Cypherpunk seeks more crypto investments after SOL buy, new CEO says

The former Valkyrie CEO chats with Blockworks about what she has her eye on as Cypherpunk Holdings’ new leader


Former Valkyrie Investments CEO Leah Wald | DAS 2022 New York by Blockworks


The former CEO of Valkyrie Investments now leads a publicly traded Canadian firm seeking out opportunities across the crypto segment. 

Leah Wald, now the president and CEO of Cypherpunk Holdings, told Blockworks that the company’s recent decision to allocate to solana (SOL) marks an “important investment move” as it seeks to delineate trends from fads. 

After CoinShares acquired Valkyrie’s ETF business (including its spot bitcoin fund) in March, Wald remained at the company to oversee its private funds. She revealed on Tuesday her transition to lead Cypherpunk Holdings — a company for which she has served on the board since 2021.

Read more: CoinShares closes buy of US bitcoin ETF issuer’s fund division

Cypherpunk, which went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange in 2019 (under the ticker HODL), bought its first 100 BTC in April of that year.

It was one of the first public vehicles deemed by some as a bitcoin proxy, Wald noted. Its 2019 bitcoin buys predated the formal BTC acquisition strategy launched in August 2020 by Michael Saylor-led MicroStrategy, for example.

Cypherpunk set out to invest in companies, tech and protocols that enhance or protect privacy. These include investments within the blockchain ecosystem as well as select crypto assets, the company noted in 2019.

Wald’s appointment comes a few months after Cypherpunk said in March it would seek more opportunities in emerging technologies, biotech and other “high-growth sectors.” Its two largest holdings at the time, excluding cash, were nearly $12 million worth of bitcoin and about $5.7 million of Animoca Brands shares. 

Cypherpunk revealed last month it sold nearly $1 million worth of Animoca shares and acquired 6,131 SOL. The solana was purchased for an average price of $163.11. 

“Across the board, we’re looking at other investment opportunities as well,” Wald noted. 

Keep reading for more excerpts from Blockworks’ interview with Wald.

Blockworks: What are your near-term focuses as CEO of Cypherpunk?

Wald: My first priority is to assess the business and how everything is going, and then look for those new opportunities. We are isolating some opportunities that we believe are ripe in this market and that investors are interested in.

I think a company that’s working with the picks and shovels of a blockchain still has the ability to differentiate itself from a fund, which is obviously a passive vehicle simply holding spot [crypto].

So [Cypherpunk] is tiny but mighty. [It has] a very comfortable balance sheet to utilize for new opportunities, so whereas the market cap is small, there’s a lot of room to grow in a bevy of ways.

Blockworks: Looking at the industry more broadly, what are you watching for?

Wald: I think all of our eyes are on how the regulatory environment is going to change, or not, in the United States, given the robust size of the capital markets here.

Canada’s always had a regulatory-forward nature [as] to how they’ve treated digital asset funds in their capital markets, and of course there’s greater innovation in other global markets — Swiss SIX being an easy example.

We are also looking at how the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators are going to be treating digital assets, no matter what the election cycle is.

Blockworks: What on the Canadian regulatory front could impact Cypherpunk?

Wald: We’re looking very closely at how staking within funds are treated and when they may or may not be approved, because we do think that is an interesting and unique sophistication that takes the regulations to the next level of understanding. 

Read more: How the solana fund filings in the US, Canada differ

We think if we can get to that next level of understanding, we can have greater conversations with the regulators on other topics.

Blockworks: What are other areas of crypto you are keeping an eye on?

Wald: I’m also looking at general activity on some of the interesting blockchains. As we’re aware, developer activity was slowing for a lot of the tokens and projects during the bear market and post-FTX when we all had a bit of a black eye in the industry here in the United States — and general adoption slowed a bit.

You’re seeing that uptick in 2024, especially with the bitcoin ETFs being approved, but that isn’t the case across all blockchains. So I’m curious how that adoption is going to change…if it does, in what ways and because of who? 

Is it going to be the developers from established companies trying to build on those blockchains? Or is it going to be more memecoin frenzies? One has staying power, the other doesn’t.

So we’re looking at those different blockchains and where we think there are trends, not fads.

Blockworks: Bitcoin ETFs have been on the market for six months now. What is your assessment of their reception so far?

Wald: The investor demand for the bitcoin ETFs since launch is still extremely impressive. We’re still seeing great adoption and healthy investment activity given it’s the summer, and you do usually see muted activity in the summer.

I think we’re still in the first inning when it comes to the bitcoin ETFs. [Registered investment advisers] and other wealth management platforms are still getting a handle on getting through due diligence questionnaires to be able to get them on the platforms and being able to answer questions from their clients on this asset.

I’m looking at Q3 and Q4 before making any decision on how 2024 went as a whole, but I think it’s only been extremely positive. 

Blockworks: And with US spot ether ETFs expected to launch soon, what sort of demand do you expect we will see for those?   

Wald: Summer’s a bad time to launch an ETF; that’s known on Wall Street.  

I think [reception] can’t be just determined in the first few months of trading. I think it needs to be determined after a year.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

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