By Jeff John Roberts
February 4, 2019

The cryptocurrency exchange Kraken says it has paid “nine figures” to acquire Crypto Facilities, a British trading firm that specializes in derivatives. The San Francisco company also disclosed in an interview with Fortune that it is on the cusp of completing a $100 million funding round financed by its larger customers.

The Crypto Facilities acquisition means Kraken is the first crypto exchange to offer both spot and futures trading in currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP. Kraken declined to share the specific price of the deal.

Kraken CEO Jesse Powell tells Fortune that the company has already integrated the back-end operations of Crypto Facilities, which means users of both services will immediately be able to trade on a single platform. Futures trading will not, however, be available for its U.S. customers.

The deal will increase revenues and help attract institutional clients, Powell said, adding that Kraken’s strong balance sheet allowed it to acquire the London company outright. The deal had been in the works for 10 months, he said, but Kraken had been waiting for approval, since granted, from the U.K. regulator Financial Conduct Authority.

From a strategic point of view, the acquisition helps Kraken become a one-stop shop for trading. Crypto Facilities CEO and founder Timo Schlaefer, a former Goldman Sachs executive, will stay on in his current role.

The deal is the biggest yet for Kraken, which has previously acquired several smaller exchanges as well as a crypto research firm and a digital wallet firm, and adds 20 developers in London to its ranks. The acquisition comes at a time when other prominent crypto exchanges, including Binance and Coinbase, are working to scale up their operations.

A company spokesperson characterized Kraken’s course as a mirror to much larger rival Coinbase: Coinbase, which has more than 25 million customers, made its name as a retail service before targeting institutional customers; Kraken, which does a brisk business with large traders and counts 4 million customers, is now broadening its service to attract smaller investors.

$100 Million from ‘Crypto OGs’ and others

In an unusual move, Kraken did not turn to the venture capitalists and other traditional investors that supplied its early rounds of funding for its recent $100 million fundraising effort.

Instead, Kraken invited its larger customers to purchase a stake. This is consistent with a Coindesk report in December, which stated the company was emailing clients as part of an effort to raise a “war chest” of an undisclosed amount, one that valued the company at $4 billion. Powell confirmed the valuation to Fortune and said the new round is “just about all spoken for.”

Kraken’s earlier investors include Hummingbird Ventures, Blockchain Capital, and Digital Currency Group. It would not disclose the identities of its new investors. Powell described them as everyone from “crypto OGs to funds to random guys who trade and believe in the company.”

Kraken did not need to register the round with the SEC, Powell said, because the company only approached accredited investors and others covered by an exemption. Most of the new investment came from outside the U.S., he added.

The decision to approach Kraken’s clients for funding is a way to promote the interests of its users, Powell said. “My personal philosophy is that shareholders are at often at odds with users’ interests,” he said. “Look at Facebook looting from their users in order to pay off shareholders—that wouldn’t happen if users were shareholders themselves. It’s good to keep interests aligned.”

The Kraken CEO, like many established figures in the crypto world, is known for his unorthodox views and strident language. This has included a Twitter tirade against New York regulators, who he likened to an “abusive controlling ex” in part because of the state’s controversial permit known as the Bit License, which cryptocurrency businesses must obtain.

Powell says he continues to share a vision set out by Satoshi, Bitcoin’s pseudonymous founder, of a world where people control their own money outside the constraints of government. “If you asked me seven years ago, I would have said Bitcoin would take over the world by 2015,” he said. “I still think it’s going to take over.”

In the second month of 2019, though, Bitcoin was trading at about $3,400—a far cry from its almost $20,000 height in December 2017. Powell acknowledged that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have struggled to find a use case that will persuade more everyday consumers to use it. But adoption will take off as payment platforms embrace virtual currencies and society relies less on cash, he said. And that’s when things could get interesting.

An earlier version of this article stated futures trading would eventually be available to U.S. customers; Kraken has since clarified this is not the case. The company, which earlier stated that Schlaefer would be COO, clarified he would keep his current title for now.

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