Li Ka-shing is delighted after hearing the news that his Shantou University rowing team had broken the world record. Photo: Li Ka / Shing Foundation
Li Ka-shing is delighted after hearing the news that his Shantou University rowing team had broken the world record. Photo: Li Ka / Shing Foundation

Revered Chinese business Li Ka-shing, who famously started business with a tiny plastic flower factory in 1950 and went on to be widely known and admired in Hong Kong as “Superman” because his shrewd market skills made him one of the richest people in the world, has just increased his investment in crypto.

The 90-year-old’s venture capital firm Horizon Ventures is listed as one of 12 backers that have invested US$182.5 million of first-round funding into the Bakkt Bitcoin trading platform.

US-based Bakkt, that has been developed by New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange in partnership with Starbucks and Microsoft intends, within 2019 will open Bitcoin and crypto-currencies up to a wider retail market and to also roll out a Bitcoin futures platform.

According to Forbes, Bakkt will allow people to buy, sell, store and spend crypto-currencies via Microsoft software, while Starbucks stores will have the capability to convert Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies to US dollars, that customers can then use to make purchases.

Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler wrote a blog in Medium that said the platform is focussed on “driving institutional access for digital assets, along with merchant and consumer uses” and on providing the industry with new infrastructure, including the “first institutional grade regulated exchange, clearing and warehousing services for physical delivery and storage.”

Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies were plagued in 2018 by accusations of market price manipulation, multi-million dollar hacks and a resultant lack of traditional finance support and Bakkt is clearly determined to present itself as both regulated and coming from within the mainstream.

The start-up says it has been “working closely” throughout 2018, and has now filed applications with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and is now only waiting for “regulatory review” before it starts fully operational trading.

“It’s worth noting that major technology shifts prior to 2000, such as the advent of cell phones in the 1980s and commercializing the internet in the 1990s, didn’t develop with the scrutiny of real-time digital headlines and tweets,” writes Loeffler. “While access to information as technology innovation occurs is extremely valuable, the risk is a ‘marking to market’ of innovations before they have a chance to mature. Few innovations reached their full potential in their first decade of development.

“Our first step is to establish the trust and infrastructure that builds confidence and grows participation at the institutional and merchant level,” added Loeffler. “This is work that needs to be done, and we are excited to be part of this effort on a global scale as 2019 begins.”

The support of Superman Li will not harm these efforts.