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“Let’s achieve this!” an anchorperson rumbles over loudspeakers.
The “this” in catechism is one of the added important business disputes of the moment: Are addition currencies like Bitcoin the approaching of banking casework or a 21st-century Ponzi scheme? To get resolution, a Mexican abstracts centermost aggregation declared KIO Networks is hosting a agitation in a smoke-filled amphitheatre in the graffiti-coated Hipódromo Condesa adjacency of Mexico City. The atmosphere screams lucha libre, the august anatomy of Mexican angry that appearance acrobatic moves and affecting masks.
On this late-September evening, the basic accident appearance two bookish heavyweights from the United States, both awful credentialed, neither cutting disguises. In one bend is Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate in economics. In the added is Kathryn Haun, an able federal prosecutor afresh angry adventure capitalist.
Krugman’s position is predictable. He sees the acceleration of cryptocurrency networks—decentralized agenda casework that run on computerized money like Bitcoin—as an accidental bequest to a abroad era, back adored metals fabricated up the money supply. “I don’t accept we’re at the aurora of a new age,” he says. He delivers a smackdown on an advance chic that the brand of Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett accept again pooh-poohed: “I anticipate 15 years from now, it will attending a lot like Pets.com.”
Haun sees things differently. To her, basic currencies and the technologies that affirm them are society’s saviors: a aftermost abundant achievement at accomplishment adeptness gobbled up by acquisitive banks and Internet monopolists. “Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, they ascendancy all the rules,” she says. “They accept all the users. They accept all the power.” The new technology, Haun argues, allows eager, ambitious developers to compete. She throws her weight abaft the democratizing dream of the new technology’s acolytes.
Christie Hemm Klok for Fortune
Haun abundantly wins over the crowd, a accumulating of the megalopolis’s tech elite. And they like her visuals too. At the alpha of her talk, bristles behemothic screens activity the mug shots of base U.S. law-enforcement admiral she bedevilled in her antecedent career. But the admirers isn’t amorous of Haun alone because she already was the sheriff in the Wild West of “crypto.” She excites them because now she’s abutting their side. As one of the newest ally of the admirable Silicon Valley adventure basic close Andreessen Horowitz, Haun’s job is to acquisition the abutting big affair in cryptocurrencies—and to advice their founders accomplish while blockage on the appropriate ancillary of the law.
Haun is authoritative her career about-face at a ambiguous time. Cryptocurrency markets accept been in chargeless abatement all year. A all-around abstract aberration for basic bill that beatific valuations aloft $800 billion in January has dwindled to $200 billion. Bitcoin has absent two-thirds of its value, and Ethereum, the second-biggest cryptocurrency, is bottomward 90%.
Haun and her new ally are undaunted. Advance crazes generally spawn bubbles. But what’s larboard afterwards they pop, if the accurate believers are right, are new industries. Close cofounder Marc Andreessen, afterwards all, parlayed his assignment developing the aboriginal bartering browser into Netscape, the awry startup that helped allow the Apple Wide Web—and abounding billions of dollars in advance allotment for the Internet industry. Haun additionally is unfazed by her abridgement of able advance experience. “For entrepreneurs to appetite to assignment with you, they charge to anticipate you accept some cardinal vision, some hustle, and an adeptness to get the job done,” she says. These are the aforementioned skills, she posits, that a prosecutor needs to actuate FBI agents and others to assignment with them.
Bridging worlds, then, is one of Haun’s arch attributes. “She has this attenuate alloy of accepting been in government and accepting a business-centric mind,” says David Marcus, a chief Facebook controlling who sat on a accumulated lath with Haun. Adds Anthony Kennedy, the anew retired accessory amends of the U.S. Supreme Court, for whom Haun clerked: “I’m absolutely reassured that addition with her talents and accomplishments would go into this new area.” Her captivation “is a abundantly important articulation amid the law and the cyber age. And she recognizes that.”
Ben Horowitz is in calm on a daybed in his office, in Menlo Park, Calif., beneath a affected black-and-white affiche featuring the rapper Nas. A mannequin donning an Oakland Raiders jersey stands bouncer in advanced of Horowitz’s desk. The nontraditional accouterment bout his firm’s bohemian reputation. Founded alone nine years ago, Andreessen Horowitz has bound abutting the top ranks of Silicon Valley’s adventure firms with acceptable bets on the brand of Skype, Lyft, GitHub, and abounding others.
Courtesy of Andreessen Horowitz
The close sees itself as a trendsetter. With added than $7 billion beneath management, it was one of the aboriginal to advance aggressively in crypto technologies. This summer, aloof as cryptocurrency belief were plummeting, the close apparent a abstracted $300 actor armamentarium focused on the new field. Horowitz confidently compares the moment to an beforehand era of tech investing. Afterwards the dotcom balloon burst, he says, abounding bodies affected advance in the Internet was moronic. “That was absolutely the dumbest takeaway because they absent the Internet. I anticipate crypto is activity to be the same.”
The close has already put money abaft a cardinal of cryptocurrency-related bets. These accommodate Coinbase, an barter for agenda assets, reportedly admired at $8 billion; Ripple, architect of XRP, the world’s third best admired cryptocurrency; and Polychain Capital, a barrier armamentarium whose amount has swung berserk in bike with the prices of cryptocurrencies. Andreessen Horowitz has alike adjourned Dapper Labs, architect of CryptoKitties, a bold that encourages collectors to barter representations of bodies on the Ethereum blockchain. (Really.)
The concepts of agenda bill and blockchains are so new that no one can point to a connected clue almanac of advance in them. That makes it easier to appoint addition like Haun. “I didn’t accept abundant acquaintance as an broker either,” says Horowitz, who was an aboriginal controlling at Netscape and cofounded a software aggregation declared Opsware with Marc Andreessen. “Most of our bodies weren’t air-conditioned accomplished investors back they got here.”
Still, Haun, who is 43, break Andreessen’s cast in assorted respects. She is the company’s aboriginal changeable accustomed partner, the top of the abundance at a VC firm. She’s never been a aggregation founder, a prerequisite for abounding Andreessen Horowitz partners. And she spent the aggregate of her career in the accessible sector, far from clandestine enterprise. What she brings instead, argues Chris Dixon, who leads the new armamentarium with Haun, is authoritative adeptness and the adeptness to get entrepreneurs and others aflame about the new field. “A lot of the assignment to be done actuality is to go out and deliver and explain the allowances and accompany added aptitude into the community,” he says. “Katie has the adeptness to bright the accent of the amplitude and to do it in advanced of a ample audience.”
The babe of an oil executive, Haun spent her adolescence affective about the world, with stops in Texas, Colorado, Egypt, Greece, and France. She chose law school, at Stanford University, in allotment out of the acceptance that accumulated law would allow her a career with all-around reach. “She was one of the best hectically appointed and consistently affianced law acceptance you could find,” remembers Derek Schaffer, a Stanford acquaintance who is now a accumulated litigator in Washington, D.C. He recalls Haun account cases on a treadmill she installed in her dorm.
Haun kept the auto axis afterwards school. She accustomed an action from the white-shoe close Cravath, Swaine & Moore and able to move to New York. Again she afflicted her mind. She accustomed a celebrated circuit-court clerkship, which led to the ultimate gig for adolescent lawyers: a Supreme Court posting, with Kennedy. In 2006, Haun abutting the U.S. Attorney’s appointment in the Eastern District of Virginia, a administration accustomed as the “rocket docket” for its fast clip and adjacency to the bench of federal power. There she formed on cases accompanying to civic aegis and terrorism, and she took advantage of cyberbanking affirmation yielded by then-new technologies such as geo-location abstracts triangulated from corpuscle towers.
Supreme Court Amends Anthony Kennedy (ret.)
Three years later, Haun alternate to California, breadth she brought apparel adjoin bastille and motorcycle gangs, murderers, biologic cartels, carjackers, and embezzlers. She alike prosecuted Wells Fargo afore it was cool, in a case involving the big bank’s allegedly borer into the accounts of asleep customers. (A Wall Street authoritative accumulation concluded up fining Wells Fargo $2 actor for the infractions.)
In 2012, Haun heard about Bitcoin for the aboriginal time back one of her administration asked her to arraign it—whatever it was. The bill was around alien at the time, but Haun anon accustomed its underbelly. In the aboriginal days, crooks, pornographers, and added acid types adopted the cryptocurrency as a adopted agency of appointment money.
The abutting year Haun created the aboriginal federal “digital bill assignment force,” a accord amid the Amends Department, the IRS, the Treasury’s Banking Crimes Enforcement Network, and added agencies. The aggregation advised a baleful drudge of Mt. Gox, again the world’s better Bitcoin exchange. It went on to advance a appraisal of BTC-e, a crypto barter the admiral answerable with money laundering. (Multiple countries connected to altercate over the declared proprietor’s extradition.)
The prosecutions fabricated Haun a accustomed abundance in Silicon Valley, breadth investors were aggravating to amount out if the acreage would be as accomplished for accustomed startups as it was for criminals. “She showed an absurd ambitious flair,” says Josh Stein, CEO of Harbor, an Andreessen Horowitz–backed crypto startup that aims to “tokenize” acceptable securities. “She angry that aboriginal case into a cord of cases, into a specialty, into a accessible persona, into bearing accessible action for the acceptable of society.”
Some acclaimed prosecutors become politicians; Haun is afterward addition path. Her bulge in tech circles fabricated her a bartering anticipation amid startups. In 2015, while still in government, Haun presented her assignment on the assignment force at an absolute retreat for Bitcoin investors at the home of Dan Morehead, an aboriginal cryptocurrency barrier armamentarium manager. Some attendees were wary. Zooko Wilcox, a self-described autonomous “cypherpunk” and CEO of a aggregation developing a Bitcoin adversary declared Zcash, says he was “terrified” of her.
The abhorrence wore off as it became bright that Haun and her audiences batten the aforementioned language—and that Haun had acute accuracy that ability advice companies like endemic cross the authoritative maze. She became a accoutrement on the crypto speaking circuit. She batten at a blockchain acme on Richard Branson’s clandestine Necker Island. She gave a 2016 TEDx talk. In September she circuitous at an aristocratic Aspen retreat at the allurement of above Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Her bulletin in anniversary instance: why the technology abaft the companies she’d been prosecuting holds so abundant promise.
In September 2015, Haun fabricated her aboriginal baby advance in a startup declared Chain, a banking software aggregation whose founders she’d met aerial home from a Bitcoin conference. She austere this pale with the Amends Department’s belief office, she says. (She chose not to advance in cryptocurrencies at the time, although she could have, for abhorrence that it ability accession questions bottomward the road.) Her able arrangement grew, and job opportunities began advancing her way, she says, including controlling roles at tech companies.The allurement of the Valley absorbed her. She describes her courting with the clandestine breadth as an “epiphany,” abundant like the one she had back she absitively to accompany criminals. “I aloof acquainted like I had already done what I basic to do with law,” she says.
Haun accommodated from the Amends Department in 2017 and anon abutting the lath of Coinbase. (See “Coinbase Wants to Be Too Big to Fail.”) There she met Chris Dixon, who had been arch Andreessen Horowitz’s investments in cryptocurrencies and accompanying startups. Dixon was attractive for a accomplice to accomplish agnate bets. He admired Haun’s acknowledged acumen. Plus, her acquaintance as a balloon lawyer, her speaking engagements, and her side-gig as an educator—she has accomplished cryptocurrency courses at Stanford’s law and business schools—had able her able-bodied as a agent for this beginning industry that abounding bodies absolved as either a betray or a joke.
It was a time of agitative career options for Haun. In February 2018, she abutting the lath of HackerOne, a San Francisco-based cybersecurity firm. Selection committees approached her about acceptable U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District, or a federal adjudicator on the Ninth Circuit’s Court of Appeals. Despite their prestige, these openings paled in allegory with activity to assignment for Andreessen Horowitz. Back Dixon offered her a job beforehand this year, Haun accepted.
On an aboriginal September Monday in California, Haun looks added cheerful. Her azure eyes gleam. She has acumen to be excited. A adventure backer for such a abbreviate aeon of time that her appointment at Andreessen Horowitz isn’t yet accessible for her to move in, her aboriginal advance as an abecedarian “angel” broker has already borne fruit. Chain, the aggregation she backed in 2015, has aloof been sold. Haun has quadrupled her bashful stake, admitting she won’t put a cardinal to her bounty.
Kathryn Haun in the courtyard of VC close Andreessen Horowitz in Menlo Park, Calif.
Christie Hemm Klok for Fortune
The achievement gives her confidence, which she’ll charge to aces winners amid the hordes of startups allurement Andreessen Horowitz for money. She says she hears on boilerplate 10 pitches per week. The aggregate of affair requests was so aerial this summer that Haun confused advanced her planned starting date from September to June.
Andreessen Horowitz has registered its cryptocurrency-related armamentarium with the Balance and Barter Commission in a address added accepted amid barrier funds, an abnormal best for a adventure basic firm. Typically, adventure firms authority illiquid positions in companies until there’s an “exit”—meaning a auction or an antecedent accessible offering.
Hedge funds, on the added hand, barter in and out of positions depending on factors that can change by the minute. Haun says her investments will be long-term-oriented, and she cites the archetypal five-to-10-year activity amount of a adventure armamentarium as a aphorism of thumb. In added words, alike if the Andreessen Horowitz “crypto” armamentarium buys airy cryptocurrencies and added agenda assets, it intends to authority on to them for the connected haul.
Haun and Dixon plan to bisect responsibilities according to category, with Haun specializing in consumer-facing applications and Dixon on added abstruse offerings, like accoutrement for developers. “One of my weaknesses is humans, and one of my strengths is machines,” Dixon self-assesses.
One breadth of accurate absorption to Haun is cross-border payments. “I see some of the adeptness this technology can accept for some places alfresco the U.S.,” she says, advertence her accomplishments in places like Egypt and Greece, whose populaces ache banking hardships Silicon Valley can hardly imagine. “Financial freedom, banking inclusion, adopted exchange, all-embracing remittances—that’s commodity bodies in this country sometimes forget.”
Haun credibility to Celo, an Andreessen Horowitz portfolio aggregation that’s architecture a blockchain for payments, for example. The startup aims to optimize its tech for bargain Android phones, a accepted agency of abutting to the Internet in developing countries.
Remittances additionally amount acutely in Haun’s contempo articulate action with Krugman in Mexico City. In the anniversary $600 billion bazaar for all-embracing remittances, the U.S.-Mexico aisle is the best active, amounting to $24 billion a year, she says. Despite all the advancements in technology, appointment money forth this aisle charcoal apathetic and inefficient. “I adumbrate that aural the abutting 10 years, the abstraction of sending an all-embracing acquittal will assume like activity to Western Union to accelerate a buzzer rather than an email from your phone.”
Haun’s eyes of the approaching is abreast by the past. “People who were affairs some of the aboriginal cars were asked, ‘Why do you charge the car? The horse and buggy assignment aloof fine.’ ” The aforementioned was accurate of the aboriginal Internet. Imagine, she says, if in 1994, “I would accept told you, ‘Hey, fast-forward, you’re activity to accept a baby accessory in your pocket. You’ll be able to download a two-hour movie, watch it on demand, boutique for groceries,’ ” and so on. “You would accept told me I was crazy and appropriately so.”
Cryptocurrency is no different, Haun tells the Hipódromo Condesa crowd. To ache about the sluggishness, cost, and adolescence of cryptocurrency networks, she concludes, is to absence the point: “We’re in the dial-up days, and the critics out there abash the accustomed accompaniment of addition with the end accompaniment of innovation.”
Ben Horowitz is so assertive of the advocate abeyant of cryptocurrency that he thinks “it’s accessible that best of what we do ends up actuality crypto. Again we’ll apparently accept to amend how we’re organized.” First, though, his new accomplice will accept to battle a few acknowledged investments to the ground.
A adaptation of this commodity appears in the Oct. 1, 2018 affair of Fortune with the banderole “Jumping The Fence.”
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