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Exclusive: UK cryptocurrency startup Copper closes $50m raise

Crypto custodians like Copper have already raised €1.6bn in 2021 – compared with less than €700m in all of 2020.

By Ryan Weeks

Copper, a London-based startup focused on helping big investors store and manage their cryptocurrency investments, has raised $50m in a Series B round led by Dawn Capital and Target Global.

The raise continues a global spending spree on crypto custody startups in 2021.

PayPal announced that it would acquire Israeli crypto security firm Curv in March in a deal rumoured to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A few months later, billionaire financier Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital agreed to buy San Francisco-based crypto custodian BitGo for a fee of $1.2bn.

According to Dealroom data, crypto custodians have already raised €1.6bn in 2021 — compared with less than €700m in all of 2020 and less than €300m the year before.

Founded in 2018, Copper had raised just $10m to date, most recently in the form of an $8m Series A round in February 2020. Target Global, LocalGlobe, and MMC Ventures all participated in that round.

The latest $50m injection represents a significant step up in ambition for the startup and comes amid a wider gold rush in crypto markets. The price of bitcoin has risen dramatically since September last year, peaking at more than $60k in April. 

It has, however, fallen steeply to close to $45k in recent days after billionaire Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin as payment for cars, showing the market remains subject to significant and often unpredictable price swings.

Be that as it may, Tesla is one of a number of major institutions to have waded into cryptocurrency markets during the bull run. The carmaker bought $1.5bn in bitcoin to hold as a treasury asset earlier this year. Numerous large corporates and financial institutions have also either purchased bitcoin as an investment or are busy building solutions for their customers.

Copper’s product is built using multi-party computation (MPC), a type of cryptography which splits up the private keys used to signify ownership of cryptocurrencies and scatters them in an effort to guard against hacks.

Copper is not the only crypto custodian to use MPC, but CEO Dmitry Tokarev allusively told Sifted that “not all MPC solutions are created equally.”

“This will become increasingly evident as institutions become more knowledgeable on the differences and begin selecting their vendors accordingly. It’s already started happening, but the headlines haven’t landed yet,” he said.

The firm claims to support more than 200 exchanges, trading firms, private banks, cryptocurrency funds and payment processors globally. Its assets under custody have increased by more than 40 times since the third quarter of last year.

The $50m will be used to grow internationally, with a particular focus on the US and Asia. Some of the money has also been earmarked for high profile hires — Copper is hoping to triple headcount by the end of 2021. Illuminate Financial Management, the enterprise fintech focused VC, also participated in the round.

Besides the custody of crypto funds, Copper also offers payment settlement services and prime brokerage — which is essentially handholding for large, discreet purchasers of bitcoin, ether and the like. Copper’s signature product is called ClearLoop, a system that connects cryptocurrency exchanges together in a secure trading loop to enable instant, offline settlement of trades.

Josh Bell, general partner at Dawn Capital, sees ClearLoop as a key differentiator that will help fend off the competition.

“This is a core differentiator for customers, enabling instant settlement and removing counterparty risk with the exchanges,” he told Sifted.

Being considerably better capitalised will, presumably, also help. 

Ryan Weeks covers fintech at Sifted. He tweets from @RyanJamesWeeks and coauthors our new fintech-focused newsletter. Sign up here. 

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