Wall Street Bitcoin Pioneer Quits Wedbush for Blockchain Startup

(Bloomberg) -- Sheri Kaiserman was Wedbush Securities Inc.’s head of equities in 2013 when she made a bold call, granting permission to publish the first Wall Street analysis of Bitcoin’s value. The report didn’t explicitly recommend buying the cryptocurrency, but it did say huge gains were possible -- and investors who dove in that day have seen a more than 600 percent return.

Now, she’s in the midst of another big leap: After 18 years at Wedbush, Kaiserman left this year and co-founded Maco.la Management, a blockchain-focused investment fund and advisory firm. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles-based company announced it has raised $6 million toward a $40 million goal.

Kaiserman, who was ahead of her peers across the securities industry in recognizing Bitcoin’s potential, still sees huge prospects for blockchain, even if the popular cryptocurrency it supports has cooled off in recent months. The idea behind Maco.la is to help more startups conceive, design and build applications based on the technology, and to ensure there are enough developers to keep the ideas flowing, she said.

Or, as Maco.la’s chief executive officer, Ron Reed, put it in a statement on Tuesday: “As a nascent industry, there is a lack of capital, viable technologies and talent.”

What grabbed Kaiserman’s attention years ago? “The fact that there was now a way to cut out intermediaries,” she said in a phone interview. “It was, ‘Oh my god, this is a new world.’”

Back in 2013, it wasn’t just Wall Street firms that mostly ignored digital currencies. Regulators hadn’t gotten involved much either. That’s completely changed in 2018, something Kaiserman welcomes.

Read More: Bitcoin’s Wildest Days Are Over as Regulators Circle

“While regulation is spooking everybody, it will create validation for the space,” she said. In the U.S., at least, regulators are “not being impulsive,” she said.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has signaled it believes many digital assets are securities, meaning they’ll be limited to trading on SEC-approved markets. Maco.la has a securities lawyer on its staff to ensure those rules are obeyed, Kaiserman said.

Maco.la stands out, Kaiserman said, because two of its five co-founders are women, a rare thing in this male-dominated space.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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