One of cryptos longest-running exchanges has been sold

One of the longest-standing crypto exchanges has new owners after Europe-based Bitstamp was sold to South Korea’s Nexon, marking the gaming firm’s second such acquisition.

The acquirer is NXMH, a Belgium-based PE and investment firm owned by NXC — the parent of Nexon — and it will take a majority 80 percent stake in the business for an unknown fee. The New York Times’ Nathaniel Popper suggested earlier this year that Bitstamp was in the process of being sold “to South Korean investors” for $400 million, but NXC declined to comment on the price when asked by TechCrunch.

NXC acquired 65 percent of Korea-based exchange Korbit one year ago for 91.3 billion KRW, or approximately $79.5 million at the time.

Bitstamp was founded in 2011 by Slovenian entrepreneur Nejc Kodrič with an initial €1,000 and it survived the heady early days of crypto, unlike a certain peer named Mt. Gox. Today, Bitstamp is ranked inside the world’s top 30 exchanges based on trading volume with more than 100 staff. Bitcoin and XRP are among its most traded tokens, according to data from Coinmarketcap.com.

The company has a license to do business across the EU but it also works with customers worldwide.

Bitstamp has been profitable since its early life, but Kodrič revealed the sale is down to the potential to work with NXC, which he sees as a like-minded partner.

Bitstamp has been regularly approached by suitors for quite some time. The reason why we finally decided to sell the company is a combination of the quality of the buyer, the quality of the offer and the fact that the industry is at a point where consolidation makes sense. A major factor in agreeing to the sale is that the mission, leadership and vision of the company remains the same.

We believe this acquisition is the logical next step in Bitstamp’s growth as a company and I look forward to the future with this team.

The Bitstamp CEO said business will continue as normal — he’ll retain his position as CEO and keep 10 percent of the company.

Interestingly, he told Fortune that regulatory compliance meant the deal took some ten months to close after first being agreed in December 2017 when crypto market valuations hit a peak — with Bitcoin, in particular, getting close to a record $20,000 valuation.

Bitstamp raised around $14 million in capital from investors along its journey, with U.S-based Pantera capital one of its major backers.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Coinbase now lets users buy bundles and launches its own index for the top 50 coins

Coinbase is shaking things up quite a bit lately and its latest tools are geared toward cryptocurrency traders just getting their toes wet.

On Thursday, the company announced that it would add a feature called Coinbase Bundle. The new offering lets users purchase a market-weighted sampling of Coinbase’s five available cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Ethereum Classic. The idea is that a bundle of coins offers users a starter pack for cryptocurrency trading on the platform with stakes of their choosing. In reality, until Coinbase adds more coins, it’s not exactly a diversified portfolio so much as a slightly counterbalanced selection of Coinbase’s current limited offerings.

In June, Coinbase introduced index funds targeted toward institutional investors in the U.S. While those funds required an investment between $250,000 and $20 million, Coinbase Bundle is geared toward the casual individual investor with bundles that start at $25. For beginning traders that prefer to follow rather than beat the market, betting on broad growth over time, a product like Coinbase Bundle makes sense. Or rather it will when Coinbase adds a lot more coins.

It looks like Coinbase is preparing to add a lot more cryptocurrencies

Users who buy a Coinbase Bundle can expect to see the funds appear in their wallet like normal. There, the funds will behave like separate assets that can be sold and sent elsewhere.

Beyond bundles, Coinbase is also launching a few educational cryptocurrency tools geared toward anyone still learning the ropes. The first of those tools is Coinbase Asset Pages, the company’s own CoinMarketCap-like database where anyone can view details about the top 50 coins by market cap, whether they’re listed by Coinbase or not.

Like other resources, Coinbase’s new tool will provide “historic trading data, current market cap, a description of the cryptocurrency, and links to relevant white papers and project websites.” Unlike other resources, Coinbase artificially lists its own offerings at the top rather than depicting those coins where they actually fall in terms of market cap.

Coinbase is also launching a dedicated learning hub on its site where new users can browse topics like “What is blockchain?” and “Where do cryptocurrencies get their value?” — in many cases, a good question. Given Coinbase’s appeal to brand-new users, it’s kind of surprising that this didn’t already exist. Particularly that it wasn’t implemented late last year when many wide-eyed investors bought it at all-time highs and were handed big losses in the months to come.

After mainstream interest in digital currencies cooled from the fever-dream highs of late 2017, making Coinbase’s famously user-friendly entry point into the cryptocurrency world even more approachable for first-time buyers, if many remain, can’t hurt. The company is also clearly readying for its plan to list coins well beyond its current limited offerings, a transformation that will see the platform evolve from its historical identity as a blue chip stock shop to something more akin to digital currency’s attractive, well-lit corner store.

Coinbase’s new top 50 asset pages and learning hub are live now. Coinbase Bundles, limited to the U.S. and Europe, will start showing up for users today, and the rollout will continue through the next few weeks.

Golden Gate Ventures closes new $100M fund for Southeast Asia

Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures has announced the close of its newest (and third) fund for Southeast Asia at a total of $100 million.

The fund hit a first close in the summer, as TechCrunch reported at the time, and now it has reached full capacity. Seven-year-old Golden Gate said its LPs include existing backers Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Korea’s Hanwha, Naver — the owner of messaging app Line — and EE Capital. Investors backing the firm for the first time through this fund include Mistletoe — the fund from Taizo Son, brother of SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son — Mitsui Fudosan, IDO Investments, CTBC Group, Korea Venture Investment Corporation (KVIC), and Ion Pacific.

Golden Gate was founded by former Silicon Valley-based trio Vinnie Lauria, Jeffrey Paine and Paul Bragiel . It has investments across five markets in Southeast Asia — with a particular focus on Indonesia and Singapore — and that portfolio includes Singapore’s Carousell, automotive marketplace Carro, P2P lending startup Funding Societies, payment enabler Omise and health tech startup AlodokterGolden Gate’s previous fund was $60 million and it closed in 2016.

Some of the firm’s exits so far include the sale of Redmart to Lazada (although not a blockbuster), Priceline’s acquisition of WoomooLine’s acquisition of Temanjalan and the sale of Mapan (formerly Ruma) to Go-Jek. It claims that its first two funds have had distributions of cash (DPI) of 1.56x and 0.13x, and IRRs of 48 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

“When I compare the tech ecosystem of Southeast Asia (SEA) to other markets, it’s really hit an inflection point — annual investment is now measured in the billions. That puts SEA on a global stage with the US, China, and India. Yet there is a youthfulness that reminds me of Silicon Valley circa 2005, shortly before social media and the iPhone took off,” Lauria said in a statement.

A report from Google and Temasek forecasts that Southeast Asia’s digital economy will grow from $50 billion in 2017 to over $200 billion by 2025 as internet penetration continues to grow across the region thanks to increased ownership of smartphones. That opportunity to reach a cumulative population of over 600 million consumers — more of whom are online today than the entire U.S. population — is feeding optimism around startups and tech companies.

Golden Gate isn’t alone in developing a fund to explore those possibilities, there’s plenty of VC activity in the region.

Some of those include Openspace, which was formerly known as NSI Ventures and just closed a $135 million fund, Qualgro, which is raising a $100 million vehicle and Golden Equator, which paired up with Korea Investment Partners on a joint $88 million fund. Temasek-affiliated Vertex closed a $210 million fund last year and that remains a record for Southeast Asia.

Golden Gate also has a dedicated crypto fund, LuneX, which is in the process of raising $10 million.

The Winklevoss stablecoin is one small step toward crypto acceptance

A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency pegged 1-to-1 with another “stable” currency. In most cases, these coins are pegged to the US dollar and, as such, allow for true transfers of actual fiat currencies between parties using the blockchain. If you’re nodding off right now thinking about this, I would posit that these moves, however minor right now, are an important step forward in cryptocurrency acceptance.

The latest stablecoin to hit the virtual streets is the Gemini Dollar. This coin comes on the heels of the much-ridiculed Tether, a stablecoin created in 2014 that has been the the brunt of much criticism including suggestions that the team has been artificially pumping the currency with wash trades.

The new currency by Winklevoss-run Gemini is pegged directly to the US dollar on the Ethereum blockchain. This means that for every Gemini Dollar there is one actual dollar in a bank account. The Gemini Trust Company holds the deposits and has been officially accepted by the New York Department of Financial Services, the regulatory body associated with banking and finance.

The GD, in other words, is the first stablecoin to gain a truly official imprimatur.

“As the financial technology marketplace continues to evolve, New York is committed to fostering innovation while ensuring responsible growth. These approvals demonstrate that companies can create change and strong standards of compliance within a strong state regulatory framework that safeguards regulated entities and protects consumers,” said Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo.

From the release:

DFS issued a limited purpose trust company charter to Gemini in October 2015 to operate a virtual currency exchange through which it offers customers services for buying, selling, sending, receiving, and storing virtual currency. DFS issued a limited purpose trust company charter in May 2015 to itBit, now Paxos Trust Company, which operates the itBit exchange, to offer services for buying, selling, sending, receiving, and storing virtual currency.

The NYDFS requires that the Gemini dollars “are fully exchangeable for a U.S. dollar” and that Gemini will maintain records of their movement. The requirements also include controls including AML and OFAC controls to present money laundering or terrorist financing. An independent accountant will examine the fiat-holding bank account to ensure that all of the stable coins are accounted for. You can convert and withdraw Gemini Dollars directly onto the Ethereum blockchain.

What all this means is that there is now a stable, regulated coin that should offset some of the traditional volatility of crypto. It’s an interesting – if limited – move by a big player in the crypto space.

Golden Gate Ventures closes new $100M fund for Southeast Asia

Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures has announced the close of its newest (and third) fund for Southeast Asia at a total of $100 million.

The fund hit a first close in the summer, as TechCrunch reported at the time, and now it has reached full capacity. Seven-year-old Golden Gate said its LPs include existing backers Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Korea’s Hanwha, Naver — the owner of messaging app Line — and EE Capital. Investors backing the firm for the first time through this fund include Mistletoe — the fund from Taizo Son, brother of SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son — Mitsui Fudosan, IDO Investments, CTBC Group, Korea Venture Investment Corporation (KVIC), and Ion Pacific.

Golden Gate was founded by former Silicon Valley-based trio Vinnie Lauria, Jeffrey Paine and Paul Bragiel . It has investments across five markets in Southeast Asia — with a particular focus on Indonesia and Singapore — and that portfolio includes Singapore’s Carousell, automotive marketplace Carro, P2P lending startup Funding Societies, payment enabler Omise and health tech startup AlodokterGolden Gate’s previous fund was $60 million and it closed in 2016.

Some of the firm’s exits so far include the sale of Redmart to Lazada (although not a blockbuster), Priceline’s acquisition of WoomooLine’s acquisition of Temanjalan and the sale of Mapan (formerly Ruma) to Go-Jek. It claims that its first two funds have had distributions of cash (DPI) of 1.56x and 0.13x, and IRRs of 48 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

“When I compare the tech ecosystem of Southeast Asia (SEA) to other markets, it’s really hit an inflection point — annual investment is now measured in the billions. That puts SEA on a global stage with the US, China, and India. Yet there is a youthfulness that reminds me of Silicon Valley circa 2005, shortly before social media and the iPhone took off,” Lauria said in a statement.

A report from Google and Temasek forecasts that Southeast Asia’s digital economy will grow from $50 billion in 2017 to over $200 billion by 2025 as internet penetration continues to grow across the region thanks to increased ownership of smartphones. That opportunity to reach a cumulative population of over 600 million consumers — more of whom are online today than the entire U.S. population — is feeding optimism around startups and tech companies.

Golden Gate isn’t alone in developing a fund to explore those possibilities, there’s plenty of VC activity in the region.

Some of those include Openspace, which was formerly known as NSI Ventures and just closed a $135 million fund, Qualgro, which is raising a $100 million vehicle and Golden Equator, which paired up with Korea Investment Partners on a joint $88 million fund. Temasek-affiliated Vertex closed a $210 million fund last year and that remains a record for Southeast Asia.

Golden Gate also has a dedicated crypto fund, LuneX, which is in the process of raising $10 million.