Jake Chervinsky is a rare bird in the crypto industry: a passionate believer in blockchain technology who is realistic about its limitations and capable of communicating in plain, dispassionate language. He is considered a must-follow in the hurly-burly community known as Crypto Twitter for his informed takes on legal and regulatory news.
On Tuesday, Chervinsky made news of his own by trading his current perch at the Blockchain Association for a new role as chief legal officer at the venture fund Variant. In a blog post announcing the news, Variant partner Jesse Walden described Chervinsky as “inventive, boundary-pushing, and unafraid to make noise.”
In an interview with Fortune, Chervinsky said his decision to leave the trade group after nearly two years was entirely amicable and that he wants to devote his time to helping crypto companies launch products in the U.S.—a challenging task given the hostile regulatory climate.
“There’s no way to succeed globally if you can’t use the U.S. market,” he said, dismissing recent avowals by crypto firms to move overseas as impractical.
Chervinsky says he became passionate about crypto after doing anti-money laundering work at a large law firm and concluded that much of the financial industry is about “rent-seeking rather than providing good services.” He cited his work in helping crypto firms navigate the regulatory backlash from the initial coin offering boom—a period from 2016 to 2018 where blockchain projects, many of them shady, sold digital tokens to the general public—as spurring him to go into crypto full time.
Chervinsky also cited a conversation with Robert Leshner, founder of pioneering DeFi firm Compound, as inspiring his conviction that blockchain offers a superior new system for financial transactions.
The decision to hire Chervinsky, who was unlikely to have come cheap, is also a bold stroke for Variant, a relative newcomer to the crypto venture scene. Launched in 2020 by young alums of Andreessen Horowitz, the firm has raised nearly $600 million across three funds and sought to differentiate itself with a focus on the creative economy and a focus on early stage companies. Its 30 or so portfolio companies include DeFi giant Uniswap as well as NFT shops Magic Eden and Zora.
According to Walden, Variant decided to add Chervinsky to its 18-person team as a “force multiplier” who can help its portfolio firms devise legal strategies to launch products amid choppy regulatory waters. He added that the legal clouds over the industry are starting to lift as the policies of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler get slapped down in federal court, and predicted that discussions around crypto will once again come to be centered around products—not lawsuits.