Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss aren’t deterred by the exodus of retail investors during this year’s cryptocurrency market collapse.
The co-founders of Gemini Trust Co. are trying to woo individual investors through a new app that allows users to purchase Bitcoin and other virtual currencies on their exchange. The product hits the market at a low point for bitcoin, which shed almost 80 per cent of its value this year. The Winklevoss twins said that they’re accustomed to navigating skepticism over digital assets.
“We’re totally at home in winter,” said Tyler Winklevoss, in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. The space, which Gemini moved in to this year, is decorated with references to space exploration, including a suspended sculpture of an astronaut. The firm’s name references NASA’s Project Gemini spaceflight program (and the astrological sign of twins).
“It gives us time to build internally, and refine and kind of catch our breath,” said Cameron, sitting next to him in a red NASA sweatshirt, drinking a grapefruit-flavored LaCroix sparkling water.
Getting users on the app, where they can buy digital assets individually or in a basket, is one of Gemini’s priorities for 2019, according to the pair. Some crypto evangelists say that institutional money waiting on the sidelines will buoy the digital-asset space. Gemini caters to those kinds of customers -- it operates as a trust company and fiduciary regulated by the New York Department of Financial Services, offers custody services and uses market surveillance technology provided by Nasdaq Inc. But the app is a sign that Gemini is still trying to cement relationships with retail investors that dominate virtual currency trading.
“A lot of our decisions have perhaps given off a perception that we’re more institutional-based,” Cameron said. “The reality of the situation is that we have a diverse customer base. And the retail story is just beginning.”
Another 2019 goal will be expanding in Asia, they said. The region is home to some of the largest virtual currency exchanges including Bitfinex, Digifinex and Huobi. Gemini is a New York trust company that operates in almost all U.S. states, as well as in Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and the U.K.
One year since a record run-up in the price of Bitcoin, some crypto companies are showing signs of stress. ETCDEV, the startup that led development on Ethereum Classic, shuttered operations this month. Joseph Lubin’s ConsenSys, a crypto-software startup, said it will cut its workforce by 13 percent.
For Gemini, the past year also carried some setbacks. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission again turned down its application for a Bitcoin-based ETF this summer. The regulatory agency has not approved any such products thus far. Trading volumes in Bitcoin futures, which launched a year ago, have not been a runaway success with investors, something executives at futures exchange operators CME Group Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. acknowledged. The brothers reiterated their slow and steady approach.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” Tyler said. “We think it’s a space that’s here to stay.”