This Startup Wants to Be Vanguard for Cryptocurrencies

  • Bitwise launches index tracking top 10 virtual currencies
  • AngelList co-founder invested in the San Francisco startup

How Mike Novogratz Got Hooked on Cryptocurrencies

You should have figured this would happen sooner or later.

A San Francisco-based startup is launching a cryptocurrency index fund that will track the most valuable virtual coins. Bitwise Asset Management, which has received funding from AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, says it wants to be "Vanguard for crypto."

Investors have been inundated with new products from startup companies that say they want to make it easier for the average Joe to reap returns from digital currencies such as bitcoin, which have skyrocketed in value this year despite regulatory crackdowns across the globe.

Former Fortress Investment Group LLC trader Mike Novogratz is starting a $500 million hedge fund to invest in cryptocurrencies, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is exploring how it could start a bitcoin trading venture, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. Even the Winklevoss twins have their sights set on cryptocurrencies, though their plans for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund were rejected by U.S. regulators in March.

Bitwise’s new HOLD 10 Private Index Fund follows a basket of the top 10 digital tokens by market value and strives to be less exclusive than some of the cryptocurrency hedge funds that have popped up in recent months. The fund, which requires a $10,000 minimum investment, is currently only available for accredited investors in the U.S., though Bitwise says it ultimately plans to offer other vehicles such as ETFs and mutual funds.

"We were arbitraging cryptocurrency and we wanted to hold portfolios ourselves, and it was just too hard," Bitwise co-founder Hunter Horsley said in a phone call Monday. "What we heard is that many people felt that it was too hard to invest in cryptocurrency."

Bitwise isn’t licensed with federal or state regulators. Horsley said cryptocurrencies must meet certain volume rules in order to be included in the index, which will be rebalanced on a monthly basis.

"If for some reason a scam finds its way through our policies and into the top 10, and we deem it to be fraudulent or clearly regarded as a scam, then there’s a procedure for an investment committee taking some sort of action," he said.

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