Around the Block from Coinbase Ventures sheds light on key trends impacting the crypto ecosystem. In this edition, the Ventures team provides an update on Coinbase Ventures activity in 2021-Q3, and key learnings from around the industry.
Coinbase Ventures (or “Ventures”) has grown into one of the most active VC investors in crypto by deal count. In Q3, Ventures made a record 49 investments, averaging a new deal every ~1.8 days. This is up from 28 investments made in Q2, and 24 in Q1. As of Q3 2021, the Ventures portfolio size stands at over 200+ companies and projects.
On a cumulative basis, 90% of the capital invested by Ventures has been deployed in 2021 YTD, reflecting the accelerated pace of Coinbase Ventures in its fourth year of operation. 50% of the new unique “logos” in the portfolio have also come in 2021.
Motivation & philosophy
Coinbase Ventures primary mandate is to support the growing crypto ecosystem. As such, we invest broadly across the space in strong entrepreneurs driving crypto forward. We want the crypto ecosystem to bloom and are not focused exclusively on specific outcomes (as is typical with corporate venture capital).
Ultimately, we see crypto as a rising tide, and growth in the ecosystem lifts all boats — Coinbase included. Traditional strategic benefits, such as commercial partnerships and potential M&A, are great, but we view them as icing on the cake.
Coinbase Ventures investments range from six-figure seed deals to multi-million dollar growth rounds. There are many ways to slice our investments, but at the highest level we break down the market across the following categories: Protocols + Web3 infrastructure, DeFi, CeFi, Platform + Developer Tools, NFT / Metaverse, and Miscellaneous.
Our current distribution of total investments by company is as follows:
Key Themes & Learnings
*Coinbase Ventures portfolio company
In our most active quarter to date, we saw heavy development across centralized finance (CeFi) in the United States, Layer-1/Layer-2, cross-chain protocols, as well as Web3 tooling. Here’s some of the major themes we observed.
Regulators and centralized players waded deeper into the crypto waters
Regulatory bodies made their presence more widely known in Q3, as the SEC and Treasury Department in the US, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) internationally, all stepped up engagement across the crypto ecosystem. This has introduced some forms of regulatory risk for early stage protocols and teams. On the flip side, the largest cap asset scored positive tailwinds in the form of the BTC Futures ETF approval which we believe will allow latent capital to enter crypto markets, leading to significant volumes, inflows, and interest.
Web 2.0 companies like Square, Twitter, Stripe, and Tik Tok also expanded their crypto strategies in Q3. Square announced a Bitcoin based platform for financial services, Twitter revealed future BTC Lightning and NFT integrations, and Stripe announced its return to crypto with a new dedicated crypto team. Tik Tok announced a partnership with ImmutableX* to launch a creator-led NFT collection.
Meanwhile, banks, fintechs, and broker dealers moved to further integrate crypto into their product offerings, enabled by Coinbase Prime, Coinbase Cloud and other third party platforms. All in all, the crypto industry made tremendous strides with respect to maturation and institutional adoption over the quarter.
The multichain ecosystem hit its stride
Following years of development on solutions designed to alleviate bottlenecks on Ethereum, scaling is finally here with a range of Layer-1 and Layer-2 ecosystems taking off. The majority of the current traction is on solutions leveraging EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatibility, allowing users and developers to migrate to new environments with relatively low switching costs. Users can access EVM compatible L1s like Avalanche, or sidechains/L2s like Polygon*/Arbitrum*/Optimism* with their existing wallets. Solidity smart contracts can also be generally copy + pasted to any EVM compatible L1/L2, which has led to implementations of popular DeFi applications across multiple chains.
As CeFi exchanges have been slow to integrate with these new L1s/L2s, we saw traction across newly launched cross-chain bridges. These bridges facilitated the movement of billions in funds from Ethereum to various L1s/L2s.
While EVM compatible applications written in Solidity saw the most traction on L1s and L2s in Q3, other ecosystems are bringing more expressive programmability to the table. New primitives focused on more familiar programming languages like Rust (Solana, Polkadot), Golang (Cosmos), and Move (Facebook Diem*, Flow*) may usher in a wave of new Web 2.0 developers to the industry.
Better Web3 UX is on the way
In Q3 we saw further development of Web3 tooling that will simplify the experience of Web3 interactions. XMTP* is spearheading a messaging standard across Web3 addresses. Spruce* is standardizing “OAuth” (open authorization), which will allow users to securely share digital credentials, private files, and sensitive media with Web 3 applications. Snapshot* is making it simple to access governance forums and decisions across Dapps.
Meanwhile, a tremendous amount of work is being done to create added security for Web3 applications. OpenZeppelin’s decentralization effort, Forta*, is making progress on real-time security monitoring of smart contracts with the goal of providing more transparency around smart contract code execution, detection of bugs, and eventually, the prevention of hacks in real-time. Similarly, Certik* is providing a “fast-and-easy” automated audit tool to help Dapps go-to-market more quickly.
Simultaneously, the DAO tech stack continues to evolve, with the technical and legal formation of on-chain communities beginning to take hold. Syndicate* (among others) aims to be the “AngelList of crypto” through the creation of a decentralized investing protocol and social network.
NFT 2.0 & crypto gaming took flight
Q3 also saw a ton of development focused on NFT creator tools that will ultimately broaden the scope of NFT use cases and audiences while creating new social features.
Meanwhile, NFT based gaming continued to accelerate led by Axie Infinity, as its play-to-earn model took hold in emerging markets (Philippines, Brazil, India among others) attracting 2M DAUs and generating over $2B in revenue. Loot Project also captivated the industry by introducing an inverted model for game development. This was done by first releasing NFT based game assets to the public in order to bootstrap a community and incentivize further development.
Stayed tuned for more insights and updates from the Coinbase Ventures team in the future. Also check out previous editions of Around The Block that you may have missed:
- The Coinbase Ventures Guide to NFTs
- Loot Project: the first community owned NFT gaming platform
- Axie Infinity, Yield Guild Games & the play-to-earn economy
Argentine Crypto Exchange Lemon Sheds Roughly 100 Jobs, Citing Challenging Industry Conditions
Lemon had planned to deploy almost the entire amount on its expansion in Brazil. Given the current context, its move into the South American country will be “more strategic and niche,” Cavazzoli said. The exchange put plans to expand into Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay by the end of 2022 on the back burner.
It’s time for crypto fans to stop supporting cults of personality
Many of the centralized cryptocurrency platforms that collapsed this year had something in common: a young, outspoken and cocky leader. Each gained outsized influence not by virtue of outsized intellect or talent but because of their piles of money and large Twitter followings. And each time, misplaced trust in their abilities resulted in disastrous consequences.
If crypto wants to avoid similar catastrophes in the future, it’s time for us to rearrange our leadership priorities. We need to ditch the cults of personality.
The theater of crypto on Twitter
Before FTX collapsed, founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) had garnered a reputation as one of the loudest voices in the industry. He was active in the political world and frequently commented on what was happening in Web3.
But perhaps most notable was his active involvement in a myriad of Twitter feuds and spectacles. SBF first stepped into the spotlight as the successor of SushiSwap after Chef Nomi abruptly abandoned the project — a drama that played out almost entirely on Twitter’s public stage. His ensuing Twitter antics, combined with the image of unstoppable success that FTX was broadcasting far and wide, gained him more than a million followers.
But even as SBF’s influence grew, it seemed he just couldn’t resist shitposting, regularly engaging with other Twitter users who threw stones.
Indeed, SBF’s penchant for Twitter drama played an important role in exposing FTX’s insolvency. It was his recent spat with CZ that ultimately led to the run on FTX’s deposits. His attention-grabbing antics carried on through the current ordeal, culminating in a bizarre series of cryptic tweets.
The loudest voices in the room
While SBF is the latest example of an industry figure whose highly public Twitter presence led to a highly public downfall, he certainly isn’t the first. Do Kwon and Su Zu, who were both at the center of monumental collapses earlier this year, were also notorious trolls. Do Kwon infamously sent an arrogant series of tweets just before Terra’s downfall, while Su Zhu’s infamously elusive comments during the 2021 bull run didn’t age well, either.
At our company offsite this week with all the drama happening. Debating who is the bigger villain in crypto:
a) Do Kwon – $58b loss from UST & LUNA
b) SBF – $10b missing deposits in FTX
c) Su Zhu – $3.5b loss from borrowers
d) Alex Mashinsky – $2.8b missing deposits in Celsius
— Bobby Ong (@bobbyong) November 10, 2022
But, the leaders of failed platforms aren’t the only ones guilty of social media braggadocio. Binance’s CZ, after all, was just as guilty as SBF of engaging in their public Twitter feud earlier this month. Digital Currency Group’s Barry Silbert, who has been at the center of alarm related to the FTX fallout, has also garnered a reputation as a shitposter.
There are many, many more tweeters who have used online spectacle and trolling as a means of controlling the industry conversation. Think Ben Armstrong (aka “Bitboy”) and Jim Cramer, to name just a couple more. There’s a small army of them. And, even though many are purged in each bear market, their successors are increasingly turning into powerhouses too vocal and influential to ignore in the space.
Jim Cramer said that he sold all of his crypto.
Then he blamed @APompliano for “putting him in” BlockFi.
So he… lied?
Now he’s on a crusade to blame anyone he can find for his own bad decisions, even “digital finance people,” which is literally a made up term. https://t.co/NTojFohvFQ
— The Wolf Of All Streets (@scottmelker) November 18, 2022
We need to end the cults of personality
So what’s the solution? How can we better identify this personality type and use this recognition to avoid future pain?
Instead of focusing on building cults of personality, the crypto community needs to focus on platforms and leaders building products that use web3 primitives to solve problems in a manner that’s orders of magnitude better than anything we’ve experienced before. The crypto community needs to stop listening to the loudest voices in the room and start listening to the wiser, more experienced ones — even if they are sometimes quieter. And by the same token, we need builders with experience in creating real value for users to speak up more.
Ultimately, the answer lies with us and with the people that we, as an industry, choose to lionize. We need to learn how to identify and support builders building transparent, secure, high-quality applications and decentralized applications — regardless of how many followers they have.
Corey Wilton is the co-founder and CEO of Mirai Labs, the international gaming studio behind Pegaxy. A renowned speaker and play-to-earn thought leader, he began his first company within crypto in 2018, a customer support service designed to assist cryptocurrency companies with their customer service.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
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