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StartVirtual RealityA dive into Haun Ventures with the agency’s first deal lead, Sam...

A dive into Haun Ventures with the agency’s first deal lead, Sam Rosenblum – TechCrunch


Sam Rosenblum by no means imagined he would work at a crypto-focused funding agency. A Southern California native who spent a “massive portion of my life outdoor within the solar, taking part in sports activities and hanging out with mates,” crypto was not technically a factor till he was in school at UCLA. Stints on the DOJ and as an analyst for a enterprise consulting agency adopted, nevertheless it was a subsequent yr spent with Visa that opened his eyes to the burgeoning world of digital belongings — a lot in order that when Coinbase started a recruiting push to drag in Rosenblum and a few of his colleagues in 2014, two years after Coinbase was based, he jumped on the alternative.

It was a very good transfer. Coinbase, then a 30-person firm, grew quick within the 5 years that Rosenblum stayed till he determined to affix another Coinbase alums on the crypto fund Polychain Capital. Certainly, armed with a community of contacts from Coinbase and Polychain, Rosenblum was making ready to lift his personal fund final yr when former Andreessen Horowitz VC Katie Haun reached out to see if he would possibly be part of her new agency as an alternative.

Now Rosenblum, together with Chris Ahn, who beforehand spent 4 years with Index Ventures, are serving to Haun make investments the $1.5 billion in capital commitments that her agency — just lately named Haun Ventures — garnered earlier this yr. To get a greater sense of how the younger agency works and the way it is considering investing right into a market proper now the place each shares and crypto are being dumped, we jumped on a Zoom with Rosenblum, who lives in Solar Valley, Idaho, late final week. Excerpts of that chat comply with, edited for size and readability.

TC: Let’s begin by backing up a bit. Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in Polychain Capital, whose founder was the primary worker of Coinbase. Katie is on the board of Coinbase. She additionally spent a decade as a federal prosecutor on the DOJ, the place you spent your first yr out of school. With all of those potential intersections, when did you two first cross paths?

SR: Katie and I first met in 2017 when she joined the Coinbase board. We didn’t preserve in significantly shut contact after I left Coinbase, however in November of final yr, I really got down to begin my very own enterprise fund, and so I used to be engaged on that and, course, Katie and I’ve fairly a number of mates in widespread, and so a few of these individuals I had been form of simply prepping and brainstorming with when it comes to the way to pitch to fund earlier than going out to fundraise. And I feel Katie caught wind that I used to be in strategy of that after which reached reached out to me, instructed me what she was occupied with, and I ended up flying out to Menlo Park for a pair days and we jammed collectively and walked a bunch of laps across the Stanford dish and determined it was a very good time to staff up. The remaining is latest historical past.

You have been the primary deal lead employed by Katie. What number of workers are there at this level?

We’re now 12 individuals complete — the deal staff is at the moment three individuals — and I feel we’ll most likely preserve the entire agency fairly lean and nimble. We’ll add a few extra people to the deal staff over the course of this yr however actually not way more than that. I feel you’ll be able to think about Haun Ventures as a 15- to 20-person agency at regular state.

That is most likely a dumb, however to be clear, this can be a conventional fund you might be deploying, in that that is precise {dollars} that shall be referred to as down. None of those commitments have been in crypto or something like that.

The technique is clearly very crypto ahead however the construction is kind of vanilla. We’re a typical enterprise construction. We ended up deciding to shut on $1.5 billion complete throughout two funds. One automobile is our $500 million early-stage fund, and the opposite is our $1 billion acceleration fund for barely later-stage stuff.

It’s on the market that Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon are restricted companions. Are there different people or corporations which you can point out which have backed the agency?

Most of our LPs are establishments, from sovereign wealth funds to school endowments to pension plans to hospital methods. And we even have some particular person LPs — principally simply mates of Katie or myself, mates of the agency, so to talk.

When it comes to backing later-stage outfits, I don’t see the standard nomenclature of “Sequence A” or “B” or “C” assigned to numerous these web3 offers and tasks. What constitutes later-stage, within the agency’s view?

The important thing distinction is simply actually staged within the type of: how far alongside the venture is in its growth, what kind of utilization there may be. The concept of stage perhaps seems to be a bit bit totally different than in conventional tech enterprise. Traditionally, for those who’re taking a look at a tech enterprise play, you’re taking a look at one thing the place a giant consequence could be to have an organization you invested in [become a] billion- or multibillion-dollar firm, and that’s true of sure corporations within the crypto house that larger up within the tech stack. However as you get decrease and decrease, you’re really speaking about these networks, together with Layer One protocols used for quite a lot of issues, and these networks, while you suppose of what’s a home-run consequence, quite than considering within the billions of {dollars}, you’re really considering within the trillions of {dollars}. So once we consider the way to outline stage for one thing in that class, [we’re taking into account the question of] what’s the terminal dimension ought to this develop into a giant winner? So these are a number of the issues that we take a look at.

What number of totally different tokens have you ever acquired or offers have you ever accomplished up to now?

I might say a dozen or so offers at this level that span quite a lot of totally different deal deal constructions or asset sorts.

Two corporations you’ve funded have introduced their rounds just lately, together with Zora, a two-year-old, L.A.- primarily based Ethereum-based market for purchasing, promoting and curating NFTs that raised $50 million in new funding. Was that an acceleration deal or an early stage deal?

The staff at Zora has been round for a few years, and so they’ve had a few fairly vital pivots alongside the way in which. To your level, it’s one the place it’s form of humorous to outline what kind of spherical it’s. You may’t actually give it a typical classification of Sequence A, Sequence B, no matter. It finally ends up simply being a bit bit extra loosely outlined. They’ve bought some fairly thrilling issues to announce within the close to future concerning the route that they’re headed in, so I gained’t spoil their information for them, however they’re off to the races in a very cool means.

Had they raised funding beforehand?

Yeah, they’ve raised, and I don’t know off the highest of my head what they’ve publicly stated about who they’ve raised from, nevertheless it’s a terrific group on the cap desk or buyers that we work with lots and know effectively.

Are these buyers the way you discovered the corporate?

I’ve really identified the Zora co-founders since 2018 or so. The entire co-founding staff got here from Coinbase.

What about Spotlight, a 14-month-old Bay Space-based outfit that claims it lets creators design and mint NFTs and create a group round them. What drew you to this explicit firm?

The Spotlight staff is equally spectacular, coming from the web2 world — coming locations from Sq. (now Block) and DoorDash and different well-designed web2 services. In the end what they need us to do is got down to allow people who find themselves not already tremendous deep crypto engineers to allow communities with web3 instruments, so it’s a no-code platform for doing simply that.

Primarily based on this very restricted knowledge pattern, it sounds such as you’re monitoring numerous web2 operators and founders who’re transferring into this web3 world. Is that correct?

We’re equally open to backing founders who’ve labored in crypto for a decade, or perhaps they’ve labored in crypto for a yr. What we actually care about is their dedication to what they’re constructing and their distinctive insights and intuitions round precisely why they need to construct it.

There may be a lot whitespace in web3 that I wonder if you consider conflicts of curiosity in the identical means that buyers have traditionally. I’m seeing numerous NFT minting kind corporations, for instance. Would you fund one other?

That’s a very vital query for crypto enterprise particularly. The final web2 panorama is one during which a founder or a startup has a really clear set of premises when it comes to what they’re constructing on prime of, issues like TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP — the dozen or so web protocols that all of us use every single day.

The distinctive factor that [founders are] getting down to do in crypto is the inverse of that, the place each single layer of the tech stack is evolving in parallel. Even essentially the most fundamental components to the crypto tech stack — the thought of decentralized consensus — there’s this fixed evolution of forms of decentralized consensus or consensus mechanisms.

So when you’ve gotten actually each constructing block evolving, that tends to lend itself to founders and startups that most likely should, if not pivot, a minimum of take note of numerous new info over the course of their startup group. . .

We do take the thought of conflicts critically and we do need to be sure that we’re being actually good companions to our portfolio founders, so we might not need to put that in jeopardy. However actually, what we’ve already seen is founders perhaps begin two totally different startups, beginning in an identical neighborhood of an concept that find yourself, at instances, even constructing at totally different layers of the crypto tech stack. So there’s fairly a little bit of flexibility within the route issues have gone.

Speaking about NFTs, one of many final offers Katie did for Andreessen Horowitz earlier than leaving the agency was the NFT music rights startup Royal, which raised $55 million led by a16z again in November. Does Haun Ventures have a stake in that firm?

You’re precisely proper. That was a16z-led deal, the place Katie joined the board as a part of that deal. Katie continues to be on the board of Royal for that, however it isn’t a Haun Ventures portfolio firm in the mean time.

Does that make it trickier so that you can spend money on one other NFT music rights startup or would you probably simply leap right into a later spherical for a similar firm?

It’s a very good query. I feel all choices are nonetheless open there. Digitally managed royalties and on-chain rights are tremendous fascinating and likewise a very difficult class. It’s very complicated house. So I might presume that there’ll be fairly a number of actually gifted founders constructing in that basic class and possibly experimenting with numerous totally different approaches when it comes to the markets they’re attempting to serve and the way they serve them. So it’s actually a market we’ll proceed to check out.

Talking of Katie’s board seats, she’s additionally on the board of OpenSea, which brings to thoughts a dialog I had just lately with Sarah Tavel of Benchmark, who stated web3 corporations like OpenSea and Sorare — which Benchmark has backed — are actually centralized corporations which are constructed on a decentralized infrastructure and have been by no means actually meant to be fully decentralized entities. Agree? Disagree?

On the core of the idea of web3 is that this considered decentralization, however I feel lots of people perhaps have been much less considerate the place that finally ends up mattering and being vital. For my part, centralized platforms will and will exist for sure makes use of. The vital factor in relation to decentralization within the crypto tech stack is that platforms wouldn’t have the power to to “lock in” their customers.

To not choose on anybody web2 firm, however you consider a few of these social networks the place each motion you’ve taken — each each picture you’ve uploaded, your literal social graph, your community of family and friends,  is all preserved and managed by a central gatekeeper, and there’s no option to exit that info. The concept in crypto is, positive, you’ll be able to have a centralized platform the place you develop that content material, however for one thing like your social graph, you’ll be able to really go away the platform and take your social graph with you as a result of these items are all being constructed on an underlying open infrastructure.

The crypto collapse of the final week or two has worn out $400 billion in market worth from cryptocurrencies, together with Bitcoin and Ethereum. What are your ideas on what’s occurring on the market proper now? It looks like a very good time to have $1.5 billion at your disposal with every part on sale.

I’ve been working on this house since 2014. I joined Coinbase in an identical second in time to the place we’re at the moment, this week, on this present market cycle, the place you most likely have a three-years-or-so slog ahead of getting to be heads down and constructing and perhaps not [seeing] the euphoria that we’ve felt over the past yr or so within the house.

Crypto bear markets might be actually laborious on individuals for lots of causes, financially, psychologically, emotionally. However traditionally, the silver lining is that numerous the very best tasks in crypto are born in moments like this. Going again a few cycles, you had Bitcoin’s rise in late 2013, adopted very shortly thereafter by form of a crash in early 2014. I feel the Ethereum pre-sale was in June of 2014, and [that rise and fall] performed out once more within the 2017 and 2018 cycle, the place we had peak euphoria adopted by a crash. Then in 2018, some superb tasks like [the crypto exchange] Uniswap and [the decentralized margin trading platform] dYdX have been based proper in that interval. So I feel fairly actually in perhaps the subsequent a number of weeks to months, you’re most likely going to have some new startups and new tasks created in crypto that, three or 4 years from now, we’ll look again out and go ‘Wow, that was born out of out of this final crypto winter.’

Is Haun Ventures structured as a registered funding advisor?

We’re not. We’re a vanilla, exempt enterprise fund.

I puzzled since you and Katie clearly know Coinbase very effectively. Some would possibly argue that Coinbase is on sale proper now. Investor Cathie Wooden simply spent $3 million on shares. Given that you’ve some huge cash at your disposal, I’m curious for those who would or have taken stakes in any publicly traded corporations which have gotten hammered recently — Coinbase or different.

I’m personally a holder of COIN and I neglect who tweeted this yesterday or the day earlier than, however somebody wrote that it appeared like a generational shopping for alternative for regular individuals who don’t essentially have entry to superb early-stage offers to have the ability to spend money on Coinbase at lower than two instances its Sequence C valuation in 2018. I are likely to agree with that personally. I’m a private holder of Coinbase inventory and positively could be bullish that this week is a fairly particular shopping for alternative. However clearly individuals ought to need to do the analysis they should do to make impartial monetary selections. And as a fund, we’re actually not centered on the general public fairness markets.

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