Etsy CEO: Bitcoin 'not quite ready' to be a standard payment option for sellers

Julie Hyman
·Anchor
·2 min read

Bitcoin has tumbled about 15% in the past week. Despite its price appreciation this year (up more than 60%) and the enthusiasm around trading bitcoin, its acceptance as payment for transactions is still relatively low. That's not likely to change in 2021— at least not on online marketplace Etsy.

"I don't think it's quite ready yet to be tender," said Etsy CEO Josh Silverman in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live. "You need a lot of people holding it before it is actually useful as a form of tender. Never say never, but I don't think 2021 is a year when we would prioritize that."

Cryptocurrency users recently surpassed 100 million, according to a recent report. That includes currencies other than bitcoin. Of course, "users" in this case doesn't mean that people are buying anything with crypto, and in the vast majority of cases they are just trading it or holding it.

For Etsy sellers to be paid in cryptocurrency, they have to get buyers to connect with them off-platform. Etsy does facilitate payment methods like Apple Pay and PayPal, as well as credit cards.

Silverman is also not interested in adding bitcoin to Etsy's balance sheet, a move that companies like Tesla, MicroStrategy and Square have made. (Tesla also said it would consider accepting bitcoin as payment, but hasn't yet implemented that option).

YICHANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 20, 2021 - A view of Bitcoin, Yichang, central China's Hubei province, Feb 20, 2021.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Costfoto / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 20, 2021 - A view of Bitcoin, Yichang, central China's Hubei province, Feb 20, 2021.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Costfoto / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

"I don't think that it's our job to speculate with our shareholders' cash. The cash that Etsy has on its balance sheet stays in very safe securities," Silverman said. The company held $1.7 billion of cash and cash equivalents as of the end of 2020.

That view remains the predominant one among executives, who don't want to be confronted with a rapidly depreciating or appreciating asset if they need cash to purchase equipment, for example, or to make an acquisition.

All of that said, Silverman personally holds bitcoin, and has for six to seven years. "In the United States, we are blessed to have a banking system we trust, and a currency that we trust. Many people in many parts of the world don't have that, and so I think cryptocurrency can be an interesting potential solution for that."

For now, Etsy shoppers will have to content themselves with commemorative gold-plated bitcoins, or a bitcoin piggy-bank birthday card. And when sellers do accept bitcoin, perhaps this LED "bitcoin accepted here" sign can help spread the word.

Julie Hyman is the co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live, weekdays 9am-11am ET.

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