Union Square Ventures Almost Invested in Bitcoin

btc gartner hype cycle bitcoin Union Square Ventures Almost Invested in BitcoinFred Wilson, internet-famous VC and principal of the well-regarded Union Square Ventures, is long Bitcoin. The investor read the article in December’s issue of Wired (basically, Is Bitcoin Over?) and concluded that Bitcoin hasn’t peaked, despite a streak of bad news and a depressed value–it’s merely moving along the Gartner hype cycle, moving from the “trough of disillusionment” into the “slope of enlightenment.” In other words: a spike of overinflated interest is followed by a drop in traction which is followed by steady, healthy growth. “The hype cycle model rings so true to me because it maps out what has happened with the commercial Internet over the past fifteen years,” Mr. Wilson blogged. “In 2002/2003, so many people thought the Internet was “over” as an investment opportunity. And they were wrong.”

Betabeat was not aware of Mr. Wilson or USV’s interest in Bitcoin–Mr. Wilson says he’s mentioned the ecurrency “a number of times” on the blog, though a search turned up none. But apparently the Flatiron VCs have been interested in Bitcoin for a while, and even considered a “Bitcoin specific investment” earlier this year. (We’d guess that would be a Bitcoin startup, of which there are many, rather than a speculative currency buy.)

“So it seems to me and my colleagues at USV that an alternative currency with roots in peer to peer networks and based on an algorithm that is transparent to everyone is an idea whose time has come,” Mr. Wilson wrote. “The question remains if the Bitcoin algorithm or some other algorithm (possibly a derivative of the Bitcoin algorithm that deals with some of Bitcoin’s weaknesses?) will ultimately win out. That’s an important issue that has a lot to do with when this space becomes investable.”

Investor interest beyond the Goldman IT techs trading on their off time would be a serious indication of Bitcoin’s sustainability. Bitcoin readers: do you know of any tech investors putting money into Bitcoin?


  1. Ken Simpson says:

    If Fred blogs about this, they’re taking a SERIOUS look at an investment in the Bitcoin space. My guess would be something with a big capital investment that moves the needle on making Bitcoin easy to use. Perhaps a multi-platform Bitcoin client with a cloud component for secure wallet storage. That doesn’t exist yet, and would take serious cash to set up. Consider it the “Netscape” model for Bitcoin, wherein the NCSA Mosaic browser was akin to the clunky open source Bitcoin client.

    If Bitcoin does have legs, there will be an enduring long term need to control the client and wallet storage aspects of the technology. For a shorter term punt with quick payback, they might also try investing in more efficient Bitcoin mining technology. That requires belief in the appreciation of Bitcoin as a currency. But that ought to be well correlated with the success of a client company, right?

    1. Anonymous says:

      I just don’t think that the legacy benefits of client control and cloud control play out for bitcoin technology. My belief is that VCs would focus on the supporting service areas like large merchant payment processing to blind the confirmation process and escrow for transactions requiring confirmation and reversibility.