This week’s undoing of the TerraUSD algorithmic stablecoin and its sister token, Luna, has ramifications for all of crypto. First, there is the immediate impact: The rapid collapse of a once-popular pair of cryptocurrencies sent a ripple effect across the industry, contributing to plummeting coin prices that wiped hundreds of billions of market value from the digital-asset market and stoked worries over the potential fragility of digital-asset ventures.
Then there are the knock-on effects. In addition to delivering punishing losses to individual users and investment firms, the spectacular failure of a market darling like Terra threatens to have a cooling effect on the fundraisings that have jacked up crypto start-ups’ valuations in the past few years. Venture capitalists who have long been some of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders might not have quite the same risk tolerance now — especially those directly caught in the crossfire.
“It’s something the scale of which crypto has really never seen in terms of a top-five project just absolutely imploding,” said Matt Walsh, founding partner of Castle Island Ventures, a blockchain-focused venture capital (VC) firm.
Almost US$45 billion evaporated from the market caps of TerraUSD (known as UST) and Luna over the course of a week, according to CoinGecko.
There were some winners in this scenario — like the investment firms, including F9 Research, that shorted TerraUSD. Stablecoins backed by reserves rather than algorithms also came off looking like better options, but it is the losses from these bruising past few days that will resonate.
Individual holders of UST and Luna, the token that is part of the peg mechanism for the algorithmic stablecoin, are now deeply in the red.
“The biggest losers from all of this will be retail [investors] that didn’t understand the risks they were taking,” said Kyle Samani, cofounder and managing partner at crypto VC firm Multicoin Capital.
Other losers include the venture capitalists and investment firms that have backed Terraform Labs, the start-up behind UST, and Luna Foundation Guard, the nonprofit managing the Luna token. Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd, Pantera Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners invested in Terraform’s last US$150 million fundraise in July last year, while Jump Crypto and Three Arrows Capital participated in a US$1 billion sale of Luna tokens in February.
These backers, who once hoped that their investments would deliver massive returns, instead found themselves being solicited to prop up UST and Luna in a US$1.5 billion backstop.
In essence, they were asked to “put their money where their mouth is,” a test of whether these institutions actually believe in what they’re investing, said Billy Dishman, investment and research analyst at crypto VC firm CoinFund.
So far, they have not shown much interest.
Terraform Labs is working on another contingency plan in which ownership of the blockchain network would be distributed to investors, according to a blog entry posted on Friday that was attributed to cofounder Do Kwon.
Investors and start-ups with no direct connection to UST are also finding themselves on unsteady ground. Chris McCann and Edith Yeung, general partners at Race Capital — a VC firm that focuses on early-stage crypto start-ups — have heard of deals falling apart or being repriced and said that founders are getting “ghosted” by potential investors. They are urging their portfolio companies to take caution and ensure that the funds they have raised so far are in fiat, not crypto.
“If you’re in the middle of a fundraise period, close it,” McCann said. “If you’re not, don’t do it now. Now’s not the time.”
Yeung said she also has a playbook in case a portfolio company finds itself in crisis.
She said part of Race’s strategy is to find a better way for founders to communicate — lengthy Twitter threads have the potential to spur rumors and spread discord.
“I have a blog post template ready to go,” she said. “It’s kind of silly, but it’s happened now so many times now.”
Walsh said that later-stage companies are more likely to see valuation hits as they raise more funds because of their proximity to public markets, where stocks like Coinbase Global Inc have plummeted.
Coinbase stock slumped 35 percent this week and ended the week with a market value of US$15 billion.
“Coinbase trading at US$17 to US$18 billion market cap, that’s going to have a downstream impact on the venture community in the crypto space,” Walsh said in an interview.
This would eventually trickle down to the seed stage, where newer crypto start-ups could take valuation cuts, Walsh added.
He said that there also could be a shift in the types of firms investing in crypto, noting that a lot of traditional funds have gotten more interested in the industry in the past year.
“There’s a question of are some of those funds just tourists that in the bear market back away,” Walsh said.
Dana Stalder, a general partner at tech VC firm Matrix Partners, said it is important to note that it is not just cryptocurrencies caught in a downturn: Tech stocks are struggling as well.
“There’s a flight to safety out of the equity asset class,” Stalder said in an interview.
The firm is still excited about its investment in crypto start-up Lightspark, which it announced on Thursday. The company was founded by David Marcus, who left Meta Platforms Inc last year after overseeing its crypto efforts. Lightspark is building infrastructure to help support payments for bitcoin, which traded at less than US$30,000 as of Friday evening in New York and is down more than 25 percent over the past 30 days.
“I don’t think this cycle will have any impact on what the Lightspark team is building — it is a very long play,” he said.
Peter Fenton, a general partner at Benchmark, said that there would likely be a slowdown in crypto investing as many VC firms were likely “playing out of their winnings” and using returns from previous crypto investments to fund new ones in the space.
However, his firm, which has already backed crypto start-ups Chainalysis and Sorare, is still committed.
Fenton said Benchmark plans to pursue three to five crypto investments a year, because it still has confidence in the industry and its start-ups.
“People forget that Google’s best financings were done in really the worst venture years,” he said.
AVOIDING CONFUSION: Passengers are to be able to check in two items of luggage, while the free weight allowance is to be increased to conform with other airlines EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空) yesterday announced that from June 23 it is to adopt a new baggage allowance policy for all passengers with a higher weight limit as it aims to benefit passengers and increase efficiency. The airline currently has a two-system baggage policy: It allows passengers flying to the US and Canada to check in two pieces of baggage with a free weight allowance, while for those flying to Asia, Europe and Oceania there is also a free weight allowance, but no limit on the number of pieces of baggage. From June 23, passengers would be able to check in two
MORE THAN BUZZ: The chip designer said it has received numerous orders from automakers to supply 5G modem chips, as it works to expand beyond smartphones MediaTek Inc (聯發科) yesterday said it would ship the first 5G chips for vehicles to customers in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the year, as it moves to expand the reach of its 5G chips beyond smartphones. The Hsinchu-based chip designer said it has been developing 5G chips for connected vehicles over the past few years, targeting applications such as telematics and in-vehicle information systems. “We are seeing demand for 5G technology from numerous makers of connected cars, including electric vehicle makers. We have obtained numerous orders from automakers to supply 5G modem chips with highly integrated features,” J.C. Hsu
Qualcomm Inc yesterday said it would maintain its supply chain strategy of sourcing chips from multiple foundry partners, including advanced chips from two major suppliers, to ensure a sufficient chip supply amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualcomm is reportedly working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) and Samsung Electronics Co on advanced products, such as 4-nanometer chips, for its new flagship 5G chips, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 series. Qualcomm is sourcing chips made by mature technologies from several foundry partners, the company said. Alex Katouzian, general manager of Qualcomm Technologies Inc’s mobile, compute and XR business, told a virtual media briefing that
US DRAM maker Micron Technology Inc is set to install the industry’s most cutting-edge technology — extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment — in its facility in Taichung this year, the company said yesterday. In early preparation for the volume production of 1-gamma nanometer node DRAM, “we plan to introduce EUV tools to our Taichung fab later this year,” Micron president and chief executive officer Sanjay Mehrotra said via video at the Computex trade show in Taipei. Gamma refers to the dimension of half the distance between cells in a DRAM chip. Micron is also looking forward to beginning mass production of its