3 Forces Shaping Next-Generation Bitcoin Exchanges

Recent bitcoin exchange funding deals reflect potential trends in that growing market.

AccessTimeIconAug 31, 2014 at 5:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:08 a.m. UTC

Investors and venture capitalists have developed a healthy appetite for funding bitcoin exchange services in recent months.

As the exchange system represents a key element of the broader bitcoin economy, it’s unsurprising that these companies are able to secure working capital. A closer look at recent news events, however, reveals that underlying trends may be a motivating factor.

In the aftermath of Mt Gox’s much-publicized collapse, a new breed of exchanges has moved to fill the vacuum previously occupied by what was once the most popular bitcoin exchange.

From China to Silicon Valley, the companies behind the world’s most active bitcoin exchanges are raising funds and using those resources to build and deploy stronger and more user-friendly platforms, ones that go beyond Mt Gox in many key ways.

Overall, the funding rounds reflect three trends currently at work in the exchange space. Today's bitcoin exchanges are internationally focused, institutional investor-approved and compliant (or as much as possible) with local laws.

1. International markets

CoinDesk - Unknown


OKCoin, the largest China-based bitcoin exchange by volume, raised $10m in a Series A funding round back in March. The deal touted notable participants including Ceyuan, a VC fund that was among the first to develop in mainland China.

In the time since, the company has put that funding to work. As revealed in subsequent conversations with CoinDesk, OKCoin has begun to make big investments in its international services with an eye on capturing a significant market share outside of mainland China.

Today, the firm has roughly 100 employees and has even hired key talent from the US market in conjunction with its expansion.

From a broader perspective, exchanges can utilize funding to help integrate with the traditional financial system. This process also give exchanges the resources to build services that make it easier for users familiar with other platforms to interface successfully.

As noted by Changpeng Zhao, OKCoin’s chief technology officer:

“The image that we want to build, and we will build, is that of a professional financial services company. It’s not just an Internet company, it’s not just a bitcoin company. We are an exchange.”

2. Investor interest

CoinDesk - Unknown

Wall Street

Though it wasn't announced until March, Bitstamp raised $10m in new funding from Pantera Capital Management in 2013. The move gave the Europe-based bitcoin exchange a significant boost during a time of significant evolution in the exchange marketplace.

During the period Bitstamp purportedly received the funding, bitcoin exchanges were seeing larger volumes in response to the rising price of the digital currency. This was also a period of increasing interest among deep-pocketed investment groups, and Pantera’s deal would be the first of many to come.

The hedge fund itself further reflects its growing institutional interest in digital currency. Pantera is a bitcoin-focused investment fund formed in conjunction with Fortress Investment Group, Ribbit Capital and Benchmark Capital.

3. Legal realities

CoinDesk - Unknown

ben lawsky, NYDFS

The largest deal to involve a US-based bitcoin exchange in 2014 thus far, Kraken parent company Payward, Inc.’s $5m Series A round, was intended to raise money to fund overseas development.

The Series A round was led by Hummingbird Ventures, an early-phase VC fund. Given the international – and 24-hour – nature of the bitcoin market, Kraken and other exchanges look to funding as a way to expand internationally. Yet, this deal also highlighted another major expense that bitcoin exchanges have to contend with: legal compliance.

Kraken CEO Jesse Powell told CoinDesk when his company announced its $5m round that, ultimately, much of that funding would be directed toward legal expenses.

He explained:

“We’re really excited, we’ve been putting the round together for a long time, the funding is going to go to development, regulatory stuff, getting all the licenses in the US and around the world. A lot of it is going to go into legal.”

Powell added that companies in the exchange sector no doubt face increased scrutiny due to the nature of their business and the still-developing regulatory environment for bitcoin.

As a result, it’s possible that exchanges may require additional resources in the future to maintain compliance.

Images via Shutterstock 


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.


CoinDesk - Unknown
Three Arrows Paper Trail Leads to Trading Desk Obscured Via Offshore Entities

As Three Arrows Capital collapsed under market pressure, its much-lesser known trading desk, TPS Capital, remained active, sources say. But a complex ownership structure might frustrate creditors' efforts to collect.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
June Was Bitcoin’s Worst Month Ever

Plus, European crypto regulation comes into view.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
What Traders Are Saying About Bitcoin's Biggest Monthly Loss in 11 Years

Poor macroeconomic sentiment, fears of inflation and systemic risks from the crypto market pushed the cryptocurrency below 2017’s highs.

CoinDesk - Unknown
CoinDesk - Unknown
Three Arrows Capital Files for Bankruptcy in New York Tied to British Virgin Islands Proceeding

A British Virgin Islands court ordered Three Arrows' BVI branch into liquidation earlier this week.

CoinDesk - Unknown