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Harvard confers Ivy pedigree on crypto start-up with endowment investment

Harvard confers Ivy pedigree on crypto start-up with endowment investment
John Harvard statue looks over Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Harvard University’s endowment is backing Blockstack Inc., a crypto company that seeks to hold a $50-million digital-token offering.

Blockstack said in a regulatory filing Thursday that Charlie Saravia, a managing director at Harvard Management Co., is a representative on an advisory committee it formed for the sale of tokens. Harvard Management and two other investors have already purchased about 95.8 million of the company’s tokens valued at about $11.5 million, according to the filing.

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The firm’s digital assets, called Stacks tokens, function as an accounting mechanism, or a way to keep track of, or prove, the economic stake that the holders of various private keys on the Stacks blockchain have in the network, according to the filing. The network, created by computer scientists at Princeton, allows engineers to build secure applications for creating documents, blogging and other uses.

Harvard joins a small group of institutional investors that have jumped into crypto assets. Two pension plans in Virginia invested in a venture capital fund for the blockchain and digital-assets industry earlier this year, and in 2018 Yale University made a similar investment.

Most institutional money managers have shunned the largely unregulated digital assets, deterred by concerns about money laundering and market manipulation. Although some argue crypto is not ready for institutional prime time, crypto bulls have been hoping deep-pocketed buyers enter the market to help depressed prices rally.

Blockstack’s offering will support the development of its decentralized computing network, which uses the digital currency.

The company has applied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to offer the tokens using the so-called regulation A+ framework. The rule lets smaller companies sell shares with limited disclosure requirements and seek money from less well-off investors even if the securities don’t trade on a major stock exchange. If approved, it’s expected to be the first SEC-qualified token offering of its kind, Blockstack said in a statement.

A spokesman for Harvard Management, which oversees the university’s $39-billion endowment, declined to comment. Blockstack declined to comment about its investors.

McDonald and Marsh write for Bloomberg

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