Armed with a doctorate in financial engineering, 34-year-old Timo Schlaefer was on his way to a promising career at Goldman Sachs in London. Previously with the bank’s mergers and acquisitions team, he became an executive director of credit quantitative modeling at Goldman, where quants like Schlaefer are highly valued.
In February he gave that up and launched a company called Crypto Facilities Ltd, a bitcoin derivatives trading platform, which now has six employees. For now, the platform trades bitcoin forwards, which are directly linked to the price of bitcoin, but it’s also developing other digital currency derivative products.
“This is uncharted territory,” said Schlaefer. “It’s an exciting opportunity to participate in a new area of technology that has massive potential.”
Bitcoin is a virtual or online currency created through a ‘mining’ process where a computer’s resources are used to perform millions of calculations. Once mined, bitcoins can be stored in an online wallet, traded in an online exchange, or used to buy goods and services.
Once the province of small-time investors driven by their distrust of government-backed currencies, now Wall Street bankers and traders are leaving high-paying jobs to join bitcoin start-ups, while big firms hire in-house to get their arms around bitcoin and the related ‘blockchain’ technology.
“A lot of people are entering the bitcoin space as the sector has reached an overall level of funding that’s hard to ignore,” said Jaron Lukasiewicz, founder and chief executive officer at New York-based bitcoin exchange Coinsetter.
Lukasiewicz, 29, moved to the bitcoin world in late 2012, having left behind a six-figure salary in private equity at The CapStreet Group in New York.
Bitcoin is not backed by a government and its value fluctuates. Last Thursday, it was trading at $278, making the value of outstanding bitcoin worth about $4 billion. It has had a volatile history, with a