Early Facebook Investor Andreessen Horowitz Nabs Engineers From Novi Crypto Wallet

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, a founding member of the organization behind Facebook’s Diem cryptocurrency project, is making sure something good comes of an investment that has thus far failed to bear fruit.

Two lead engineers for Facebook’s Novi wallet, which will be used to hold a dollar-based stablecoin issued by the Diem Association that Facebook created, are moving into senior roles at a16z Crypto, according to a blog post from the firm today.

Riyaz Faizullabhoy and Nassim Eddequiouaq, who transitioned from roles at crypto custody firm Anchorage two years ago to begin working on Facebook’s wallet, have been named chief technology officer and chief information security officer, respectively, of the outfit.

The two veteran engineers were around long enough for Facebook’s crypto ambitions to shift, along with its project names. 

Facebook announced Libra in 2019. Originally, its intent was to create a digital asset whose value was tied to a basket of major world currencies. Instead of a stablecoin that maintains a 1:1 peg to the U.S. dollar or other currency, Libra would theoretically enjoy a stable price while becoming its own de facto global currency—to be held in the Calibra wallet. Shepherding the project was the Libra Association, which included Coinbase and Andreessen alongside major credit card companies and non-governmental organizations.

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All of that has changed. Libra became Diem and Calibra swapped out its three syllables to become Novi, but the rebranding hasn’t diverted attention away from the project’s turmoil. The association lost a slew of members—including eBay, Mastercard, Stripe, and Visa on the same day—after U.S. lawmakers warned of the regulatory implications. The newly christened Diem Association downgraded ambitions for the asset this year to a simple U.S.-based stablecoin as founders and executives left the project. 

Now, Faizullabhoy and Eddequiouaq join co-founder Kevin Weil, Head of Strategy Morgan Beller, and others in seeing themselves out—even as co-founder David Marcus said in August that the wallet “is ready to come to market.”

It’s not yet here, but a16z has plenty of work to keep the duo busy. Its crypto fund—the firm’s third—raised $2.2 billion this summer after earlier bets on decentralized exchange Uniswap and decentralized lender Compound paid dividends. Just last week, Andreessen led the $152 million Series B funding round for popular Ethereum NFT game Axie Infinity.

According to a16z Crypto COO Anthony Albanese, Faizullabhoy and Eddequiouaq will be responsible for helping the companies within the firm’s portfolios “apply rigorous security measures and technical guidance.”

11 October 2021 22:58

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