Axios Crypto

A multicolored cube.

December 07, 2022

GM! We got a view yesterday into how the FTX family of companies saw the industry's future through its investments.

Today's newsletter is 1,256 words, a 5-minute read.

🎞 1 big thing: Some themes from FTX Investments

Illustration of hundred dollar bills on cell phones spread out.

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

There're some easy-to-pick-out themes from investments made across the FTX family of companies, if you know what to look for, Brady writes.

Why it matters: This is the portfolio of a company that largely viewed today's crypto industry as a rough draft on the way to a final product.

  • Everyone is curious now about what made FTX tick, and this is another set of clues.

Details: There was $5.3 billion worth of investments on the spreadsheet reported by the Financial Times, according to an analysis by The Block's Larry Cernak.

  • They were made across a variety of legal entities: Alameda Research, FTX Ventures, Clifton Bay Investments... but they are all in one big bankruptcy now.
  • If the distinctions ever mattered, the importance of the distinctions has diminished.

Zoom in: Some themes jump out when scanning the list, with a big theme of bets on ways to make the industry reach lots more people.

Infrastructure

As long as more people want into this space, professionalizing the basics are safe bets.

  • Digital Asset, this sounds like "money pipes" in the end, but rendered in enterprise-speak. Its website lists companies like EY and Accenture as partners. $320 million in equity.
  • Genesis Digital Assets, a bitcoin mining company. $1.1 billion in equity across multiple rounds.
  • Anchorage Digital. Institutional platform. $20 million in equity.
Fast blockchains

SBF spoke frequently about how he was looking for a blockchain that could scale to millions of users.

  • Near. A sharded blockchain that was part of the 2020 class of "Ethereum killers." $80 million for tokens across two rounds.
  • Mysten Labs, which makes the Sui blockchain. One of several blockchains by Facebook alums. $100 million in equity.
  • Aptos Labs. See Mysten. $75 million in equity.
  • MobileCoin and Mina. A couple of fast, light blockchains with a focus on payments. Small rounds.

By the way: Back before FTX was rescuing Alameda, Alameda is said to have rescued FTX after a rough trade on MobileCoin left the exchange in the hole, according to a report by the FT.

Video games

Don't believe the hype following Axie Infinity: Venture investors had not given up on games as the path to get lots of people into crypto, and FTX was no different.

Trapdoors to normies

SBF liked the idea of apps regular people would like that might let him slide crypto in front of them.

  • Dave Inc. Digital banking. $100 million in equity.
  • Chipper Cash. Mobile money transfer for Africa. $35 million in equity.
  • DriveWealth. An investing app for investing apps. $15 million in equity.

Failing that, he might be able to persuade investee founders to launch some sketchy token that the FTX conglomerate could use to pump its portfolios.

What we're watching: If these assets can be sold for anything close to what the FTX affiliates paid for them.

πŸ€“ 2. Charted: Weird stablecoins

Data: CoinGecko; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CoinGecko; Chart: Axios Visuals

The year's whole giant cryptocurrency unwinding started with an algorithmic stablecoin collapsing in May: Terra.

  • Well, several stablecoins with at least fairly unconventional architectures are still running with decently big market caps. All of these shown are pegged to the U.S. dollar, Brady writes.

Frax blends the fiat-backed model with the algorithmic, with about 15% of its backing coming from a token that's similar to luna (terrausd was 100%) and the rest is fiat-backed stuff like Circle's USDC.

Liquity USD works by creating stablecoins via lending, much as DeFi's granddaddy, MakerDao does. It does it in a more capital efficient and simpler fashion.

USDD is a straight copy of Terra, but on the Tron blockchain, basically, a turducken of "buyer beware."

Magic Internet Money (MIM) works like Liquity and MakerDao, but with a focus on interest-bearing assets.

  • Each of its massive drops this year corresponds with a larger crypto scandal it was exposed to: Wonderland c0-founder in January, Terra's spinout in May, Staked-ETH depegging in June and then, of course, FTX, which had its token FTT on MIM.

Of note: MakerDao's dai is bigger than all these combined, at $5 billion. It's also a stablecoin issued via lending, like LUSD and MIM.

What we're watching: The decentralized exchange (DEX) Curve is issuing a new stablecoin with an innovative design β€” it's a stablecoin with a DEX built in.

Top coins

Data: CoinGecko; Table: Axios Visuals

πŸ˜• 3. Bitwise' active crypto investor looks beyond the gloom

Photo illustration of Jeff Park with stock chart symbols.

Jeff Park. Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Bitwise Asset Management

How much wealth was destroyed this year is top of mind for most crypto investors after the catastrophic collapse of Three Arrows Capital and FTX, but others see a path to generating returns once more, Crystal writes.

  • Bitwise Investments' portfolio manager Jeff Park can read the room post FTX β€” nodding to lessons to be learned of "idiosyncratic failures," but he's still looking for the upside.
  • "My instinct is that once the dust settles there will be continued opportunities," he tells Axios.

Zoom in: Active investors like Park try to generate returns by making select investments, rather than say, going with a market-capitalization-tilted crypto index with big slugs of bitcoin and ethereum.

Park says "volatility arbitrage" is a working strategy now.

  • This involves picking up the pennies difference between how the volatility of say, bitcoin, is pricing on one platform versus another.

Of note: It's a non-directional strategy, per Park. That means the investment does not rely on the market to go up or down to work.

Yes, but: "At first glance, it might look like free money, but at some level reflects a risk factor for why a person might sell for a higher price than somewhere else."

With the market screaming down, there has been an uptick in short-selling interest.

  • Betting that bitcoin or ethereum prices will continue to fall could be a boon, if it were easier to execute.
  • "It’s gotten harder now in terms of market liquidity," Park says. "Historically, it was possible."

Be smart: Short-selling requires borrowing or lending securities, whether it be stocks or crypto β€” so without ample liquidity, it's operationally tough to execute and can be costly.

The "exotic stuff" includes tapping into "highly predictive data mining power to anticipate what can happen," Park says.

  • Mempools or memory pools (on bitcoin and etherum, for example) contain transactions that are sitting idly until they are validated on their respective blockchain.
  • "It... has incredible predictive power, because if there are certain transactions dominating the pool, you can see what the market is trying to do before the order is put in," Park says.

Zoom out: Investing in crypto is hard.

πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ 4. Catch up quick

πŸ‘©β€βš–οΈ Five lawsuits that are live against FTX and/or SBF. (Vice)

🏎 Ethics panel directs U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn to pay $15,000 over crypto promotion. (Axios)

πŸ’° Blockstream is reportedly looking to raise new funding potentially at a sub-$1 billion valuation. (Bloomberg)

πŸ‡΅πŸ‡Ύ Paraguay scrapped a veto override for its crypto law, shelving it maybe for good. (Decrypt)

πŸ”” 5. Culture hash: Holiday cheer in the key of blockchain

Tweet from Alicia Katz

Screenshot: @aliciakatz (Twitter)

For those confused about how anyone would stick around the crypto industry at this point, it's important to understand that the hardcores see recent events as an aberration, Brady writes.

  • To believers, leaving crypto because of FTX's collapse would be like if parents pulled their kids out of Little League after a big scandal in Major League Baseball.
  • Baseball is still a nice game, whatever happens in the big stadiums. There's a lot of stuff going on in there that has nothing to do with what's on the field.

With seasonally appropriate thematics here, a member of the team at Euler Finance, a decentralized lending protocol we covered in June, puts a few of the principles her fellow travelers have always supported into a tweet.

This newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and copy edited by Carolyn DiPaolo.

🍿 There's a lot of unsubstantiated speculation about what sightings of ex-Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison could mean for legal cases against the firm and its founder, and we are here for it. β€”Brady