Venture capitalists are still throwing hundreds of millions at blockchains

Was cryptocurrency a flash in the pan? Less than two years ago, Bitcoin’s skyrocketing price was making people crypto-millionaires overnight. Then coin prices crashed and never recovered. Projects have shuttered, jobs have been lost, and most of 2017’s feverish enthusiasm has worn off. Perhaps the technology isn’t all it was cracked up to be?

Nonsense, say venture capitalists. For them, the decade-old technology has always been a long-term bet on the future of finance; short-term fluctuations in cryptocurrency markets don’t matter. It’s a mistake to conflate the market for digital currencies with the market for investment in digital currency projects, says Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer for CoinShares, a provider of crypto research and investment products. And the latter is still a “large and very active market,” she says.

Indeed, VCs continue to invest large sums in blockchain companies. According to PitchBook, a financial data and software company, VCs have invested around $334 million in blockchain projects in the first three months of this year. The biggest deal involved Figure, a startup that uses blockchain technology to provide home equity loans, which announced in late February that it had raised $65 million.

The total investment so far this year is well off the pace of last year, which saw a record $5.5 billion in venture capital flow into blockchain companies. But 2019’s total so far is in line to at least return to the funding level of 2017, when just over $1 billion was raised.

What happened in 2018? The massive influx of VC may reflect some of the same irrational exuberance that was so pervasive among speculative investors in late 2017 and early 2018, when coin prices were soaring. The difference is that these venture investments were long-term bets on companies, not short-term bets that a token’s price would increase. And some of them were very big bets. Eight of the top 10 biggest VC deals ever for blockchain companies happened in 2018, according to PitchBook. Chinese mining chipmaker Bitmain raised more than $1.3 billion by…