By Anna Irrera
NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 15 members of blockchain consortium Hyperledger have either cut their financial support for the project or quit the group over the past few months, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Exchange operators CME Group and Deutsche Boerse have decided to downgrade their membership for the consortium starting at the end of January 2018, according to slides titled "member attrition" from a board meeting presentation held on Friday.
Led by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger was launched in 2015 to develop blockchain technology for businesses. Blockchain, which first emerged as the system powering cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared record of data that is maintained by a network of computers on the internet.
CME Group and Deutsche Boerse were premier members of the group and will downgrade to a general membership.
Premier members are given board seats in the consortium and pay a fee of $250,000 a year. General memberships range from $5,000 to $50,000 based on the size of the companies, according to Hyperledger's website.
Blockchain consortium R3 has also decided to downgrade its premier membership next year, according to the documents.
Spokespeople for CME Group and R3 confirmed the companies had downgraded their membership. Deutsche Boerse declined to comment.
Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf said in a written statement that the group has seen "tremendous growth in membership" in 2017.
"We have seen some members who were part of the initial December 2015 cohort shift their spending priorities but remain members of the organization," Behlendorf said. "We have seen others who never really engaged decide not to renew. This is normal and expected."
Banks and other large corporations have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in developing blockchain technology in the hopes it can help them simplify their costly record-keeping processes.
To speed up development many large companies have formed or joined industry groups including the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and R3.
The weakening support for Hyperledger from some large members highlights how large firms have become more selective with their blockchain efforts as the technology matures. Earlier this year JP Morgan Chase & Co. left R3, following the departure of Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Banco Santander and others.
It comes amid an investing frenzy in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. The price of bitcoin hit a record of almost $18,000 on the Bitstamp exchange on Friday.
Despite the excitement, blockchain is not yet used to run any large scale projects
Hyperledger, which counts more than 180 members, of which 18 will be premier at the end of January 2018, released its first enterprise grade blockchain this year. Membership in Hyperledger also requires a separate membership with the Linux Foundation.
Thomson Reuters, the parent group of Reuters, is a member of Hyperledger, R3 and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.
(Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Frances Kerry)