Chris Dixon, a serial entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, was looking for the next big thing in 2013. Personal computers were available in the 1980s, the Internet was available in the 1990s, and mobile phones were available in the 2000s.
Dixon, a newly minted partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, began pursuing “moonshots” – virtual reality, 3D printing, and drones. Dixon’s career, however, has been defined by an early bet on Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange. In 2013, his firm led a $25 million funding round for Coinbase.
Andreessen Horowitz had amassed a position of nearly 30 million shares (a 15% stake) in Coinbase by the time it went public via a direct listing in April 2021. At the end of Coinbase’s first day of trading, those shares were worth about $10 billion, representing a 60x return. (The company has since sold some of its shares, which are now worth about half that amount.)
Coinbase is just the crown jewel in a portfolio that has vaulted Dixon, 50, to the top of our annual Midas List of technology’s top dealmakers. Other notable Dixon transactions include Uniswap, a decentralized crypto exchange ($10 billion fully diluted valuations, including coins not yet in circulation), Avalanche, an open-source blockchain ($62 billion), and NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs ($7.6 billion).
Cris Dixon, who now divides his time between New York and California, is one of crypto’s elder statesmen – and one of its wealthiest investors. Dixon and team finished 2021 having turned $350 million into realized and unrealized gains of $6 billion, an eye-popping 17.7x multiple, thanks to the success of his debut crypto fund within a16z, as the firm is popularly known (for the number of letters between the “a” in Andreessen and the “z” in Horowitz), a source with knowledge of the fund’s financials says.
Dixon and company are already in the market raising new funds in what is expected to be the largest crypto venture fund ever at $4.5 billion. Andreessen Horowitz declined to comment on its financial performance or fundraising efforts.
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“By any measure, he’s the top crypto investor,” says General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja, No. 23 on the Midas List, who backed Dixon’s first startup nineteen years ago. Dixon’s colleague and firm cofounder Ben Horowitz (Midas No. 87) goes even further: “I think in ten years, everybody will consider him the greatest investor of his generation.”
Dixon plays down his own Midas touch. “It’s not my job to predict the future,” he says. “My job is to be smart enough to know who the smart people who will do it are.”
It’s difficult for the world’s top investors to bemoan the underdog, but Dixon believes that when people dismiss cryptocurrency as “just tech bros getting rich gambling,” the category and its potential are misunderstood.
Dixon plans to spend more time this year in Los Angeles, meeting with entertainment industry tastemakers and creators to evangelize Web3’s potential for more direct ownership over content before bringing musicians and others to Washington, D.C., to help win over policymakers.
Of course, greater acceptance of cryptocurrency would only increase the value of Dixon’s sizable investment portfolio. But he insists that generating Midas-level returns isn’t the only goal.
“I’m not trying to pretend we’re not a venture firm,” Dixon says. “However, I’m motivated because I believe [Web3] is a very important movement, and I want to have an impact on it.” “I have a strong belief in it.”