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Why Crypto VCs are Betting Big on India

By Superteam

Published on 2021-12-08

Discover why top crypto investors are eyeing India's tech talent and young demographics as the next big opportunity in blockchain and Web3.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!

Why Crypto VCs are Betting Big on India

In a recent episode of the Superteam podcast, Matthew Graham, Managing Partner of Sino Global Capital, shared his insights on investing in the crypto space and why he's bullish on India's potential in the blockchain and Web3 ecosystem. As an early investor in both FTX and Solana, Graham's perspective offers valuable insights into the future of crypto and emerging markets.

Matthew Graham's Investing Philosophy

Graham's approach to investing in the crypto space is characterized by a long-term perspective and a focus on projects with strong fundamentals. He emphasizes the importance of developing conviction and having the courage to act on it. This strategy has led to successful early investments in projects like FTX and Solana.

"I fundamentally view myself as long-term greedy," Graham explains. "I have a very long time horizon, despite the fact that I'm super impatient most of the day. In terms of getting shit done, I'm playing a really long game here."

The FTX and Solana Success Stories

Graham's investments in FTX and Solana serve as prime examples of his investment philosophy in action. In both cases, he recognized the potential of these projects early on and took decisive action to invest.

Discovering Solana

The journey to investing in Solana began with Graham's involvement in Serum, a decentralized exchange built on Solana. Recognizing the potential of the underlying blockchain, Graham and his team spent a month diving deep into Solana's technology.

"We brought in some expert outside consults and we really got into it," Graham recalls. "And it was readily apparent that this was something that was so cleanly differentiated and taking such a unique approach that it was a bet that was asymmetric and had the real potential to go off in the way ultimately that it did."

The FTX Investment

Graham's investment in FTX came about through a combination of serendipity and thorough due diligence. After hearing about the project from a friend, Graham flew to Hong Kong to meet with Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX.

"I cold called Sam and said, 'Sam, what's up? Man's Matt, I'm trying to Hong Kong. I want to meet you,'" Graham recounts. "And I flew from mainland to Hong Kong. And you know, at that point, they had like three people, you know, and there was like 10 computers per person, which is the way a hedge fund or prop shop trading floor should look like kind of."

The Importance of Team and Vision

Graham emphasizes the significance of backing exceptional teams with clear visions. In both the FTX and Solana cases, he was impressed by the caliber of the teams and their ability to execute on ambitious plans.

"You talk to Sam for 15 minutes, and you're like, well, obviously he's a fucking genius," Graham says of his initial meeting with Sam Bankman-Fried. This emphasis on team quality and vision continues to drive Graham's investment decisions.

Sino Global's Investment Approach

Sino Global Capital takes a unique approach to investing in the crypto space, combining top-down theses with bottom-up analysis of individual projects and teams.

Top-Down Theses

Graham shared two examples of top-down theses that inform Sino Global's investment strategy:

  1. Financial markets inevitably become more complex and abstracted over time.
  2. Human nature remains constant, manifesting in new contexts like the metaverse.

Bottom-Up Analysis

While these theses provide a framework, Graham stresses the importance of evaluating individual projects and teams. "We're actually mostly bottom up," he explains. "We start with baller teams from all around the world that have cleanly differentiated visions and things like that."

The Indian Opportunity

A significant portion of the podcast focused on Graham's bullish stance on India's potential in the crypto and Web3 space. Several factors contribute to his enthusiasm for the Indian market:

World-Class Technical Talent

Graham highlights the exceptional quality of Indian engineering talent, particularly graduates from institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). "IIT graduates can go toe to toe with graduates of any technical university in the entire world, including even MIT," he asserts.

Favorable Demographics

India's young population is a key factor in Graham's bullish outlook. With a median age of 28, India has one of the youngest populations in the world, presenting a significant opportunity for crypto and Web3 adoption.

"When I first read the percentage of people in India that are between the age of 24 and 29, it blew my mind," Graham says. "So in fact, I was like, I immediately double-checked it. I was like, that can't be right. But of course, it was."

Underdeveloped VC Ecosystem

Graham sees the relatively underdeveloped venture capital ecosystem in India as an opportunity for Sino Global Capital to add value. He compares the situation to Europe, where he has found success investing in projects from cities like Berlin and Lisbon.

"India is more analogous to Europe than China or the United States in terms of the VC infrastructure being a little underdeveloped," Graham explains. "So just like very openly, I'm super transparent. That's an opportunity for me to add value."

Sino Global's Plans for India

Graham revealed that Sino Global Capital is making significant moves to establish a presence in the Indian market:

  1. Hiring: The firm is planning to make its first two hires in India within the next week.
  2. Investments: Sino Global has already made its first investment in India (though details were not disclosed at the time of the podcast).
  3. Long-term commitment: Graham aims to be as well-known for the India market as for the China market within a year.

"A year from now, I want to be as well known for the India market as the China market," Graham states. "And now I want people to say, 'Oh yeah, we definitely need Sino on our cap table, because they're going to be able to help us in India and China and those markets are really fucking important.'"

Advice for Crypto Investors

Graham shared some advice for both retail and professional investors in the crypto space:

Focus on Long-Term Horizons

Rather than attempting to time the market, Graham advises investors to focus on longer time horizons. "I don't really believe in market timing," he says. "I think there's a very, very, very small number of people that can do that well and it rounds to zero."

Be Cautious with Leverage

For those with smaller amounts to invest, Graham warns against using excessive leverage. "100x leverage is fucking nuts. Nobody should ever do 100x leverage," he cautions. Instead, he suggests using less leverage than one might initially consider.

Consider Broad-Based Exposure

For investors with limited capital, Graham recommends considering broad-based exposure to the crypto market. "Most people have a thousand or 10,000 bucks. They really should maybe like buy a DeFi index or some kind of get some kind of broad-based exposure to crypto or stay with, you know, top 10 or 20 coins," he advises.

The Future of Crypto and Web3

Graham's insights and investment strategies paint a picture of a rapidly evolving crypto and Web3 landscape, with significant opportunities in emerging markets like India. His emphasis on long-term thinking, team quality, and thorough research serves as a valuable guide for both investors and entrepreneurs in the space.

As the crypto industry continues to mature, the focus on building sustainable, long-term value becomes increasingly important. Graham's success with investments like FTX and Solana demonstrates the potential rewards of this approach.

Sino Global's New Fund

During the podcast, Graham announced the launch of Sino Global's first institutional fund, with FTX as a co-GP and significant LP. This new fund, with a couple hundred million dollars under management, allows Sino Global to:

  1. Maintain long-term positions in successful token projects like Solana
  2. Deepen its relationship with FTX
  3. Bring in other high-quality LPs from around the world

"We now have our first institutional fund, a couple hundred million bucks with FTX as co-GP and a very significant LP," Graham reveals. This move positions Sino Global to make even more significant investments in promising crypto projects, particularly in emerging markets like India.

The Importance of Understanding Local Markets

Graham emphasizes the importance of respecting and understanding local markets when investing internationally. His efforts to learn about Indian culture, including purchasing a cricket jersey and familiarizing himself with the sport, demonstrate this commitment.

"I'm a huge believer in respecting the local market," Graham says. "I don't believe that you can do a local market in a serious way unless you take the time to understand history and language and culture and things like that."

Challenges and Opportunities in the Indian Market

While Graham is overwhelmingly positive about India's potential in the crypto space, he acknowledges that there have been challenges, particularly on the regulatory front. However, he notes that the situation appears to be improving.

"The blooming risk factor has been regulatory stuff, basically right? But that seems to be trending positive or at least neutral in recent months," Graham observes. This improving regulatory environment, combined with India's technical talent and favorable demographics, creates a compelling opportunity for crypto investors and entrepreneurs.

The Role of Social Media in Crypto Investing

Graham discusses the importance of social media, particularly Twitter, in building a brand and connecting with the crypto community. He shares how his active presence on Twitter has evolved from a personal outlet to a valuable business tool.

"It became clear that it was actually really, really helpful for business. Like we were getting deal flow that way," Graham explains. This insight underscores the unique, community-driven nature of the crypto industry and the importance of engagement and transparency for investors and projects alike.

Emerging Projects to Watch

While discussing potential investment opportunities, Graham highlighted Jet Protocol as a project with significant potential. Built on Solana, Jet Protocol is a lending platform that Graham compares to Aave on Ethereum.

"Those guys are fucking studs man, I'll tell you, they are just animals," Graham says of the Jet Protocol team. "And they're the perfect type of people to bet on because you know you can feel super comfortable that they're going to make the right choices just in terms of ethical decision making and things like that which are a major issue in crypto."

The Future of Crypto Investing

As the crypto industry continues to evolve, Graham's insights suggest that successful investing will require a combination of long-term thinking, deep technical understanding, and the ability to identify and support exceptional teams. The focus on emerging markets like India indicates that the next wave of crypto innovation may come from outside traditional tech hubs.

Graham's approach to investing, which combines thorough research, a willingness to take calculated risks, and a deep engagement with the crypto community, provides a valuable model for both new and experienced investors in the space. As the industry matures and expands globally, the ability to identify and support promising projects in diverse markets will likely become increasingly important.

In conclusion, Matthew Graham's insights offer a compelling vision of the future of crypto investing, with a particular emphasis on the potential of the Indian market. As Sino Global Capital expands its presence in India and continues to support innovative projects globally, it will be fascinating to watch how their bets on emerging markets and cutting-edge technologies unfold in the coming years.

Facts + Figures

  • Matthew Graham is the Managing Partner of Sino Global Capital
  • Sino Global Capital was an early investor in both FTX and Solana
  • Graham emphasizes a long-term investment strategy, describing himself as "long-term greedy"
  • The median age in India is 28, making it one of the youngest countries in the world
  • IIT graduates are considered on par with graduates from top technical universities globally, including MIT
  • Sino Global Capital is launching its first institutional fund, with FTX as a co-GP and significant LP
  • The new fund is "a couple hundred million bucks"
  • Graham aims to make Sino Global as well-known for the India market as the China market within a year
  • Sino Global is planning to make its first two hires in India within the next week
  • The firm has already made its first investment in India, though details were not disclosed
  • Graham advises against using 100x leverage in crypto trading
  • For small investors, Graham recommends considering broad-based exposure to crypto or focusing on top 10-20 coins
  • Jet Protocol is highlighted as a promising project built on Solana
  • Graham sees India's VC ecosystem as underdeveloped compared to China or the United States, presenting an opportunity for value addition
  • The regulatory environment for crypto in India is described as trending positive or neutral in recent months

Questions Answered

Who is Matthew Graham and what is Sino Global Capital?

Matthew Graham is the Managing Partner of Sino Global Capital, a venture capital firm focused on crypto and blockchain investments. Sino Global Capital is known for its early investments in successful projects like FTX and Solana, and is now expanding its focus to include the Indian market.

Why is Matthew Graham bullish on India's crypto potential?

Graham is bullish on India's crypto potential due to several factors. Firstly, India has world-class technical talent, particularly from institutions like IITs. Secondly, India has favorable demographics with a young population (median age of 28). Lastly, the relatively underdeveloped VC ecosystem in India presents an opportunity for firms like Sino Global to add significant value.

What is Sino Global Capital's investment strategy?

Sino Global Capital combines top-down theses with bottom-up analysis of individual projects and teams. They focus on long-term investments in projects with strong fundamentals and exceptional teams. Graham emphasizes the importance of developing conviction and having the courage to act on it, as demonstrated by their early investments in FTX and Solana.

How did Sino Global Capital discover and invest in Solana?

Sino Global Capital discovered Solana through their investment in Serum, a decentralized exchange built on Solana. Recognizing Solana's potential, Graham and his team spent a month thoroughly researching the technology. They then faced challenges in acquiring a significant position due to Solana's low market cap at the time, but persisted in their efforts to invest.

What advice does Matthew Graham give to new crypto investors?

Graham advises new crypto investors to focus on long-term horizons rather than trying to time the market. He cautions against using excessive leverage, recommending less leverage than one might initially consider. For those with limited capital, he suggests considering broad-based exposure to crypto through indices or focusing on top 10-20 coins.

What is Sino Global Capital's new fund and why is it significant?

Sino Global Capital has launched its first institutional fund, with FTX as a co-GP and significant LP. The fund, worth "a couple hundred million bucks," allows Sino Global to maintain long-term positions in successful token projects, deepen its relationship with FTX, and bring in other high-quality LPs from around the world. This positions the firm to make even more significant investments in promising crypto projects, particularly in emerging markets like India.

How does Matthew Graham view the importance of social media in crypto investing?

Graham sees social media, particularly Twitter, as a valuable tool for building a brand and connecting with the crypto community. He shares how his active presence on Twitter evolved from a personal outlet to a crucial business tool, helping Sino Global Capital gain deal flow and establish its presence in the industry.

What emerging projects does Matthew Graham highlight as promising?

Graham highlights Jet Protocol as a particularly promising project. Built on Solana, Jet Protocol is a lending platform that Graham compares to Aave on Ethereum. He praises the team's technical abilities and ethical decision-making, emphasizing the importance of backing teams that can build sustainable, long-term businesses in the crypto space.

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