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Greek island agrees to test digital currency

The political crisis in Greece makes a government solution unlikely, so I have helped create a private solution. I think Greece could use blockchain technology to create an asset-backed digital currency that would act as a complement to the current currency regime. A parallel currency can kick-start the Greek economy and avert a humanitarian disaster.

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The Greek people were correct to vote "no" on the referendum on debt-repayment terms. Austerity has pushed Greece into a depression – more austerity will exacerbate the situation. The solution to the Greek problem is writing off a portion or all of the debt. While this had been a non-starter for the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Union, just last week the IMF conceded that Greece's debt load was unsustainable. So now what?

Agistri, Greece
Source: Agistri
Agistri, Greece

Over the next several weeks the ECB, IMF and EU will renegotiate with Greece, but unless they acquiesce to a debt haircut (being repaid less than they loaned), the talks will be futile. In the meantime, it is the Greek people who will suffer. Without a banking system and access to cash, citizens have found themselves short of essential items like prescription drugs. The larger problem is that faith in the banking system has been shattered. Much like during the Great Depression in the U.S., generations of Greeks will not trust keeping funds in banks. During America's Great Depression the only choice for frightened citizens was to hide cash under the mattress — today, we can use the technology behind bitcoin to create a store of value that is independent of the traditional banking system.

The digital currency I created last year, Nautiluscoin, was designed to tackle this specific task. Blockchain technology has progressed rapidly over the last 12 months and we can now offer Greece a digital currency that is backed by gold and is integrated into a mobile-banking platform.

The mayor of the Greek island of Agistri has agreed to allow the island to be a pilot program for a new monetary ecosystem, which will use Nautiluscoin. Agistri is a small island in the Saronic Gulf that is ideally located 55 minutes from Piraeus, the largest port in Greece. The combination of the small size and convenient location makes Agistri a perfect candidate for a pilot program. Over the coming weeks, the infrastructure for this project will be rolled out and the citizens of Agistri will receive Nautiluscoin to begin transacting.

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Nautiluscoin was originally designed as stable store of value with a "stability fund" that would act as an internal central bank to reduce the notorious volatility associated with digital currencies like bitcoin. After some trial and error, I have discovered what many others have over the last 5,000 years – the most trusted independent form of money is gold.

In order to create a stable store of value backed by gold, we will employ a two-pronged approach for Nautiluscoin. First, the Nautiluscoin Stability Fund will initially retain a majority ownership stake in Nautiluscoin. As the monetary ecosystem grows, these coins will be sold to meet demand. The goal of this program will be to provide a countercyclical monetary policy that will foster an environment that allows for steady growth in purchasing power.

Using blockchain technology makes it easy to create a currency, but that currency is useless without a banking system. Currently the Greek banking system is effectively shut and it is unclear when or if it will re-open. We are partnering with Coinstructors (a UK digital currency and mobile banking company) who created Drachmae.Money.

Drachmae.Money will charge a fee for each Nautiluscoin transaction. Instead of the fee going to a for-profit entity the revenue generated will be recycled to support the purchasing power of Nautiluscoin. The fees generated will be used by the Nautiluscoin Stability Fund to purchase gold – in this way, as the monetary ecosystem grows the amount of gold backing Nautiluscoin will also grow. Our goal by recycling the fees is to grow the amount of gold backing Nautiluscoin.

Using gold to back Nautiluscoin should give both tourists and merchants assurance that a digital currency is more than just lines of computer code, while utilizing the stability fund to create a countercyclical monetary policy will provide flexibility that gold lacks. Since it is unclear what fiat currency Greece will eventually choose (euro or new drachma), a digital currency like Nautiluscoin can be quickly be deployed to kick-start the tourism industry. We have already begun to implement this plan and estimate that it will take 60 to 90 days to fully execute.

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Using Drachmae.Money, tourists will be able to acquire Nautiluscoin in a manner that is fully Know-Your-Customer (KYC) compliant via their mobile phone. Once tourists arrive on the island of Agistri, merchants will be able to accept payment in Nautiluscoin.

Inspired by the WIR Bank in Switzerland, Coinstructors has also created Drachmae.Connect – a business-to-business platform that will not only allow merchants to exchange services, but also enable tourists to book vacations at a discount. This solution draws inspiration from the highly successful WIR Bank that manages and issues the private currency WIR franc in Switzerland. The WIR Bank was established by two Swiss businessmen in 1934 in response to a failing economy and currency shortages.

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While many people think that the Swiss franc is the only currency in Switzerland, the WIR franc has been accepted as payment since 1934. This complementary currency has an 80-year plus history of fueling a business-to-business network.

Allowing the use of Nautiluscoin will immediately infuse capital into the island of Agistri, while the tools of the Drachmae Project will allow tourists and businesses to connect and transact independent of the Greek banking system. The asset backing of Nautiluscoin will give confidence to holders that Nautiluscoin is an independent store of value.

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The Nautiluscoin/Drachmae.Money solution is designed to act as a complement to the existing monetary ecosystem. It is a private solution to a public problem. This is not a vanity project or publicity stunt – I have already and will continue to invest my own money to complete this project – this goes beyond a profit and loss statement. I view this as investing in a new frontier.

Blockchain technology allows for the efficient creation of a complementary currency, while mobile banking provides an ideal independent ecosystem. We aim to be one part of the Greek economic recovery by combining the best of new technology and existing economic systems.

Brian Kelly is founder and managing member of Brian Kelly Capital LLC, a global macro investment firm catering to high net worth individuals, family offices and institutions. He is also the creator of the BKCM Indexes, benchmarks for multi-asset money managers. He's also the author of the upcoming book, "The Bitcoin Big Bang: How Alternative Currencies Are About to Change the World." Kelly, a CNBC contributor, often appears on "Fast Money." Follow him on Twitter @BKBrianKelly.

Disclosure: Brian Kelly is the creator of Nautiluscoin, owns Nautiluscoin tokens and makes a market in Nautiluscoin.