New Austin-based cryptocurrency encourages investment in local businesses


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As cryptocurrencies create more and more buzz worldwide, one tech startup is looking to cash in on the Austin market.

DigitalTown has launched a new, hyperlocal cryptocurrency called CityShares, that encourages Austinites to invest in local businesses to help boost the city’s economy.

“It’s much like having shares of a company,” DigitalTown VP of Global Operations Frank Robles explained. Except in this case, shareholders will invest in the local business economy. “Citizens will be able to succeed individually, as well as they watch the city around them succeed,” he said.

Robles’ team designed the site for doing all kinds of business from booking hotels, to ordering food for delivery, to buying products made by local artists, all using CityShares as the form of payment. Robles says the goal is to create direct transactions between businesses and customers and cut out the third parties that charge small businesses big fees.

“Something like Expedia or, those are extracting money from the community,” he said. “They’re taking commissions out of the community.”

DigitalTown is offering 10 free CityShares to the next several hundred people who sign up. Robles says hundreds are already buying into the digital currency. He predicts as more people buy, “It’s highly likely that these will become worth a lot of money.”

Unlike some other cryptocurrencies, Robles claims the value of CityShares isn’t based solely on speculation. He says it’s backed by the city’s economic development, and he believes that could make it a more stable investment.

“Austin is a very successful growing city,” he said. “It’s coming nowhere near slowing down, much less stopping, and we’re just getting behind and pushing.”

Both the city of Austin and Austin’s Chamber of Commerce told us this is the first they’ve heard of the new cryptocurrency. DigitalTown says it’s working to reach out and develop partnerships with city leaders and local businesses. It could be several months before those partnerships are formed and businesses are ready to take the cryptocurrency in exchange for their services.

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