The foundations for crypto market access: Why we invested in Elwood

Dan Chaplin
Dawn Capital
Published in
4 min readMay 16, 2022

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Elwood CEO James Stickland

A tidal wave of institutional money has flowed into digital assets over the past two years. And, with it, we’ve seen the rapid growth of exchanges, brokers, lenders and custodians — and an emerging crypto market structure.

But efficient and transparent access to this market and asset class remains a challenge, even for the most sophisticated institutions.

For a start, liquidity — as in any market — is fragmented across multiple venues. Traders need to tap into centralised and decentralised exchanges, over-the-counter (OTC) desks and prime brokers, but there’s no agreed standard for connectivity across venues, making for complex integration challenges. At the same time, organisations struggle to manage treasury functions, particularly when reconciling portfolio positions across such a wide range of venues and counterparties.

But building out institutional-grade trading infrastructure is hard, and piecing together this fragmented ecosystem has simply been too difficult for most firms. Many continue to rely on single counterparties, despite the obvious trade-offs, just to simplify access and reporting.

Enter Elwood Technologies, a gateway for institutional access to the digital assets market. Elwood’s platform connects this fragmented ecosystem, and acts as the nerve centre for its customers’ trading activities.

Elwood started life as the brainchild of Alan Howard, one of the world’s leading digital asset investors. The platform was built to his exacting standards as an institutional and enterprise-grade trading solution. Battle-hardened and having processed billions of dollars of flow, Elwood was then established as an independent platform three years ago to bring this infrastructure to the wider market.

The team behind this expansion could not be better placed, all industry veterans with deep expertise in investment management and trading systems. CEO James Stickland combines deep capital markets expertise from HSBC and J.P. Morgan with startup hustle as the former CEO of VeridiumID. CTO Chao Yan was previously Head of Systems Architecture at Brevan Howard, while COO Daniel Ciment was previously COO of IEX Exchange and Global Head of Equities Electronic Trading at J.P. Morgan.

Today, Elwood is an end-to-end proposition that supports clients right through the full trading lifecycle.

Pre-trade, it simplifies access to liquidity pools and enables price discovery with direct access to more than 30 venues for spots, futures and options via API or a sophisticated GUI. And with smart order routing, clients can reliably execute on Elwood at the best possible price. Post-trade, Elwood’s portfolio management system (PMS) gives clients a full view of their trading positions for streamlined settlement and reporting, even integrating with traditional finance PMS systems for full consolidation.

The platform was built to serve a broad range of market participants, from asset managers and financial institutions, to fintechs and neobanks offering crypto trading products to their own end-customers. And the demand from these customers has been relentless. Elwood has already supported a broad range of blue-chip logos, who have driven a surge of volume growth through the platform over the last twelve months.

For Dawn, this is simply a huge opportunity. Elwood addresses an enormous and largely greenfield market with the potential to become a foundational piece of market infrastructure for crypto as a new asset class. As traditional finance markets increasingly intertwine with the digital world, this opportunity will only grow.

Annual crypto trading volumes already hover around $36tn, providing a potential revenue fee pool to Elwood of $25bn in execution fees alone. And there are equally exciting addressable opportunities in treasury management, lending and data services.

So we’re delighted to be co-leading Elwood’s $70m Series A round, alongside a collection of strong strategic and financial partners, including Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Blockfi Ventures, Chimera, CommerzVentures, Digital Currency Group, Flow Traders and Galaxy Investment Group. The rich mix of both traditional and crypto-native investors participating in this raise demonstrates the growing convergence of these markets — and the opportunity ahead.

From a personal perspective, I’m very much looking forward to supporting James and his team on Elwood’s board alongside my partner, Josh. And for Dawn, we’re pleased to once again be partnering with Alan Howard, Elwood’s visionary and early investor, having previously worked together on Copper, whose Series B we led last year. Dmitry and the Copper team are solving fundamental problems of security and settlement for institutions like State Street in the digital assets markets, and are already strong partners for Elwood.

It’s a hugely exciting moment for us, and for James and his team. This round will allow them to push further into the largest financial institutions, accelerate their momentum and move into new geographies. There are also exciting developments in the platform to come, with the huge DeFi opportunity and the addition of further prime services. As this market and asset class continue to develop, we can’t wait to get started and support Elwood in seizing the enormous prize ahead.

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