JPM Pledged $7.5M for Blythe Masters Blockchain Startup, Other Banks Balk

Digital Asset Holdings, the blockchain startup led by Blythe Masters, has received a $7.5 million pledge from JPMorgan, but other
Photo: Photo: Bloomberg

Digital Asset Holdings (DAH), the blockchain startup led by former JPMorgan executive Blythe Masters, has reportedly received a $7.5 million pledge from her former employer, but other banks are balking.

Masters joined the newly-formed startup as CEO earlier this year, looking to make another major impact on Wall Street. She appears to be steadfast in her blockchain ambitions, having reportedly turned down an offer to head Barclays’ investment bank.

She has turned to Wall Street peers in a bid to raise $25 million according to some reports, and as much as $35 – 45 million according to others. In the latter scenario, the startup would be valued at $100 million.

According to a New York Times report, citing people briefed on the deal, large banks including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America (BoA) and Citigroup were uninterested in contributing after learning that JPMorgan was being offered better terms than other investors.

One may also note that Goldman, BoA and Citi are already involved in other blockchain initiatives, whereas JPMorgan was one of the few major banks not to have disclosed blockchain ambitions aside from the DAH investment.

One of the areas Masters is hoping to disrupt is syndicated loans, large loans handled by institutions that are broken up and sold to different investors in pieces. The process is manual and fragmented and can take up to several weeks to complete. The hope is that a distributed ledger system will streamline the process in the same way it is envisioned for the immediate settlement of stocks and payments.

Banks have reportedly expressed doubts over the solutions DAH is working on. “It’s not supercompelling,” said one executive. Prospective investors reportedly doubted that the solutions are capable of addressing complications in the loan market, which they also attribute to human behavior.

DAH turned to investment bank Sandler O’Neill to raise money in the spring, and there was reportedly an expectation that fundraising would be complete by the fall. DAH’s chief marketing officer (CMO) denied assertions that the startup is struggling to find investors.

There have also been reports of difficulty integrating the two startups “acquihired” earlier this year and Blockstack.io. Two employees reportedly departed the latter, but DAH’s CMO said that all employees offered permanent positions at the time of the acquisitions are still with the company.

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