Evan Fisher leaves Insight Ventures to start $30 million crypto fund
Over the last three years as a senior associate at Insight Ventures, Evan Fisher made 15 to 20 investments, cutting checks from as little as $5 million to hundreds of millions of dollars. He backed companies such as Philippines super app Gcash, Indian fintech company CRED and payments gateway Checkout.com.
This experience put Fisher on track to achieve his goal of becoming an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
Yet throughout his time at Insight Ventures, he became super focused on emerging markets, whether that was India or other countries in Southeast Asia. And one type of market in particular that kept cropping up was crypto.
“In 2020, I asked the question to the senior partners: What’s our crypto strategy and there was none at the time,” Fisher said in a recent interview with The Block.
That swiftly changed. Soon, the VC started investing in crypto-focused companies like tax software maker Taxbit, exchange platform FTX and wallet developer ZenGo. Fisher found that crypto deals tended to have more explosive growth and soon found himself focusing all of his time on crypto.
But the fund’s size —some $30 billion — made it harder to operate at the scale and speed that’s right for the rapidly moving industry.
Enter Portal Ventures
On this basis, Fisher put aside his investment banking pursuits and has now left Insight Ventures to start his own crypto fund, dubbed Portal Ventures. Fisher’s goal with the new fund is to get as early stage as possible, cutting small checks between pre-Seed and Series A.
Fisher says he left due to a realization that a fund’s size dictates its strategy.
“By that I mean by being solo I can write a $1 million check that has real skin in the game. Versus if you’re doing this at a much larger scale with a multi-million fund, it’s really hard to go that early,” he explained.
So far, Fisher has soft commitments of $30 million for the fund. He is doing the first close this month and aims to close the whole amount by January.
Right now, the fund is just him, a self-described nomad who’s spent the last year living between Mexico City, Hawaii, London and Latin America. But he says, if it makes sense to add other partners or investors, he will do just that.
When it comes to fund strategy, Fisher is taking an open-minded approach.
“I don’t want to be dogmatic. I don’t want to come out and say it’s an NFT fund or a DeFi fund or a DAO fund. Instead I’m focused on crypto business models and understanding what makes durable businesses in crypto,” he says.
Fisher says his role at Insight Ventures was very hands-on and a key thing he enjoys is helping companies to scale. “The ecosystem is saturated with investors that have incredible knowledge of token economics, of mechanism design, that can help audit your code. What’s missing is the company building.”
When it comes to investing, he’s open to both equity and tokens, a hallmark of many crypto investments. He says that he views tokens and equity as part of the technology in which he’s investing.
Fisher highlights that many traditional venture funds are throwing money at crypto businesses but doing so in the wrong way.
“Right now, you’re seeing a lot of traditional venture funds realize that they’re very underweight crypto. You’ll see a lot of people allocate capital to this because they need exposure to it as an asset class. I think that’s dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. Because you should be investing due to a thesis, not off of some portfolio construction that you need to work toward as an ideal,” he says.
Going out on his own while the market is booming carries one possible concern: that we could enter into a bear market. Fisher says that his strategy will be to back the most durable founders and to focus on projects they should create revenue over the long term, those that should ideally be more resilient to a bear market.
“I’m focused on understanding the aspects of a crypto project that will make it durable and economically generative over the long term. Those are assets that capital should flock to in a bear market and should be a bit more resistant,” he says.
And if there is a bear market, from an investing standpoint, that could create even more opportunity — with greater upside.
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