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Justice for OpenSea

·3-min read

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Team! Happy Saturday. It’s Friday afternoon as I write this to you, so I hope you are not at your desk. We’re having fun today, so please read this from the couch.

A well-known Wildeism goes that friends stab you in the front, which is true enough to make the quip worth remembering. It came to mind over the last week or two as I pondered the recent decision by Coinbase to get into the NFT game.

A few facts will help detail why the Wilde reference fits the moment:

  • a16z co-founder ​​Marc Andreessen sits on the board of Coinbase, a company that his firm backed before it went public.

  • a16z led OpenSea’s Series A, a $23 million transaction that gave the NFT marketplace quite a lot of cash and cachet.

  • Coinbase Ventures also invested in OpeanSea, one of a great many investments that the corporate venture capital firm has made.

  • And then Coinbase announced that it was getting into NFTs, driving a huge number of signups for its waitlist.

According to crypto-watching group DappRadar, OpenSea is the biggest NFT marketplace today. Coinbase may swamp it if the users that have signaled interest in its competing solution wind up actually buying and selling NFTs on the well-known crypto-investing platform.

Which would put OpenSea in something of a pickle.

It’s fine for VCs to stay on corporate boards after they go public if they so choose and their portfolio companies retain them. Some VCs make a habit out of public board membership. Marc Andreessen is on Facebook’s board, for example, which notes in its blurb on the man that he previously held board seats at eBay and HP. Cool.

But it gets a little sticky when the investor in question stays on the board of a portfolio company after it goes public and decides to directly take on portcos of that same investor’s firm. Where that investor still works. If I was OpenSea and saw Marc on the Coinbase board at the same time as his venture firm was on my cap table, while Coinbase decided to attack my market, I’d be pissed.

Friends stab you in the front?

Also recall that Facebook’s latest crypto push is in partnership with, you guessed it, Coinbase!

There have been other ironies lately involving Facebook board members. For example, Peter Thiel is on Facebook’s board. And he’s backing J.D. Vance, an aspiring politician. Notably, J.D. Vance is attacking Facebook while running for office. While the OpenSea saga is a bit irksome to watch as big companies working to sink smaller concerns is not really my favorite thing, watching Facebook money circulate back to biting Facebook in the ass is hilarious because no small fries were harmed in the process.

Still, though, you have to wonder if we shouldn’t spread the board seats around a little bit. Else a16z is going to keep finding itself working to undercut the very founders it backs.

Volvo and other IPOs

I meant to find time this week to dig into the Volvo offering, but failed. You can take a look at the company’s notes on itself here. Recall that Volvo has split from Polestar, which is going public via a SPAC.

And as this week came to a close, Braze filed to go public. More on that company and its S-1 first thing on Monday.

More to come, including a look into the high-stakes startup race to build the best corporate gifting platform (no joke),

Alex

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