Olaf Carlson-Wee rode 2017’s “initial coin offering” craze to become one of crypto’s top venture investors. Now he’s raking in hundreds of millions, from a blockchain rage called DeFi, which promotes the fantasy of democratized financial services.
Back when Forbes featured him on its cover, labeling him the poster child for the cryptocurrency bubble of 2017, a speculative frenzy of hundreds of initial coin offerings (ICOs) pushed the cryptocurrency market to well over $100 billion in value as greedy fools bid up junk tokens backed by little more than a white paper and some quirky computer code. Then 27, with three years of Coinbase work experience under his belt, Carlson-Wee was considered a sage. He had started a San Francisco–based hedge fund called Polychain Capital that was backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures and Sequoia Capital, and his fund’s assets had swollen from $4 million in September 2016 to $200 million.
Today, despite recent turbulence that saw bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fall 30% to 50% in a matter of weeks, the market for them is still close to $2 trillion, and Polychain’s assets are $5 billion—up 125,000% since inception. Carlson-Wee just closed a $750 million raise for his third venture fund, led by Tiger Global Management and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, two of the smartest and most successful investment firms on the planet.
Carlson-Wee’s net worth has grown to an estimated $600 million because among crypto investors, he has an uncanny knack for deftly navigating a market chronically infected by hyperbole and assets without any discernible intrinsic value. Among the most profitable of his early investments was a major stake in ether, the token underpinning the Ethereum blockchain—now worth $2,700, but trading for less than $12 back in 2016 when Carlson-Wee’s Polychain went all in.
If the new world of of decentralized finance is a democracy, then Olaf Carlson- Wee is a Tammany Hall boss. With large stakes in the biggest platforms including Compound, Uniswap and MakerDAO, Polychain’s analysts are actively involved in creating their architecture, known as “tokenomics,” as well as designing the incentive mechanisms that attract investors.
Read the full story on Forbes: forbes.com/sites/stevenehrlich/2022/02/08/how-cryptos-original-bubble-boy-rode-ethereum-and-is-now-pulling-the-strings-of-the-defi-boom/?sh=4d5237676ebe
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