Cryptocurrency exchange FTX Trading valued at $18bn after its largest funding round

Two-year-old company secures $900m from some of Silicon Valley's best-known investors

A two-year-old company that built a digital exchange allowing investors to trade cryptocurrency derivatives is now valued at $18 billion, after securing $900 million from investors in its latest funding round – one of the largest ever achieved by a cryptocurrency company.

FTX Trading, based in San Francisco, said it would use the proceeds of the Series B round to accelerate its growth plans and expand its global presence. The late stage funding round represents a huge leap in valuation since FTX raised $40m from investors last year at a valuation of $1.2bn.

"It's our first large fundraise, but through it we've formed a hugely valuable set of partners. I'm excited to work with them to make FTX the best company it can be," said co-founder and chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried. "We started out as a new derivatives exchange two years ago, and this round will help us continue to build out a bigger and broader vision for what FTX could become."

Mr Bankman-Fried is a former trader at Jane Street Capital, a company that uses quantitative strategies to trade equities, bonds and ETF markets. He founded FTX in May 2019 with ex-Google software engineer Gary Wang. Their aim was to build an exchange robust enough to be used by professional traders but easy enough for first-time users to manage, according to its website.

FTX now has more than one million users who complete an average of $10bn worth of trades through the exchange every day.

The company's Series B funding round attracted more than 60 investors, including Silicon Valley venture capitalists Sequoia Capital, Thoma Bravo, Ribbit Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Japan's SoftBank and China's Sino Global Capital also participated.

Derivatives are contracts based on an underlying asset – such as a share, commodity or cryptocurrency – in which the buyer and seller agree to a trade at a set price in the future. Traders can make and lose fortunes on cryptocurrency derivatives due to the volatility in cryptocurrency valuations.

Bitcoin, the world's biggest cryptocurrency, soared back above the $30,000 mark on Wednesday after a steep fall on Tuesday. It was up 5.75 per cent at $31,397.17 by 3pm UAE time. Ether, the second-biggest cryptocurrency, was up 8.44 per cent to $1,903.63.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority banned the sale of cryptocurrency derivatives to retail investors in October last year, citing the "extreme volatility in cryptoasset price movements", lack of a reliable basis for valuation and the prevalence of market abuse, among other factors. It estimated that retail customers would save about £53m as a result of the ban.

FTX expanded its range last year, offering trading on tokenised shares, contracts on pre-IPO shares and even prediction markets allowing traders to speculate on events such as the outcome of the US election – some 200 million contracts traded hands on the event, according to a blog on its website.

It plans to use the funds raised to develop other services including payment processor FTX Pay, a service allowing users to loan out crypto assets known as FTX Liquidity and a non-fungible tokens business.

"As crypto becomes more ubiquitous, FTX has the opportunity to build a next generation financial services brand, spanning exchange, payments and many other categories to come," said Nick Shalek, general partner at Ribbit Capital.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 7:57 AM
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