• Bucella spent nearly a decade at Goldman Sachs when he left to join investment firm BlockTower Capital
  • Leaving Goldman wasn’t easy, Bucella said, but he thought it was a risk worth taking.

Michael Bucella spent nearly a decade at Goldman Sachs before making the switch to full-time crypto in 2017. He left to join investment firm BlockTower Capital. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but it paid off. 

“I obviously saw the writing on the wall,” said Bucella, partner at BlockTower Capital. “This was going to be a very interesting, very pervasive technology.” 

Bucella started in Goldman’s asset management division in 2008. It was the middle of the  financial crisis and changes were coming, even if it was hard to see at the time. 

“I remember walking out of the Goldman building to the Occupy Wall Street protests,” Bucella said. “It’s sort of funny now thinking about how that was kind of the ‘Genesis moment’ for Bitcoin and its emergence.” 

After a couple years in asset management, Bucella moved to the securities side at Goldman. He’s a self-proclaimed “markets guy,” so it was the perfect fit. He couldn’t imagine doing anything else. 

“I really just loved what I did,” Bucella said. “I enjoyed the hell out of it, so there’s very few things I would have ever really left for.” 

A risk worth taking

Bucella met Matthew Goetz, who first introduced him to crypto in 2012, while on the asset management team at Goldman. Goetz took Bucella to a couple crypto meetups, but Bucella didn’t get the full picture back then.

“I had no idea what the hell I was looking at,” Bucella said. “Matt kept in my ear about the space, though, kept pushing me to understand it. He got me into trading it a little bit, and then I got myself into trading and a bit more.” 

Goetz, who spent 11 years at Goldman, eventually met Ari Paul, who previously oversaw risk at the University of Chicago’s endowment investment office, and introduced Paul and Bucella. Goetz and Paul decided to launch BlockTower in 2017, and they wanted Bucella to jump ship. 

“Matt called me up and said ‘we talked about the opportunity of a lifetime, and this is it,’” Bucella said. “We want to build the institutional brand in the space, and we can do that.” 

Leaving Goldman wasn’t easy, Bucella said. He had just started managing a new team, he was accelerating quickly and his forward looked strong, but he thought leaving was a risk worth taking. 

“At worst, if I went into it on my own, it was a great educational process, and at best, if I went into it with amazing partners, we would build something incredible,” Bucella said. “Thankfully, the latter seemed to have happened thus far.” 

A mixed reaction

The reaction from his peers back then was mixed, Bucella said, but today, the same group appears to have grown more open to digital assets. 

“When I told partners at Goldman that I was leaving, one partner said ‘that’s incredible,’ another said ‘are you sure you understand the risks you’re taking?’” Bucella said. “It surprisingly didn’t sway me in the least. You know, it’s funny, a lot of those folks that I used to know there have now, in the last year, made their way into the space.” 

Today BlockTower has grown into a large asset management firm. They recently raised $25 million to invest in decentralized finance solutions and assets. Billionaire hedge-fund manager Marc Lasry and former US Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo are among BlockTower’s most noteworthy investors. 

It hasn’t all been easy though, Bucella said, particularly after bitcoin’s 2018 crash. 

“2018 was like a ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” Bucella said. 

They spent 2019 refocusing. BlockTower “doubled down” on what they were doing in liquid markets and reworked their investment strategy. 

“In hindsight, they were all worthwhile investments.” 

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  • Blockworks
    Senior Reporter
    Casey Wagner is a New York-based business journalist covering regulation, legislation, digital asset investment firms, market structure, central banks and governments, and CBDCs. Prior to joining Blockworks, she reported on markets at Bloomberg News. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Media Studies. Contact Casey via email at [email protected]