Variant debuts a brand new $110M fund for crypto startups, broadcasts Li Jin has joined as a normal associate • TechCrunch

Whereas buyers proceed to query whether or not crypto will swallow up extra conventional VC alternatives down the highway, it actually seems that as we speak the blockchain house is consuming up the eye of Silicon Valley’s buzziest early buyers.

Jesse Walden tells TechCrunch his crypto-centric VC agency Variant has raised a brand new $110 million early-stage fund, simply over a 12 months after the agency launched with a $22.5 million debut fund. Notably, Walden raised this fund alongside investor Li Jin, who tells TechCrunch that she has joined Variant as its third normal associate, merging her agency Atelier Ventures with Variant after deploying the whole thing of her personal creator economy-centric debut fund.

Jin and Walden overlapped throughout their time at Andreessen Horowitz, and, regardless of significantly totally different founding theses for his or her solo GP corporations, discovered loads of shared curiosity as they deployed their respective funds in the course of the pandemic.

“We realized that there was fairly a little bit of overlap and convergence within the themes that we have been investing towards — we, the eagerness economic system, and Jesse, the possession economic system,” Jin advised TechCrunch in an interview. “We co-led a number of offers collectively, we co-invested in a number of offers collectively, and it simply turned fairly clear that the 2 theses have been two sides of the identical coin.”

Jin has cultivated an outsized presence within the tech investor neighborhood up to now couple of years, build up her fame for recognizing traits within the creator economic system house. She spent practically 4 years at Andreessen Horowitz serving to the enterprise big supply offers, earlier than leaving final summer season to start out Atelier Ventures. Jin formally launched the $13 million fund this previous February, although she had been writing checks all through a lot of 2020. All through 2021, Jin has grown extra outspoken in her views that applied sciences born out of the blockchain, like NFTs, would be the key to the subsequent era of creator monetization instruments.

“I raised my fund actually as a conventional client Web2 fund,” Jin advised us. “As I began deploying and spending extra time within the ecosystem, I spotted that crypto really provided this actually highly effective toolset for aligning incentives between platforms and their contributors.”

An upswing in cryptocurrency costs in the course of the pandemic, teamed with surging curiosity in institutional NFT artwork gross sales and crypto gaming titles like NBA High Shot and Axie Infinity, made 2021 an enormous 12 months for crypto funding among the many enterprise neighborhood. Andreessen Horowitz made waves earlier this 12 months with the announcement of their largest vertical-specific fund but, a $2.2 billion crypto fund. That rising stockpile of crypto-destined capital has made a16z not possible to disregard amongst smaller crypto funds trying to again the most popular corporations.

Atelier has had vital crossover with investments led by a16z, notably on the crypto aspect of issues. Along with backing extra conventional creator platform performs like Substack, Atelier’s portfolio of investments additionally consists of NFT startup Yield Guild Video games, DAO platform Syndicate, protocol XMTP and crypto publishing platform Mirror. Variant has participated alongside each Atelier and Andreessen in a handful of offers, however has additionally backed rivals because the agency has dug deeper into the rising worlds of NFTs, DeFi and DAOs. Variant’s portfolio consists of decentralized crypto trade Uniswap, NFT platform Basis and crypto pockets Phantom.

Earlier this 12 months, Variant introduced on its second GP, Spencer Midday, who joined from a Miami-based crypto fund. Walden notes that lots of the founders within the agency’s portfolio are additionally backers of the brand new Fund II itself — an effort Variant has made to leverage its community to remain aggressive with greater funds.

“Because the house continues to develop, we clearly can’t rent 100 folks in-house,” Walden tells TechCrunch. “And so we determined we have to take a network-driven strategy, and in an effort to construct a community that grows greater, sooner and provides extra worth to all stakeholders, we simply appeared to our thesis, which says that the best way to develop greater, sooner is to provide possession to your customers. So, who’re our customers? They’re the founders that we again and different builders within the house, and now we have over 100 of them within the fund, which means they personal the fund itself.”

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