A company with zero revenues, a handful of staff and Canadian roots plans to become the first cryptocurrency group to list on the London Stock Exchange, seeking to cash in on surging demand for new virtual currencies.
Argo, which won approval to go public from the UK Listing Authority two weeks ago, wants to “democratise” the crypto-mining process by which new virtual coins are created by renting out its specialist computing capacity for a monthly fee.
The listing could be controversial because cryptocurrencies have been criticised over their links to crime and fraud, while the mining process has been accused of damaging the environment.
Miners create new virtual coins by solving complex maths problems to validate new transactions. The reliance on raw computing power makes the energy-hungry process more akin to industrial manufacturing than traditional, high-technology businesses.
Jonathan Bixby, the Canadian technology entrepreneur who co-founded Argo, said it had chosen to list in London because of the city’s role as a global hub for financial technology and the cachet it would add to its brand.
He said the start-up aimed to make crypto-mining available as a mass-market service instead of only a select few being able to afford the high-performance servers and the high levels of electricity required.
“More than 90 per cent of crypto-mining is done by elites on industrial scale because it is technically very difficult to do,” Mr Bixby told the Financial Times. “It is incredibly expensive to buy, up front, the hardware you need at $5,000 a machine. We want to be the Amazon Web Services of crypto.”
Argo plans to charge $25 a month for the raw computing power to mine any one of four cryptocurrencies — bitcoin gold, ethereum, ethereum classic and zcash. But it will not hold virtual coins on behalf of its customers or arrange the mining pools that are typically used. It will limit customers to one contract each.
Employing 20 people, it has a data centre in Vancouver and plans to establish others in places such as Iceland and China that both have cheap sources of renewable power and chillier climates to help cool the servers.
We have a hot air problem. We can make the most of that by building greenhouses on the side of our data centres
It hopes to emulate the rapid growth of Genesis Mining, the Icelandic company that launched a similar service three years ago and now has 2m users. The Reykjavik-based company charges from $179 to $3,975 for a three-year contract and has a six- to eight-month waiting list.
Since raising $2.5m from private investors in January, Argo has been rushing to launch its IPO to beat similar rivals, such as Hydrominer. The Austrian cryptocurrency miner is rumoured to be planning a UK listing.
It plans to only use electricity from suppliers of renewable energy or from the grid in places where it mostly comes from hydro or solar power generation. “We will not mine on dirty power,” said Mr Bixby. Its main target markets are Europe, North America and Australia.
He added that crypto-miners could help to revive rust belt towns by finding novel uses for the warm air their data centres generate. “We have a hot-air problem,” he said. “We can make the most of that by building greenhouses on the side of our data centres.”
Mirabaud Securities is acting as sole bookrunner and corporate broker for the company on the listing which is expected to be completed within a week. Argo aims to raise £20m at an overall valuation of £40m.