The Cost of Doing Business for VCs will come from Crypto Bailouts

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The Cost of Doing Business for VCs will come from Crypto Bailouts

The Cost of Doing Business for VCs will come from Crypto Bailouts
Source: Bloomberg
1649304769 07 Apr / 04:12

Following the hacks of Sky Mavis and Wormhole, investors suffered losses. 'These are facts,' adds a Wormhole backer's executive.

Scams and hacks have long been a feature of the cryptocurrency landscape. Is it time for venture capitalist funders of the sector to start expecting they'll be able to cover their losses?

To date, high-profile attacks on crypto "bridges" that facilitate crucial activities such as transferring tokens from one blockchain to another or playing the popular game Axie Infinity have taken more than $1 billion. Recent occurrences have revealed that when clients owe money, the operators of those platforms turn to their affluent investors for help. This tendency could herald a new age in internet dealmaking.

Sky Mavis, the company behind Axie Infinity, announced on Wednesday that it has concluded a $150 million investment round led by Binance, Andreessen Horowitz, and Paradigm, with funds going immediately to reimburse users after the platform lost roughly $600 million in a cyberattack impacting its Ronin bridge. Jump Trading Group has fully refunded more than $300 million in Ether stolen from Wormhole, a bridge platform it had previously invested two months prior.

Last month, after the Wormhole attack in February, I told Jump President Dave Olsen on Bloomberg’s “What Goes Up” podcast. “No matter where you are, that’s the progression that complex software has to go through. Hopefully, you don’t have to do too many iterations of that.”

“You do contingency plan for that sort of thing. You hope it doesn’t happen, and if it does, you hope it’s not at that magnitude,” he said. “It’s pragmatic and realistic that you gotta think that way.”

According to data from PitchBook, investors worldwide invested $4.7 billion in crypto companies in the first quarter of this year. Three of the top ten acquisitions in the sector in the last six years were closed, injecting billions of dollars into industry behemoths such as Fireblocks, ConsenSys, and Yuga Labs, the firm behind Bored Ape Yacht Club. Because there is so much money floating about in crypto, it is plausible that a portion of it may be assigned to fix its shortcomings automatically shortly.

According to PitchBook data, investors spent $4.7 billion on crypto businesses globally in the first quarter of this year. Three of the top ten deals in the sector in the last six years occurred, injecting billions of dollars into industry powerhouses such as Fireblocks, ConsenSys, and Yuga Labs, the firm behind Bored Ape Yacht Club. Because there is so much money floating around in crypto, it makes natural that a portion of it could soon be automatically assigned to fixing its shortcomings.

VCs have already begun to consider various options for being more accountable for the investments they make. Another Sky Mavis supporter, Animoca Brands co-founder Yat Siu, said the attack on Axie’s Ronin bridge platform proved VC companies should check projects’ code and security measures before investing. While crypto’s deep-pocketed backers aren’t usually the ones whose wallets are emptied in a crime, they have a vested interest in ensuring that users remain faith in the sector despite its growing pains.

Even without such formal arrangements, the upfront cost of hacks is already rising. Jump has paid out many $10 million bounties to “white hat” hackers to uncover holes in platforms like Wormhole before they can be used by criminal actors, according to Olsen. It’s worth noting, though, that not all bounties are created equal: Coinbase paid a $250,000 white-hat bounty to a hacker after a fault was identified in February, prompting crypto users to argue that fixing the flaw was likely more valuable to the exchange’s company than the $250,000 it gave to the hacker.

If venture capitalists are ready to invest billions of dollars in the burgeoning crypto business to profit from it, refunding clients when things go wrong may become a necessary compromise.

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