Saturday, 17 March 2018

Bitcoin company to operate in Watertown

WATERTOWN — The Bitcoin phenomenon is coming to Watertown in the form of a small company that will eventually be housed in a Stateway Plaza storefront.

Owned by local businessman Robert Havens, WCV Media Inc. is establishing a high-tech supercomputer facility for use with evolving new technology called Blockchain, an incorruptible digital ledger that can be programmed for financing transactions, Mr. Havens said Wednesday.

The demand for Blockchain is being driven by multiple industries, including banking, global payments, entertainment and health care, he said.

The news of the company opening in the storefront comes on the heels of a Bitcoin mining center planned for the former Alcoa East plant in Massena that could bring in at least a $165 million investment and 150 jobs.

On a much smaller scale, WCV Media plans to lease 4,000 square feet in the former Rite Aid drug store in Stateway Plaza. WCV has a five-year lease with the plaza owners.

On Thursday, the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, approved a $125,000 loan to the company.

WCV Media will be leasing to other global Blockchain developers its supercomputer equipment and will be paid daily for processing power, said Dean Barr, a consultant working with the company.

“We won’t be mining Bitcoins,” he said.

The facility will run 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, said Donald W. Rutherford, the Watertown Trust’s CEO.

The north country makes a good home for Bitcoin operations because of the availability of low energy costs, low temperatures and warehousing space, said Watertown Trust board member Jeff Fallon.

“They need lots of power and high ceilings,” he said.

The company, which will initially operate in the Reny building at 303-311 State St. and later move to the plaza, is expected to be in operation by March 1. WCV Media will employ about five full-time and three part-time workers.

To get off the ground, Mr. Havens, a Clarkson University alum, is working with Mr. Barr and another consultant, Falk Laube, who has a doctorate from the University of Luxembourg.

An electrical engineer, Mr. Laube has 10 years experience in quantified trading in futures.

Mr. Barr has 30 years of experience as a global investor and a majority partner with Foundation Capital Partners. He also oversaw $61 billion in hedge funds with the Deutsche Bank, one of the world’s leading financial service providers.

“They have impressive resumes,” Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. said. “This guy must be worth millions (of dollars.)”

The five-year, 5 percent loan from the Watertown Trust will be for mortgage and real estate aspects of the project, not for the purchase of GPUs, or graphics processing units.

The owner had requested the loan to purchase the GPUs — programmable logic chips specialized for display functions — that cost about $800 each.

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