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This story appears in the September 30, issue of Forbes Magazine. This is. Byrne, who bought Overstock. High on his list: transforming the African continent and its 1. Like an infomercial for the nascent decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, he waxes poetic about a future in which corruption is wiped out, people are freed from poverty and developing nations can leapfrog ahead by putting government functions like voting, property records and central banking on the blockchain.

Characteristically low on his priority list: The economic interests of the thousands of shareholders in his publicly traded former e-tailing giant. For the last several years, Byrne, 56, spent no fewer than days a year on the road spreading his blockchain gospel, despite the fact that Overstock was hemorrhaging cash. Maybe 5 billion. However, he later reveals that he had been meeting with the Department of Justice. She is currently serving an month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent, in connection with her efforts to infiltrate conservative political circles before and after the presidential election.

Maria Butina, a gun rights activist, plead guilty in to working on Russia's behalf in the U. But for three years I have watched my country pull itself apart while I knew many answers, and I set my red line at seeing civil violence breaking out. I now plan on leaving things to the esteemed Department of Justice which I have doubtless already angered enough by going public and disappearing for some time.

In a call from his car minutes after delivering a farewell speech to his surprised employees, Byrne said he had his bags packed. The existential crisis Byrne is putting his Salt Lake City-based company through comes after an impressive career pioneering e-commerce. Just as e-commerce captivated Byrne at the turn of the millennium, blockchain was his shiny new obsession.

The rest has been seemingly squandered on a personal vendetta: Overstock is creating a blockchain version of Nasdaq, which Byrne believed could right some of the evils of Wall Street—particularly the naked short-selling that he claims plagued his company for much of the last 15 years. In recent months, Byrne fired some people. In , he headed to Dartmouth to study philosophy and Asian studies.

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Shortly after his graduation, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After treatment, he celebrated with a cross-country bicycle ride with his two older brothers.


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The cancer would come back two more times in quick succession and keep him in the hospital for much of his 20s. To keep his mind occupied while he was bedridden, he began pursuing a graduate degree in mathematical logic from Stanford. In he headed to Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar and eventually received his philosophy doctorate from Stanford.

Despite his years in academia, Byrne pivoted hard to the pursuit of wealth in the late s. He also invested in distressed strip malls, office space and apartment buildings across the country. In , he led an investment into Centricut, a New Hampshire-based industrial torch-part manufacturer, and served briefly as CEO when the current management fell ill.

His timing was perfect. The company began scooping up inventory from bankrupt dot-coms, whether it was consumer electronics, jewelry or sporting goods, then selling it on the cheap.

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Google went public the same way. In , he headed to Dartmouth to study philosophy and Asian studies. Shortly after his graduation, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After treatment, he celebrated with a cross-country bicycle ride with his two older brothers. The cancer would come back two more times in quick succession and keep him in the hospital for much of his 20s. To keep his mind occupied while he was bedridden, he began pursuing a graduate degree in mathematical logic from Stanford.

Enter your name and email below to instantly access my ultimate self-editing checklist.

In he headed to Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar and eventually received his philosophy doctorate from Stanford. Despite his years in academia, Byrne pivoted hard to the pursuit of wealth in the late s. He also invested in distressed strip malls, office space and apartment buildings across the country. In , he led an investment into Centricut, a New Hampshire-based industrial torch-part manufacturer, and served briefly as CEO when the current management fell ill. His timing was perfect.


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  6. The company began scooping up inventory from bankrupt dot-coms, whether it was consumer electronics, jewelry or sporting goods, then selling it on the cheap. Google went public the same way. Byrne became convinced it was because of naked short-selling, an illegal practice in which investors sell shares in a company without actually borrowing the shares, typically using leverage.

    And while the company never racked up massive losses like Amazon or Wayfair, as Byrne likes to point out, its profitability has been modest.

    Overstock broke into the black in , then eked out small profits for the next seven out of eight years. Byrne chalked his market share declines up to competitors with seemingly endless piles of cash to blow through. Backed by top-tier venture capitalists, Wayfair has eclipsed Overstock. However, former employees say Byrne was distracted by his short-selling crusade and failed to take competitors seriously. Several minutes later, after his assistant tracks him down, he glides into his office, where posters of Bob Marley and Pulp Fiction give it a dorm-room feel.

    He sits down and begins ruminating on his two decades running Overstock. Byrne began chasing crypto in late when he asked dozens of staffers to work over the holiday break to fast-track a bitcoin payment feature. During the cryptocurrency bubble in and , Overstock shares soared and crashed in line with the price of bitcoin.

    The crown jewel: a digital stock exchange called Tzero, which is seeking to allow investors to trade so-called security tokens that represent traditional securities, like stocks, bonds, real estate, private equity and art on the blockchain. Proponents say this will improve access and liquidity for certain investments, plus cut down settlement times for stocks and bonds from up to two days to mere seconds. A bonus: The system would make naked short-selling impossible because there is no longer a lag time between a buy and sell order.

    How to Sell Anything to Anyone by Telling Great Stories

    On the plus side, Tzero has satisfied a set of fearsome regulatory requirements, most notably acquiring a company licensed as an alternative trading system. The company says it is aiming for 5 to 10 tokens by the end of the year. While it hopes to generate revenues from listing fees, trading commissions, interest on lending assets and more, it first needs to create liquidity by attracting quality issuers and investors to its platform.

    Byrne was also developing a securities lending platform as part of Tzero, which would connect asset-rich institutional investors like pension funds who make money by lending their stock directly with short-sellers who borrow stock to make trades. Both parties stand to benefit from lower fees, plus would receive a blockchain-enabled digital locate receipt that proves the shares have actually changed hands.

    Story Sells! - Use THESE 6 Storytelling Sales Techniques To Sell More