Andreessen Horowitz sets up crypto research lab to boost Web3 start-ups

22 Apr 2022

Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2015. Image: Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch (CC by 2.0)

A16z noted the success research labs such as DeepMind and OpenAI have had in pioneering modern technology. Now, it’s looking to do the same with crypto.

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, also known as A16z, is launching a new industrial research lab that aims to solve the biggest problems in crypto and Web3.

The firm said A16z Crypto Research is a multidisciplinary lab that will “bridge the worlds of academic theory with industry practice”, working with organisations in the firm’s portfolio to advance “the next generation of the internet”.

“With the advent of Ethereum and other blockchains that are fully programmable, Web3 has unlocked an extremely rich design space for innovation. It’s a space that we’ve only just begun to explore,” A16z general partners Ali Yahya and Chris Dixon said in a blogpost yesterday (21 April).

“Each new entrepreneurial idea for a Web3 application or protocol tends to uncover fresh research challenges that are fundamental to how this technological movement will play out,” they added.

Yahya and Dixon said industrial research labs have played a “critical role” in pioneering modern technology.

“Research labs like DeepMind and OpenAI have elevated the field of AI to new heights,” Yahya tweeted yesterday. “We are setting out to do the same for crypto and Web3.”

The comparisons to other research labs didn’t end there. A16z’s operating partner and head of content and editorial for crypto, Robert Hackett, said “Web3 needs a Bell Labs”.

The VC firm has brought on Prof Tim Roughgarden to lead the lab as head of research. Roughgarden has 20 years’ experience as a professor at Stanford University and Columbia University.

A16z has also promoted Prof Dan Boneh as the lab’s senior research adviser. Boneh has worked with the VC firm for the past four years as a research adviser and has experience as a professor at Stanford University.

Some commentators have compared the formation of A16z Crypto Research to rival VC firm Paradigm. The crypto-focused firm, which launched a $2.5bn fund at the end of last year to back the next generation of crypto companies and protocols, is said to have developed its reputation from the strength of its research team.

At the start of this year, Andreessen Horowitz announced a $9bn fund for new technology companies as part of its ambition to “build the future”. The VC firm said the funding would go towards three established funding schemes, the venture, growth and bio funds.

But the Silicon Valley heavyweight has also been making a push to dominate in the crypto sector specifically, launching a $2.2bn fund last year for investing in crypto networks. Earlier this year, it was reported that the firm plans to raise up to $4.5bn for a new set of cryptocurrency funds to capitalise on the growth of digital assets.

Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2015. Image: Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic