofit that connects fintech startups with companies willing to share data for free, and the DCU Center of Excellence in Financial Services, an accelerator hosted by the credit union and Workbar that provides office space in downtown Boston for fintech startups.

Alt-Options already has nearly 500 investors registered to use the platform, with an ultimate goal of 1,000 users for the beta version. Along with the release of the beta, the company will host a three-week trading competition to raise awareness about its product, in which participants will be given $10,000 in trading credits and the winner will receive an iPad or a cash or Bitcoin prize. The startup plans to kick off the competition at the end of September or beginning of October, Zhou said.

To turn a profit, Alt-Options will take a percentage of commodities’ trading value as commission and charge a flat fee on options contracts. So far, Alt-Options has attracted around $60,000 in funding from angel investors, though it has a pending $150,000 offer, according to Marco Cuesta, co-founder and vice president of sales.

Zhou is experiencing a mix of excitement and anxiety about his creation hitting the masses. “I’m feeling really good because we’ve been spending so much time on this, and finally, we have a product. At the same time, as a startup, we have to worry about the different types of risks lying in front of us,” including continuing to navigate the evolving regulatory scheme for Bitcoin, he said.


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