Speaking on Coinbase’s motivations for the move, director of engineering Varun Srinivasan told CoinDesk that “[the acquisition] is particularly important as we work with regulators and agencies in different countries to bring new assets there.”
Neutrino conduct blockchain analysis for law enforcement and financial services, competing with firms like Chainalysis. The Europe-oriented acquisition comes amid the first instances of implementation of a new EU-wide regime of Know-Your-Customer/Anti-Money-Laundering regulations that include crypto regulations - the so-called Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive or “5MLD.”
It seems that Neutrino’s founder and CEO Giancarlo Russo was previously the COO of Hacking Team, a surveillance and intrusion software firm that was itself ironically hacked and exposed to the world - with even WikiLeaks participating in dissemination of Hacking Team’s activities.
The docs showed Hacking Team's operational security to be abysmal, its code to be inelegant and childlike and its email communications revealed a petty, arrogant and extremely sloppy organization that actively endeavored to avoid scrutiny about the human rights abuses of its clients.
Hacking Team drew ire for developing malware and spyware, which it sold to governments and law enforcement who are known human rights abusers. Their software was reportedly used to target and arrest foreign journalists reporting in Ethiopia.
Congrats to Coinbase on the acquisition of chain analysis startup Neutrino!— Arjun Balaji (@arjunblj) February 19, 2019
FYI, the CEO, Giancarlo Russo, was ex-COO of HackingTeam (https://t.co/qyQ6mLU8XE), who sold "offensive intrusion and surveillance capabilities to governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations." pic.twitter.com/VVza5AjIYa
Some in crypto social media have been up in arms about the move in the last hours, concerned about how Neutrino’s murky past may clash with or affect the cryptoasset industry.
Meanwhile, competitor Chainalysis recently raised $30 million in venture capital funding, and are also setting up a R&D arm in London. Chainalysis’ revenue has allegedly quadrupled during 2018 in spite of the dramatic falls in digital asset prices, according to co-founder Jonathan Levin per a statement to CoinDesk.