State Street Vets Net $5 Million for Crypto Startup

Three former State Streeters have raised $5 million to build a platform for the next wave of institutional investors wanting access to crypto assets.

Nov 28, 2017 at 5:01 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:12 a.m. UTC

A platform run by former State Street executives that will allow institutional investors to buy a wide range of crypto assets, has raised a $5 million seed round.

Led by Wicklow Capital with the help of Digital Currency Group, Sierra Ventures, Clocktower Ventures and ThirdStream Partners, the round will be used to build out Omniex's suite of tools for buying and selling bitcoin, ether and any other crypto asset deemed a commodity.

According to the former director of State Street's emerging technology lab, now Omniex chief executive, Hu Liang, the startup is looking to help investors buy and sell large amounts of crypto assets by providing a massive pool of liquidity.

And while the startup is now one of an increasing number of companies launching in an effort to intake money entering the crypto space, it looks in good shape to compete.

Liang revealed new details about its founding team including that two other State Street executives have joined Omniex as co-founders: Kamal Mokeddem, who is now head of technology, and John Burnett, who has signed up as the startup's head of business development.

The new investment will be used to continue to round out the startup's team. According to Liang, Omniex will add four more people, mostly developers, soon.

Burnett told CoinDesk:

"Ultimately, we want to be geared up so that we have the full product set in market by the end of the year, that is designed for the first time as an institutional investment and trading platform."

Architecture needed

But while the end-of-year deadline could seem tight, the co-founders' backgrounds at State Street should help them lure investors with "good connections in the capital markets space," as Liang said was Omniex's focus.

The platform, called Omniex Portfolio Edge, will initially cater largely to quant hedge funds and specialty crypto funds that focus on cryptocurrencies with large market caps that have been deemed commodities by U.S. regulators.

At launch, the founders hope to have completed their first set of products serving both front and back office operations for trading crypto assets, including a portfolio management platform, risk analytics tools and connectivity to exchanges, voice brokers and electronic streaming engines.

Some of the seed money will also be used for building products for the rest of the trading lifecycle, including fund managers, market makers, exchanges, custodians, fund accountants and online cryptocurrency vaults.

"We're not a market maker ourselves, we're not an exchange ourselves. So we're looking for anybody who is adding value to the existing ecosystem by bringing in either liquidity or storage mechanisms or regulated activities," Liang said, adding:

"We're the infrastructure for the crypto ecosystem."

That infrastructure is something some in the cryptocurrency space think is the key to enabling what Digital Currency Group founder Barry Silbert called the "next wave of institutional capital," in interview with CoinDesk.

"In order to participate in these markets in a meaningful way, these folks will need “institutional grade” cryptocurrency trading tools," Silbert said.

Up next: ICOs

And though the platform will start off limited to cryptocurrencies with large market caps, the co-founders would also like to expand the infrastructure to support smaller assets, such as tokens sold during initial coin offerings (ICOs).

It's not all that surprising, since ICOs are the hot topic in the crypto world, with many thinking the new fundraising mechanism could soon become commonplace. But currently, Omniex doesn't have the regulatory approval to accept ICO tokens that might already be or someday be categorized and regulated as securities.

While startups, such as Templum, and Overstock's tZERO subsidiary are already salivating at the opportunity, so far opportunities are limited.

Liang concluded:

"For this to be an institutional class, we need this to be a $1 trillion, $2 trillion, $10 trillion industry. We're here to grow that ecosystem."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Omniex and commented on this story.

Wall Street image via Shutterstock

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