Bitstamp Got $10 Million From Fortress-Linked Hedge Fund

Jon Southurst
Mar 17, 2014 at 10:56 UTC
Updated Jan 2, 2015 at 15:11 UTC

Bitcoin exchange Bitstamp received $10m in hedge fund investment last year, according to a new Bloomberg report.

The money came from Pantera Capital Management LP, “the hedge fund that manages money for Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG) executives”, Bloomberg said. If true, it would be one of the largest single investments in a bitcoin-related business to date.

Bitstamp has been a huge beneficiary of the collapse of Mt. Gox, multiplying its share of dollar trades by up to 50% since February. It now has at least 35% of the total bitcoin trade market share, according to bitcoincharts.

Tahoe gathering

Pantera’s path to investment was led by founder Dan Morehead, who took about 30 bitcoin entrepreneurs to Lake Tahoe in October last year to discuss his vision, among them Bitstamp CEO Nejc Kodric. Soon after that, Pantera formed a $147m fund called Pantera Bitcoin Advisors and a principal at Fortress, Michael Novogratz, called Morehead “our man when it comes to bitcoin”.

When CoinDesk asked Kodric whether Bloomberg’s report was accurate, he merely said: “No comment”.

Bloomberg’s story highlighted the incredible potential of this and future link-ups between Wall Street and Silicon Valley, as expertise in finance met technological excellence. Funds like Pantera’s had the power to lift bitcoin businesses from startup obscurity into the big time.

“Finance people are now recognizing the force multiplier of combining their deep knowledge of finance with new, possibly game-changing technologies,” said Chris Larsen, CEO of Ripple Labs.

Pantera also contributed a portion of Ripple Labs’ recent $9m funding round, along with Google and Lightspeed Ventures.

Pantera hasn’t commented on this week’s revelations, made by three people who knew of the deal, and the new fund has stayed quiet about other intentions and big deals.

New attraction

Bitcoin startups, taking a lead from Silicon Valley startups, have appealed more to tech venture capitalists and corporations for their big break. They will probably in future pay extra attention to very deep-pocketed Wall Street players. Wall Street, in turn, will demand a new breed of financially-focused and compliance-willing management teams to match its own involvement.

“A group like that should be able to deliver the kinds of relationships that startups need. I’d take Pantera over a lot of other firms,” said Brock Pierce, a California VC.

Bitstamp is UK-registered but reportedly has most operations in Slovenia. It was founded in 2011 by Kodric and Damijan Merlak. Since then it has established a reputation for stability and good management, and has an advantage in its location in the European Union with its integrated money transfer system.

It has always been compliant with financial regulations and users must have verified identification, something that has become more or less standard at bitcoin exchanges around the world, especially the current crop of new startups in Asia.