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Less than a week after U.S. regulators made the most aggressive moves yet taken against the digital assets industry, the crypto investment arm of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, a16z crypto, announced it is opening its first overseas office in London. The company said that crypto "can only succeed with a clear regulatory regime that provides an open pathway for startups while also protecting consumers from fraud and manipulation"—and that such regime exists in the United Kingdom.
Although the U.S. and its ongoing "war on crypto" were not expressly mentioned, the move comes exactly one month after a16z crypto issued a "State of Crypto" report on the decline of crypto-related activity in the U.S., in which the company said that "banning new business models or technologies undermines American values and drives innovation and jobs elsewhere."
In its announcement, a16z acknowledged the problems created by the "casino culture" that developed in the crypto space, saying it has "been working with policymakers and regulators across the globe."
"We need regulatory frameworks that facilitate decentralization, not impede it," a16z went on to say. "UK policymakers and regulators are taking an approach that is uniquely tailored to blockchain and digital asset regulation."
Its U.K. expansion will bring the company's first office outside of the U.S., to be located in London and led by Sriram Krishnan, a general partner of the investment arm, who will lead a team "to grow the crypto and startup ecosystem in the UK and Europe."
As part of the announcement, a16z cited recent investments it made in U.K.-based crypto companies, including Gensyn, Arweave, Aztec, and Improbable. The company also announced plans to run its next Crypto Startup School in London next spring, and to work with blockchain clubs at "incredible universities that call the U.K. home."
"I am thrilled world-leading investor Andreessen Horowitz has decided to open their first international office in the UK, which is testament to our world-class universities and talent and our strong competitive business environment," said U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a prepared statement. "While there’s still work to do, I’m determined to unlock opportunities for this technology and turn the U.K. into the world’s Web3 center."
Ultimately, a16z says, "we are in the early innings of crypto," noting that the current buzz over artificial intelligence comes after 80 years of development. Key to growth, the company said, is decentralization.
"The benefits of web3 will only be achieved if the underlying infrastructure is decentralized, but it takes time and a runway for projects to grow from a centralized startup to a truly decentralized network," the firm noted.
While the a16z crypto announcement lavished praise on the United Kingdom, it also offered some assurance to its home country.
"We will remain heavily invested in the U.S.," the company said. "We continue to be committed to working with U.S. policymakers and regulators to push for more regulatory clarity for crypto startups here."