Nasdaq partners with Chain to bring blockchain to private market

NEW YORK, June 24 (Reuters) - Exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc said on Wednesday it partnered with blockchain infrastructure provider Chain to make digital ledger technology available to private companies that issue and transfer shares on the Nasdaq Private Market (NPM).

The blockchain is a shared distributed ledger that records and is the repository of digital assets. It is also the mechanism parties can use to transfer those assets.

The technology, which will be rolled out on NPM later this year, is the same type that underpins the digital currency bitcoin. Nasdaq and Chain said it will make it easier for private companies to keep track of the shares they issue and to settle transactions.

“Having an immutable record from the inception of a company through the various financings and exits, that is indisputable, that is shared and open, is going to create a better corporate governance model,” Chain Chief Executive Officer Adam Ludwin said in an interview.

Nasdaq launched its market for private companies in 2014 following the passing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) in 2012, which increased the amount of shareholders an unlisted company can have to 2,000 from 500. The market was designed to make it easier for investors of private companies to exit, including helping employees with a large portion of their compensation tied to shares to sell them when needed.

Chain is one of the companies that has signed onto NPM, and it will be the first to utilize the blockchain technology to manage its shares when Nasdaq makes the service available later this year.

Ludwin said Chain currently uses lawyers to track its share issuance.

“We would rather have the blockchain manage our shares than our lawyers - and God bless them, we love them, but they’re expensive - and I am sick of poking around Excel trying to figure out who owns what,” said Ludwin.

“I’d rather issue these things in a digital way that is very transparent in a digital record.”

Other exchanges are also staking claims to the technology behind digital currencies. The New York Stock Exchange, owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc, said it made an investment in bitcoin trading platform Coinbase in January. (Reporting by John McCrank. Editing by Andre Grenon)