Greenwich fintech Symbridge will launch a digital asset exchange built on blockchain in October. Designed for both institutional and professional investors, it will offer cryptocurrency and other forms of digital assets.
For CEO Michael McGuire, Symbridge represents a major leap forward for the financial services world.
“We felt we had a better way to approach the exchange marketplace,” he said. “And the critical thing is transparency – exchanges traditionally have not been transparent, and we think transparency in the market place is a good thing.”
In creating an exchange that leveraged a blockchain native matching engine, McGuire explained, Symbridge will enable “market participants to see what’s going on the exchange before their trade and after the trade. We think that’s what the market demands now, and we think regulators will appreciate that.”
McGuire, whose earlier career included commodities trading and the launch of two technology companies, incorporated Symbridge in 2019 and defines the company as a late-stage startup operating out of an 8,000-square-foot office with a 32-person workforce. While polishing its beta version ahead of its autumn launch, the company has relied on investors to finance operations. A new round of fundraising is now in the works.
McGuire acknowledged that while blockchain is not a new technology, the financial services world has not rushed to embrace it.
“I think change is scary for everyone, and incumbents have reasons not to change their business model,” he said. “If things are good, why change unless they have to? And that also comes with some significant cost and investment of time and resources.
“But being a new player in the market,” he continued, “we can freely make those investments and build things the way we want from the ground up. We don’t have to go back and retool.”
In positioning Symbridge, McGuire stressed that the company will not be pigeonholed as a cryptocurrency vehicle.
“We’re not a crypto exchange – we’re a digital exchange where a lot of different digital assets will be able to trade,” he stated. “Yes, we will trade some crypto pairs, but we will also trade pairs of commodities that have been tokenized and other things down the road that haven’t even been conceptualized.”
McGuire envisions the Symbridge exchange as something resembling an “old world stockbroker meets 21st century private banker, where you can pick up the phone and call your account rep and discuss issues you’re having or trades that you’re trying to put on, or ideas that you have – and we’ll walk you through that.”
Having a human element to the exchange environment is a key element to the Symbridge business plan, he said.
“There are a lot of complaints about exchanges not even having phone numbers,” McGuire said. “All customer support is done through email or bots, and that becomes frustrating. And when you’re talking about people’s money, they want to know that the wire has hit their account and they can start trading, and they want to hear that from a person.”
McGuire decided to locate his company in Greenwich because he believed the state’s support of corporate innovation coupled with its location made it the right spot for setting up shop.
“Greenwich has been a great town,” he said. “Employees from New York City can be in our office in 40 minutes on an express train, so it’s strategically located. I also live in Greenwich, so that had some influence, but I wouldn’t have set up business here if I didn’t feel we could get the resources we need.”
And while he readies Symbridge for its launch, McGuire is also devoting time to a parallel career in teaching entrepreneurship at Columbia University.
“For me, that’s the best job in the world because I’m educating the next generation of startup entrepreneurs,” he said.