Scalar Capital, a hedge fund for crypto belongings, vegetation its flag in an more and more crowded panorama • TechCrunch


Scalar Capital is a San Francisco-based hedge fund firm specializing in crypto belongings. The truth is, it’s certainly one of roughly 300 crypto-focused funds which have sprung up within the final yr or so.

That form of market zaniness makes it troublesome to carve out a distinct segment, however Scalar has a little bit of an edge on this entrance, because of its founders’ backgrounds. Linda Xie, who studied economics at UC San Diego, spent a few years out of faculty as a portfolio danger analyst with the insurance coverage big AIG earlier than becoming a member of Coinbase as a product supervisor, a job she held for greater than three years earlier than leaving final fall to start out Scalar.

Her co-founder, Jordan Clifford, has a pc science diploma from Carnegie Mellon and spent a couple of years as a enterprise analyst with Capital One earlier than bouncing round a few startups and touchdown at Coinbase, the place he labored as a software program engineer for roughly 18 months, assembly Xie within the course of.

Although it’s far too early to say whether or not Scalar can, properly, scale, a supply near the agency says the duo has already raised $20 million from buyers that embrace VC and crypto fanatic Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam and angel investor Elad Gil, amongst others. We spoke with Xie not too long ago to be taught extra. Our chat has been edited frivolously for size.

TC: When did you first change into serious about crypto belongings?

LX: I first got here throughout bitcoin in 2011. On the time, I used to be working (first as an intern) at AIG, which was hiring numerous danger analysts after the monetary implosion. And I noticed numerous what went incorrect and have become very serious about decentralized techniques. When Coinbase got here alongside and I noticed they had been working with [retailer] Overstock, [helping enable bitcoin as a form a payment for its customers], and dealing with regulators to take bitcoin mainstream, I wrote to them, they usually introduced me on.

TC: What had been you doing there precisely?

LX: Initially, I used to be working with legislation enforcement to assist them catch criminals. It’s how I grew to become serious about Monero [a privacy coin that launched in 2014 with privacy features meant to give users a degree of anonymity]. Then I later grew to become a product supervisor at Coinbase, constructing inside instruments, which is once I met Jordan. He was an engineer on the identical crew, and we had been educating individuals internally about totally different cryptocurrencies and actually loved that and realized we needed to spend our time investing on this. So we determined to depart final yr and begin this fund collectively.

TC: How is Scalar distinctive in what it’s doing? 

LX: It’s a really risky area, however we’ve already been in a position to see what it takes to succeed by means of our work at Coinbase. I’ve additionally suggested 0x [a decentralized exchange protocol on Ethereum] and thru that work seen what it takes to construct a profitable crypto mission, from making a white paper to constructing group. Full disclosure: the co-founder of 0x is my husband. However over two years, I helped arrange its construction, linked it with advisors and buyers, and helped be certain its tokens are distributed, and I’m taking what I realized and making use of it to different initiatives. Even when it’s a liquid asset that we’re getting concerned in, we attempt to be as useful as attainable, each on a technical stage, as properly in the case of technique and recruiting.

Our fund is targeted on crypto belongings with a core focus proper now on privateness cash, which we predict are undervalued. However we’re additionally investing in several good contracts platforms and scaling options — totally different applied sciences that we predict are going to be a giant deal.

TC: The latter two don’t sound very liquid. As a hedge fund, aren’t your buyers anticipating returns pretty rapidly? Or do you promote the initiatives’ tokens straight away on the secondary market?

LX: I don’t assume anybody can promise precise returns. It’s going to take a couple of years to [start to see] among the winners on this business. However we’ve made it actually clear to our buyers that this business is [in the very early innings]. We’re nonetheless determining the expertise and the way it will get to scale, however we imagine that by getting in early, we’ll be capable to seize large quantities of worth.

TC: What number of totally different cash have you ever invested in up to now, and the way do you consider firm or mission “levels” and whether or not and when it is sensible to speculate?

LX: We’ve invested in over a dozen cash. For the early-stage ones, the place there’s no product or code out there, we’re very depending on background of the crew. However even at that concept section, we’re pondering by means of the token economics.

Once we get to later-stage initiatives, we’re wanting on the open-source code; we’re wanting on the group; we’re assessing how do you create a moat. Neighborhood is unquestionably probably the most necessary items — are there individuals utilizing it and giving their suggestions or is that this a purely speculative group. We’re additionally wanting on the token itself and contemplating the availability and the possession that the crew has and its vesting schedule. On the finish of the day, ensuring the tech is sound and the code is safe and {that a} crew is utilizing the perfect coding practices and that its builders are competent is essentially the most essential facet of what we do. Jordan handles numerous [this work], however we even have technical advisors.

TC: So many tokens are being generated that Thomson Reuters simply added 50 tokens to its financial data feed. Ought to we count on public exchanges that, as a substitute of firm shares, promote firm tokens? Is that the place issues are heading?

LX: First, the overwhelming majority of tokens proper now are horrible. A lot of them include zero rights to firm income or something; they’re simply used for fundraising. I do assume we’ll see a development towards safety, the place you’ll be able to tokenize conventional securities and also you’ll have 24/7 liquid markets which are accessible globally. I do ultimately see many corporations, each private and non-private, tokenizing their securities and releasing them on this type.

That’s not what actually excites me, although. That simply mirrors our current monetary system. I’m rather more enthusiastic about ideas the place you’re disrupting one thing utilizing cryptography, the place a crypto asset is just not seizable by any authorities and you’ll retailer cash with it and anybody can have entry to it.

TC: There are such a lot of offers on the market. How would you characterize your funding tempo?

LX: There are such a lot of horrible offers on the market. The perfect offers are extremely aggressive. As for tempo, it goes by means of cycles. We’ll fund some actually compelling initiatives, then months will cross the place there’s nothing.

TC: Who’re your typical co-investors, and what dimension checks are you writing?

LX: We principally discover ourselves in VC rounds, with among the buyers in our administration firm — people who find themselves pondering long run and who notice that crypto is in its early days. The scale of checks utterly range based mostly on our conviction.

TC: What’s one new space of curiosity for you?

LX: Ethereum is true now the dominant good initiatives platform, however there’ve been some points with scaling, so we’ve been taking a look at some opponents in what’s turning into a sensible contracts conflict. There are dozens, however solely a handful are really good in our opinion, and numerous them make trade-offs. You need three attributes in a super world: scalability, safety and decentralization. Proper now, there’s this state the place you’ll be able to solely have two. Safety is paramount, so the trade-off is between scaling and decentralization. Ethereum may be very targeted on decentralization; different initiatives are extra targeted on scaling they usually’ve made decentralization trade-offs.

 Pictured above: Jordan Clifford and Linda Xie



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