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Coinbase acquires crypto trading firm Tagomi in all-stock deal

May 27, 2020, 10:59 AM UTC

Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase announced on Wednesday that it has acquired Tagomi, an upstart firm that specializes in crypto trading for institutional clients.

The companies did not disclose an acquisition price, but a person close to the deal said Coinbase paid entirely with its privately held stock. The person added that media reports in November—which described a rumored $150 million price tag—significantly overstated the value. Meanwhile, a source familiar with Tagomi said the price was close to $100 million and added that Coinbase outbid rival crypto giant Binance to land the deal.

New York–based Tagomi arrived late to the crowded market for cryptocurrency services, launching in December 2018, but gained attention for an executive team that is composed of veterans of the traditional financial world. Those include Greg Tusar, the former head of electronic trading at Goldman Sachs, and Jennifer Campbell, a hedge fund veteran and partner at Union Square Ventures. Tagomi’s financial backers include billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel.

In an interview with Fortune, Tusar says his team launched Tagomi to fill a void in the crypto markets by providing an electronic trading service to institutional investors with deep pockets. Prior to Tagomi’s arrival, he explained, large traders had to rely on so-called over-the-counter desks, which arrange one-off transactions between two parties looking to buy and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies without the broader markets knowing.

According to Tusar, trading infrastructure for cryptocurrency is evolving in the same way as it did for equities and commodities; initially, trading involved labor-intensive systems before gradually shifting to more efficient ones.

According to Coinbase chief operating officer Emilie Choi, the Tusar deal is part of a larger plan to pursue strategic acquisitions. In the case of Tagomi, the deal will expand the ability of Coinbase—whose bread-and-butter has long been retail investors—to serve institutional investors, including funds and wealthy individuals.

Choi added that Tagomi will initially operate as a stand-alone brand, but that, over time, it would likely be folded into Coinbase Pro, a service that caters to professional traders. Tusar and Campbell both told Fortune they plan to stay on at Coinbase, which is based in San Francisco.

The Tagomi deal comes at a time of consolidation in the broader cryptocurrency industry, in which several companies have snapped up smaller players in a bid to become the crypto equivalent of full-service banks—offering loans, custody services, and more. In addition to Coinbase, those include BitGo, which recently bought a trio of smaller firms, and Genesis Capital, which last week bought a London custodian as part of a bid to brand itself as a prime broker.

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