Bitmain billionaire launches S'pore-based crypto start-up

HONG KONG • Bitmain Technologies co-founder Wu Jihan has marshalled a group of the mining giant's former employees to launch a new cryptocurrency financial services start-up, hoping to capitalise on bitcoin's resurgence.

Mr Wu's latest endeavour, called Matrixport, is a one-stop platform for over-the-counter trading, lending and custody for digital assets, chief executive officer Ge Yuesheng said. The venture went 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.

Mr Wu is a major shareholder along with a clutch of global venture capital firms and Bitmain itself, Mr Ge said.

Headquartered in Singapore, Matrixport has a team of about 100 staff, 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," Mr 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 did not comment on the company's or Mr Wu's links to Matrixport.

Matrixport aims to challenge the likes of BitGo and Genesis Global Trading in the United States, as companies move to develop financial services for professional cryptocoin traders and investors.

It is 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 US$12,000.

Mr Ge said Matrixport will use its connections and expertise at Bitmain to target the needs of Chinese crypto-miners, among the largest in the world.

The start-up itself is incorporated in jurisdictions outside of 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 US$300 million (S$408 million) to US$500 million from a US share sale as soon as the second half of this year, Bloomberg News has reported.

Before founding Matrixport, Mr Ge oversaw Bitmain's investment unit, which led funding rounds for start-ups, including Boston-based exchange and wallet operator Circle.