How Silicon Valley Joined The Bitcoin Gold Rush

What one startup’s $40 million fundraising push says about Bitcoin’s future. An excerpt from a brand new guide, Digital Gold.

could 18, 2015

In late January 2014, Wences Casares, the Argentinian entrepreneur, pulled his white Subaru Outback into a sublime, understated strip mall off Woodside Avenue, one of the primary roads winding down out of the hills above Palo Alto. Wences was taking a look ahead to an early breakfast at Woodside Bakery and Cafe, a favourite spot for Silicon Valley deal making that provided a bit extra seclusion than the restaurants down in Palo Alto.

the man waiting for him within was often referred to as the most smartly related individual in the Valley, and now not just because he had cofounded LinkedIn, the industry-networking web page3023835″ data-name=”peoplePages”>Reid Hoffman’s girth and bearing hinted at his larger-than-life personality. After finding out at Oxford, on the elite Marshall Scholarship, Reid had been caused by Pete Thiel to assist construct PayPal—Thiel called him the “firefighter-in-chief.” Reid later offered Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, which led to Thiel making the first main funding in facebook. by using that point, Reid had already begun building LinkedIn with some colleagues from an prior startup.

Reid Hoffmanpicture: Flickr user Joi Ito

When Wences first met Reid, now not lengthy after arriving in Silicon Valley, Reid used to be searching for new investments and serving on the boards of startups. The breakfast at Woodside Cafe was one in every of their periodic test-ins. Wences, who had based the digital pockets firm Lemon, was finalizing the investments in his new Bitcoin wallet and storage company, Xapo, and was once eager to inform Reid about his plans.

Hoffman, an skilled on social networks, had been captivated by using arguments he’d been listening to in regards to the power of the incentives built into Bitcoin—essentially through the mining process—that encouraged new customers to join the decentralized community whereas additionally encouraging powerful miners to do what was perfect for the machine so as to not see their holdings lose price. “That’s if truth be told super vital,” Hoffman would say later. “That makes it much less of a pure technological surprise and more of a potential social movement.”

but Hoffman had remained skeptical and was once particularly postpone by means of the recommendation that Bitcoin would substitute credit cards—the likelihood that all the financial institution analysis reviews had been talking about. credit cards perceived to work beautiful neatly in Hoffman’s estimation. regardless of the protection risks and fees to retailers, he didn’t see too many consumers complaining about their credit cards failing them. If that wouldn’t get folks the usage of this new more or less network, Reid puzzled, what would?

Hoffman had eventually gotten a pleasing solution to this at a dinner with Wences and Paypal CEO David Marcus and some different Valley power avid gamers late in 2013. Wences agreed with Hoffman that Bitcoin was once not going to be catch on as a cost means anytime soon. however for now, Wences believed that Bitcoin would first achieve popularity as a globally available asset, just like gold. Like gold, which was also no longer utilized in everyday transactions, Bitcoin’s price was once as a digital asset where individuals may store wealth. This was enough to get Hoffman to go residence and ask his wealth adviser—the Valley’s most distinguished money supervisor, Divesh Makan—to purchase some Bitcoins for his portfolio.

When Wences sat down for breakfast with Reid at Woodside Cafe, he instructed him in regards to the development he was making with Xapo.

“simply to be clear, I’d be super all in favour of investing,” Reid informed Wences.

Wences paused, a little chagrined. “I want you’d told me that the remaining time we talked,” he stated.

“You informed me you weren’t fascinated about project investing,” Reid shot back.

Wences explained that issues had changed when you consider that they closing talked, and that he had determined to take on investors and had struck a deal with Benchmark Capital. “I just don’t suppose i can include you in that,” Wences stated. “It wouldn’t be the honorable factor to do.” Reid used to be not so easily deterred. He advised Wences he used to be going to move dwelling to figure out a way they might make it work. Wences mentioned he would do the identical.

Reid’s newfound enthusiasm used to be part of a broader passion for Bitcoin and its underlying expertise that was sweeping Silicon Valley in early 2014. These views were crystallized, and projected to a much broader audience, the day after Wences’s breakfast with Reid, when Marc Andreessen, cofounder of the investment agency that had put $25 million into Coinbase, printed a lengthy cri de coeur on the ny instances web site.

Like many Valley corporations, Andreessen’s was once occupied with wise robots, and Bitcoin perceived to like a perfect medium of change for two machines that needed to pay each and every other for services. past all that, though, the decentralized ledger underlying Bitcoin used to be a essentially new kind of network—just like the internet—with potentialities that also hadn’t been dreamed up, Andreessen stated.

From Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires seeking to Reinvent money, by way of Nathaniel Popper

He went on: some distance from a mere libertarian fairy story or a simple Silicon Valley exercise in hype, Bitcoin bargains a sweeping vista of chance to reimagine how the monetary system can and will have to work in the web era, and a catalyst to reshape that gadget in ways which can be more powerful for individuals and businesses alike. Andressen was once already investing his personal cash into the unpublicized Bitcoin mining firm, 21e6, created via the Stanford wunderkind Balaji Srinivasan. His agency, Andreessen Horowitz, had additionally made a secret $25 million funding in 21e6, helping make it the most effective funded Bitcoin company on the earth.

For Wences, the extra speedy indication of how quickly this was once all shifting got here in an e mail from Reid no longer lengthy after their breakfast. Reid had talked with a pal on the project capital firm Index Ventures, and together they were prepared to provide Wences another $20 million for Xapo. He might still take the $20 million he already had as a series A, but this could be a quick observe on—a series A1. And while Wences’s first investors had valued Xapo at $50 million, Reid and his accomplice were able to value it at $a hundred million. In little more than a month, Wences had doubled the value of his firm.


From “Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the within Story of the Misfits and Millionaires seeking to Reinvent money,” by means of Nathaniel Popper. Copyright © 2015 by Nathaniel Popper. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Nathaniel Popper is a reporter at the big apple times.

[Gold cash: Cyrustr by way of Shutterstock]

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