Transparency and Ethics in Cryptocurrency Investing

The fine line between disclosure and privacy

As someone who works closely with companies, projects, and protocols in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, I have been challenged to find the fine line between transparency and disclosure while preserving my privacy and exercising discretion. Token investing is an interesting, and often times tricky, game that leverages information asymmetry, market knowledge, and access to human, social, and financial capital. I speak publicly and privately about cryptocurrencies, and many individuals, companies, and funds often ask about my perspective on specific projects. I do my best to avoid advocating for any one protocol or token, although the line between being excited about a project for its technical and application merits and the potential for the token to appreciate in value is one that gets blurry very quickly.

We are entering a new age of capitalism, one where capital formation is unbounded by traditional legal, social, and structural constraints. I don’t fully know what the implications will be for the way investors and market participants allocate capital and disclose these allocations. I do know that I care deeply about transparency and integrity as social values, and that I see a new era coming — one of thoughtful capitalism.

One where we use our financial capital to invest in projects that align with our social and philosophical values.

One where we use our human capital to accelerate the growth of projects we’d like to see succeed.

One where we use our social capital to create incentives for others to support our vision for a better future, enabled by new assets, new markets, and new technology.

The core building blocks in developing this new market for cryptocurrencies includes accounting, disclosure, incentives, regulation, and responsibility. In the cryptocurrency market, many of these market structures and practices are still nascent. Entrepreneurs and investors are beginning to think about ways to build these market structures, projects like Messari for disclosure, Balanc3 for accounting, and Interchange for portfolio and risk management tools. There is much work to be done, and luckily, there are many projects and teams focused on beginning to lay the foundations for cryptocurrency market infrastructure.

For funds who are curious about disclosure, I recommend reading the token disclosure policy I wrote when I managed the investment portfolio at Digital Currency Group. It’s a good starting point, and I look forward to seeing more funds and investment firms create and publicize these types of disclosure policies and practices.

It will be a process of trial and error, and along the way, I’m certain our perspectives on market structures will evolve as new technologies like decentralized exchanges and order books, privacy coins, and cross-chain atomic swaps challenge and change the way market oversight works.

Evolution is a process that takes time. As we wait for cryptocurrency markets to evolve, I feel it would be prudent to live up to the values that I hold by being transparent about my own financial interests and affiliations.

Sidebar: Athena is the goddess of wisdom, war, and justice. In Eumenides, the last play in the Oresteia trilogy, Athena works with the citizens of Athens and the Furies to create a new justice system, one that is based on wisdom, truth, and rationality instead of revenge through killing your enemies. Neat, right?

Disclosure Update

I will make a reasonable attempt to disclaim my interests in companies or tokens when tweeting, writing, or speaking about them. I commit to beginning every presentation with a disclosure slide.

I’ve created a personal website to aggregate my personal investing, public speaking, writing, and other community efforts in one place. You can see all of my disclosures listed here, including compensation, advisory roles, investments, and material cryptocurrency and token holdings.

You’ll also find a brief memo on “The Potato Fund” — a portfolio of tokens constructed as a bit of a meme and a tongue-in-cheek experiment in January of 2018, and tracked throughout 2018 in a series of tweets.

If anyone is interested in having a longer discussion about ethics and disclosures, please let me know in the comments below. I recognize this is a highly inefficient and imperfect approach, but hope it will add to the chorus of voices asking for a broader conversation about disclosure and ethics as the cryptocurrency asset class continues to grow.