ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

Venture Capital Sector Facing Challenges in the Era of Cryptocurrency

Jan
04

In the past couple of years, cryptocurrency has experienced a sudden boom and is now making news in every sector. In the beginning, when bitcoin was in its initial stages, everybody was talking about Venture Capital (VC) and how it is going to benefit the small businesses.

So many venture capitalists made money by investing in innovative ideas that eventually materialized into unicorns. Instead of investing in the digital currency like bitcoins, investors preferred to invest in the companies, such as Coinbase or 21.co.

 

Bitcoin Price at All Times High

Some of these firms performed better than the other. For example, Coinbase ended up being in the first place in the app store of Apple last December as a result of hype over bitcoin. On the other hand, 21 kept changing its names and business plans. Back when Coinbase got its first round of funding from VCs, its price was about $110. However, recently, it has managed to reach $19,000.

An investment associate in the Digital Currency Group, Travis Scher, was of the opinion that had investors invested in the cryptocurrency instead of investing in digital currency firms, they would’ve gotten much higher returns by now.

 

VCs and the Increasing Trend of ICOs

This isn’t easy to grasp as it complicates the core idea of VCs.

The conventional way of making an investment was to find out the rising trend in technology, identify the targets that were in line with those trends and were in a better position to make it big, and then taking a profitable exit as soon as those companies were either sold out or went public.

But it won’t be an effective strategy for digital currencies like bitcoin. In fact, as more and more cryptocurrencies have entered the market, it has become even more confusing and complex. The community of dreamers, and entrepreneurs have been raising money via ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), wherein, they create their own digital currencies, sell them for money and trade them in the open market.

When it comes to venture capital firms, they offer the investors an unrestricted access to private companies that are not publicly listed. Therefore, the question is, where will these venture capital companies go, if ICOs become a strong medium for people to get a bit of hot technology.

 

Venture Capitalists and their New Tactics

Venture capitalists have been devising new tactics to deal with the frenzy of cryptocurrency. Instead of seeking a stake in the digital currency firm, they have started purchasing the rights to acquire tokens ahead of initial coin offerings via legal contracts. In addition to that, they are improvising conventional equity deals, offering guarantees to investors in terms of getting tokens if a startup company goes for ICO in the future.

Some investors have also invested directly in bitcoin for years. The founder of VC firm Social Capital, Chamath Palihapitiya, said that he, along with his partners, invested in 5 percent of the bitcoin in circulation and still hold a reasonable stake in the currency.

 

Increasing Risks Faced by Investors in the Digital Currency Market

Although, the cryptocurrency market is rapidly growing, yet, it is not without risk. In fact, so many investors have suffered from hacking attacks and have also been threatened physically.

Threats are very real and harmful, because bitcoin will be lost forever if somebody steals it.

 

Cryptocurrency Hedge Funds and Futures Tokens

So many VC firms, including Sequoia Capital, Union Square Venture, and Andreessen Horowitz have made an investment in digital currency hedge funds in order to benefit from the boom without worrying about managing these currencies. They earn profits by trading dabble, litecoin, ethereum, and bitcoin in the ICOs market.

Some of the big names in the world of VC, including Bain Capital Venture, Union Square Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, have entered the deals to acquire digital tokens. For that, they are using legal agreements called “Simple Agreements for Future Tokens” also known as SAFT. Andreessen Horowitz is also taking steps to include provisions in standard contracts for investments in order to properly address ICOs.

According to a research website, in 2017, startup companies made about $3.6 billion in ICOs. This, however, is nothing in comparison to the $52.6 billion earned by VCs from around the world, as stated in the report by CB Insights and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Despite that, investors are inclined toward ICOs as it enables them to make millions in short span of time as compared to VC investments, which take years before you can reap the return.

New Unicorn Wannabe

Jan
19

A number of Venture Capital (VC) investors are predicting 2017 to be the year when a large amount of money will flow into startups, especially if those startups have the opportunity to become “Unicorns”. Although, 2016 was not the best year for the startups as 70 percent reduction was observed in the companies that made it to unicorn status, 2017 seems quite promising.

For example, a number of VC firms, including Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, managed to raise around $40.6 billion – a huge sum of capital needing to be deployed.

 

Rising Trend of Unicorn Companies

A rising number of unicorns from different industries have made it big.

  • Uber – Transportation service
  • Xiaomi – Consumer electronic
  • Airbnb -Lodging services
  • Snapchat – Social media
  • SpaceX – Aerospace

The marketplace for used goods has also picked up the pace during the last ten years as a number of startups have emerged in the market, such as OfferUp, 5miles and OLX.

 

Boom of the Unicorns in the Used Goods Marketplace

The online market for used goods has dramatically increased over the past decade as more and more e-commerce companies have made their entry. Encouraging the users to get rid of the items they no longer need, these companies have created a multibillion dollar market.

Recently, Letgo, a company that allows users to purchase and sell products secured $175 million in new financing. It has previously grabbed on to $325 million since it was initially launched and is currently approaching one billion dollars in valuation.

Moreover, some of the big unicorn names like Facebook launched a Marketplace Tab on the lower bar of its mobile application that allows quick access to shopping and selling on the basis of location. This goes to show how it is planning to penetrate in the e-commerce industry rather more aggressively.

 

LatAm Unicorns – Making it Big

On the other hand, in Latin America, some of the talented entrepreneurs are hosting five of the world’s biggest Unicorns ($1 billion in valuation). Although, the list of tech startups founded in Latin America is short, yet, these companies have made it possible for other new entrants to envision themselves as growing on a global scale. Argentina is the only country in Latin America with 4 (soon to be 5 with Letgo) out of 6 Unicorns. Those Unicorns are MercadoLibre, Despegar, OLX and Globant.

MercadoLibre is an online company from Argentina that is involved in online auctions and e-commerce. eBay made a strategic alliance with this company back in 2001. Apart from Argentina, the company currently has its presence in Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and a lot of other countries.

B2W is another name in the same sector. It was founded in 2006 and its headquarters are based in Rio de Janerio. B2W is a retail company that came into existence as a result of a merger between Americanas.com (holding a control share of around 53 percent) and Submarino.com (controlling the remaining percentage of share). The market-share of a company in the year it was founded was almost 50 percent of the online sales sector in Brazil.

Similarly, another renowned Argentine unicorn company from the e-commerce sector is OLX, which was founded by Fabrice Grinda and Alec Oxenford in 2006. Its headquarter is based in New York. The company is currently operating in more than 40 countries around the world.

The total number of internet users in Latin America is closer to the users in the U.S., but it has shown rapid growth in the past couple of years with the growth rate that is 8 to 10 times more than the U.S. rate. It means that the potential for new startups to make it big is huge in this region. Besides, there is a strong institutional and government support for entrepreneurial companies, which can further increase the expected number of unicorns in that area.