The Scarborough Edition
It is widely accepted in Silicon Valley that the world is on the cusp of a significant technology-led transformation. Web 3 is the new term. This week venture heavyweights Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures go on the record about the shift. And we deep dive into Crypto
- The Web 3 Revolution
- Venture Transformation
- Big Tech, Regulation, the USA and China
- Crypto is King
- Startup of the Week
- Tweet of the Week
Why The Scarborough Edition? Scarborough is where I was born and raised until I attended University at the age of 19. It is a coastal town of 60,000 or so on the East coast of Yorkshire. It’s home.
I decided it was time to revisit and see friends and family, and after a couple of days of travel here I am.
My entire context has shifted from this.
Sorry for the segue but the rapid evolution of what is increasingly being described as Web 3 is an equally dramatic content shift.
Web 3 is a label describing a number of profound technology platform shifts. The shift from centralized portals with operating companies to decentralized platforms with tokens, and often no company. The shift from mere data to AI and automation on these platforms. The opening up of the “creator economy” to millions of creators.
Web 3 is complemented by Venture Capital changes that we have documented here. However, this week a slew of statements by VCs purporting to be “manifestos” (Index Ventures) or “agenda for the future internet” (Andreessen) seek to frame these changes in a broader context.
An interview with Azeem Azhar focuses on how unprepared Web 2 is for the new products of innovation. And MG Seigler of TechCrunch fame suggests that Facebook itself is dead, at least “living dead” and needs to morph or die for real. He agrees with my editorial last week that:
The problem with Facebook isn’t actually Facebook. It’s us. It’s human beings. The problem is that Facebook created the greatest tool ever to connect those human beings. And it has led to a world in which the local lunatic is now the global lunatic.
But my favorite section this week is the venture transformation section, and specifically three articles within it. John Luttig writes about the emergence of passive investing through index funds as a new alternative to picking single startups and suggests private companies will become the subject of indexing. I like it because that is essential to what I am doing at SignalRank Corp.
Further evidence of institutional capital embracing indexing comes with the story about Blackrock investing in Inovia’s follow-on fund. $340m focused solely on follow-on rounds in 8-9 existing portfolio companies. Blackrock bought into a collection.
Finally, the story about venture capital firms morphing into investment banking-like organizations, focused on Andreessen Horowitz indicates that capital allocation is not a static model.
It is logical, then, that the most successful VC firms are slowly morphing into a new breed of investment banks — gatekeepers of the capital markets for tech startups and tech companies.
It is no coincidence, then, that indexing, a concept long confined to the stock market, is becoming more visible in venture capital (see John Luttig here, and Tomasz Tunguz here). Instead of chasing a few deals a year, just trust a large, established firm with your money and let it index it on the entire tech market! A traditional VC firm can’t do that, but an investment bank does.
The targets for indexing are spelled out in Wired Magazine’s article on the accelerating pace of unicorns being minted. All of this adds further clarification to the rise of large-scale investors like Tiger Global.
Finally, there is a lengthy section on Crypto. Scan the headlines to see the trends that make up a large part of Web 3.
See you back in Palo Alto next week. My context will return to normal. But tech will not. These changes are deep, fast and profound.
The Web 3 Revolution
What was especially remarkable about Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital was its timing: 2002 was the middle of the cold winter that followed the Dotcom Bubble, and here was Perez arguing that the IT revolution and the Internet were not in fact dead ideas, but in the middle of a natural transition to a new Golden Age.
- Perez’s thesis was based on over 200 years of history and the patterns she identified in four previous technological revolutions:The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in 1771, with the opening of Arkwright’s mill in Cromford
- The Age of Steam and Railways began in the United Kingdom in 1829, with the test of the ‘Rocket’ steam engine for the Liverpool-Manchester railway
- The Age of Steel, Electricity and Heavy Engineering began in the United States in 1875, with the opening of the Carnegie Bessemer steel plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- The Age of Oil, the Automobile, and Mass Production began in the United States in 1908, with the production of the first Ford Model-T in Detroit, Michigan
- The Age of Information and Telecommunications began in the United States in 1971, with the announcement of the Intel microprocessor in Santa Clara, California
Perez’s argument was that the four technological revolutions that proceeded the Age of Information and Telecommunications followed a similar cycle:
Index funds have come to dominate public markets. But the shift towards indexing is spreading across tech and culture too — I call it the index mindset.
The index mindset is more obvious in venture capital than in any other asset class. Tiger Global, the private tech index fund, dominates VC partner meeting discussions. Those VC firms themselves are scaling and diversifying. And the increasingly popular venture capital job itself is the ultimate indexed career, a bet on a basket of companies.
Growth investors often use a framework of how quickly an investment will be “in the money”; in other words, how quickly another growth investor will pay more for it. This is implicitly a bet on capital flows more than intrinsic company value. And when everyone thinks this way, momentum becomes self-fulfilling. Capital flows govern the public markets, where index funds prevail. This is increasingly true in venture capital.
Venture fund indices prioritize momentum over value, such that fundamental business characteristics matter less: efficiency metrics and company-level profitability give way to growth. “Checkbox” investment strategies from the last decade won, which was in essence frontrunning future index fund algorithms.
The maturing Canadian technology sector has caught the eye of the world’s largest asset manager.
Inovia will use the $334 million it raised to invest more capital in nine growth companies already in its portfolio, helping those businesses bridge the gap “between the time horizon of funds and the time horizon of building global companies,” it said in a statement.
Other investors in the continuation fund include Boston-based HarbourVest Partners, also a co-lead. Inovia, which counts Twitter Inc. Chairman Patrick Pichette among its partners, now has $1.9 billion under management.
Introducing the Index Creator Summit on October 21st
The Renaissance was the zenith of human creative output. In the 15th and 16th centuries, a cultural movement swept across Europe, reinventing art and fashion, architecture and literature, science and music. New innovations unlocked unexpected forms of expression: ideas spread rapidly with the invention of the printing press, while the discovery of perspective in oil painting allowed artists to capture the world with new vividness.
We’re now entering a second Renaissance — a digital Renaissance. Innovations are once again reshaping society and culture. Software is making it easy for anyone to create; internet platforms are opening the floodgates of distribution; and cultural and generational shifts are reworking the economic relationship between creator and patron.
Since our first creator-led investments over a decade ago — back in the early days of Etsy and Soundcloud — we’ve watched this economy emerge through the lens of the companies and entrepreneurs we work with — many of whom will be coming together at our forthcoming Creator Summit. Last year, Roblox paid out hundreds of millions to its network of game developers, many of them teenagers. Patreon has paid out over $1 billion to creators since its launch. We’ve seen millions of people connect with creators and communities on Discord, and millions more use Linktree to refashion their digital identities. More recently, we’ve seen the bricks being laid for the metaverse: through Rec Room and Gather, we’ve watched as people create and connect in immersive virtual spaces.
Today, we’re excited to announce the release of How to Win the Future, a policy agenda for the third generation of the internet. It will be a living document housed in our new web3 policy hub alongside a growing …
It’s not a fantasy: VC valuations and spending on startups in 2021 are off the charts, and the year isn’t over yet.
WHEN THE VENTURE capitalist Aileen Lee coined the term unicorn, in 2013, there were 39 of them — roughly four minted every year. So far in 2021, 264 companies in the United States have reached such valuations. Around the world, multiple startups turn into unicorns every single day.
The staggering rate at which companies reach billion-dollar valuations is just one of the ways that venture capital has busted charts this year. “We’re looking at $240 billion invested in VC-backed companies this year, which would have seemed outrageous a few years ago,” says Kyle Stanford, a senior analyst at Pitchbook. “There is more capital and more interest in the venture space than there has ever been.”
US VCs are adopting diverse funding strategies and offerings for portfolio companies, just like investment banks. Can European VC compete?
These days, a closely watched phenomenon is the growth and diversification of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most prominent venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. Not only is it hiring new partners and employees by the dozens, but it is also expanding its approach to the market, going well beyond the usual artisanal approach of early-day venture capitalists.
For a long time, such firms would simply sign a cheque in exchange for equity at a given stage — whether seed or Series A or beyond. Now some of them are doing much more than that: investing across various stages, exploring new geographies and designing new financial instruments to adjust their offering to the specific needs of startups in sectors such as crypto, real estate, healthcare, financial services and others. It makes sense because, more often than not, startups now need more than just equity: they also need debt financing, working capital, structured financial products, access to specific counterparties and more.
What if a single VC firm could provide all of that to its “clients”?
Hint: it already exists
If we look a bit more broadly, we see that this model already exists: it’s called an investment bank! Financial behemoths such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan effectively act as one-stop shops for their clients. They provide equity capital, debt capital, asset management, liquidity, sophisticated risk management, market research and opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.
If a single firm can do it all for its clients, then there are economies of scale on both sides. The more capital providers you’re connected with, the more you can tailor your offer to your clients’ specific needs. In the other direction, the more clients you have, the more you can market your portfolio of opportunities to those who can provide capital. And you can already spot these networks at work in the tech world.
It is logical, then, that the most successful VC firms are slowly morphing into a new breed of investment banks — gatekeepers of the capital markets for tech startups and tech companies.
University endowments have one-upped their pension fund counterparts, as the average college foundation investment portfolio has risen by nearly 30% in 2021.
The 300 largest pension funds in the world grew their assets under management (AUM) by an average 11.5% to reach a collective $21.7 trillion in 2020, according to research from the Thinking Ahead Institute. But the median endowment gain of 27% blew that away during fiscal year 2021, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service data.
While the average returns hovered around 30%, many endowments easily surpassed this, including Washington University in St. Louis (65%), Duke University (55.9%), the University of Virginia (49%), Boston College (46%), Boston University (40%), the University of Kansas (37.1%), the University of Nebraska (32.3%), and Clemson University (31.3%), among others.
Finnish venture capital investors increasingly making international investments, indicating internationalisation of the industry
Finnish venture capital investors are increasingly investing in companies outside Finland. Although investments are made in many different sectors, ICT companies have raised the most funding. Finnish investors participate especially in seed-stage investment rounds, which represent about half of all international investments made.
Founded three years ago, the video game platform only closed its $15m seed round back in February. Chief executive Daniel Nathan said he wasn’t looking to raise more but couldn’t ignore the incessant knocking of VCs on his door.
Among those banging the hardest was Northzone, the London-based VC firm with Nordic roots that has been frustrated in its previous attempts to crack France’s red-hot early-stage funding market. Even in the busiest European tech market of all time, some investors say France has become the toughest — and most expensive — battleground.
French startups, which were begging for early-stage capital just a few years ago, have seen their average seed round jump from €300,000 in 2011 to €2m this year. While there has been a rise across the continent, France is now above the European average of €1.7m, the UK average of €1.8m and behind only Germany’s €2.5m, according to Dealroom.
The story is the same for Series A, where the average deal size in France has soared from €2.4m in 2011 to €12.1m since January. That again tops the European average of €12m and the UK average of €11.8m while lagging Germany’s €14.1m.
Big Tech, Regulation, the USA and China
Facebook is Too Big, Fail. Facebook is screwed. At this point, it… | by M.G. Siegler | Oct, 2021 | 500ish
Facebook is screwed. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you think about the social network, the fact of the matter is that they’re not coming back from this latest round of body blows against the company. They’re both not dying, but they’re dead. And yes, you may have thought that about the Cambridge Analytica scandal too, but it all plays into this — they were never coming back from that either, stock price aside.
People seem confused because Facebook is still an incredible business that continues to grow. And Facebook cites studies about how vital Facebook is to their core (read: non-tech-press) user base. True! It is a vital service for various forms of communications and connection around the world. And they may or may not take Facebook offline for a few hours to prove the point. But none of that matters.
Facebook is not dying as a business, but they’ve died as a brand. The company needs to move on to ‘what’s next’ as quickly as possible to distance themselves from the social network. This is nothing new, of course — I wrote this over six years ago. They’ve more or less been trying to do this for years. But even in creating an umbrella company, they called it ‘Facebook’, which was dumb. It was the exact opposite of what they should have done. Because, again, Facebook, the brand, is over.
It seems pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg both realizes this and doesn’t want to realize this. But the latter is his mistake. It’s too late and the longer he and they take to realize this, the worse off the company will be as a result. They might think that all of this will blow over, as it always does, or that all of this is “illogical”, which it also is to some extent. But again, that doesn’t matter. There’s the rationalist world and then there’s the reality of the situation. The powers that be have chosen Facebook as the poster child. The tech elites are tired of Facebook. And the younger generation has no desire to use Facebook. So…
British author Azeem Azhar on the evolution of the internet and the hard questions to ask about regulating the platforms.
And so there’s a really distinctly different feel in the 2013, or 2014, internet to the one that you might have had in 1997, or 1998. It’s not just that it’s easier and I’m yearning for a world of cars with manual choke and manual transmission and crank-up starter handles, but it’s that the programmability of the internet and its endpoints has turned into something that is increasingly permissioned by major platforms.
Alongside that, of course, has come the fact that we’ve brought the brilliance of this technology to billions of people. And I suppose the question is, could one get that brilliance and ubiquity without this power shift?
LinkedIn’s plans to shut down the version of its professional-networking site used in the country mark the end of the last major American social-media service operating openly there.
Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT +1.91% LinkedIn said it would shut the version of its professional-networking site that operates in China, marking the end of the last major American social-media network operating openly in the country.
LinkedIn, in a statement Thursday, said that it made the decision after “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”
Microsoft’s move comes at a time when China’s Communist Party is ratcheting up its control over its largest tech companies, private enterprises and online commentary, as it continues a campaign to assert itself more forcefully across the economy and Chinese society.
In March, LinkedIn said it would be temporarily pausing new member sign ups in China as it ensured it was in compliance with local law. Around the same time, China’s internet regulator told LinkedIn officials to better regulate its content and gave them 30 days to do so, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent months, LinkedIn notified several China-focused human-right activists, academics and journalists that their profiles were being blocked in China, saying they contained prohibited content.
Has the US already lost?
In a blistering indictment of the U.S. military’s capacity to innovate, the Pentagon’s now-former chief software officer Nicolas Chaillan told the Financial Times on Sunday that “we have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion.”
- Chaillan’s main complaints: “kindergarten-level” cyber defense at many U.S. government departments and the staffing of cyber initiatives with civilian leaders who lack the relevant experience.
- In the face of that, China’s advances in AI and cyber mean it’s heading for global dominance, he said.
The upshot of Chinese tech dominance is broad, Chaillan argued, suggesting that it could help the nation control things such as global media narratives and geopolitics.
- You could say Chaillan is calling out “involution,” U.S. style. China’s tech scene often invokes the term to complain about relentless competition that leads nowhere in particular.
- But maybe that’s what’s happening in the U.S. too, with a political system that manages to be both vicious and largely unproductive — all in the face of major challenges demanding coordination and cooperation.
- The result may be a failure to mobilize resources around the biggest tech issues of the present, which could cause big problems for the U.S. in the future.
In August 2018, a couple of certified Apple repair technicians (not directly employed by the company) launched a Discord server called AppleConnect to help each other solve Apple tech issues. It wasn’t secret, and it wasn’t breaking Apple rules. It was just … unsponsored. Apple is notoriously close-mouthed about how its technology works and how to fix it, even to the elite few allowed to crack open an iPhone and put it back together. The server was just a simple way to skirt the company.
Nvidia’s prospects of getting regulatory approval for its $55 billion acquisition of microchip designer Arm Holdings from SoftBank are looking increasingly imperiled, according to two people involved in the process.
The deal, which would reshape the global chip industry, has been stuck in regulatory reviews for more than a year. Recent actions taken by officials in Europe have signaled to the companies and to powerful opponents of the deal that an antitrust review won’t be done soon. At the same time, U.S. antitrust regulators have indicated to the same opponents that they are considering whether to try to block it in court, one of these people said. Regulators in China, where an antitrust review of the deal hasn’t even begun, remain a major obstacle as well.
That suggests the companies will have to wait at least another full year to have any chance of getting approval — far beyond the timelines they have discussed publicly, these people said.
The audio-only app received a $4 billion valuation earlier this year. In the months since then, that excitement seems to have cooled.
Crypto is King
Major computing waves generally have two eras: the skeuomorphic era and the native era. In the skeuomorphic era, the design thinking is largely adapted from older domains. For example, the early web was mostly digital adaptations of pre-internet activities like letter writing and mail-order shopping. Websites back then were mostly read-only. It took about a… Read More
The post Tokens are a New Digital Primitive, Analogous to the Website appeared first on Future.
Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) built on the immutable ledger of Bitcoin can empower users to secure their own personal data on the web.
Calling crypto the third wave of the Web revolution, Andreessen Horowitz outlined Wednesday what it thinks policymakers should do to adapt to the fast growing technology trend.
The Silicon Valley venture firm’s policy proposal turns the spotlight on a fresh wave of disruptive technologies, including blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, which have drawn intense scrutiny from regulators and policy makers…
China’s hash rate levels declined to zero levels after the crackdown launched by the government.
Hedge fund manager Mark Yusko believes cryptocurrencies will generate “untold wealth” by powering the Internet of Value.
At its core, Coinbase’s proposal looks a lot like an attempt to short-circuit the SEC’s authority in crypto.
- Coinbase has published a new vision for a “digital-native” federal regulator dedicated solely to digital assets.
- The proposal comes amid ongoing disputes over which regulators govern which aspects of the crypto industry.
- Coinbase’s proposal comes amid a disintegrating relationship between that firm and the SEC.
Coinbase has put out a sweeping proposal for a new regulatory regime over digital assets in the United States.
Released on October 14, Coinbase’s plan at its core proposes a drastic reconfiguration of U.S. financial regulation. Most notably, that includes establishing a brand new regulator with control over marketplaces for digital assets, which the firm has dubbed “MDAs.” The announcement says:
“Ensuring consistent regulation and application of the laws requires a single regulator. Where new policy questions or challenges arise, the ability of a single dedicated regulatory body to respond in an efficient and timely manner benefits everyone.”
“What we realized fundamentally is that there’s such differences in the technology underlying digital assets […] It didn’t make sense to take a legacy regulator and somehow transform it,“ commented Coinbase Chief Policy Officer Faryar Shirzad during a press briefing with reporters.
Clear rules would benefit the public, and my company doesn’t seek to be the industry’s gatekeeper.
The crypto era began 13 years ago with the publication of Satoshi Nakamoto’s seminal paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Two years later, the first commercial bitcoin transaction took place when someone bought two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin, roughly $571 million today. Today, more than $6 billion in bitcoin transactions happen every day and tens of millions of Americans own some form of crypto currency.
Crypto can bring millions of people into the economic system through immediate, nondiscriminatory access to services. It adds renewed transparency to our financial system through blockchain technology and challenges undemocratic political regimes, which can seize bank accounts and close businesses. It lets people avoid high currency-exchange fees and barriers to remittance flows.
Digital Assets Could Pose a Threat to US Dollar Dominance in the Future: United States Federal Reserve
Digital assets could pose a threat to the supremacy of the US dollar, according to a new report posted on the Federal Reserve’s website. Researchers at the Fed say that a “shifting payments landscape” and the “rapid growth” of both private sector and government-sanctioned digital currencies could reduce reliance on the dollar. “Changing consumer and […]
The post Digital Assets Could Pose a Threat to US Dollar Dominance in the Future: United States Federal Reserve appeared first on The Daily Hodl.
CEO of Largest Asset Manager on Earth Sees Big Opportunities in Crypto and Blockchain — But Remains Critical
The CEO of BlackRock says that crypto and blockchain could play a major role in the global economy, despite his own apprehension about the technology’s future. In a new interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Larry Fink says that he’s in the “Jamie Dimon camp” when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Jamie Dimon, CEO of banking giant […]
Multinational payment giant Stripe has announced that it is looking to hire engineers and designers for its new crypto team. The company, however, is not new to crypto. In 2014, Stripe became the first major payments company to support Bitcoin payments. But in 2018, the company shut down Bitcoin support due to high transaction fees […]
Jon Cunliffe particularly focused on the risks of unregulated derivatives, stablecoins and decentralized finance.
Tightening ties between traditional finance and cryptocurrency markets mean that regulators around the world can’t stop talking crypto.
On October 13, Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of financial stability at the Bank of England, spoke on the risks crypto poses to the financial system, particularly in stablecoins, decentralized finance and derivatives trading on unbacked digital assets.
While Cunliffe repeatedly noted that cryptocurrency markets remain quite small, he highlighted that the risks they pose hinge upon “the degree of interconnectedness between crypto and the conventional financial sector.” That degree of interconnectedness has been growing.
Cunliffe found regulation’s pace to be lacking, especially relative to the rate of the industry’s developments. Speeding up regulation, he said, “needs to be pursued as a matter of urgency.”
“Financial stability risks currently are relatively limited but they could grow very rapidly if, as I expect, this area continues to develop and expand at pace. How large those risks could grow will depend in no small part on the nature and on the speed of the response by regulatory and supervisory authorities.”
The post Bank of England leader calls crypto regulation a ‘matter of urgency’ for financial stability appeared first on The Block.
The metaverse is still emerging, but it’s becoming clear that NFTs will be the key to unlocking many parts of it.
Shreyansh Singh leads Polygon’s NFT and gaming arm, Polygon Studios, an NFT-centric gaming hub that helps web 2.0 game developers integrate web 3.0 elements and NFTs into their platforms. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Decrypt.
For many, the term NFT conjures images of digital artworks and collectibles tied to what seems like inordinate sums of money. But the digital art frenzy reflects a compelling use case, it is hardly the only thing going for the NFT sector. The road ahead is full of opportunities for hobbyists, enterprises, and investors that will hasten NFT adoption and usage. And chief among them is NFT-controlled access — particularly to the metaverse.
The metaverse represents the sum of all the processes and protocols that power the internet and the emerging Web3, and are coalescing into a central and interoperable space. In this future realm, communications, finances, game worlds, personal profiles, NFTs, and more are all part of a larger online experience.
While the metaverse parallels the real world, it is also an extension of it. Things like augmented reality can bridge the gap between everyday life and the happenings of the internet, and all of this comes under the umbrella of the metaverse.
Startup of the Week
Canva is now valued at $40 billion following a fresh capital injection of $200 million (USD) in a round led by T. Rowe Price. New and existing investors participated in the round, including Franklin Templeton, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Bessemer Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investments, Blackbird, Felicis and AirTree Ventures. This round solidifies Canva […]