In 2013, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led a funding round for a startup called Coinbase. Cryptocurrency had hardly gone mainstream, but Coinbase, just a year out of Y Combinator, positioned itself as the financial exchange of the future. Andreessen Horowitz led the $25 million round, the first of several investments that would make Coinbase the best-funded crypto company in the world.
Eight years later, the investment has paid off. In April, Coinbase became the first major crypto company to go public and did so with such élan that even crypto skeptics paid attention. Coinbase closed its first day of trading at $328.28 a share, putting its value at $85.8 billion—making it Andreessen Horowitz’s biggest exit yet. (Today it trades at $226.01 per share.)
Now the firm is betting that rising interest in cryptocurrency can continue to make it very rich. Andreessen Horowitz announced today its third crypto-focused fund for the “next generation of visionary crypto founders.” The $2.2 billion Crypto Fund III will be among the largest capital commitments to the crypto ecosystem in history, and about four times the size of the firm’s second cryptocurrency fund a year ago. “We believe that the next wave of computing innovation will be driven by crypto,” several partners wrote in a blog post, which suggested potential innovations in governance, networks, and the distribution of economic benefits.
Andreessen Horowitz’s new fund comes amid a crypto gold rush. So far this year, venture capitalists have invested $17 billion in crypto companies, according to Bloomberg. Union Square Ventures, another early investor in Coinbase, will reserve 30 percent of its new $251 million fund for crypto companies. Even more traditional players, like PayPal and Visa, have started to creep into the crypto space by joining Blockchain Capital’s new $300 million fund. Many of these investors are betting that other startups can replicate Coinbase’s massive success and that the recent mania over things like nonfungible tokens will spark a number of new crypto projects.
Still, the fate of these startups is largely tied to the prices of bitcoin and other mainstream cryptocurrencies. And those prices can be volatile. The price of bitcoin dropped from a record high of $63,000 in April to about $33,000 this month. Recently, prices have seesawed based on Elon Musk’s tweets and news about crypto mining.
Cryptocurrencies have been volatile for as long as they have existed, but that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from swooping in when times are good. Chris Dixon, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, has called this the “crypto price-innovation cycle”: Prices spike, a frenzy follows, new startups get founded, and VCs rush to fund them. Then prices decline, bringing more media attention and some startups down with it. But Dixon argues that this “chaotic” cycle has led to many innovations over the last decade. Andreessen Horowitz funded some of those companies with its $515 million Crypto II fund, including Aleo, which helps build decentralized applications, and Goldfinch, a platform that enables crypto borrowing without crypto collateral.
While cryptomania is near an all-time high, regulators are also starting to pay more attention to digital currencies: The Chinese government recently cracked down on bitcoin miners and startups facilitating crypto transactions. In the United States, some regulators have also called for greater enforcement on crypto exchanges.
To that end, Andreessen Horowitz also introduced several new advisers to the crypto team, who are meant to help “translate crypto to the mainstream” and perhaps navigate future regulation over the crypto market. Tomicah Tillemann, the former chair of the Global Blockchain Business Council and an adviser to the White House, will join as global head of policy. Two others with government experience—Bill Hinman, the former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance, and Brent McIntosh, former undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs—will also join as advisers. Anthony Albanese, who left the New York Stock Exchange last year to take a role on Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto team, will now serve as chief operating officer.
With its massive new fund, Andreessen Horowitz plans to do more than just meet those challenges ahead. It’s hoping to find the next Coinbase—or something even bigger.
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