What's happening?

Shares of Riot Blockchain, Inc. (NASDAQ:RIOT) are up about 14% as of 1 p.m. EST Wednesday after the company announced it signed a letter of intent to purchase Logical Brokerage Corp, a Miami, Florida-based introducing broker registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Riot characterized the move as a stepping stone into the business of facilitating cryptocurrency and futures trades. 

So what

Riot said in a press release that it "intends to pursue launching a digital currency exchange and a futures brokerage operation within the United States," putting it in direct competition with venture capital-backed cryptocurrency exchanges including Coinbase and Gemini, both of which operate in the United States. In futures, Riot's brokerage would compete with major discount brokerages that already allow their clients to trade bitcoin futures.

Rising stock price shown on a line chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

Little is known about Logical Brokerage Corp, but it appears to be a small operation at least partially owned by its president, Mark Bradley Fisher, according to its profile on the National Futures Association website. Fisher is also managing member of Monroe Capital, LLC, which owned 22,000 shares of Riot as recently as Jan. 4, 2018, according to an S-3 filing.

It's an interesting twist in Riot Blockchain's timeline since Fisher appears to have some connections to other Riot Blockchain investors, including Barry Honig, who was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal for playing a role in orchestrating Riot's shift in its business model from biotech to the blockchain.

An online search reveals that Honig and Fisher work together as board members of a not-for-profit entity known as Florida Vipers. In addition, Fisher's firm and Honig also seem to have crossed paths in Cogint, a small publicly traded company in which both were investors, based on a search of SEC filings.

Now what

Riot Blockchain got into the cryptocurrency exchange business in October 2017, when it announced it purchased a minority stake in Coinsquare, an online exchange based in Canada. Though that investment is performing well, according to Riot's press releases, duplicating its apparent success with its own exchange won't be so easy.

Established U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchanges already facilitate a massive amount of daily trading volume. GDAX processed more than $500 million of U.S. dollar-denominated bitcoin trades in the last 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap.com. Gemini processed more than $150 million of such trades in the same time period.

Convincing speculators to take their business to a new exchange will be no easy task, and Riot will also have to appease regulators who are applying more scrutiny to bitcoin- and blockchain-related companies of all stripes. But for today, at least, the market seems happy enough that Riot Blockchain simply put out yet another press release detailing more grand plans. 

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