On Thursday (June 20), Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of Ripple, said that Ripple was having such an amazing week that he was going to thank Facebook's David Marcus—who is a co-creator of the Libra cryptocurrency and the head of the Calibra wallet project—by sending him a case of champagne.
The Ripple CEO's comments during an interview—with Clifton Leaf, Editor-in-Chief, FORTUNE—on day two of the FORTUNE Brainstorm Finance 2019 conference (June 19-20, 2019 at Gurney’s Montauk Resort in Montauk, NY). This article focuses on the key highlights from this conversation.
The MoneyGram Deal
Leaf started the interview by asking Garlinghouse about the "massive" deal with MoneyGram, which was announced on Monday (June 17), one day before Facebook released details about its upcoming cryptocurrency (Libra) and digital wallet (Calibra).
As CryptoGlobe reported on June 17, under the terms of this deal, Ripple will make an initial investment of $30 million in MoneyGram, one of the world's largest money transfer companies, by acquiring shares at a price of $4.10 per share (or roughly three times the market value). During the next two years, MoneyGram has the option to make Ripple invest another $20 million (again, paying $4.10 per share).
Leaf wanted to know why was it that the stock price of MoneyGram "shot up 168%" after the announcement of Ripple's investment in MoneyGram whereas the price of XRP "barely moved."
Garlinghouse replied that this was due to the fact there is "so much noise" in the blockchain/crypto market and "it's really, really hard" for people "looking at these ecosystems" to understand "what is real and what is noise." He said that, for example, CNBC ran the headline "Facebook Launches Cryptocurrency" when in fact "Facebook did not launch a cryptocurrency" and instead what it did was release "a white paper about their intent and plans that maybe a year from now we'll see a cryptocurrency called Libra."
He went on to say MoneyGram was "a very big deal for Ripple" and an "even bigger deal for crypto markets overall" (since, presumably, MoneyGram's use of XRP as part of its cross-border payments process only helps to legitmize crypto in the same way that Facebook's entry into the crypto space does).
"There has to be utility. There has to be a problem you're solving leveraging these technologies, or why do they exist?"
He then said that although he is a believer in blockchain technology, he was seeing so many projects that cause him to ask the question "why isn't a database more efficient?" since "a blockchain is an expensive database."
Next, he explained that one major cost of traditional correspondent banking (for cross-border payments) that people don't quite understand is the liquidity cost (since it means that "pre-funded capital sits in accounts around the world). Of course, Ripple has a liquidity solution called xRapid (which uses the digit asset XRP as a "bridge currency").
Bitcoin vs XRP
When asked about the speed of XRP, Garlinghouse said that he didn't believe in the idea of "one crypto to rule them all":
"I own Bitcoin. I'm long Bitcoin. I think Bitcoin is a store of value and people hold it. I don't think it's going to be just one use case. We think about XRP as an incredibly efficient bridge currency because it's incredibly fast. So, in contrast to even Bitcoin, for example, get can do a transaction for about 6/10000 of a cent. A bitcoin transaction costs about $2.30 per transaction."
Garlinghouse then added that this did not mean that he saw Bitcoin (which he referred to as digital gold) and XRP as rivals since they are addressing different use cases.
Facebook's Libra Announcement
Leaf also talked to Garlinghouse about xRapid. In particular, he wanted to know why the xRapid customers that Ripple has announced so far are not "household names." Garlinghouse replied:
"For a Silicon Valley startup to be able to go from launch of a new product to 10-15 customers... actually, I'm pretty thrilled."
He then mentioned David Marcus, the Head of Calibra (Facebook's custodial digital wallet for Libra):
"I will also say that I'm going to send a case of champagne to David Marcus, the guy who runs Libra. The Reason is [that] this week will be the best week of signed contracts at Ripple ever. It's been a massive call to action... I think the banks realized that if Facebook is going to be a competitor in this space, they can't depend on a technology like SWIFT to compete in the marketplace."