In a surprising move, exchange itBit announced today it would relocate its headquarters from Singapore to New York City.
According to a posting on its blog, the company also announced it is replacing its founding CEO Rich Teo with Charles Cascarilla, himself a founding partner in itBit investor Liberty City Ventures.
The announcement is somewhat surprising because Singapore is often seen as a world financial and banking hub on par with Switzerland, and an easier place in which to conduct bitcoin business than the regulation-heavy world of the US.
New York City, though, is still the world center of trading activity. Cascarilla wrote:
“We planted roots in bitcoin-friendly Singapore with Rich Teo leading the charge, building the company, the service, and partnerships around the world. He established our presence in Asia, and brought our vision to reality as we opened up the service to customers for the first time seven months ago.”
“In the meantime, bitcoin prices have skyrocketed, the concept of bitcoin has become mainstream, the volume of bitcoin trading has grown exponentially, and the majority of bitcoin trading now takes place in the US,” he continued.
“Regulators are getting clearer about their policies, and we’re hopeful that we will be able to serve US investors soon.”
itBit, however, is not leaving Asia completely and will retain a significant presence in Singapore. Former CEO Rich Teo will also remain at the company as CEO of the Singapore office to oversee further development of the business from there.
Andrew Chang, another founding partner at Liberty Ventures, will also join the company as its new COO.
A company spokesperson said the move was a mutual decision, and that staff numbers in each location would be roughly equal:
“The company’s management team and board made this decision together and are excited about the future [...] Currently the company headcount is at 19, about half in each office. The company is continuing to grow in both regions and is actively hiring in both locations.”
Getting in first
The move is an attempt to gain an early-mover advantage for itBit in the lucrative US market, as New York State and financial services regulator Benjamin Lawsky approach the final stages of defining how bitcoin businesses will be regulated.
In this sense an eventual move to NYC has always seemed likely – itBit were simply waiting for the local regulators to get their act together. The company’s home page has always featured a prominent picture of Wall Street.
The move should be a confidence builder to other exchanges and digital currency startups, previously intimidated by uncertainty and the prospect of dealing with regulators in 48-50 different states.
itBit has always promoted itself as a compliance-friendly and technologically advanced exchange, aimed at higher-volume traders more used to dealing on traditional currency and stock exchanges.
It secured $3.25m in funding back in November 2013, making a total of $5.5m at the time, from Canaan Partners and RRE Ventures, along with Liberty City Ventures and other individual angel investors.
In May it hired former PayPal senior manager Erik Wilgenhof Plante and trader Bobby Cho from SecondMarket, in a move the company admitted was part of its campaign to build credibility in the existing financial world.
Image via itBit