Crypto: To trade or not to trade takes on new urgency
About 10 years ago, David Bleznak was exploring alternative investments for the family office created by his father, Mitchell, in suburban Detroit. The Bleznak family had built wealth largely through commercial real estate investments now going into three generations.
Bleznak began to study crypto currencies. But he had to persuade his skeptical father—and the rest of his family—of bitcoin’s value in the family portfolio. They made a small wager.
David bought $1,500 worth of bitcoin; his father bought $100,000 worth of gold to put in a safe.
Eight years later, despite the plunge in value, the bitcoin is valued at $60,000 and the gold at about $150,000. “The difference is in the ROI,” Bleznak told Crain Currency.
The experiment, even in its early days, led to the family’s support of David’s launch of Totle, a decentralized platform for trading crypto where the owner retains custody of the asset rather than having to surrender it during the process. Bleznak raised $1.7 million from friends and family and nearly $4 million more from venture capital and a couple of rounds of capital, including funding from Tim Draper’s blockchain fund, Bleznak said.
Last October, Bleznak sold Totle, but the details have not been made public.
He and his family remain bullish on crypto, despite prices in free fall and the market down more than $2 trillion this year.
“The best investors understand the opportunity that arises from these types of great collapses or market resets,” Bleznak said. “Investors are currently experiencing the deleveraging portion of the cycle. The cycle certainly is not over and could extend for many more months or even years. …
“If crypto is of interest to your family office, staying disciplined to your investing strategy or plan is of even greater importance in this asset class than others, due to volatility.”
Family offices are responding to the current free fall—or deleveraging—in a variety of ways, from selling off their bitcoin, to buying “on the dip” to launching their own digital coins. And plenty are avoiding the sector altogether.
‘A SPECULATIVE ASSET’
“It’s the very definition of a speculative asset,” said Steven Saltzstein, who founded the Force Family Office, a New York-based network of family offices, foundations, endowments and individual investors. “As with any pullback, people have more and more walked away from it.”
Saltzstein himself has gravitated more to blockchain applications and maintains a cautiously optimistic approach about crypto. “The thought process is very binary around crypto,” he said. “Some say it’s not backed by anything and it’s a phantom currency, and others say it’s the future.”
‘SOME GREAT APPLICATIONS’
One-third of single-family-office members recently surveyed by UBS are either investing in distributed ledger technology (DLT) applications such as blockchain or considering doing so, with only a quarter (26%) investing in cryptocurrencies or considering it. Half of U.S. respondents are turning to DLT, the survey found.
Recently, Dawn Fitzpatrick, the chief investment officer at George Soros’ family office, said that though the crypto market is volatile, she has a lot of faith that blockchain technology “is going to have some great applications.” (She also hinted that ethereum may soon gain traction over bitcoin.)
Among the outliers are young billionaires such as:
- WeWork founder Adam Neumann, whose family office, 166 2nd Financial Services, reportedly manages $700 million and invested in his new crypto startup, Flowcarbon, which aims to make it easier to buy carbon credits and help fix climate change.
- The Winklevoss twins, who have built stakes in 50 crypto or blockchain startups through their family office, Winklevoss Capital Management.
- Real estate scion Kent Swig, who runs the single-family office Fulcrum Equities and launched his own gold-backed cryptocurrency, DIGau, last year.
“I understand some of the nervousness,” said Swig. “It’s a little mystifying right now. But I found a bridge to take and make safe a very understandable and financially rewarding vehicle to be able to enter the crypto world.”
Before jumping into the market, Saltzstein recommends talking with top advisers and analysts to get their sense of what makes sense for your risk appetite.
“You always want to rely on the folks smarter than you and make your own informed decision.”