An Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) alum is launching a new venture firm focused on building a crypto-powered “ownership economy.”
Jesse Walden, who focused on blockchain investments at a16z, announced his Variant Fund in a blog post published Tuesday.
Walden said the new fund is focused on the idea that the people who make platforms and products strong can share in their growth. He wrote:
"Crypto exposed the power of ownership as a tool to drive users to contribute to protocols they use in deeper ways. Now, the opportunity is to follow the pattern, and build more accessible products (and protocols) that bootstrap adoption & participation through better economic alignment with users."
He cites examples like Compound, which is distributing a large portion of its governance tokens to users; Reddit, which is starting to sort out how tokens fit into the Web 2.0 giant’s business model, and other examples.
In an email to CoinDesk, Walden said the fund is backed by a16z’s Chris Dixon and Marc Andreessen, Union Square Ventures and Compound’s Robert Leshner – “mentors I respect and have built relationships with over the years as both an entrepreneur and investor.”
Variant Fund has made investments already, Walden said, but they’ve yet to be announced.
Walden co-founded Mediachain, an a16z-backed blockchain startup that tracked ownership rights of online images and other intellectual property. After the firm was acquired by Spotify in 2017, Walden worked for the music-streaming giant for nine months before decamping to a16z.
“To help build the ownership economy, I’ll partner with entrepreneurs and communities at the earliest possible stages,” Walden wrote.
Longtime political watchers might draw a connection between the “ownership economy” thesis and former President George W. Bush’s “ownership society” messaging.
In 2003, the president bemoaned a past where only a very few held equity in major companies, celebrating a present where it was possible for almost anyone to hold a share.
What President Bush probably didn’t anticipate at that time was a future where people could own a company that exists only on the web and, like Bitcoin, has no one in particular in charge. As Walden described in another blog post from January, Variant appears built to help founders head in that direction.