Demystifying the world of Crypto Market Makers

Updated: Jun 13



Market Makers play a crucial part in the crypto industry as they bring market depth and flow to the trading activity by maintaining liquidity for crypto assets on crypto exchanges. While market makers have been here for a while, they went through quite a few stages of evolution in 2021. With total cryptomarket volumes increasing 7 times a year on average (from 2018 to 2021)¹, it's no wonder so many entities are looking for their way into the action. . It’s important to note that many smaller market makers who have come into the market since the 2020 bull run have really just created basic bots that trade for the firms.


The 3 biggest industry market makers are Jump, GSR and Alameda.


All 3 are proprietary market makers. This means they borrow X tokens at Y price and can choose to either return the tokens at the expiry date (usually 1-2 year time period but this period can vary) by buying back tokens they have sold on the open market or exercise their option to purchase at X strike price. This form of market making is not popular for most smaller raise projects.

Designated market makers borrow a project's token, and then charge a monthly management fee, usually between $5k - $15k, scaling as more exchanges are added, and have a profit sharing model averaging in the range of 1% - 20%.


1. Jump Crypto²

Source: Jump Twitter

Jump is the top market maker in terms of volume well in excess of $50bn a day, which - according to their claims - represents 20 to 30% of the daily trading volume. Known as the “Jane Street” of cryptocurrency markets, they had been relatively quiet in terms of events and investments up until a few recent months, having rebranded to Jump Crypto.


Jump rose to fame this past month due to forking out $320m to plug a recent wormhole hack³. This kind of reimbursement is rarely seen at that speed and scale. The reason behind its action can be found in their investment activities as they are not only the lead investors in Wormhole but were heavily invested in the Solana DeFi ecosystem. Jump Crypto also has a large number of undisclosed investments in the space, including equity in most of the top 15 exchanges. Some of their lead investments include:

  • Defi Alliance: one of the most respected incubators in the space.

  • BitGo: a leader in institutional digital asset custody, trading and finance, which is set to be acquired by Galaxy Digital.

  • Curv: a leading provider of cloud-based infrastructure for digital asset security, which has been acquired by PayPal⁴

It should be noted that Jump is also a large market maker in the traditional markets with a rich expertise of 20+ years, and their staff is split between traditional and cryptocurrency activities.



Staff: 1,100+

DEX market making support - when the token is listed on Coinbase.


https://jumpcrypto.com/


2. Alameda Research

Source: Alameda Website

Alameda tends to only market for projects they are invested in with an obvious preference for Solana-based projects (Such as Serum and Raydium). According to their website, Alameda is now managing $1 billion in crypto-assets and trading $1-10 billion in crypto products.

Their ruthless behavior has earned them a polarizing reputation and catapulted their founder Sam Bank Friedman to the second richest doxxed cryptocurrency mogul, with Forbes estimating a net worth of $24.5bn, which brings him to the top of the cryptocurrency food chain, second only to the great CZ⁶. Here’s a great interview from Nas Daily:



Alameda has a plethora of money making strategies, arbitraging being the most prominent. One of their strategies is a $500m monthly purchase of Tether which they arbitrage for a profit of ~$50m per month. They were the largest volume traders on Bitmex in the exchange’s heyday, and would by no surprise be the largest market maker on their own exchange FTX. Due to their blend of being Alameda and FTX, their volume would be a difficult task to quantify/estimate.


According to the Crunchbase database, Alameda Research started its investment activities in Q2 2020. Since then the number of projects they either helped raise money for or became the lead investors themselves was gradually increasing on a quarterly basis. Thir total investment count is 146 projects, 22 of which having them as lead investors. One of their lead investments that brought a lot of media attention lately is Reef Finance⁷. According to CoinDesk, the dispute between Reef Finance and Alameda research started after a large portion of the $80m initial token deal was immediately transferred to Binance, presumably to be sold⁸.

The team behind Alameda Research is composed of traders with a moderate rate of experience. Their experience includes working at Jane Street, SIG's bond ETF desk or as individual traders.


Founder

Source: LinkedIn

Sam Bankman Fried, Co-founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Sam graduated from MIT in physics. He started working in the field as a trader at Jane Street, where he served for 3+ years and gained most of his experience. Later on he became a Director of Development at The Center for Effective Altruism. Currently, he is the CEO of Alameda Research and FTX exchange.


Staff: Unknown

DEX market making support: Yes

https://www.alameda-research.com/


3. GSR

Source: GSR Website

GSR is the 3rd largest of the big 3 with an average of $50bn on chain volume (cited by multiple sources who have seen their dashboard). In addition to market making, they also provide additional services such as DeFi, OTC Trading, Programmatic Execution, Cryptocurrency Options and Risk Management.


GSR rose to fame by becoming the market makers for Ripple from back in 2016. They have a reputation of being very aggressive investors you see on cap tables of many projects even those with low initial FDV.


Their spray and pray approach to investing has not earned them a reputation of signaling investors - they’re (surprisingly) not featured in the famous investor list.

Staff: 250+

DEX market making support: Yes as of late 2021


After the big 3, there’s a significant drop off in volume and it's unclear who would take the remaining top 10 positions. It can be safely assumed the honorable mentions are certainly top 10 players in the market, although it's unclear who has the larger volume. It’s also important to note that Market Makers can serve 2 main roles:

  1. To market make the actual token

  2. To liquidate tokens for projects and VC’s.


GSR team has well over a decade of experience in developing business and investment solutions. The members’ experience comes from well known companies such as Winton Capital Management, Barclays Global Investors, Goldman Sachs, Nomura International, Liquid Capital Markets and Tower Research Capital.


Founders


Rich Rosenblum, Co-founder and President (LinkedIn)

Rich Rosenblum has a 15+ years of trading history in traditional markets. His career started at Goldman Sachs, where he served almost 11 years and eventually reached a position of Managing Director of Oil Trading. While still working at Goldman Sachs, he Co-founded GSR. He is also a founding board member of Association for Digital Asset Markets (ADAM).


Cristian Gil, Co-founder (LinkedIn)

Cristian earned his bachelor of science degree in economics from MIT. Shortly after graduating his career started at Goldman Sachs, where he first held a position of capital market strategist and then energy trading. He served 10 years under Goldman Sachs and then became an independent investor in 2009.


https://www.gsr.io/



Altonomy

Source: AltOnomy

Altonomy would’ve come in as an easy 4th place up until 2019, at which point they decided to pivot their business model away from market making and more towards liquidation of crypto assets for their clients¹⁰, only to be acquired by Blockchain.com in March 2022.

Founders


Bo Dong, Founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Bo graduated from MIT with a master’s degree. His first work experience was as research analyst at China Development Bank, where he served for a year and a half. Prior to co-founding Altonomy, he also co-founded Mega Credit.


Tony Sun, Co-founder (LinkedIn)

Tony finished his Master of Engineering in Financial Engineering at Cornell University. Prior to co-founding Altonomy, he was a forex option trader at Citi in Singapore, where gained 4 years of experience.


https://www.altonomy.com/



Honorable mentions

Acheron Trading¹¹

https://acherontrading.com/

Source: Acheron Website

Famous for being the market makers of the highest returning ICO of 2021 - Bloktopia, AcheronTrading provides liquidity to 50 centralized and decentralized exchanges worldwide with over $40 billion assets under management and 125 institutional clients.

AcheronTrading has a team of successful traders with 10+ years of experience. Wesley, the CEO, pioneered crypto economic valuation models and trading strategies. Paul, the Director of Quantitative Research, has a 10-year profitable track record in token, Chris the Director of Business Development has 20 years of experience in trading. Mazin, the Quantitative trader, helped develop valuation models for proof-of-work cryptocurrencies.


Founder


Wesley Pryor, Founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Prior to launching Acheron, Wesley served as head trader at Aenigma Capital, where he pioneered crypto economic valuation models and trading strategies. With more than a decade of experience in digital asset transactions, Wesley is recognized as a thought leader and an industry veteran. At the age of 13 he automated the generation and re-sale of digital assets for online gaming. As the digital asset space matured, he became a frontline advocate for emerging cryptocurrencies, building his first Bitcoin mining rig in 2013. He is proud to bring innovative projects to quality trading venues operating out of Singapore, the world's most progressive jurisdiction for cryptocurrency.


FalconX¹²

https://falconx.io/

Source: FalconX

FalconX is an all-in-one cryptocurrency and digital assets financial services platform that facilitates billions in crypto trading each month. They support 20+ top tier exchanges, both centralized and decentralized. After a successful year of 2021 and an 18 fold increase in the facilitated volume, FalconX decided to raise capital through its latest $210m Series C financing round, which valued the company at $3.75b. It was also named one of the most innovative Blockchain Startups. by the 2022 CG Insight Blockchain 50.

FalxonX is a team of serial entrepreneurs from Harvard, Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon, Google, Paypal, Kraken, Citadel, Jump Trading, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, WorldQuant; backed by Accel, Accomplice, American Express, B Capital, Coinbase, Fidelity, Flybridge and Tiger Global.


Founders


Prabhakar Reddy, Co-founder (LinkedIn)

Prabhakar is a Harvard graduate with an engineering degree and a long history of serial entrepreneurship, product leadership, active investments, and board advisory positions for several Silicon Valley startups. In his past experience, he Co-founded and served as a CEO at nFusion, a leading provider of technology & web solutions for business, government, education and to clients of all sizes; Virtualize, a Bl and Consulting company offering virtualization services to SMEs and Banks in Dubai and Middle East region. Prabhakar was also a CEO at Dramatize where he led the product, growth and business development team; a partner at Singularity Ventures and an Investor at Accel Partners, focusing on early stage funding of startups across Blockchain & Consumer Internet.


Raghu Yarlagadda, Co-founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Raghu is a Harvard graduate with an engineering degree and a long history of serial entrepreneurship, product leadership, active investments, and board advisory positions at several Silicon Valley startups. Over his past experience, he led and built products that generated over a billion dollars of revenue and impacted over 50 million users. Raghu’s most notable experience includes working at Motorola Mobility as a hardware project lead, and Google - as a lead product manager with global responsibilities. He is also a Co-founder and the sitting CTO at Sarada Education institutions, a project focused on empowering students to reach their full potential through a new model of smart learning.


Wintermute¹³

https://www.wintermute.com/

Source: Wintermute Medium


Wintermute is one of the world's largest algorithmic and high frequency trading market makers of digital assets, providing liquidity algorithmically. It has a wide coverage across centralized exchanges, decentralized exchanges and market maker pools. They earned a free ride by being the default go to service for GSR customers looking for a market maker on a DEX as GSR did not facilitate DEX market making till Q4 2022.

Wintermute team has a plethora of experienced members in their particular field ranging from fintech business, software architecture and development, equity trading, logarithmic trading and growth strategy consultancy.


Founder


Evgeny Gaevoy, Founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Evgeny has impressive 15+ years of experience growing fintech businesses. He gained most of his experience working at Optiver, a leading global high-frequency trading firm specializing in options and ETFs. His most notable contribution at Optiver is building and running Optive's European ETF business, one of the largest in the EU.


Skynet Trading¹⁴

https://skynettrading.com/


Skynet Trading is a boutique firm with in-house built algorithmic trading solutions. Skynet Trading is the liquidity provider for multiple top 100 projects and their clients have a combined market cap of over 100B USD. Their team of experienced traders equipped with quantitative strategies and crypto-specific market knowledge provides valuable insight into token economics, listing strategies, liquidity management, and market conditions. They have active working relationships with some of the leading exchanges, investors, and projects in the digital assets space. Additionally, Skynet Trading has vast experience in funding and advising multiple top 100 crypto projects, as it guides the process of making a smooth transition from fundraising to public listings and long-term trading support. The list of projects Skynet Trading provided for their Market Making services also includes Terra Blockchain projects, SKALE Network, and Benqi Finance.




Coin Liquidity Solution (CLS)¹⁵

https://cls.global/

Source: CLS LinkedIn

Coin Liquidity Solution (CLS) is the largest Market Maker by volume at Crypto.com and provides its services to 90+ exchanges. Some of their partners also include other prominent names such as: Binance, KuCoin, MEXC, Gate.io, Lbank,Bitmart , BitFinex, etc. CLS provides 3 solutions, namely: (1) Market Making and liquidity management; (2) Marketing and fundraising; and (3) Exchange algorithmic trading solution.


Founders


Artem Khachatryan, Co-founder (LinkedIn)

Artem is a Software Engineer by profession, graduating from the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU). Before co-founding CLS global in 2018, his most prominent work experience was as the Head of Equity Trading at AIM Tech for almost three years, until December 2019.


Ullubiy Bakuev, Co-founder (LinkedIn)

Ullubiy graduated from University of London with a bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance. His work experience is rather short. During his time at the university he worked as an Investment Analyst at FMF Capital for a year. Shortly after his employment was terminated, he decided to co-found CLS Global.


Staff: 60+


Amber Group¹⁶

https://www.ambergroup.io/

Source: Amber Website

Amber Group acts as both Principal and Designated Market Maker on 70+ exchanges.

In the latest Series B+ round led by Temasek, Amber Group secured $200mil in funding, which values the company at $3 billion. Recently they also acquired the DeCurret cryptocurrency exchange in Japan.


Staff: 800+


Founder


Michael Wu, Founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Prior to founding Amber Group, Michael worked as a FX and Rate trader for Morgan Stanley, where he served for almost 4 years. Shortly after that, he worked as a Portfolio Manager for Arete Capital Partners for a brief period.

Kronos Research¹⁷

https://kronosresearch.com/

Source: Kronos LinkedIn

Kronos Research is a multi-strategy cryptocurrency trading firm which trades $5-10B in daily volume¹⁸.

It is also the 2nd largest Market Maker on Huobi (Jump being the first one). Besides their Market Making and trading activities, Kronos also provides robust trading and research infrastructure which allows building, testing and trading advanced AI models trained on large volumes of proprietary market data. In addition, they own WOO Network, a zero fee crypto trading network that bridges traders, exchanges, institutions, and DeFi platforms.


Founders


Mark Pimentel, Co-founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Mark amassed 16+ of experience as a high frequency quantitative trader and entrepreneur in New York City and Chicago. His past experience comes from quantitative trading and research companies such as Citadel, Knight Capital Group, Eladian Partners, Radix Trading LLC and Sun Trading LLC.


Jack Tan, Co-founder and CEO (LinkedIn)

Prior to Co-founding Kronos Research and Woo Network, Jack gained experience from well known banks such as BNP Paribas, Citi and Deutsche Bank. He started his career in 2006 as a fixed income analyst at BNP. Later on he became vice president in pricing and strategy for Citi. At Deutsche Bank he held various positions such as credit structuring associate, emerging markets trading associate and global investment group AVP.



Concluding remarks

It’s important to note that there is no right or wrong answer when choosing a designated or proprietary market maker for your project, although I’d generally recommend choosing a proprietary market maker for projects that raise over $6 million, and a designated market maker for those that raise under $6 million. I would always advise projects to look beyond the market making value they bring and rather look into exchange listings or ecosystem partnerships many of these market makers can offer.



Disclaimer

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¹ https://coinmarketcap.com/charts/

² https://jumpcrypto.com/

³ https://www.reuters.com/technology/crypto-network-wormhole-hit-with-possible-320-mln-hack-2022-02-03/

⁴ Crunchbase database

⁵ https://www.alameda-research.com/

⁶ https://www.forbes.com/profile/sam-bankman-fried/?sh=216d51b54449

⁷ Crunchbase database

⁸ https://www.coindesk.com/business/2021/03/16/80m-deal-gone-wrong-alameda-research-reef-finance-spar-over-unloaded-tokens

⁹ https://www.gsr.io/

¹⁰ https://www.altonomy.com/

¹¹ https://acherontrading.com/

¹² https://falconx.io/

¹³ https://www.wintermute.com/

¹⁴ https://skynettrading.com

¹⁵ https://www.cls.global

¹⁶ https://www.ambergroup.io/

¹⁷ https://kronosresearch.com/

¹⁸ https://www.linkedin.com/in/markfpimentel/