— Venice-based Gem is shifting strategy.

The company announced last week the launch of a new platform that helps users track and research cryptocurrency investments, signaling a move away from its core business of developing blockchain applications for third parties.

The firm, which has raised $20.5 million in funds over several seed and Series A rounds, is pivoting to be closer to the end consumer, a decision Gem founder and Chief Executive Micah Winkelspecht said reflected a desire to have a more direct relationship with customers.

“In the past, we were touching the customer but through our partners,” he said. “We realized that we were really well positioned to go directly to customers. We especially want to help bring the next billion people to the cryptocurrency market.”

Gem’s new cryptocurrency platform works a bit like finance-tracking app Mint combined with a stock trading portfolio service, such as E-Trade. Winkelspecht said the app is also a virtual wallet to hold digital currency investments, in addition to functioning as a cryptocurrency research and tracking tool.

The company, essentially, envisions its app as a one-stop shop for cryptocurrency traders.

“Right now, you have to go through multiple exchanges and use multiple apps to buy and sell currencies or track your holdings,” Winkelspecht said. “We felt there was a lot of room to simplify.”

The new focus on the customer-facing platform means a reduction in the work Gem does for companies such as Capital One Financial Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

“We’re finishing up our remaining projects with these larger companies,” Winkelspecht said.

Gem’s last funding round – a $8 million Series A – closed in September 2017. Winkelspecht declined to comment on whether the company was looking to raise more funds currently.

Solar Buy for Ares

Ares Energy Infrastructure Fund, a unit at Century City-based private equity firm Ares Management, has acquired a majority stake in Conti Solar of Edison, N.J, the parties announced April 17.

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

Conti Solar, a unit of 110-year-old infrastructure firm Conti Group, has developed and brought to operation over 500 megawatts of solar projects, mostly in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions.

Ares’ investment is expected to close at the end of April. The companies announced that Conti Solar will retain its name, maintain its current offices and be managed by its current executive team.

For Ares EIF, this stake purchase is

the latest of nearly 130 power and energy

infrastructure ventures, giving the unit a combined underlying enterprise value exceeding $20 billion.

C-Suite Shakeups

Two of L.A.’s bigger corporate players are shaking up their executive structure.

Both El Segundo-based toymaker Mattel Inc. and shopping mall-owner Macerich Co. of Santa Monica said last week that their respective chief executives would depart. Mattel Chief Executive Margo Georgiadis is leaving the company to take the top executive position at Ancestry, a consumer genomics company, effective April 26. Macerich Chairman and Chief Executive Arthur Coppola will retire at the end of the year.

Have a deal tip? Henry Meier can be reached at hmeier@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 556-8321.

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