Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

After co-leading three large funds at Andreessen Horowitz, Katie Hawn started her own business and is raising a $1 billion crypto fund. Today, her new company is entering a highly competitive, turbulent Web3 world that may also usher in limitless opportunities.

Katie Hawn invited me to visit her art collection. Conveniently, the visit didn’t require a trip to a gallery or even her home—Hawn’s favored collecting medium was NFTs, so-called “non-fungible tokens.” So, what we’re looking at is a whole set of digital images on her phone. In Haun’s tech industry, these digital collections, like cryptocurrencies, stored on the blockchain have become a sought-after trendy product.

To find her favorite, Haun quickly flipped through pictures of lush flowers, as well as some more edgy, digital-punk-inspired avatars. “My collecting tastes are very diverse,” she admits. Some of the hottest creations on the extremely hot NFT market have sold for tens of millions of dollars, but this pixelated image — of a girl with a bright pink ponytail — didn’t cost her penny. It’s a birthday present to her at the end of 2021 from her friend Elena Silenok. It’s worth pointing out that Elena is also the wife of Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon. Dixon has co-led the firm’s cryptocurrency fund with Haun since she resigned from her job at the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a career in venture capital.

But while the girl with bright pink hair may live on the blockchain forever, real-world connections are easier to change. There is a ready-made example in front of you. The reason I made the trip was because Haun had just made a big announcement: She was leaving Dixon, and the mighty Anderson Horowitz, to start her own fund.

While the average person may not know Haun, she has become an unexpected star in the world of cryptocurrencies and the wider Web3. Web3 includes not only cryptocurrencies such as NFTs, Bitcoin, and Ethereum, but also the underlying blockchain infrastructure that underpins these cryptocurrencies. When she entered the field in 2013, Haun was not an innocent female cryptocurrency fan. In fact, she was a San Francisco-based federal prosecutor at the time investigating how criminals were using the technology to commit crimes.

“This appointment was not my choice.” Her previous legal work also included prosecuting white-collar criminals, prison gangs and corrupt federal agents. “But I did choose to stay in the field,” Haun said.

This choice comes from the kind invitation of Andreessen Horowitz. Anderson-Horowitz, also known as a16z, is one of the largest and best-known venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. While many VCs were still wary of investing in cryptocurrencies, a16z founders Mark Anderson and Ben Horowitz became early Web3 believers. In Haun, the two legendary VCs saw a kind of expertise they sorely needed, but few possessed, the ability to navigate the tangled regulatory landscape facing the fledgling crypto industry.

Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

The former prosecutor was subsequently hired as a16z’s first female investment partner. She co-founded Dixon, a partner at the firm, and leads a cryptocurrency investment team of about 50 people. Its last fund raised a staggering $2.2 billion in total. It didn’t take long for the one-time outsider to become one of a16z’s most high-profile partners, investing in popular companies such as cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and NFT marketplace OpenSea.

In mid-December 2021, Haun suddenly announced that he would leave a16z to start a new venture capital firm of his own. As soon as the news came, Silicon Valley ushered in a series of text message shock waves: congratulations, admiration, and even doubts. That’s a big deal, especially considering that Haun is said to be launching a $1 billion fund. If she gets her way, it will be the largest cryptocurrency fund ever raised by a female VC alone. “Women are rare in cryptocurrency investing,” said Amy Wu, head of FTX Ventures. She herself has just been invited to join FTX Ventures, where she is in charge of a $2 billion fund launched by the cryptocurrency exchange in January. In fact, not many women write VC checks; in the U.S., female VCs make up just 15.4 percent of general partners.

Now, the former prosecutor faces a new challenge. Yes, Haun left a16z, where she had been in office for four years, with her popular image, rich network resources and dazzling investment performance. But she also gave up the company’s strong team (a16z has more than 300 employees), deep pockets, enviable resources and prestige. Haun and her scrappy team of six offer startup founders a very different proposition. The new company is about to enter a world of constant switching between dizzying gold rushes and stomach-churning price adjustments. Will Horn 2.0 survive such a turbulent environment and have founders sign their names on the dotted line of the investment agreement?


On a crisp January day of this year, Haun and I chose to meet for the first time at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, just steps from her former a16z office. We sat on an outdoor patio with stunning views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A convenient meeting point for many VCs working in the area, the usually bustling hotel is now deserted with few customers. It makes sense: In the Bay Area and elsewhere, infections with mutant Omicron strains are continuing to surge. But even with the usual crowd of VCs, Haun will be one of the most prominent. She has blonde hair and sharp blue eyes, and I’ve never seen her in a dress with an Arc’teryx or Patagonia emblem – on the VC-filled Dune Road, These two pseudo-casual brands are the norm for people. Haun wore a dress with black and white polka dots today. She was wearing a pale pink Valentino suit the last time we met.

Haun is elegant but not reserved. There was an elusive quality about her, as if she could talk to anyone, whether in a conference room or in a courtroom. She is persuasive and persistent. But she’s also reassuring, and Haun looks excited—even dizzy—about the new company.

Sources say Haun is raising at least $1 billion for her first fund. Haun was reluctant to confirm the figure. She said she was banned from commenting for “legal and regulatory reasons.” This is the standard rhetoric for VCs when it comes to raising money. They worry that if they get it wrong, they risk angering the Securities and Exchange Commission. But given the sheer amount of money pouring into the cryptocurrency space today, $1 billion seems like a viable, even conservative, number. In 2021, venture financing in the U.S. will hit a record $128.3 billion, according to recent data released by PitchBook. The share flowing to crypto funds is also growing rapidly, from less than 0.5% in 2017 to nearly 7% in 2021. Just as VCs are pouring money out, their own investors, the limited partners, are pouring in quickly to fill their coffers. That, combined with Haun’s real ability to get involved in the hottest crypto deals, bodes well for her. And she plans to start with a small team and focus only on the encryption field, which may also be good for her.

“True crypto-native funds are very attractive to limited partners,” said Elijah Fushman, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. “This is because these investors can attract exciting new founders. .”

Haun is seizing the moment. Her new company has made seven investments, including one in Los Angeles-based startup Autograph for an undisclosed amount. This is a company that helps athletes and entertainers launch and market NFTs. Fuschman’s company is the other lead in the round, and both he and Haun will join Autograph’s board of directors. An interesting fact is that the startup is also backed by superstar Tom Brady, who currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But guess who else led the $170 million round? A16z, Dixon will also join the board.

It may be hard to believe — after all, any breakup inevitably creates a certain amount of tension — but both parties insist that Haun and her former employer broke up amicably. She said that she had a wonderful and fruitful time at a16z. She also credited the company’s founders for giving her a chance. “Not many people thought at the time, ‘Oh, she’s going to be a great venture capitalist,'” Haun said.

But Haun believes that the experience of working with the founder changed her mind about what she wanted. “One of the things I’ve learned at the company over the past four years is that I’m actually pretty good at starting a business,” she said. The moment a16z’s third crypto fund was deployed in 2021, she felt it was time for a new chapter in her life. “This turning point prompted a long period of introspection,” she said. “It’s time to go out on my own. It’s that simple.”

Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

Horn pointed to a patio near our seat. She said that in December 2021, she and Dixon were there to discuss the details of her new career, such as how many old men she could take away. (One insider referred to these haggling talks as “horse deals.”) Ultimately, it was agreed that Haun would lead the departure of six a16z employees, including her chief marketing officer Rachel Horwitz and the new company’s Global Policy Director Tomika Thieleman. The parties also decided that a16z would be an early investor in her new fund. No doubt Haun’s new company will be a competitor to old owner a16z in some deals, but as an investor in her new company, whoever wins will benefit a16z. In addition to this arrangement, both Haun and a16z said the two sides will continue to work together on some deals, as they just jointly led an investment in Autograph.

“We regularly discuss promising projects and teams and continue to work together on multiple boards,” Dixon said in a written statement to Fortune, “so we will continue to maintain a very close relationship. .”

Despite multiple requests, Dixon was reluctant to speak directly to me. This shows that a16z has adopted a different media communication strategy than Haun. As you’d expect from a former prosecutor — a job that often involves using the media to advance your case — Haun is happy to be in the limelight, giving frequent press interviews and long-standing tech conferences (she has spoken at three Fortune-hosted events). Meanwhile, the A16z has become increasingly lukewarm to the press. Its co-founder, Mark Anderson, is known in media circles for blocking journalists on social media. The venture capital giant has even started a content operation in-house in an effort to avoid the media altogether.


You know who else hates the media the most? celebrity.

But that didn’t stop Mindy Kaling from revealing her first impressions of Haun to this writer. “She’s a VC I really want to go on vacation with,” she told me via email. Kaling is an actress, writer, and producer, perhaps best known for her role on The Office.

Kaling met Haun at a dinner in Los Angeles in the fall of 2021, which included a group of showbiz women. Part of the purpose of the gathering was for Haun to share her experience investing in the crypto world with entertainers, some of whom were interested in getting into Web3. Famous actress Gwyneth Paltrow also attended the party that night, according to people familiar with the matter. She later announced an investment in bitcoin miner TeraWulf.

Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

In 2004, Haun was pictured with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. From late 2004 to 2005, she served as the justice’s clerk. Photo credit: COURTESY OF KATIE HAUN

To stand out from the competition, one of the ways Haun came up with plans was to focus on “verticals” and bring in expert consultants for each. She hired Jared Cohen, chief executive of the Google think tank and incubator Jigsaw, and fellow prosecutor William Frentzen to run technology and government policy, respectively. When Haun needed an entertainment consultant, she called Kaling.

“I think I said yes before she even finished,” Kaling said. “She’s a legend in the crypto community, who wouldn’t want to be around her?”

In addition, according to Haun’s plan, her new company will need to make some big changes compared to the fund she co-manages at a16z. She has no intention of chasing that kind of sheer size. “We’re building a small, lean team to stay nimble,” she said. a16z is known for providing a full suite of services, including marketing and legal, to the companies she invests in, but Haun sought to take a more focused approach to services, clarifying what her firm can and cannot do for founders.

For Haun, small-scale and targeted services do not conflict with globalization. She plans to find new startups far from startup hotspots like Silicon Valley. “I think some of the best crypto founders tend to hide in some of the less visible corners,” Haun said, “So I think that’s one of the things that new companies are going to do, we’re going to have this A global perspective.” (A16z claims that the vast majority of crypto companies it invests in are “registered” in the U.S., although many have employees located around the world.)

Of course, the new company has to have a name. To date, Haun has referred to the new company by her initials, “KRH,” which is Katherine Rose Haun’s acronym. But the investor said this was done only to facilitate the signing of legal documents. “I don’t want to rule anything out, but I’m not going to name the company after myself,” Haun told me. “I’m building a franchise company. I’m sure it’s going to pay off someday. Let others take care of it.”


It’s hard to quantify how successful Haun has been as a VC. This is partly due to the nature of the work – it’s normal to bet on water, and those successful investments often take more than 10 years to “exit,” which is to go public or be acquired. Over the past four years, Haun and the a16z cryptocurrency team have made more than 60 investments. There has been only one exit of those investments so far: the direct listing of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in 2021 at a valuation of up to nearly $100 billion. Although Coinbase was Haun’s first job as an insider in the crypto world (after Haun left the DOJ in 2017, Coinbase invited her to the board), it was in fact long before Haun joined a16z in 2013. A venture capital firm made its first investment in the company.

Still, there are many businesses in her portfolio that have seen eye-popping growth in valuations. This is perhaps the most frequently cited measure of success before a VC exits a startup. For example, OpenSea has become a dominant player in the NFT market, with its valuation soaring from $1.5 billion in 2021 to more than $13 billion now.

“She’s a heat-seeking missile,” said Jesse Walden, a former investor in a16z. “She’s very insightful about what’s going on in the space, and she knows who you need to know to keep up with the industry. Humanly, it’s a superpower.” Walden left a16z in 2020 to start his own cryptocurrency fund.

In fact, finding the right founders and getting their license to invest appears to be a big part of what Haun has accomplished so far. At her new company, she plans to put that superpower to good use by building her own team, helping the companies she invests in build their teams, finding deals and, of course, closing deals.

“That’s how I made a living for over a decade.” She was, of course, referring to her previous career as a federal prosecutor. “I do deals, negotiate, sit opposite someone I have to see through quickly.”

“Katie is an old player,” Royal co-founder and CEO Justin Blau said. Royal is a company that helps musicians sell royalties to fans. “She has been active in this space for a long time, and her connections are not only in all corners of the crypto world, but far beyond the crypto community.”

Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

After announcing her departure, Horne attended a16z’s team dinner with Dixon. Photo credit: COURTESY OF KATIE HAUN

Coinbase COO Emily Tsai recalls that Haun stepped in at one point when a potential director was considering a job at another company. According to her description, Haun invited this gentleman out to dinner, and after the two parties sat down, she told each other that it was too crazy not to join Coinbase. This trick really worked. “She knows what to say to turn things around,” Cai said. “If she doesn’t achieve her goals, she won’t give up.”

Haun was instrumental in building a16z’s cryptocurrency team. Over the course of four years, the team grew from an initial two to about 50. Haun said she personally recruited “most” of the team members. (Dixon said in an email: “Hiring is a team effort, and Katie is an important part of that team.”)

There’s no question that Haun needs to keep bringing in top talent in order for her new firm to break ground in the increasingly competitive crypto investment market. But she also needs to dig deeper into the regulatory and legal expertise that brought her to Silicon Valley’s attention in the first place. The crypto world may not be as full of unknowns as it was when a16z first knocked on the door, but it’s still riddled with mystery—if not more sinister.

As cryptocurrencies began to expand globally, so did their challenges and controversies. China legislated a ban on cryptocurrencies in 2021, and other countries have restricted their use for fear of undermining government control over the current monetary system. There is another concern brewing: some digital currencies are notoriously energy-intensive, leaving a huge carbon footprint. This issue has also become the focus of attention. During a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Jan. 20 this year, a number of U.S. lawmakers engaged in a heated debate on how to make cryptocurrencies more environmentally friendly.

“Regulatory compliance is the most important issue in the crypto space this year,” said Amy Wu of FTX Ventures.

In addition to external threats, the rapid growth of cryptocurrencies has drawn criticism from the tech ecosystem. Some heavyweight startup founders, such as Box’s Aaron Levy and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, are skeptical of Web3 adoption and impact. And within the crypto community, there is a growing concern that power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few elites, especially large startups with huge VC dollars. It’s a real shame for those who have embraced the good vision of Web3. It was expected that Web3 would facilitate the “decentralization” of information control, theoretically decentralizing power in a way never before seen on the traditional web.

Katie Haun: The New Queen of Crypto

Coinbase successfully listed in 2021. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

Facing the surging voice of doubts, Haun’s old owner a16z made a fierce rebuttal, saying that Web3 is still very young, but it will eventually fulfill its promise. In keeping with his usual style, Anderson even blocked another tech mogul, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. The two have previously had a public spat over whether cryptocurrency companies are promoting “decentralization” or exacerbating “centralization.”

Haun, on the other hand, took a more tactful response. “It’s heartening to see the likes of Moshe Malin Spike (an industry insider who is skeptical of Web3) and Jack Dorsey so focused on the space and making nuanced comments.” Haun Say. “I welcome that.”

But despite the criticism she often hears, Haun said she is not worried about the future of cryptocurrencies. Yes, the infrastructure isn’t fully deployed yet, but it’s on its way. Meanwhile, the technology’s potential has exploded. When she entered the investing world in 2018, most believed that the only real meaningful application area for cryptocurrencies was financial innovation. “I see now, wow, there are far more use cases than we thought,” Haun said.

Now there are more pressing questions. In January, just as Haun was raising money for the new fund, the crypto market crashed, wiping $1.4 trillion off its market value. Some call it a “massacre”, others a “price adjustment.” Haun isn’t worried about that. She noted that wild swings are not new to the field. “The essence of running a crypto fund is taking risks.”

The structure of many cryptocurrency deals themselves, including the upcoming investment deals by Haun’s new firm, are extremely risky. Unlike traditional VC deals, where cash-for-equity deals, many cryptocurrency investors are willing to accept so-called tokens as part of their holdings. These tokens are essentially digital securities stored on the blockchain and face the same wild swings as the broader cryptocurrency market.

For Haun, though, it was important to separate the risks inherent in the field from the uncertainty she never experienced.

“Like so much in my career, I think things are either ‘do it all’ or ‘don’t do it.’ Whether it was when I joined Andreessen Horowitz or I decided later Solo, I’m all into it. I’ve had many similar moments in my legal career before. I’ve always listened to my heart, my gut, and my interests. It’s really no different. Have I ever had the slightest doubt about what I’m doing over the past few weeks? Yes, absolutely. But I’m still very committed to it. I know it was the right decision.”


betting on the blockchain

Haun has invested in some of the fastest-growing and most promising cryptocurrency startups. The industry is still young, and many winners have yet to be officially crowned — or, rather, the losers haven’t been wiped out. Here are some of Haun’s most high-profile investments to date and companies in which he is a director.

Arweave

The Berlin-based company claims it is a pioneer in a new way of storing data that uses blockchain technology to “store” information. Haun led a $5 million funding round in 2019. The round is entirely token-based, meaning investors are buying digital securities recorded on the blockchain, rather than traditional equity.

Autograph

The NFT market-focused startup co-founded by football superstar Tom Brady raised $170 million in January. Haun’s new company (and her former employer, Anderson Horowitz) participated in the round, and Haun has now joined Autograph’s board of directors.

Coinbase

Horne became the startup’s first independent director in 2017. The move eventually led her to join a16z, an early investor in the cryptocurrency trading platform. Coinbase went public in April 2021 at a valuation of nearly $100 billion, a rare VC exit in the crypto industry.

OpenSea

As one of the hottest startups in the fast-growing NFT market. OpenSea is currently valued at more than $13 billion. During his time at a16z, Haun led two funding rounds for the company and joined its board of directors. She’s investing again through her new company, taking part in the auction platform’s $300 million Series C in January.

Royal

This is another investment that Haun made while working at a16z. Royal is a brand new NFT app dedicated to helping musicians sell royalty ownership to fans. In 2021, artists such as electronic music group The Chainsmokers and rapper Nas, among other VCs, participated in Royal’s $55 million Series A round. (Fortune Chinese Network)

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/katie-haun-the-new-queen-of-crypto/
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