Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has hired Latham & Watkins corporate partner Miles Jennings as a cryptocurrency-focused general counsel.
Jennings will advise on the structure of Andreessen Horowitz’s cryptocurrency investments, help portfolio companies navigate legal and regulatory challenges, and work to “advance and improve regulation applicable to crypto companies,” he said in response to emailed questions from Bloomberg Law.
Jennings left Latham last month to join the privately held firm formally known as AH Capital Management LLC and co-founded by prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. The hire comes two months after Menlo Park, Calif.-based Andreessen Horowitz launched a $2.2 billion cryptocurrency investment fund.
He called leaving Latham a “bittersweet decision” since Jennings has spent his entire career at the law firm, where he co-chaired its blockchain and cryptocurrency task force. Jennings joined Latham nearly a dozen years ago, making partner last year after working out of the firm’s offices in Silicon Valley and London.
Jennings said he will work with former federal prosecutor Kathryn Haun, who was named Andreessen Horowitz’s first female partner in 2018 and tapped to run the cryptocurrency fund along with Chris Dixon, another partner at the firm.
Andreessen Horowitz hit big with its investment in Coinbase Global Inc., a cryptocurrency exchange that saw its valuation hit $100 billion following a direct listing earlier this year on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Haun, in an April interview with Bloomberg News, called Andreessen Horowitz’s Coinbase windfall a historic moment for both the company and the cryptocurrency industry. Given its expanded interest in digital assets, Jennings said it made sense for Andreessen Horowitz to add a lawyer focused solely on that sector.
Andreessen Horowitz, which has $18 billion in assets under management, saw its namesake Marc Andreessen speak last month with Bloomberg Wealth’s David Rubenstein about cryptocurrencies having the ability to bring about a technological transformation of society.
“There is a fundamental technological breakthrough that has actually happened,” Andreessen said. “Many of the smartest people in computer science are going into this field and pushing it forward in a really rapid rate.”
Andreessen Horowitz’s addition of Jennings comes as federal officials appear poised to forge a regulatory framework for the booming digital asset industry.
Gary Gensler, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, spoke last month with Bloomberg News about the need to protect investors from fraud by enhancing oversight on cryptocurrencies. Still, some politicians, such as Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), favor a more hands off regulatory approach.
Jennings said ensuring that entrepreneurs have sufficient freedom to invest and develop a “potentially world-changing technology,” while also protecting investors, is “no easy task.” He praised U.S. regulators for trying to find a proper balance but noted that ongoing ambiguities create challenges for decentralized platforms.
“There continues to exist a great deal of uncertainty that is stifling innovation,” Jennings said. “It is clear that the industry would benefit from a well-defined framework, developed by regulators and industry experts in collaboration.”
Jennings cited SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce’s Safe Harbor proposal as a good starting point for discussion.
Andreessen Horowitz bolstered its regulatory expertise last year by hiring a new operating partner for its cryptocurrency division in Anthony Albanese. He is a former Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner who spent the past five years as chief regulatory officer for the New York Stock Exchange.
Albanese works closely with Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeffrey Amico, who also came aboard last year after serving as general counsel for Fluidity, a blockchain startup sold to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based ConsenSys Software Inc.
ConsenSys, which raised $65 million earlier this year from investors led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Mastercard Inc., and UBS AG, is also the company that helped Jennings make his name in the digital asset space.
Jennings, while working as a senior associate in Latham’s emerging companies practice, partnered with ConsenSys to launch an automated convertible note that helps cryptocurrency startups on everything from capital raising to contract automation and token generation.
Aside from ConsenSys, during his time in private practice Jennings was also outside counsel to other decentralized finance protocols like Uniswap and Avalanche, whose parent company Ava Labs Inc. hired a new legal chief in May.
Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in Uniswap, turned to Jennings and Latham to advise on the launch of its governance token, as well as the firm’s investments in non-fungible token marketplace OpenSea and Mirror.xyz, a cryptocurrency publishing tool founded by former Andreessen Horowitz partner Denis Nazarov.
Those deals and others led Andreessen Horowitz to introduce Jennings to several of its portfolio clients, the firm said. Among its investments are Anchorage Hold LLC, a cryptocurrency custodian that last year hired general counsel Georgia Quinn.
“From this platform, we have the opportunity to support some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs and drive the sector’s meaningful progress,” Jennings said.
Prior to joining Andreessen Horowitz, Jennings’ client list included blockchain investment firm ParaFi Capital LP, cryptocurrency-focused venture capital firm Paradigm Operations LP, and Union Square Ventures LLC, a venture firm that hired its first-ever general counsel this year after its lucrative investment in Coinbase.
In February, Jennings advised hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP on a $15 million Series A fundraising in 0x Labs Inc., a decentralized exchange behind the ZRX token. Jennings also led a Latham team representing Bitwise Asset Management Inc. on a $70 million Series B fundraising in June.
Bitwise, the world’s largest cryptocurrency index fund manager, brought on its first-ever general counsel and chief compliance officer this year in Katherine Dowling, a former federal prosecutor who joined the San Francisco-based company after serving in the same role at financial advisory firm True Capital Management LLC.
Cryptocurrency companies have been busy recruiting lawyers to build out internal legal and compliance groups as the digital asset industry matures.
Jennings’ placement at Andreessen Horowitz was brokered by Sarah Blumling, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based legal recruiting firm QueensBench Search LLC.