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Endowments

Harvard takes plunge into cryptocurrency with a token sale investment

Harvard University’s Business School stands in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.

Harvard University's endowment is backing Blockstack Inc., a cryptocurrency company that seeks to hold a $50 million digital token offering.

Blockstack said in a regulatory filing Thursday that Charlie Saravia, a managing director at Harvard Management Co., is a representative on an advisory committee it formed for the sale of tokens. Harvard Management and two other investors have already purchased about 95.8 million of the company's tokens valued at about $11.5 million, according to the filing.

Harvard joins a small group of institutional investors that have jumped into cryptoassets. Two pension plans in Virginia invested in a venture capital fund for the blockchain and digital assets industry earlier this year, while in 2018 Yale University made a similar investment.

Most institutional money managers have shunned the largely unregulated digital assets, deterred by concerns about money laundering and market manipulation. While some argue cryptocurrency is not ready for institutional prime time, crypto bulls have been hoping deep-pocketed buyers enter the market to help depressed prices rally.

Blockstack's offering will support the development of its decentralized computing network, which uses the digital currency.

The company has applied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to offer the tokens using the so-called regulation A+ framework. The rule lets smaller companies sell shares with limited disclosure requirements and seek money from less well-off investors even if the securities don't trade on a major stock exchange. If approved, it's expected to be the first SEC-qualified token offering of its kind, Blockstack said in a statement.

The firm's digital assets, called Stacks tokens, functions as an accounting mechanism, or a way to keep track of, or prove, the economic stake that the holders of various private keys on the Stacks blockchain have in the network, according to the filing.

They're more like a equity share in a company than currency that can change hands, though they will likely also be traded.

A spokesman for Harvard Management, which oversees the university's $39 billion endowment, declined to comment. Blockstack declined to comment about its investors.