ConsenSys, the Ethereum production studio based in the U.S., launched ConsenSys Ventures last year selecting Kavita Gupta to run two funds of $50 million and $100 million.
Bitcoin Magazine caught up with ConsenSys’ Gupta to discuss the launch of project Tachyon and the launch of ConsenSys India, as well as the various factors that come into play in deciding where to allocate funds.
Bitcoin Magazine: ConsenSys is launching Tachyon, the first Ethereum-focused accelerator program in San Francisco. What is this project’s purpose?
Kavita Gupta: Since the launch of ConsenSys Ventures, our team came across a large number of very promising blockchain-based projects. While many of these solutions have the potential to solve problems across industries and geographies, a lot of the teams need support that goes beyond just providing capital. With this in mind, we wanted to build a platform that will identify and foster the talented teams with unique ideas.
These teams will have a unique opportunity to learn and be mentored by both the Web 2.0 world and Web 3.0. The 8-week immersion program will give the companies all the tools and training necessary to build an MVP and successfully launch their pre-seed and seed rounds.
To attract a diverse cohort of up to 15–18 teams, within the accelerator we are offering three tracks: Blockchain for Social Impact track; the Ethereum Project track; and an Open Source, blockchain-agnostic, grant-driven track. Upon completion of the program we will have a demo day that will be exclusive to the most prominent angel and venture capital investors with expertise and passion for the blockchain technology.
The word “tachyon” represents a particle that travels faster than light, and we at ConsenSys and ConsenSys Ventures want to build more than just an accelerator. We want to build an ecosystem around the program that will help our teams scale and launch their products and implement their vision at a fast fashion without compromising on the execution.
The wider ConsenSys mesh ecosystem will enable us to do that. The participating teams will have an exclusive access to the internal expertise and mentorship that they can tap into while building their products.
BM: How do you decide where to allocate the funds and to what extent does geography play a role in your decision?
KG: Our underlying mission and investment ethos is to promote decentralization and the Ethereum ecosystem.
We are geographically agnostic, and we have seen brilliant teams come from many countries and regions including Africa, China, Silicon Valley, Israel and Europe. Our portfolio today includes companies from places like Australia and Chile, and we are looking at a couple more investments from Europe, India and Israel.
Contrary to what one might expect, companies and governments outside the U.S. are exploring blockchain technologies as much as in the U.S. For example, when you look at Asia Pacific, the total spending that is geared toward blockchain is ranked third, just after the U.S. and Europe. This shows that opportunities are everywhere.
BM: What type of projects have you invested in?
KG: To date, ConsenSys Ventures has made 10 investments and we have a couple more to be finalized and announced soon. If you look at our portfolio you will see companies like Pryze, the world’s first automated sweepstakes protocol designed to solve the problems of trust, escrow, administration and legal compliance; CryptoMKT, a Latin American-based Ethereum exchange and leader in Chile and Argentina that are on their way to becoming leaders in the South American market; Virtuoso, [offering] crypto derivative trading that will support ether and futures; BlockFi, crypto-lending platform founded by Zac Prince giving borrowers access to short-term FIAT; DADA, a social network for digital art that is bringing power and monetization back to artists; Vault, a mobile smart wallet built by an ex-Facebook engineer; and INK protocol, a decentralized reputation and payment protocol looking to bring transferrable reputation to P2P marketplaces.
BM: Why the focus on Ethereum?
KG: If you look at the statistics more than 90 percent of the blockchain projects are launched on the Ethereum network. The network has the highest number of developers of any other blockchain network, thus it is safe to say that it’s often the developer’s first choice.
At ConsenSys Ventures, we are uniquely positioned to bring the most strategic value to our portfolio companies given our strong ties to ConsenSys. The extraordinary efforts that ConsenSys puts [toward] developing applications and utilities on the Ethereum network have allowed the company to expand its vast network and ecosystem, educate industries and market leaders on the future of blockchain and push the adoption of the technology.
This, coupled with our in-house expertise and knowledge, gives us the ability to bring strategic value to our portfolio companies. We always look for ways we can help our teams capitalize on possible synergies with the ConsenSys spokes or access any other support within ConsenSys when necessary and appropriate.
BM: You recently discussed the blockchain ecosystem in India. How is that country regulating crypto and adopting new technologies?
KG: Currently, India both on the state and private sector levels is going through understanding of blockchain technology and its potential to transform economic activity. Today, the Indian government is working toward building the right framework that will constrain activities such as money laundering and other forms of fraud, while enabling businesses to use blockchain capabilities for increasing wealth and productivity.
We have seen state level support from both the ruling party and the opposition first hand, during our roadshows around the country. Market participants are also ready to embrace blockchain technology, and we hope to bring solutions to supply-chain management, financial services, citizen journalism and the entertainment industry, just to name a few.
Since launching ConsenSys India, we have built our presence in New Delhi and Bangalore and have secured meaningful partnerships in the country, including the one with NITI Aayog. Today, we have eight full-time staff members on the ground but plan to hire more than 20 in a short period of time.
BM: What sorts of companies are effectively using blockchain technology today?
KG: While the technology is still in its early days of adoption, decentralized exchanges using smart contracts to swap millions of dollars of cryptocurrencies is a clear use case of blockchain having use as a mechanism to transmit value.
ConsenSys Spokes like Metamask, Truffle, Infura, uPort, Viant and many others have done PoC’s (proof of concept) and are in various stages of adoption by dozens of governments and enterprises worldwide. You can look at our recent collaboration with Amazon Web Services as a sign that momentum for blockchain technology is coming from the most valuable companies in the world.