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Meet the hottest thing in hedge funds right now: the 'crypto-fund'

  • Mike Novogratz, former macro hedge fund manager at Fortress Investment, may soon launch the largest digital assets fund ever, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing a person familiar with the matter.
  • Novogratz told CNBC he can't comment on the news due to regulations.
  • If it launches, the fund will join about 70 digital asset funds that have launched at a "frantic" pace, said Brian Kelly, a CNBC contributor and head of BKCM, which officially launched a digital assets strategy in July.
A stand of the BitClave search engine at Blockchain Life 2017, a conference on bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 26, 2017.
Alexander Demianchuk | TASS | Getty Images
A stand of the BitClave search engine at Blockchain Life 2017, a conference on bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 26, 2017.

Investing giant Mike Novogratz may soon join the rush of new digital asset funds as the largest of them all.

The head of Galaxy Investment Partners and former macro hedge fund manager at Fortress Investment is launching a $500 million fund to invest in digital assets like bitcoin, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Novogratz told CNBC he can't comment on the news due to regulations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

When it launches, Novogratz's fund will be by far the largest in a growing world of funds investing in digital products like bitcoin, ethereum and initial coin offerings. Financial research firm Autonomous Next estimated this summer that about 70 such "crytpo-funds" now exist.

"The pace is frantic right now," said Brian Kelly, a CNBC contributor and head of BKCM, which officially launched a digital assets strategy in July. "This is a brand new asset class for investors and this is just beginning."

Kelly estimated the cryptofunds have raised a total of $1 billion to $2 billion so far. His own fund has less than $50 million in assets under management and is up more than 2,090 percent since it began tracking returns in March, Kelly said.

Major draws for investors into highly volatile digital currencies are their exponential surge in price this year and their lack of correlation to traditional investment assets.

Bitcoin briefly multiplied five times in price this year before dropping in September amid crackdown on digital currencies by Chinese authorities.

Bitcoin traded mildly lower near $3,920 Tuesday, still quadruple in value this year, according to CoinDesk. Digital currency ethereum traded near $289, up more than 3,000 percent this year.

In contrast, the best performing stock this year in the Nasdaq Composite, Sangamo Therapeutics, is up 324 percent. The S&P 500 is up about 12 percent near record highs, and many investors worry that the aging bull market may soon end.

The majority of the digital asset funds have launched with only $10 million to $20 million in this "third inning" of a nine-inning baseball game for the development of the digital asset class, said Ari Paul, former portfolio manager for the University of Chicago endowment and co-founder of cryptocurrency investment firm BlockTower Capital.

BlockTower soft-launched a digital assets fund in mid-August and plans to raise $100 million, Paul said. Investors must have at least $5 million in liquid net worth, he said.

Hedge funds, which have struggled to outperform the market, are already be looking to digital currencies for better returns. Hedge Fund Research said in June that its HFRI Macro:Currency Index rose 8.2 percent this year through May, helped by "strong contributions from exposure to digital currencies."

That said, prominent investors like Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks have called bitcoin a "pyramid scheme." Even Novogratz told Bloomberg that bitcoin "is going to be the largest bubble of our lifetimes."

But, he added in the report, "you can make a whole lot of money on the way up."

Digital currency enthusiasts often point out that since the digital currency market only has slightly more than $100 billion in market capitalization, receiving just 1 percent of the $200 trillion-plus of global assets will result in major growth for digital assets before it reaches a bubble.

"The criticism, the concerns, the fears have been present throughout almost the entire market's history," Paul said. "When everyone thinks bitcoin is a safe and attractive investment, it won't be a good investment."

— CNBC's John Melloy contributed to this report.

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