(Bloomberg) -- Former Citigroup Inc. executive Matt Zhang is launching a $1.5 billion venture focused on cryptocurrency-related investments and has hired Sam Peurifoy -- an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst known for his online gaming persona “Das Kapitalist” -- to lead a dedicated “play-to-earn” strategy.
The New York-based investment firm, named Hivemind Capital Partners, has received “a decent amount of interest” from qualified institutional investors including pensions, endowments, sovereign wealth funds and family offices, Zhang, founder and managing partner, said in an interview. Hivemind expects to add another four to five partners in the next six to 12 months.
Hivemind, a name inspired by the 1992 book on collective intelligence by author Kevin Kelly, will pursue investments around four main strategies, Zhang said. They are “staking and yield management,” or ways to earn a return on crypto holdings; venture capital investment; crypto trading; and “play-to-earn,” an emerging type of blockchain games in which players can earn rewards such as crypto tokens based on their progress.
Zhang recently left Citigroup after 14 years working in both the U.S. and Europe; he was most recently co-head of the bank’s structured-products trading and solutions division. With his departure, Zhang joined a growing list of traditional finance executives leaving Wall Street for crypto ventures, even as big banks accelerate their own push into crypto-related services. Citigroup itself is looking to hire 100 people to beef up its digital assets team as it assesses client needs, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News last week.
Crypto fund launches have been surging this year amid the rally in digital-asset prices. Earlier this month, Coinbase Global Inc. co-founder Fred Ehrsam and former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang raised $2.5 billion in a record for a venture capital crypto fund.
Establishing a dedicated play-to-earn arm led by Peurifoy is one way Hivemind can differentiate itself from other crypto ventures, Zhang said. Peurifoy has been a gaming community leader in the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, where he has provided backing for some players in exchange for a share of some of their winnings.
Hivemind’s approach in play-to-earn games will start with building and scaling gaming communities, said Peurifoy. “We can take a lot of care in planning beforehand how we can support individual community members best” to help them potentially migrate into a digital ecosystem where they can live and make money, he said.
Zhang, who plans to run the fund’s crypto trading arm himself before hiring a head of trading, said he expects a “crypto winter” to arrive, during which Bitcoin prices could plunge before recovering, and will focus on hedging risks accordingly. “In the two years, three years horizon, there’s going to be a big trading business opportunity -- the market volatility will come up and down,” Zhang said.
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