The cryptocurrency industry has experienced pivotal growth. Over the last few years, several cryptocurrency investment firms and hedge funds have been the largest players supporting this growth. In-house legal teams of these investment firms play a critical role and help navigate the complex and rapidly evolving legal frameworks surrounding digital assets.
Digital Currency Group
Founded in 2015, the Digital Currency Group is a New York-based venture capital firm that primarily invests in blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. As of September 2021, it had approximately $50 billion in assets under management. It has made investments in companies such as Circle and Figure Technologies. In 2016, the Digital Currency Group acquired CoinDesk, a news site that specializes in digital currencies.
Director of Legal Mike Katz serves as Digital Currency Group’s top in-house lawyer. He provides operational and strategic advice on the legal aspects of transactions and understanding the unique legal challenges facing the industry. A graduate of Columbia Law School, Katz was previously a startup and venture capital attorney at Cooley LLP. Before that, he was an attorney at the New York law firm Paul Weiss.
Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z Cryptocurrency Fund
Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z is one of the most prolific cryptocurrency investors. The Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse raised a $2.2 billion cryptocurrency venture fund in June 2021. At the beginning of 2022, the firm announced its ambitions to raise $4.5 billion for its next cryptocurrency fund.
This investing prowess has partly been due to the strong team behind a16z. Katie Haun and Chris Dixon co-launched Andreessen’s cryptocurrency funds in 2018. The pair have helped the firm raise and deploy multiple cryptocurrency-focused funds. A former federal prosecutor, Katie Haun was Andreessen’s first female general partner. In January 2022, Katie Haun announced she will leave a16z to start her own fund. Her goal is to build a $1 billion cryptocurrency fund, which would be the largest web3 fund raised by a solely woman-led venture capital.
General counsel Miles Jennings heads the legal team. Jennings was a recent hire from international law firm Latham & Watkins, where he was a partner.
Paradigm Capital is a multi-stage cryptocurrency venture capital firm that often invests in early-stage startups, then supports their growth by providing additional capital over time. In November 2021, Paradigm debuted a $2.5 billion cryptocurrency fund. Paradigm’s enormous cryptocurrency fund surpassed the previous $2.2 billion record set by a16z in July 2021.
Some of Paradigm’s high-profile portfolio investments include Coinbase, FTX, BlockFi, Maker, and Uniswap. Paradigm also invested in several NFT platforms. For example, the firm recently helped Parallel, an NFT sci-fi card game, reach a $500 million valuation in its latest funding round.
Paradigm Capital’s in-house legal team is led by two associate general counsels, Josh Ephraim and Rodrigo Seira. Both previously worked at startup and venture capital-focused international law firms.
Founded in 2013, Pantera Capital is a hedge fund that has built a global portfolio of cryptocurrency and blockchain investments. While the hedge fund was initially founded in 2003, Pantera Capital first launched an investment fund devoted to bitcoin in 2013. Since then, the hedge fund has pivoted exclusively to blockchain technologies investment. Pantera Capital is based in Menlo Park, California.
Joseph Cisewski, the general counsel of Pantera Capital, has worked in both the public and private sectors. He held senior roles at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Cisewski is interested in how blockchain technologies can address risks and flaws in the equity and derivatives markets.
Coinbase Ventures: VC Arm of Cryptocurrency Firm
Coinbase Ventures was created in 2018 as the venture capital arm of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. In 2021, Coinbase Ventures made around 150 deals. The firm has made approximately 250 deals to date, many in the decentralized finance sector. Investments in web3 infrastructure and protocols also made up a significant portion of Coinbase Ventures’ portfolio.
One of largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States, Coinbase is aggressively growing its legal team. Coinbase hired Paul Grewal as its Chief Legal Officer in July 2021. Grewal previously served as deputy general counsel of Facebook. Earlier in his career, Grewal had been a federal magistrate judge, tackling major tech cases.
Multicoin Capital is an Austin, Texas based cryptocurrency investment firm that invests in blockchain startups. In May 2021, it debuted a $100 million fund to back companies tackling decentralized finance, Web3 infrastructure, and digital collectibles. Kyle Samani, a former engineer who previously founded a health IT startup, founded the firm.
Multicoin Capital opened its doors in 2017. The firm has maintained a small team of around 30 employees. Gregory Xethalis is general counsel and chief compliance officer. Xethalis was previously a law firm partner.