The rise of the crypto accelerators

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The rise of the crypto accelerators

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It’s very believable in a crazy fantastical way. Like CNBC Make It on Facebook! Download the latest Flash player and try again. Disclaimer: I do not provide any legal, taxation or financial advice. This article is based on real-life experiences and is based on my personal opinion. I am not inviting you to invest in ICOs or Token Offerings. Please always do your own due diligence.

The rise of the crypto accelerators

I’ve been active in the digital industry based in Berlin for the past 10 years. Venture Capital firm focused purely on Artificial Intelligence companies. The Idea for a Venture Capital Token Offering In early 2017, I became aware of the small but growing ICO — Initial Coin Offering — trend of ICOs. First I observed the trend, then I started to invest in some ICOs, as well. From the beginning I was fascinated by the concept, that all the information is shared, details on the team are transparent and there are clear terms and a roadmap. For investors, the convenience increased as well. You can invest in promising teams, without flying, travelling or calling.

I write this, because there was a peaceful time before the hype. When startups, working on Blockchain technologies, used ICOs as a mean of funding. Before ICOs became overhyped and greed destroyed the beauty of the idea. At the beginning there were the core believers and innovators. Enthusiasts with a mission and technical expertise.

In the meantime, after having invested in the first AI companies and supporting them for more than a year, we learned that AI investment take significant more capital and patience. True AI companies are research heavy. There is a lot of data gathering, cleaning of unstructured data, applying frameworks and training models. AI is not easy to execute but takes time and many trials. We already had a strong deal flow of 600 AIs companies per year and a database of 7,500 potential investments. Therefore we thought it was time to raise a second Asgard fund.

This time not only with our own capital, but open to external investors too. Having this in mind, I kept working on our portfolio until August 2017. Then, at an AI conference, I connected with someone via twitter, who asked me what I think about ICOs for Venture Capital. We met and discussed the idea for the following days.

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On this day, I realized that we are onto something. The core idea was born, even it is different than what we have today. Our motivation and logic behind it First, you should understand how fundraising for Venture Capital firms normally works. It is quite different than typical fundraising for startups — and way more difficult. In the most digital ecosystems, it is easy to receive funding for your idea and seed phase.

There is an abundance of governmental programs, scholarships, incubators, accelerators, business angels, crowdfunding, early stage VCs, corporate VCs and strategic partners. Nothing like this exists for Venture Capital firms. Those are often financial companies like pension funds, insurance firms and banks. There are also professional investors like fund-of-funds, wealthy individuals, family offices and sovereignty funds. These LPs have a few things in common: They are usually risk-averse average white American males who work in the financial industry, don’t have a linkedin profile, and aren’t digital natives. Sure, there are newer and more open LPs out there, however raising funds for a VC is like having a startup in the mid 2000s.

The funding market is small and closed. And there is no competition amongst LPs. Furthermore, we faced two more challenges. On the one hand, we are a first-time fund and LPs don’t like newcomers. It is like you only get funding for your startup, once you already have sold one before. There’s little chance to receive funding if you had never received capital before.

On the other hand we invest in Artificial Intelligence. So those challenges make fundraising amongst standard LPs even more difficulter than usual. Additionally, you should know that fundraising takes up to 2 years before you see any money. That means you have to pre-finance the salaries of your team, legal work and expenses.

Starting a VC firm can costs easily up to 1. After meeting several potential LPs over the year, I got the feeling that the market is years behind in terms of trends and technology. At least I wanted to figure it out if it could work. Having access to a global investor base.

Allowing LPs and new investors into the fund from everywhere. Allowing many to have a share of our portfolio companies that, we feel, will change everyone’s life. A seamless, transparent and quick investment process. No paperwork, fewer lawyers, and less contract work. If you want to become and investor, it should be possible within 24 hours.

Reduction of administration and legal costs. Standardizing Venture Capital fundraising and forwarding this advantage to investors for saving time and costs. There is no proof of concept. In the summer of 2017, no one had tried to securitize Venture Capital in a legal framework.

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There are no service companies that have any experience with the concept. There is no best-practice and we could not learn from others. The regulation is unclear and we did not know if we were even allowed to do it. The concept After making the decision in September 2017 to raise our next fund we started to work on the concept.

Support with fundraising, sales and marketing. Legal advice how to set up a structure and comply with regulation. A roadmap, a plan, budget and a larger team. As usual I started to talk with people. Nevertheless, many were optimistic and believe that it might work. The Regulation The next step was to figure out the state of regulation.

I asked myself and my network: if this is legal, why has nobody done it before? Today I know, that most VCs are not entrepreneurs. And it’s entrepreneurs  who take risks, go for unknown markets and build new products against all odds. They already knew my work as a VC and we had a great kick of meeting.

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Together we started to discuss the concept and soon it become clear: yes, that all is legal. We stopped calling it an ICO and understood that we were working on a Token Sale. And this Token Sale would be possible in Germany, however under many conditions. The supervising authorities have been positively open and willing to learn. We also had to accept that only semi-professional and professional investors with a minimum investment of 200,000 EUR can invest. We also had to fulfill all obligations of GWG, KAGB, including a highly complex and detailed KYC, AML plus FATCA and OECD CRS.

I tell you, that there is a lot of regulations and not an easy task. We, the people, love crypto currencies because the government does everything possible to stay in control of the global financial flow. We at least did not need a permit or anything formal. The German law allows tokenized Venture Capital. You just have to find the right law and apply it. At this moment, it became clear to us that we could execute our plan.

And with every plan, there comes more hurdles, legal constraints and setbacks. That is the usual entrepreneurial journey. Building a team We could not do it alone. Our existing Asgard team specialized on AI investments. It had no experiences with Tokens, regulations and platform development. The guy I had talked with during the conference wanted to help.

However he pulled out of the deal. He didn’t believe he could do it. Again I asked my network and got introduced to many people. It was autumn 2017 and the ICO industry was exploding. Everyone was new in the business. Very few Germans had been involved in token raising before. For legal advice the waiting list in Switzerland was 6 months.

I mean, that was the wild west. All those gamers, gamblers, SEO agencies and day traders moved into the crypto market. They were in earlier before the professional players started to take over the game. For our team, that meant I had to do the project management myself. On the legal side, I had an amazing law company that was supportive but also had no previous experience with Tokens. Google helped me to find a Blockchain development company in Berlin.

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They asked for double that price that is usually charged for web development, but at least had free capacity to work with us. Carly is the best addition to our team and a huge driver for this company. With her background as lawyer, being an American optimist, her entrepreneurial energy and work experiences in wealth management, she is the perfect fit for Asgard. Overall I can say, that 3 people work full-time for the Token Sale for a year and over 20 partners, freelancers and service providers are involved as well. Budget Sharing financial numbers is always tricky. Let me try to be honest. Whitepaper or Fund Concept and more.

If you have started a company, you know that bootstrapping is not easy. I am in the comfortable position because I have sold shares of prior investments before. However there is no way to start a Venture Capital firm, without having experience, network and capital already at hand. Timing and communication September 2017 I started with the idea. October and November I spent on team building. December 2017 I wanted to go live.

Later we went fully live 01. We had a soft launch a few weeks before to test the system, however there were delays from my original plan. Although we work with highly professional lawyers, it takes months to draft contracts. Especially because no European VC fund has been tokenized before, you have to find legal solutions for situations that have never been solved before. Our investment contract is based on standard VC market terms, and, at the same time, extremely customized for the dynamics of a Token Sale. Second, building the investment platform, itself, was not as straightforward as I thought.

Digitalizing the fundraising process was a challenge. Normally you receive 70 pages of complex, lawyers-English, legal paperwork, just as a subscription form. That means the 70 pages to collect your personal information and process it. That is not even the final contract, but only the step before it. Therefore, our goal was to reduce those 70 pages to a 20 question digital form, so that instead of reading and asking your lawyers what those 70 pages mean, we wanted to make it easy, quick and understandable.

We aimed to collect the same information within 10 minutes instead of weeks. We spent weeks just optimizing the user experiences. We hired external white hat hackers for penetration tests. We had to solve new security concepts for collecting data, storing it, working with it and verifying identities, as well as digital transactions. As a side effect our communication was low.

You can’t work on PR and brand building, if you are trying to build digital fundraising process. Either you work, or you talk. Nevertheless we started to meet with potential investors beginning in January 2018. Even though we were not ready to onboard them, we asked them for feedback.

Speaking with investors, collecting their questions and demands. It was flowing directly into our story, documents, concept and technology. Over the time we changed and started to avoid anything connected with ICOs. As I mentioned, the ICO market had turned bad and was now full of companies that either were not able to raise normal rounds, or were trying to exploit amateurs investors. Neither scam nor fraud is something we support or accept. It is sad that the ICO market did not find a quick solution to provide more investor protection and security.

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Over time, we also learned that we were working on something, which is called a security token. You can name it a private security token offering for Venture Capital. That is what we are doing. Our security token is asset backed with existing and future portfolio companies.

In order to be acknowledged by traditional investors as the successful, serious firm we indeed are, we had to put much distance between us and the flashy ICO crowd. It took much patience and a willingness to educate in order to launch our new VC token concept. Which, in just the last few months, has become a commonly-discussed idea that blockchain industry experts all over the world want to see come to fruition. Eventually, we found acceptance by both the ICO crowd and traditional investors, bringing both together to invest in solid AI companies. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all about. Asgard invests in Europe’s most promising Artificial Intelligence startups. Don’t let the token distract you, we eat, sleep and breathe AI.

We’re using a VC token and launching a digital platform for VC because this advanced technology is available and we’re tech-forward thinkers. That being said, security is of the utmost importance. We consistently walk the line to make our process easy to understand while still compliant, legally sound and secure. Our middle ground is that we’ve created a safe, compliant, easy investment process you can click through. We offer an understandable fund strategy, not a whitepaper full of marketing nonsense but not an eye-crossing private placement memorandum either.

Our contracts, while readable, have standard VCs terms and execute perfectly. What I learned until today and I like to share There is no incentive of any government out there to provide easier access to hard-to-get-in asset classes like Venture Capital, Private Equity or Hedge Funds. Everyone can invest in Startups and ICOs, but only the wealthy ones are allowed to become even wealthier through fund investments. I mean, having a stake in a VC firm is risky, but less risky than buying shares of a random ICO out there. I mean, who of you had the opportunity to invest in Amazon, Facebook, Google or Delivery Hero before they went public? Furthermore our Token is not a unique selling argument. It rather creates questions, since few have any experiences with Tokens at all.

If investors don’t know it, they don’t do it. Nevertheless we feel confident, that your digital investment process will have a long term impact on the industry. Others will follow us and move the innovation needle further ahead. For me, so far it was an exhausting time but also brought me plenty of joy. It is great to work on something new and I don’t mind the risk. I am also thankful for my supportive wife, who seldom sees me and has to live with me being under contestant pressure. Wie ist die deutsche Digitalindustrie entstanden?

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