Home Venture Capital Crypto corporate venture capital faces the crash

Crypto corporate venture capital faces the crash

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Hello, and welcome to Pipeline. My name is Biz Carson, and I want to wish two of my most loyal Pipeline readers — my dad and my husband — a happy Father’s Day. I hope everyone also takes the time to celebrate and reflect on Juneteenth this weekend.

This week in the startup world: Coinbase Ventures still exists, what it means to be Sherlocked and another ugly startup CEO dispute, this time at an AI ethics company.

Can crypto’s corporate funds make it through winter?

It was a no good, very bad week for crypto. Unless you happened to want to work in crypto, because in that case it was a very good week for crypto.

For those in the crypto downturn camp: There were more troubling signs that this could be more than a winter but a true crisis.

  • Layoffs have racked the industry, as Coinbase, BlockFi and Crypto.com all let go of large chunks of their workforces.
  • First it was the UST/luna crash. Now causing chills through the ecosystem is the news that crypto lending company Celsius stopped all withdrawals and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital experienced massive losses as it eyes selling its assets.

For those who prefer a glass half full: There were plenty of encouraging signs, as CEOs signaled that they were still looking to hire hundreds, if not thousands, of employees.

  • Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao snarkily tweeted, “It was not easy saying no to Super Bowl ads, stadium naming rights, large sponsor deals a few months ago” (directly shading firms like Coinbase), but it now has 2,000 jobs open. Ripple and Kraken are also looking to hire hundreds of folks.
  • Industry conference Consensus had thousands of people in attendance — and no one was even saying the words “crypto winter.”

The question now is, if crypto companies like to invest in each other, what happens in a crisis if they’re forced to cut costs? One major difference between the last crypto winter and this one is that a lot of the companies are investing in each other.

  • Many crypto companies have launched their own VC arms, including major funds like FTX Ventures ($2 billion) and Binance Labs ($500 million). Coinbase Ventures is one of the most active corporate VCs. Unlike most corporate funds, the crypto industry seems to be totally fine in investing in competitors.
  • Despite the layoffs this week, “Coinbase Ventures does exist and is still very much alive,” Shan Aggarwal, its head of Corp Dev and Ventures, told me. “Despite the market conditions and market turmoil, we’re still very much continuing to invest.”
  • The deal pace has slowed, and now investors are still doing price discovery to figure out what the new normal looks like in a market without a ton of comps. But the uncertainty in pricing is always an opportunity for investors, especially strategic CVCs, to get in on an investment.
  • “Frankly speaking, Binance Labs is in a really great spot right now because the valuations for a lot of these firms will be depressed given the crypto winter, and the ones that survive this winter will thrive in a bull market period,” Binance.US CEO Brian Shroder told my colleague Ben Pimentel. “So to the extent that investors are actually investing now, that actually has kind of the greatest amount of return from my perspective.”

“I think CVCs are gonna pull back as much as the VC world,” predicted PitchBook’s Robert Le. Depending on who you ask, that’s either going to be a lot or a little. The only thing everyone agrees on is that there’s always an opportunity in a crisis.

For more on what’s happening in crypto corporate venture capital, read my full story on Protocol.com.

Overheard

“Most American ladies have been brainwashed in modern times.” That comment is not something you’d ever expect to see from a CEO in a Slack channel, but it’s one example of a culture war inside crypto exchange Kraken largely sparked by its CEO, Jesse Powell, who seems gleefully provocative on Twitter at times. Anticipating a New York Times story published this week, the company published a culture memo, co-opting Coinbase’s “mission-driven” corporate stance, with Powell adding his own tweetstorm. The whole thing is a DEI nightmare, but Kraken is offering a new “jet ski program” to give employees four months’ pay to leave and pledge to never work at the company again. No, the jet ski is not included, but they hope employees will happily ride off into sunset metaphorically on one instead.

Sherlocked — the term for what happens when Apple releases a new feature that could potentially obliterate a startup. According to TechCrunch, there could be a lot of pain ahead after this year’s WWDC, where Apple “Sherlocked” Oura with its new sleep tracker and Klarna and Affirm when it released Apple Pay Later.

The Winklevoss twins’ next act is one you’ve got to hear, literally. The famous billionaire twins are on tour right now with their group, Mars Junction. If you want to catch their covers of “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Mr. Brightside” in person, they’re headed to the West Coast next week.

Speaking of next acts, Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey) told NBC she’s “trying to move away from this, like, quote-unquote scammer persona.” Her solution? Launch an NFT collection. At least now there’s greater hope for a second season of “Inventing Anna.”

A MESSAGE FROM TRUSTED FUTURE

At the same time that the pandemic demonstrated all that is possible in an interconnected world, we saw in new and increasingly stark ways how certain communities continue to be marginalized and harmed by a persistent digital divide and how effectively that divide exacerbates our society’s other inequities.

Learn more

Inside track

Sequoia didn’t publish just one warning to startup founders. Instead it turned it into a four-part series. The firm has posted three more decks on leading through tough times, how to extend your runway and how to do forecasting and scenario planning.

Entrepreneurs need a plan A, a plan B and even a plan Z sometimes. Greylock’s Reid Hoffman says everyone should be applying ABZ thinking to their careers, particularly in current times — when you may need a plan B or plan Z sooner than you think.

The biggest VC freeze is definitely at the later stages, but January Ventures’ Maren Bannon argues that the seed market is frozen, too.

Being called an “overachiever” at work maybe isn’t the compliment you think. In an analysis of over 25,000 people’s performance reviews, Textio’s Kieran Snyder found some pretty striking data points about where bias creeps in.

Need to know

Klarna’s valuation could fall from more than $45 billion to $15 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s a steep haircut but one that isn’t surprising given fintech’s free fall.

The “Tiger 40” are being targeted. Tiger Global could end up the poster child of the crash as short-sellers continue to target its top 40 stock holdings.

Not all funding has dried up — even for food delivery. Investors have a renewed interest in AI accounting startups, but the most surprising funding round announced was raised by former Jet.com founder and CEO Marc Lore. In the same week that Jokr ceased U.S. operations, Lore raised $350 million at a $3.5 billion valuation for his food-delivery startup. Its name is fitting: Wonder.

Hundreds of venture funds could be “the new walking dead.” Unlike startups, overnight VC firm shutdowns are rare. Instead they tend to drag out over years, Insider reported.

Mapbox was sued by labor regulators for firing union organizers. Tech companies don’t like unions, but Mapbox took it a step too far when it allegedly threatened job loss and then fired union organizers after a failed union drive last summer.

Another ugly startup CEO dispute. Twitter’s AI ethics director is locked in a legal battle with the CEO of the startup she founded.

From Protocol: It’s not just the price of groceries. In tech, it’s title inflation that’s getting wild.

Also on Protocol: Low-code and no-code tools have huge promise. Their backers are still waiting for a breakout moment.

Also also on Protocol: Go inside Faire CTO Marcelo Cortes’ calendar, where the most important meeting of his week is called “Debate.”

Your weekend reading: It was a weird week for greater consciousness at Google. First, an AI engineer went public with his beliefs that Google’s AI has gained sentience (Google says it hasn’t). Now a lawsuit claims that a religious sect that believes in the power of the fine arts took over a team that produces videos for Google.

A MESSAGE FROM TRUSTED FUTURE

There is so much more we need to do to make sure our future is more equitable and inclusive and maximizes America’s potential. It is not enough just to ensure everyone is connected. We also need to extend the full scope of digital opportunity to the people, the communities, and the institutions.

Learn more

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