- Bakkt announced Monday a massive fundraising round of $182.5M
- The firm has also been quietly staffing up
Intercontinental Exchange’s Bakkt made big headlines when it announced in August that it would gatecrash the cryptocurrency world with a platform to trade bitcoin futures.
But little has materialized for the firm in 2018. The bitcoin futures platform was originally planned for December 12, but the start date was pushed back to 2019. Then on December 31 the firm said it would announce a new launch date at some point in early 2019. Sources tell The Block that regulatory hurdles are behind the delays. Still, behind the scenes the firm was working on finalizing a massive $182.5 million fundraise, which it announced Monday. It has also made a number of key hires.
“I am pleased to confirm that we have completed our first round of funding of $182.5 million from 12 partners and investors who, like us, believe in the future of digital assets,” Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler said in a Medium post announcing the fundraise. Investors in the round included CMT Digital, Boston Consulting Group, Galaxy Digital, Pantera Capital, and a number of other venture investors.
At the same time, the firm has quietly made some additions to its team, The Block has learned.
- Balaji Devarasetty, head of technology: Devarasetty joined Bakkt in September, according to his LinkedIn profile. Previously, he was a vice president leading development of payment products for Vantiv, an Ohio-based financial-services firm.
- Jide Laoye, technical product manager: Laoye joined Bakkt in December, according to his LinkedIn. He most recently worked at UL Transaction Security as a software product manager where he managed “execution of growth vision (product road-map) for fortune 100 payment brand network simulator.”
- Peter Lee, product engineering director: As director of product engineering, Lee is responsible for “Leading and building a platform for availability of sale, purchase and storage of digital assets (ex, cryptocurrency) to end users.” He joined the firm in December, according to his LinkedIn. He was previously the SVP of global product delivery at Mozido, a financial technology firm based in Texas.
A source at ICE confirmed the hires to The Block.
Loeffler said in a November Medium post that the project was hiring. “We are focused on building a nimble, entrepreneurial team with a focus on serving our customers and delivering results. Key success factors in our culture include collaboration, problem solving, communication, integrity, and professionalism and leadership,” she said.
The Block first reported that Adam White was joining the venture as its chief operating officer from Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange. Brian Cooper, a longtime veteran of ICE, joined Bakkt as its director of operations in October. Laura Edelman, a financial sales specialist at ICE, is involved with Bakkt. A source said Edelman handles client inquiries about the specifications of the bitcoin futures contract.
A spokesperson for ICE did not respond to a message seeking comment on the hires.
As for its bitcoin futures contract, it’s not clear exactly when trading will begin. To be sure, Bakkt’s plans do not end with its bitcoin futures contract. It also aims to partner with Starbucks and Microsoft to build out a platform that would propel adoption of crypto by merchants.
“Our first step is to establish the trust and infrastructure that builds confidence and grows participation at the institutional and merchant level. This is work that needs to be done, and we are excited to be part of this effort on a global scale as 2019 begins,” Loeffler said.