INTRODUCING THE LEDGER
Term Sheet readers may have noticed that my Fortune colleagues and I have become increasingly obsessed with cryptocurrency. My colleagues have decided to formalize that obsession. Today Fortune launches The Ledger, a new vertical focused on cryptocurrency. From the announcement:
As the name suggests, The Ledger will be an authoritative record for blockchain news, but also to chart the people and companies at the leading edge of this remarkable technology. In the coming months, The Ledger will deliver must-read insights for financial professionals, corporate executives, government officials—and everyone with a fashion for technology and investing. Please follow us on Twitter @FortuneLedger and on Facebook at Fortune Ledger.
The Ledger is one place to find all of Fortune’s coverage on those topics, led by three writers that Term Sheet readers know well: Jeff John Roberts, Jen Wieczner and Robert Hackett. The launch coincides the latest cover of Fortune, which includes two fantastic feature stories I’m going to excerpt below.
In the first, “Blockchain Mania!,” Robert Hackett mints his own currency, Petsdotcoin, as a way to explain everything you need to know about crypto, from the ICO craze to the way giant corporations are using the blockchain to track mango shipments:
In case you haven’t been keeping track, digital tokens are a new asset class, powered by cryptocurrency networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum. The sector has attracted maniacal investor interest this year, giving these e-coins absurdly inflated valuations that have inspired endless comparisons to the “dotcom” era. (Hence, petsdotcoin.) At press time, the total market value of all virtual currencies had rocketed past $135 billion, up from just under $20 billion at the beginning of the year.
Hundreds of projects have collectively raised more than a billion dollars through “initial coin offerings” (ICOs). There are now tokens funding every conceivable endeavor: Decentralized cloud storage (FileCoin, Storj). Digital advertising (Basic Attention Token, adToken). A gentlemen’s club in Las Vegas (Legends Room). Marijuana (Potcoin). Satire (PonzICO). There’s even one for dentists (DentaCoin). In a photo recently posted to Instagram, Floyd Mayweather, the boxer, sits on a private jet surrounded by stacks of dollar bills, touting the sale of tokens for a prediction market called Stox—a moment some saw as proof that ICO hype had reached peak zaniness.
The smart money is also playing in this pool. Established venture capital firms like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, and Union Square Ventures are pouring millions of dollars into cryptocurrency hedge funds. The topic is all the rage on Wall Street. But notably, the long-betting investors in this space see today’s numismatic delirium as a distraction. “Right now it’s much easier to get more focused on the short-term ICO money stuff,” says Chris Dixon, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “I think this unfortunately overshadows the more important technology story.” Read the whole thing here.
And in “The 21st Century Bank Robbery,” Jen Wieczner goes deep into the way hackers stole digital currency from Coinbase, the cryptocurrency wallet. Coinbase was supposed to be the safest place to store your digital currency… until it got hacked earlier this year. Wieczner writes:
[Coinbase’s] impenetrability has earned it a reputation as the safest place to buy Bitcoin, helping it attract more than 9 million customers who store at least $3 billion in cryptocurrency there, and who have traded $25 billion to date on its retail brokerage as well as its institutional exchange, GDAX. The five-year-old Coinbase just raised $100 million in new funding, valuing the company at $1.6 billion—making it the blockchain industry’s first “unicorn.” “If you look at what they are world-class at, it’s security, trust, safety … all these things that, frankly, banks are good at,” Fred Wilson, the venture capitalist and one of Coinbase’s earliest and largest backers, said at a conference in March. “They’re like JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs for blockchain.”
But Coinbase’s individual customers do get burglarized—with surprising and unsettling frequency. Even Wilson himself was in for a rude awakening: While vacationing in Europe in early June, the VC woke up to the same telltale emails, signaling that an intruder was trying to get inside his Coinbase account. Wilson managed to lock it down before anything was stolen, but in a rare public chastising of a company in his own portfolio, he wrote in a blog post: “I am still a bit shaken up from the experience and a fair bit more paranoid from it.”
Since then, Fortune has spoken with more than a dozen victims, including tech CEOs and well-known blockchain proponents, whose Coinbase accounts have been targeted and hacked in almost exactly the same fashion; still more have been attacked on other exchanges. …Since Christmas, there have been months when Coinbase users have been robbed as often as 30 times—a rate of one robbery every single day.
In each case, the same blindsiding realization arrives, bringing the inherent paradox of blockchain into focus. The quintessential strength that sets cryptocurrency apart from traditional money—that transactions are instant and irreversible—is also its fatal flaw. “One of [Bitcoin’s] reasons for existence is that it’s censorship-resistant,” says Tom Robinson, cofounder and chief data officer of Elliptic, a London-based blockchain intelligence firm. That means no one, not even a government or central bank, can stop a digital currency transaction from happening. And therefore the fraud protections traditional bank depositors rely on are mostly unavailable. “Any kind of charge-back and reversibility would be the antithesis of what Bitcoin was created to achieve,” says Robinson. That’s one reason that, when criminals want to pull a heist, they’re increasingly choosing cryptocurrency over real dollars. Read the whole thing here.
Find more coverage from The Ledger’s launch in the links section below.
IN OTHER NEWS: Legendary entrepreneur Jim Clark is back with a new startup called CommandScape. If that sounds familiar, it’s because he used the name 12 years ago when building a command center for his boat. Clark made it clear that the new CommandScape, which launches today, is entirely separate from that past project. Based in Delray Beach, CommandScape offers control centers, video surveillance and security for buildings. Clark has personally funded the company to date. I’ll publish a more detailed write-up of our conversation tomorrow.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• 5 ways businesses are already using blockchains.
• Why Delaware made it easier for businesses to blockchains.
• Editor’s letter: Here’s the actual next thing big in tech.
• Druva, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based cloud-first platform for data availability and information governance, raised $80 million in funding, according to TechCrunch. Riverwood Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, and Tenaya Capital. Read more.
• Skytap, a Seattle-based provider of SaaS development environments to enterprise customers, raised $45 million in Series E funding, according to TechCrunch. Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing led the round. Read more.
• Redis Labs, a Mountain View, Calif.-based home of open source Redis and Redis Enterprise, raised $44 million in Series D funding. Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing led the round, and was joined by investors including Bain Capital Ventures, Carmel Ventures, and Dell Technologies Capital.
• Tulip, a Canada-based mobile application platform for retail stores and sales associates, raised $40 million in Series B funding. Kleiner Perkins led the round, and was joined by investors including Jump Capital.
• Stride Health, a San Francisco-based benefits provider for independent workers, raised $23.5 million in Series B funding. F-Prime Capital Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Venrock, New Enterprise Associates, and Portag3 Ventures.
• Entefy Inc, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based communication and digital interaction solutions provider, raised $8 million in Series A funding at a $150 million valuation. The investors were not named.
• Sigstr, an Indianapolis-based cloud platform for employee email personalization, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Hyde Park Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Battery Ventures, HubSpot, Grand Ventures, and High Alpha Capital.
• Home, a Berlin-based startup that offers an app to help landlords manage their properties, raised €3 million ($3.5 million) in seed funding, according to TechCrunch. EQT Ventures and Redalpine led the round. Read more.
• ShoCard, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based blockchain identity management system, raised $4 million in funding. Investors include Morado, AME Cloud Ventures, Storm Ventures, Danhua Capital, Correlation Ventures, Recruit Strategic Partners, and Robert Tinker.
• GoodTime, a San Francisco-based developer of human resources software, raised $2 million in seed funding, according to TechCrunch. Big Basin Capital and Walden Venture Capital led the round. Read more.
• Vervoe, an Australia-based platform that manages the hiring process, raised $1 million in funding from investors including David Shafer, David Lundberg, and Danny Frishman.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Vestar Capital Partners acquired Quest Analytics, an Appleton, Wisc.-based healthcare management software provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• PSC, a portfolio company of Littlejohn & Co. LLC, and Aquilex Holdings LLC, owner of HydroChem, have agreed to merge. PSC will acquire all of Aquilex’s ownership stakes, combining both PSC and HydroChem to form an industrial cleaning and environmental services company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Trilantic North America recapitalized Traeger Grills, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based wood pellet grilling company, with a new majority control shareholder, AEA Investors. AEA will complete the investment in partnership with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Additionally, Trilantic North America and CEO Jeremy Andrus will re-invest alongside AEA, which will become Traeger’s largest shareholder at the close of the transaction. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Callaway Golf Company acquired TravisMathew, a Huntington Beach, Calif. golf apparel retailer and manufacturer, for $125.5 million in cash.
• Fujitsu Ltd (TSE:6702) is looking to sell its mobile operations, according to Reuters. The company is expected to attract offers in the tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars). Read more.
• Spotify, a New York City-based music streaming service, is reportedly under investigation for its plans to list directly on the NYSE, Bloomberg reported. Listing directly would bypass the traditional IPO process. The company plans to list this year or next.
• Krystal Biotech, a Pittsburgh, Penn.-based gene therapy company focused on dermatological diseases, filed for an IPO Monday. The company said it plans to list on the Nasdaq in an offering of up to $34.5 million. In 2016, Krystal posted loss of $1.2 million. The company has yet to post a revenue. The company is backed by biotech investor Krish Krishnan (34.1% pre-offering), Suma Krishnan (34.1%), and Sun Pharma (16.5%). Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.
• Baidu Inc. is selling its takeout delivery business Waimai to Ele.me, a rival backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, according to The Wall Street Journal. As of last year, Waimai, was valued at $2.5 billion. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Read more.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• The Technology Impact Fund is raising $400 million for a new fund, according to an SEC filing. The fund is to be managed by Dipender Saluja and Ion Yadigaroglu, who are both partners at the Capricorn Investment Group.
• Geoff Lewis has left Founders Fund, where he was partner, and is starting a venture fund of his own. Lewis intends to raise more than $100 million for the new fund, according to Bloomberg. Read more.
• Eyas AlDossari joined Goldman Sachs as a head of the investment banking team in Saudi Arabia, according to Bloomberg. Read more.
• Samaresh Singh joined Evercore in Singapore as a managing director for M&A. Previously, Singh was at Standard Chartered.