Cathryn Chen is a veteran in the Web 3 world. After a distinctive career in traditional finance, she founded MarketX, a global VC firm focusing on emerging technologies.
At Benzinga’s Future of Digital Assets conference in November, Chen spoke with Chris O’Brien, partner at Venable LLP, discussing blockchain’s latest transformative impacts.
Reflecting on over a decade in the industry, Chen acknowledged that following its initial success, the sector drew in an excessive number of unscrupulous operators.
“I even left the blockchain world for some time because I just couldn’t handle how many scammers and fraudsters there were. But over time, you definitely develop an eye for who’s actually building the next generation projects versus who’s actually just here for the quick money,” she said.
Turning her attention to international markets, Chen recalled encountering the founder of zKSync.
“When I met him, I was like, this guy, I really can’t put something like, what is he driven by? He’s just really intellectually curious. That’s the type of engineering mind we want to work with,” she said, drawing parallels with Vitalik Buterin, whom she met in 2014.
However, VC opportunities in the Web 3 can be challenging to find. Through her work with hedge funds, Chen sees that some parts of the world are friendlier than others.
“In the Middle East, we’re working with Invesco. But I think in the Middle East, because of UAE, the adoption from an institutional side is just much easier.”
Speaking about the dishonest operators in the space, Chen noted that “it seems they’re finance bros pretending to be tech guys,”
O’Brien sees this as a transition into the next phase of this industry. “I think the beginning ended when the jury came back and convicted Sam [Bankman-Fried] on all counts. I think that’s the end of the beginning of the industry,” he said.
He drew a parallel with Web 1.0, when Google dominated the search engines, while Facebook was new and Amazon was still losing money.
Yet, from personal experience, Chen believes that educating the general population could take some time. For example, she recalled how creating a MetaMask account was difficult for her mother.
“I still see a lot of lack of awareness and understanding. So, I like to use the word edutainment—education plus…