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Image: Bakkt

Digital currency platform Bakkt launched its consumer app Tuesday. The Bakkt App serves as a digital wallet for loyalty and rewards points and gift cards, as well as bitcoin. 

Why it matters: Building an app that places bitcoin next to commonly used forms of digital assets could help introduce cryptocurrency to people who might not otherwise seek it out.

  • Availability of merchants who accept bitcoin as a form of payment could also help drive adoption, and companies like Tesla and PayPal are helping solve that part of the equation.

How it works: The Bakkt app makes it possible for someone to manage and access the stored value of various digital assets in one place. 

  • It allows people to buy, sell, convert and send bitcoin.
  • Users can convert loyalty and rewards programs, frequent flier miles and gift cards into cash and then reload things like their Starbucks Card saved to the Starbucks app. 
  • Businesses can also sell gift cards at a discount through the app, as well as receive customer payments.

The big picture: The launch comes nearly three years after Bakkt was founded by New York Stock Exchange parent company Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). The company announced plans to go public via a SPAC in January, at an expected valuation of $2.1 billion.

  • Bakkt has operated mainly as a bitcoin futures exchange since late 2019, and with access to more money through the capital markets, the company could expand its platform more significantly and help grow adoption and acceptance of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies even faster.
  • The recent bitcoin boom has been largely driven by Wall Street, Axios’ Dan Primack said on his podcast Axios Re:Cap at the time. “What Bakkt represents is a possible acceleration of that trend, with the IPO of popular crypto-exchange Coinbase soon to follow.”
  • More than half a million people participated in the app's invitation-only Early Access Program prior to Tuesday, the company said.

Listen to Dan’s conversation with CEO Gavin Michael in January on Axios Re:Cap.

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.