Joshua Slayton on the age of crypto mania


Last May, AngelList, the leading platform for startups that has helped raise investments for giants like Uber, launched a new platform, CoinList, to focus exclusively on funding and bootstrapping the next generation of crypto startups. Its founder and AngelList’s founding CTO, Joshua Slayton is at the forefront of reimagining the future of fundraising for startups.

Having joined AngelList back in 2010 when the idea of raising money online was still stigmatized, he has witnessed both the rapid transformation of investment models in the digital age and the emerging obsession with cryptocurrency first hand. Now, with record-breaking success stories like Filecoin’s $250M ICO under its belt, CoinList is shaking up the trading world.

Leading up to his journey from sunny San Francisco to wintery TechChill 2019 as a speaker, we asked Joshua a couple of key questions about investing in the age of crypto craze:

How did you decide that it is time to branch out of the traditional startup investing models and build a separate platform for token offerings?

In 2016 we started working with Protocol Labs to launch the world’s first compliant ICO for their project Filecoin. This was when there was just a bit of buzz around the crypto space. AngelList had helped thousands of companies raise $800M up to that point. In the summer of 2017, we finally launched the Filecoin ICO, right as crypto mania was heating up. Filecoin ended up raising over $250M in just one sale.

It was clear that the crypto investing industry was about to blow up, and offered opportunities we never had access to at AngelList, so we decided to spin CoinList out and start it as a new company.

What were the main differences between building a marketplace platform in 2010, when AngelList was launched, and in 2017, when you created CoinList?

In 2010 the idea of raising money online was still really new. Although we had some great companies (like Uber) going through AngelList, there was a stigma associated with it that we could never shake. People thought it looked desperate to go online for help with fundraising—all the best startups could raise the traditional way and didn’t need to raise online. Now, not only has that changed, it’s actually cool to raise online, especially via an ICO. So the marketplace is a lot more receptive now than it was eight years ago.

Now, it’s actually cool to raise online, especially via an ICO.

How has your previous role as the CTO of AngelList helped you to navigate the innovative platform that is CoinList?

Well, just having spent seven years at AngelList helped a lot with understanding the challenges startups face when fundraising. I honestly didn’t know anything about startup fundraising when I started at AngelList. Now I can say I’m a little bit more of an expert. Although crypto and ICOs are new paradigms and hold new promises for fundraising, we still have to bridge the gap with the traditional fundraising world, especially with regard to regulation. AngelList has been doing this for eight years, so we have a big head start there.

What kind of future do you see for investing in the age of cryptocurrency?

We are still in the midst of a mania around cryptocurrency, so it’s hard to make predictions about the future. I do think that the market is really hot right now, and will pull back in the next year or two. But that will be good—during that time the low-quality projects will die off, and we’ll see if there was any substance to this new paradigm in fundraising. If just one or two of the ICOs in the past year proves to return value to both its investors and users, then I think we’ll continue to see growing activity in this space. I also think we’ll see fundraising for more traditional assets, like real estate or private equity, happen via tokens in the very near future.

What are the advantages that the Baltics might have in the light of global regulatory uncertainties around ICOs?

Most of the major economies (US, China, Korea, etc.) have been very unfavorable towards cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Some countries have banned ICO activity outright. In a small and innovative country like any of those in the Baltics, you have the chance to experiment with your regulation around this area, and thus attract some of the capital and talent that is being turned away by the heavy-handedness of the bigger economies.

Provide incentives for crypto entrepreneurs to show up, and they will definitely show up.

Interested in learning more about how cryptocurrency is changing the way we invest? Get your early bird pass to TechChill 2019 here. And check out this video of Joshua discussing ICOs from Latitude59 2018. 

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