USV's Fred Wilson: ICOs Won't Displace VC Investors

USV co-founder Fred Wilson isn't all that concerned about initial coin offerings, or ICOs, disrupting his line of work.

AccessTimeIconJun 1, 2017 at 6:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:24 p.m. UTC
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Venture capitalist and Union Square Ventures co-founder Fred Wilson isn't concerned about initial coin offerings, or ICOs, disrupting his line of work.

In a new blog post, Wilson – whose firm has invested in startups like Coinbase, Blockstack and Mediachain, as well as token hedge fund Polychain Capital – opined in light of the lightning-fast token offering conducted by bitcoin browser startup Brave.

The ICO model – through which startups can access funding by selling tokens via a blockchain network – is a dominant subject in the space today, given rampant speculation in the open markets (though others argue that the model largely fuels fraudulent behavior toward unwitting investors).

In his blog, Wilson opined that some observers see the rising number of ICOs as evidence of "the end of the hated VC era of startup funding". He pushed back on this notion, arguing that, for startups, venture rounds and ICOs can serve equally valuable and distinct purposes.

Indeed, USV itself has several startups in its portfolio that have pursued the model, and according to Wilson, others are set to follow. But he went on to say that "not every company can do an ICO", arguing that they are "about an entirely different business model" rather than a means to raise money.

"The token that you sell in your ICO is the atomic unit of your business model," he wrote. "You are selling some of it to raise capital but the main purpose of the token is to monetize your product or service."

Wilson also argued that, compared with a token holder that might not be around for the long-term, some VCs are there to do just that. And while he acknowledged that, in his view, ICOs represent "a legitimate disruptive threat" to the VC model, "they are not something I am nervous about and they are not something USV is nervous about".

He went on to say:

"We are excited about them when they are the right thing for our portfolio companies and we are encouraging those companies to use this new approach."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which as an ownership stake in Brave, Blockstack and Coinbase.

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