For those just hearing about the “blockchain” technology that underlies bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies, you’re about five years behind Chapel Hill hedge-fund manager Mark Yusko. That’s when a friend told him of plans to start a bitcoin fund. “He’d been successful, and he was basically shutting down a multibillion-dollar hedge fund to go into a new business, so I had to at least pay attention,” says Yusko, founder of Morgan Creek Capital Management LLC, which oversees more than $1 billion (“CapTrust parent tops list of state’s biggest money managers”).
Now, Yusko incorporates cryptocurrency technology into his investing business, extols its potential at conferences and is raising $25 million for a fund to invest in blockchain-technology ventures. In March, Morgan Creek bought Raleigh-based Full Tilt Capital LLC, an early- stage investment firm, as part of a plan to raise up to $500 million to buy blockchain security tokens that represent ownership of assets.
He’s not alone in envisioning a virtual currency that could replace dollars, Euros, yen and other government-issued currencies. Walmart Inc. is using the technology to track produce as it travels from farms in Mexico to U.S. stores. Law firm Ward and Smith PA, with five offices in the state, started accepting bitcoin as payment in June.