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Bitmain crypto-billionaire launches new startup as bitcoin rises

The start-up called Matrixport is a one-stop platform for over-the-counter trading, lending and custody for digital assets.
Bitmain Technologies co-founder Wu Jihan. Picture: Anthony Kwan, Bloomberg

Bitmain Technologies co-founder Wu Jihan has marshalled a group of the mining giant’s former employees to launch a new cryptocurrency financial services startup, hoping to capitalise on bitcoin’s resurgence.

Called Matrixport, Wu’s latest endeavour is a one-stop platform for over-the-counter trading, lending and custody for digital assets, chief executive officer Ge Yuesheng said. The venture will go live on Monday after spinning off from Bitmain in January, when the world’s largest producer of crypto-mining rigs ran into a cash crunch.

Wu is a major shareholder along with a clutch of global venture capital firms and Bitmain itself, Ge said. Headquartered in Singapore, Matrixport has a team of about 100 staffers, dozens of whom were let go from Bitmain. Precise details about the company’s funding will be announced at a later date, the 27-year-old chief said.

“We are closely tied to Bitmain by our origin,” Ge, a Bitmain shareholder himself, said in an interview. “But because we operate in different businesses, we are partners rather than competitors.”

A representative from Bitmain didn’t comment on the company’s or Wu’s connections to Matrixport.

Matrixport aims to challenge the likes of BitGo and Genesis Global Trading in the US, as companies move to develop financial services for professional crypto-coin traders and investors. It’s one of a crop of fledgling firms aiming to ride an upswell in bitcoin interest: its price has tripled so far this year and is now trading at around $12 000.

Ge says Matrixport will use its connections and expertise at Bitmain to target the needs of Chinese crypto-miners, among the largest in the world. The startup itself is incorporated in jurisdictions outside of mainland China to skirt Beijing’s ban on crypto-trading.

Matrixport marks the latest venture from entrepreneur Wu. The billionaire has already stepped down from his role as Bitmain co-CEO but still stands to benefit when it goes public: the mining giant is seeking around $300 million to $500 million from a US share sale as soon as the second half of this year, Bloomberg News has reported.

Ge and Wu first crossed paths in 2012, when as an undergraduate the Matrixport CEO worked as an intern for a private equity fund where Wu was his manager. Like Wu, Ge is a founding member of Bitmain and retains a 4% stake in the company, according to Bitmain’s listing application from September. Before founding Matrixport, he oversaw Bitmain’s investment unit, which led funding rounds for startups including Boston-based exchange and wallet operator Circle.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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