ICE bitcoin venture Bakkt leaves Starbucks executives with red faces

August 06, 2018
Chris Wheal

The announcement on Friday of a new crypto exchange joint venture led by the Intercontinental Stock Exchange (ICE) led to some confusion over Starbucks’ commitment to cryptocurrency use and a hasty correction from the coffee retailer.

Starbuck will not be accepting bitcoin as payment at its coffee shops any time soon

Exchange operator – parent of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) – announced plans to form a new company called Bakkt (pronounced ‘backed’, geddit?) using Microsoft cloud computing to create an “open and regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets”.

The announcement listed a strong roster of partners in the enterprise, including BCG, Microsoft and Starbucks who would create an integrated platform to enable customers to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets on a seamless global network.

Smell the coffee

Confusion arose, however, when Maria Smith, vice president of Partnerships and Payments for Starbucks was quoted in the statement:

“As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks.”

The world’s press followed with headlines suggesting that coffee drinkers would soon be able to pay for their lattes and cappucinos with bitcoin and other digital tokens.


A clarification was issued on Saturday. For the record, a Starbucks spokesperson wrote across the social media: “It is important to clarify that we are not accepting digital assets at Starbucks.”

The spokesperson added: “Rather the exchange will convert digital assets like bitcoin into US dollars, which can be used at Starbucks. Customers will not be able to pay for Frappuccinos with bitcoin.”

Bakkt’s chief executive is Kelly Loeffler, an existing ICE executive and wife of Jeff Sprecher, CEO of ICE. The founding principle of the enterprise is to make bitcoin a sound offering for the world’s institutions that are currently wary of cryptocurrencies.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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