New York-based exchange Coinsetter opened up its private beta this week, serving an international audience.
CEO Jaron Lukasiewicz started sending out around 100 private invitations each day to individuals as of Tuesday.
He is positioning the site as a ‘liquidity platform’, highlighting what he says is a superior matching engine for its order book. The software will enable people to trade more quickly and flexibly on the site, he claimed.
The firm touts millisecond trading as one of its differentiating features.
One turnaround for the firm was its announcement that it would now serve US-based traders. In August, Lukasiewicz had decided to cancel US trading plans, worrying that regulators would not look kindly on the firm’s lack of a money services business (MSB) license.
It has once again altered its business model for US traders, deciding to serve that market without initially accepting fiat currency from them.
“We will be a trading option for US customers,” said Lukasiewicz, adding:
“We removed money transmission from our actual platform, so when we deal with US customers, we’re not accepting dollar deposits.”
Customers make bitcoin deposits and withdrawals and effectively trade bitcoin/USD as a derivative, but the firm won’t be dealing with US dollars for US customers. He is working on introducing Automated Clearing House (ACH) functionality, however.
USD/BTC is Coinsetter’s only currency at present, driven largely by the need to chase liquid markets. Lukasiewicz says that he will consider “other interesting currency pairs” in the future.
Coinsetter has now registered as a money transmitting business with FinCEN, but is not registered as a money services business at a state level.
The CEO is hoping that the focus on derivatives trading will exclude him from MSB issues, but there are potential implications for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
Unlike rival CoinX, which is also in public beta, Coinsetter has secured the ability for clients to make withdrawals and deposits on the European SEPA direct deposit network. These deposits will also be free during November.
The move to support US customers is a significant one for Lukasiewicz, who anticipates that half of his business will be domestic, with the rest coming from international clients. Outside the US, Canada will be his biggest market, which is one reason why Coinsetter’s international subsidiary is registered in Toronto.
“Canada is going to be a huge market for us. The government has been pro-bitcoin. It’s very easy for me to get to. There are a lot of reasons why Canada is a good place to operate out of.”
In spite of Lukasiewicz’s concentration on liquidity, it will be relying on its own order book for the first few weeks.
A software bug caused the firm to pull its integration with exchange Bitstamp for the time being. It hopes to reintroduce that integration in the next month, which would enable it to trade on that exchange’s order book too.
In the meantime, it has a deal with a “major market maker” to secure liquidity for the platform.
“It means that for the first four weeks, we’ll be focusing on and testing the exchange,” said Lukasiewicz. “Even though it’s been difficult crossing that finish line integrating with Bitstamp, once we do get there we’ll be a stronger currency for it.”
One component of Coinsetter’s liquidity focus is its use of maker/taker pricing for its customers. Standard fees for bitcoin trades top out at 0.5% for trades up to 499 BTC over a 30-day period, dropping to 0.3% for trades over 1,000 BTC.
However, the company will reward market makers – those firms who offer extra liquidity by always being ready to buy and sell bitcoin – with rebates.
“This was just something that we heard from so many market makers on our site,” he said, explaining that the maker/taker rebates are restricted to those who introduce liquidity. He added:
“High volume traders on our site can reach levels where they will actually get paid to make trades.”
Margin trading – originally intended as a feature at launch – has been postponed and scaled down, said Lukasiewicz, who has said in the past that he wanted to be considered as the “forex.com of bitcoin trading”.
He will monitor customer feedback when exploring the rollout of margin trading features, he added.
Coinsetter received $500,000 in funding this April from a round led by Barry Silbert's Bitcoin Opportunity Fund, and was backed by luminaries including bitcoin investor Roger Ver.
Lukasiewicz has an interesting track record. Before Coinsetter, he co-founded online ticketing firm Ticketometer, and has a history in private equity and investment banking.