Funding Rounds, China Can't Ban Crypto, & We Need Your Help


May 25, 2022 | Issue #221

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Billions of Dollars Continue to Flow Into Crypto, Potentially Bucking 'Crypto Winter'

While crypto naysayers are giddy with glee and newcomers to the space are worried about "crypto winter," real capital seems to be deaf to the conversation.

Regardless of the market's recent drawdown, billions of dollars are flowing into the system from nearly every direction. As JPMorgan points out in a research report published today, the Terra/Luna saga has done little to deter investment:

“Thus far there is little evidence of VC funding drying up post-Terra’s collapse. Of the $25 billion VC funding year-to-date, almost $4 billion came after Terra... Our best guess is the VC funding will continue and a long winter similar to 2018/2019 would be averted.”

Here's what we have seen in just the past week:

Company Funding:

  • StarkWare, an Ethereum scaling company focused on ZK-rollups, raised $100 million at an $8 billion valuation. To put this raise in perspective, StarkWare raised at a $2 billion valuation only 6 months ago.
  • Babel Finance, a crypto lending business, raised $80 million at a $2 billion valuation.
  • LayerZero Labs is in the process of raising at a $3 billion. Putting this one in perspective as well, the company raised $135 million at a $1 billion valuation as recently as late March.
  • Flowcarbon, a blockchain-enabled carbon credit trading platform backed by WeWork founder Adam Neumann, has raised $70 million in its first major funding round.
  • Protego Trust Bank targets $2 billion valuation after quietly raising $70 million.

New Funds:

  • a16z today announced a new, $4.5 billion fund. Of the $4.5 billion, approximately $1.5 billion will go to seed investments, and $3 billion to venture investments. a16z has now raised a total of $7.6 billion across their four crypto focused funds.
  • Standard Crypto has raised a new $500 million fund, according to a report from Axios.
  • Volt Capital, a crypto firm focused on early-stage deals, raised $50 million for its second fund today.

Mergers & Aquistions:
As we predicted at the beginning of this year, 2022 will shape up to be a year of M&A.

This week, CNBC reported that FTX is in talks with at least three privately held brokerages: Webull, Public, and Apex Clearing. If the reports are true, it could be proof that FTX is looking to gather a large swath of traditional equity investors quickly and at a discounted price.

This is all happening at the same time that FTXs CEO purchased a 7.6% stake in Robinhood (HOOD).


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Beating China's "Great Firewall"

Last year, for those that don't remember, China began taking drastic steps to crack down on crypto. As a recap, China essentially banned ALL crypto-related transactions as well as passed an outright ban on crypto/bitcoin mining.

As the ban went into effect, the country's leading share of global bitcoin mining capacity plummeted in a matter of weeks, briefly causing widespread panic in the markets.

But today, almost one year later, data is showing the opposite.

New research from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) shows that Chinese bitcoin mining activity has quickly rebounded. According to researchers, China now makes up about 20% of the total bitcoin mining market, meaning that China is once again a top global player in bitcoin mining, second only the U.S.

Wait.. How Is This Possible?
Because of the permissionless nature of the global Bitcoin network, "guerilla" or underground miners seem to have found ways to avoid detection – including using off-grid electricity sources like hydropower produced by small dams that aren’t connected to the main grid.

Note: Mining data is extremely difficult to accurately collect. Therefore, we cannot fully trust CCAFs data in its entirety, as pointed out in this article. Our point, rather, is to show readers that the CCP has failed to completely abolish bitcoin mining and that the underground Chinese mining industry still plays a large role.

Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Interestingly enough, underground mining is not the only way the citizens of China are circumventing the strict surveillance of the CCP and their guidelines against the use of crypto. Take a closer look:

  • NFTs: As Chinese internet censors have stepped up efforts to scrub content from social media during the pandemic, web users have increasingly turned to NFTs as a way to secure images, videos, audio & social-media posts on a blockchain to prevent their deletion. As WSJ reported, for example, hundreds of NFTs are now listed on OpenSea without a price tag, a sign they aren’t really intended for sale. Used properly in conjunction with other technologies, NFTs offer a way to preserve data-rich media on the blockchain – an interesting NFT use-case that many (including us!) have failed to recognize
  • IPFS: Censorship activists are also turning to decentralized web protocols like Filecoin's (FIL) InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Via IPFS, files can be stored, scattered across the network, and encrypted, in turn making it difficult for authorities to remove or block content. IPFS can also help Chinese residents gain access to millions of books, scientific articles, and other banned works. Furthermore, Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure company, recently announced new tools to make it possible for users to host and serve content on IPFS. According to Coinbase Bytes, around 2.5 billion gigabytes of highly censorship-resistant data is already hosted on decentralized IPFS servers. That’s the equivalent of tens of thousands of copies of Wikipedia.

Putting It All Together:
As the CCP continues on their path to track the digital footprint of every single one of their citizens, and individuals attempt to circumvent the surveillance, it will be interesting to see how crypto's open-source and decentralized landscape plays a role in China's "Great Firewall."

The Interesting Difference Between Crypto Users & Investors

The Fed recently released their annual Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households report where they surveyed 11,000 individuals between October and November of 2021.

To better understand consumer experiences with emerging products, the central bank included questions surrounding crypto for the first time ever. Below are the highlights.

General Statistics:

  • 12% of adults held or used crypto in the 12 months prior
  • 11% of adults held crypto as an investment, while a far smaller 2% of adults said that they used crypto for transactional purposes (to buy something or to make a payment)
  • Only 1% used crypto to send money to friends or family

A Closer Look At That 11% (Adults Who Used Crypto For Investing Purposes):

  • Those who held crypto purely for investment purposes were disproportionately high-income, almost always had a traditional banking relationship, and typically had other retirement savings
  • For example, 46% of those using crypto only for investment had an income of $100,000 or more, while just 29% had an income under $50,000

A Closer Look At That 2% (Adults Who Used Crypto For Transactional Purposes):

  • The financial profiles of those who used crypto for transactions were quite different
  • For example, nearly 60% of adults who used crypto for transactions had an income of less than $50,000. And roughly only 24% of transactional users had an income of more than $100,000
  • Transactional cryptocurrency users also were less likely to have a bank account; 13% were unbanked, compared with 6% of unbanked adults who did not use or hold any crypto
  • Similarly, 27% of transactional cryptocurrency users did not have a credit card, exceeding the 17% of non-users without a credit card

The power of crypto banking the unbanked is a real narrative that's happening not only in impoverished countries like El Salvador and the Central Africa Republic. It's also happening right here in the U.S.


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Crypto Billionaire Says He Could Spend A Record $1 Billion In 2024 Election

We are addressing this story in the regulatory section of the newsletter because regardless of what is said, this money will ultimately influence regulation and policy.

This week, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) on a podcast stated that he plans on donating “north of $100 million,” – with a “soft ceiling” of $1 billion – to the 2024 presidential election. In a followup thread, SBF explained that much of his focus is also on pandemic prevention. At the same time, FTX's President, Brett Harrison is rubbing elbows in Davos at the World Economic Forum 2022.

We're really trying to give SBF and FTX the benefit of the doubt here...

We hope that FTX's goal is to help shape a regulatory framework for crypto that's fair. We also hope SBF's goal is for humanity to thrive...

But what better way is there to destroy social authenticity for you and your brand other than donating billions to U.S. political candidates while networking in Davos, right?

Bitcoin doesn't need to win by donating billions to voter-hungry political parties.

Bitcoin doesn't need to win through some Faustian bargain. 


Coin Snacks


Why We Invested $5 Million in One Cryptocurrency

Bill Gates has called it a “technological tour de force.” Elon Musk has said that outside of his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, it’s the only major personal investment he has. The “it” we’re talking about is cryptocurrency - the most controversial (and volatile) investment we’ve ever come across.

And yet, our team at The Motley Fool believes in it so much that we purchased $5 million of our favorite cryptocurrency using our own capital.

Discover which coin we’re investing in

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