Journey to Accomplice Blockchain

Last week, we announced Accomplice Blockchain — I’m psyched to share this news and continue focusing on partnering with entrepreneurs democratizing access to the digital and financial systems.

Unlike the traditional path taken by many of my college classmates (I-banking →private equity →(b-school) →private equity), my professional journey and path to crypto with the Accomplice team has been anything but linear. Here’s really how it all went down:

  • 2010: gifted Bitcoin on USB stick.
  • 2013: exposure to crypto as store of value.
  • 2015: made first crypto vc investment.
  • 2017: joined ConsenSys Ventures as part of founding team.
  • 2018: Accomplice Blockchain.

The USB Stick

Jamie was my best childhood friend — and we were into different things during our high school years. Jamie built computers and read about the latest technical breakthroughs while I played squash and focused on getting into a top college. My senior year (2010), Jamie mentioned this thing called Bitcoin and shortly thereafter handed me a USB stick with $20 worth of Bitcoin. I shrugged, thanked him for the odd gift, and quickly moved on to something else.

Two years later, I received a text from Jamie: “Yeah, so remember that USB stick I gave you? You should probably try to find it…”

To this day, I have no clue where it is. I’ll let you know if I ever do.

Venezuela & Bitcoin as Store of Value

I spent the summer after my junior year of college interning at a small startup in San Francisco. My roommate was from Venezuela, and still had family there. The Venezuelan economy was in complete disarray and amazingly, he had used Bitcoin to move his family’s money out of the country and relocate to Miami.

Up until that point, my impression of Bitcoin was that it was being used for illicit activity, specifically on darknet marketplaces, like Silk Road. Hearing and seeing my roommate’s story made me realize Bitcoin’s immense potential as a global store of value.

1st Crypto Investment

I realized pretty quickly that to be competitive in venture capital as a young person, I needed to focus on one or two specific industries or technologies. For me, that was blockchain/crypto (and also machine learning). My thesis for the space was dead simple: if Bitcoin was going to become world-changing, the traditional system (regulators, governments, banks) needed to know what was going on.

I spoke with a dozen or so companies until I met Michael Gronager and Jonathan Levin from Chainalysis. After our first conversation, I knew these were the guys. Michael and Jonathan are special entrepreneurs, and they kindly offered Converge an allocation in their December 2015 Seed round. They’ve gone on to do some pretty incredible things.

Around the same time, I had read Ethereum’s whitepaper — I was fascinated by the concept of adding logic to payments. As Ethereum went from whitepaper to launch, the ERC20 standard was born, and borderless crowdfunding alongside permissionless transactions were driving crypto to be a global phenomenon.

Joining ConsenSys

As many others have articulated, it’s nearly impossible to rescind from the crypto rabbit-hole once you dip your toe in. It was early 2016, and I was all in.

A few months later, I heard that ConsenSys was thinking of starting a Venture Capital arm — I jumped at the opportunity and joined the founding team at ConsenSys Ventures out in San Francisco. Investing full-time in the crypto space was a thrilling experience, and I met some of my best and most brilliant friends while at ConsenSys.

I was fortunate to have worked closely with a number of internal and external companies including Metamask, BlockFi, Vault, RocketPool, and Quantstamp.

Accomplice Blockchain

I had my first couple of encounters with the Accomplice team, then Atlas Venture, while I was at Converge in Boston. We were in similar circles and every few months, I would stop by their Cambridge office to talk through what I was seeing in the space. These guys were the antithesis of “lazy VCs”, were loved by their entrepreneurs, and had such incredible passion for their craft — I’m humbled to now work alongside this group.

The Accomplice ethos is simple, but powerful: we have entrepreneurial DNA, we are focused on building high-conviction in companies from their earliest days, and we go shoulder-to-shoulder with entrepreneurs.

Accomplice has immense trust from its companies and entrepreneurs, and the community — embodied in crypto through close ties with portfolio companies CoinList, Republic, Hashgraph and individuals like Naval Ravikant, Andy Bromberg, Mike Viscuso and dozens of others.

In my mind, the most compelling part of Accomplice is its deep domain expertise in crypto-relevant areas like cybersecurity, privacy and scaling consumer adoption. Some of Accomplice’s portfolio companies include Carbon Black, Veracode, AngelList, Recorded Future, DraftKings, Hopper, and Pillpack.

Jeff Fagnan, whom I will be working closely with at Accomplice, announced Accomplice Blockchain on Halloween, last week. To quote his post, “contrarian thinking is our lifeblood, which means we will indeed be fabulously wrong at times. But we will be wrong with the highest degree of conviction, authenticity, and transparency. Just like the entrepreneurs we back.”

In the past couple of months, we have been aggressively pursuing partnerships with entrepreneurs who are building web3 and democratizing access to global financial and digital systems. And we are not stopping anytime soon.

If you are building this vision, hit me up on Twitter or at ash@accomplice.co.

-ash