Analysts have long decried the European Union’s lack of homegrown tech giants, pointing to the gulf between the EU and counterparts like the United States and China. However, the EU now appears to be making moves to up its investments in innovative technologies. The European Investment Fund (EIF), the EU agency responsible for SME financing, has recently backed a new digital assets and blockchain fund.
Fabric Ventures, a venture capital fund based in Luxembourg that invests in digital assets, tokenization projects and other blockchain applications, has secured $30 million from the EIF for its 2021 fund.
Other high-profile investors include executives from Ethereum, PayPal, (Transfer)Wise, Square, Google, Galaxy Digital, PayU, Ledger and many others. Yet it’s the EIF’s involvement that the fund’s founders see as an important signal that the EU may be taking a new, strategic approach to tech investments.
The Fabric Ventures team includes Richard Muirhead, Max Mersch and Anil Hansjee, the latter of whom headed PayPal Ventures EMEA for five years. The trio, whose interests focus on digital tokens, decentralized governance and market infrastructure, previously founded the Firestartr fund, backed by Bitstamp, Tray.io, Railsbank and others. Muirhead shared his view of the significance of the EIF’s involvement in the new project in an interview:
“The thing to note here is that there’s a recognition at European Commission level, that this area is one of geopolitical significance for the EU bloc. On the one hand, you have the ‘wild west’ approach of North America, and, arguably, on the other is the surveillance state of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Setting aside whether or not one agrees with Murihead’s characterization of the approaches taken by the U.S. and China, his view of Europe is that the EU is forging a “third way for the individual,” aiming to harness new technologies that can support “networks and marketplaces” between users who share data for their own and mutual benefit.
Fabric Ventures stated the network capitalization of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) reached $1 trillion within 10 years, spurred by adoption from big names such as Goldman Sachs, PayPal and Tesla. The fund has pitched its plans to invest in various software tokens, decentralized networks and applications under the banner of “open web” and “open finance” and will also invest in traditional equity.
In an official comment on the EIF’s decision to back the fund, EIF CEO Alain Godard has said that the partnership seeks to address the financial support needs of startups and entrepreneurs working in the field of blockchain, a field he called “of particular strategic importance for the EU and our competitiveness on the global stage.”
Parallel to this recognition of the digital economy’s increasing centrality, the European Commission is taking steps to further strengthen its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime and form a new agency dedicated to AML oversight — with implications for the crypto space. Recently leaked documents from the Commission have allegedly singled out the current under-regulation of crypto asset transfers in the EU, stating concerns that this leaves crypto investors exposed to money laundering and financing of terrorism risks.
The Commission has also issued a regulatory proposal entitled Markets in Crypto-Assets, which seeks to cement a comprehensive regulatory framework for the sector.