Two former colleagues of recently convicted Sam Bankman-Fried are building a new crypto exchange just days after their former CEO was found guilty on seven charges of fraud.
FTX’s former general counsel, Can Sun, and former Alameda Research software developer Armani Ferrante have teamed up to start Trek Labs, a Dubai-based company that recently obtained a license from the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority, or VARA, which regulates digital assets in the emirate, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Trek Labs was founded by Sun, and Ferrante is CEO of its holding company in the British Virgin Islands. Ferrante is also the founder of Backpack, a digital wallet company, which is integrated into the exchange and under which name Trek Labs will do business.
Backpack closed a $20 million funding round in September 2022 for which FTX’s venture arm contributed half of the investment. Ferrante told the WSJ that he held the majority of the raised funds on the FTX exchange and lost it all when it collapsed.
Sun was one of the key witnesses in his former boss’ criminal trial earlier this month, telling jurors that he “never approved” FTX lending customer funds to Alameda Research. He served as general counsel for the failed crypto exchange from August 2021 until its collapse in November 2022.
Backpack Exchange, the official name of the new exchange, will do business differently from FTX, the first step being that its technology will allow users to self-custody their funds. That means nobody but the user will be able to access their crypto wallets.
The exchange, which is looking to sell a 10% stake that would value it at over $100 million, plans to launch in beta later this month, according to the report.
Sun also hired his former legal deputy, Claire Zhang, who is also Ferrante’s wife, for Trek’s executive team, and says she plans to leave the company once the investment round is finalized.
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