Elliptic CEO James Smith steps down
Innovators,  Technology

Elliptic CEO Dr. James Smith steps down for development role

The co-founder of the leading blockchain intelligence firm will be replaced by COO Simone Maini, who has increasingly led the sales and corporate culture development efforts

Elliptic co-founder Dr. James Smith stepped down as CEO of the growing blockchain intelligence firm on April 28 in order to focus his energy on developing the growing firm’s technology and engineering development as chief scientist. In his place, former COO Simone Maini took the reins.

Elliptic raised $28 million in a series B round in September to fund growth in Asia, with offices in Singapore and Japan. It also has offices in the U.S. and Europe. 

In late 2019, Smith concluded that the firm had grown to the point where its CEO can no longer both direct the company and pursue the science and development of the tools it uses to provide cryptocurrency compliance services and discover and track illicit activities on blockchains, he said in comments provided to Modern Consensus. 

“I started to think about how to ensure Elliptic was best set up for success in 2020 and beyond, and concluded that I would be most effective in a different role,” said Smith. “I discussed this with my family, Simone, my co-founders, and the board, and we all agreed that Simone was the natural choice to be my successor as CEO. “

Smith was No. 91 on the Modern Consensus 100 most influential people in crypto 2020 list. 

Choosing development over business

As the firm grew, Smith and Maini’s roles evolved, with Maini focusing on Elliptic’s corporate clients, which are growing larger and more sophisticated, and the company’s staff and corporate culture, according to a blog post on April 28.

Smith, on the other hand, has overseen product and technology development, as well as building customer relationships and acting as a bridge between the technical team and sales and support staff.

In the comments to Modern Consensus, Maini said that Elliptic has “seen consistent growth in the number of customers we’ve been onboarding in the past six months across all regions.”

Saying that the firm had attracted “high profile customers who are entering the crypto space for the first time,” Maini added, that many clients are “household names” but prefer remain anonymous. “While there’s no doubt trading conditions are unusual, we are seeing good traction with customers who place a high value on building efficient compliance programs. We expect to see continued growth amongst both financial institutions and the most ambitious crypto companies.”

The Asian expansion has been going well, said Maini. The company’s business there is up five times what it was in the region in the first quarter of 2020, she said. Maini added that she is based in Singapore, along with a growing staff, which clients appreciate. 

Business, not government

“We are focused on supporting businesses to fight financial crime in crypto,” Smith said. 

While the firm works closely with government regulators around the world, he added, it focuses on development of regulations and compliance rather than providing tracking tools. 

“Unlike our competitors, however, we do not treat regulators or law enforcement agencies as a business line,” said Smith. Elliptic, he added, does “not depend on revenue from them.”

A leading competitor, Chainalysis, was harshly criticized by the well-known and highly regarded cryptocurrency educator and author Andreas Antonopolous on April 25. He alleged Chainalysis worked with dictators and human rights abusers—a charge the firm denied.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.