The Top Venture Capitalists and Innovators of Web3
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Web3 Investor Day: Speaker Announcement
By Paul Hsu, Founder & CEO of Decasonic
What makes any tech ecosystem great is the density of capital and ideas. The ability to rapidly iterate ideas, in physical proximity of world class & diverse teams, is a tremendous competitive advantage for any ecosystem. We see this in the San Francisco Bay Area through the various technology paradigm shifts since the 1960s. More than ever, the innovation trends are accelerating paradigm shifts and there is no bigger generational opportunity today than web3.
Silicon Valley is a mindset, no longer a geography.
We’re proud to convene the world class capital allocators, web3 VCs and the builders of today’s web3 innovation for our Web3 Investor Day, co-presented by Bridge Alt Digital, Decasonic, Sterling Bay and World Business Chicago.
We are in the early stages of both institutional and consumer adoption of web3 and excited to discuss the emerging generational shifts and trends brought on by this technology.
At last count, over 300 confirmed attendees, with 160+ institutional investors, will join us in Chicago on July 28th. At Decasonic, we are honored by the initial response, the top quality speakers, and interest in our passion.
Read more about our speakers and pitch workshop leaders below.
When top tier capital meets ideas, innovation accelerates.
Welcome: Real Leaders, Real Places, Real Adoption
Brian Walls & Paul Hsu
Brian Walls is a partner of Bridge Alt Digital, an independent brokerage firm focused on providing advisory, capital introduction, index development, and research events within the alternative investments industry. Brain specializes in NFTs, DAOs, web3 venture capital, crypto hedge funds, DeFi, and esoteric investments. He has been an early investor in such top tier crypto venture funds as Multicoin, 1kx, and Decasonic.
Paul Hsu is Founder and CEO of Decasonic, the venture and digital assets fund building blockchain innovation. As a tech investor and operator, Paul partners with outlier founders to accelerate product market fit and systematically scale early stage companies. Paul has been a blockchain investor since 2013 and previously an executive with Zynga. Paul is a speaker, writer and media commentator on web3 topics, with his perspectives appearing in broadcast outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Coindesk, Forbes, Bloomberg TV and Yahoo! Finance TV.
Leadership in Web3
Jason Pritzker & Yasmine Lacaillade
Jason Pritzker operates as managing director of The Pritzker Organization. Known as a strong leader of the community, Jason and his family have led various philanthropic efforts across Chicago. He is executive chairman of TMS International and serves on the board of directors of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Lithko Contracting LLC and Omni Logistics. He held roles at The Marmon Group, Goldman Sachs, and Hyatt Hotels Corp. Today, Jason is on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Yasmine Lacaillade is a founder and managing partner of sinefine, an alternative asset management firm that specializes in bringing the best in class female venture capitalists with the innovative limited partners. Yasmine is an experienced leader in alternative assets and venture capital and now focuses . After graduating Princeton, she spent a decade in investment and investor relations roles at Artist Capital, Gruss & Co., and at TPG-Axon Capital, and notably, before starting sinefine, a key part of the leadership team at Drive Capital as Chief Operating Officer.
Lessons in Building Web1 to Web3
Sam Yagan & Victoria Bills (moderator)
Sam Yagan is co-founder and managing director of Corazon Capital since 2014. He recently served as the CEO of ShopRunner, Inc., which provides its millions of members free two-day shipping and seamless checkout at over 100 leading online retailers. Before ShopRunner, Sam served as Vice-Chairman of Match Group (Nasdaq: MTCH), a position he assumed after leading the company as CEO. Sam also co-founded OkCupid in 2003, which he led as its CEO through its sale to Match Group in 2011. Sam has earned recognition on TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Fortune’s “40 Under 40,” Crain’s Chicago “Tech 50” and “40 Under 40,” Billboard’s “30 Under 30,” and Silicon Alley Insider’s “Most Inspiring and Influential People.”
Victoria Bills is an associate for Allos Ventures. Based in Chicago, Victoria assists with their deal flow and due diligence for investing in Illinois based companies. Prior to joining Allos, she was an Investment Analyst for the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office assisting in conducting investment due diligence, analysis, and monitoring external program managers on the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund. Prior to starting her career in finance, Victoria graduated from Babson College where she concentrated in global business management and economics.
Gaming and Entertainment Turbocharged by Web3
Andrew Shepperd, Genevieve Thiers, & David Nage (moderator)
Andrew Sheppard is managing director of the Transcend Fund. Andrew has over 20 years of experience building, managing and advising multi-billion dollar consumer businesses. Past leadership roles Andrew has held included stints at Electronic Arts, Gamespot, Kabam and GREE. Andrew serves on the Board of Directors for Nexters and Rakuten Games. He has direct experience working in online media, social media game services, subscriptions, free-to-play, console games, online/PC games, mobile games and apps.
Genevieve Thiers is co-founder and CEO of Entertainmint, a web3 company dedicated to redesigning TV and streaming in web3. Genevieve Thiers is the founder of Sittercity.com which she sold to Bright Horizons in 2020. Genevieve has supported women running for office, especially BIPOC women, and she is dedicated to fixing the imbalance of women in tech and power. She is co-producer and tech trainer of RUN the Series, now on Amazon Prime, and she also has a crypto podcast by women and for women called Byte Size Crypto.
David Nage is a portfolio manager at Arca, an asset management firm concentrated on digital asset investing. David is a former Family Office professional and now Portfolio Manager for the newest Arca fund: Endeavor, which focuses on early-stage investment in founders focused on Gaming, DeFi, and Web 3.0. David has spent the last few years focused on the revolution that digital assets could have on our society; providing new methods for identity, financial inclusion, and governance.
NFTs Beyond JPEGs
Brian Cho, Francesco Melpignano, Le Zhang, & Andra Nicolau (moderator)
Brian Cho is the General Partner and Co-Founder of Patron, an early-stage venture firm investing in web3 and metaverse companies. Brian was previously a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and the Head of Ventures, Partnerships, and M&A at Riot Games. He was also honored by Forbes Magazine in their Forbes 30 Under 30 Article in 2013 and 2014.
Francesco Melpignano is CEO of Kadena Eco. Francesco is a talented software engineer, joining Kadena in 2019 as an engineer and worked his way up to CEO of Kadena Eco. Prior to his work at Kadena, Francesco was CEO of Robobunker, an Italy based company manufacturing state-of-the-art vehicles for golf course maintenance automation. Prior, Francesco was CTO at YellowLabel Technology, a UK based company that focuses on data processing, hosting and related activities.
Le Zhang is the founder of Spaceport Technologies, a software company building the future of NFTs in a $300B market. Before founding Spaceport Technologies, Le was founder and CEO of Squadle Inc., a company that provides digital checklists to simplify complex operations and streamline food safety compliance. Le is also an angel investor, currently invested in Wishroute, Cactivate, and Phiex Technologies. He just recently joined the board of advisors at ACE NextGen after being on the board of directors there for over three years.
Andra Nicolau is head of DeFi BD at Origin Protocol, an Ethereum-powered platform that aims to normalize NFTs and DeFi. Previously, Andra led growth at 1inch Network, where she spearheaded the Series B fundraise. After graduation from The University of California Berkeley, Andra became founder and CEO of AN-RO Global, a UK based company helping startups scale through innovative monetization strategies, systems & product design, strategic partnerships & management consulting. In 2020, Andra founded Mavensights, a company offering IT Services and IT Consulting working with early stage startup specialists.
Pitchapalooza: Aaron Kern, Abhinaya Konduru, Alejandro Ballesteros, Danny Slutsky, Jackson Bubala, Josh Rosenthal & Sonia Nagar
Aaron Kern is a partner at 6th Man Ventures. After graduating from Darla Moore School of Business in 2015, Aaron spent four years at Deloitte as a corporate finance analyst until he became a venture investor at Allstate Strategic Ventures; Aaron then spent just over a year as a partner in Red Beard Ventures until joining 6th Man Ventures.
Abhinaya Konduru is an investor at M25, a fund focused on Midwest-headquartered early-stage startups. During her five years at M25, Abhinaya has worked as an investment analyst, associate, senior associate, and is now a principal at the company. Additionally, she is the co-moderator of Women In VC’s 500+ junior VC community, the world’s largest global community for women in VC residing on Slack. She founded AskVCs, a community of 200+ investors who ask and answer questions every week to learn from peers in a safe environment and lift each other. She works with 1 for 2 Education Foundation, a unique scholarship program employing a “pay it forward” model.
Alejandro Ballesteros is a technical builder and venture investor in blockchain at Decasonic. After graduating from Stanford in 2019, Alejandro took advantage of various internship opportunities in CS, after college he worked as a fixed income trader at Gelber Group LLC until recently joining Decasonic as venture associate. At Decasonic, Alejandro focuses on technical deal evaluation, deal sourcing, as well as leading incubation for Decasonic Labs.
Danny Slutsky is an investor at Digital Currency Group. After graduating from The University of Chicago Booth, Danny worked nearly 8 years at CME Group as a clearing operations analyst, corporate strategy analyst, rotational analyst, senior analyst of CME ventures, and lastly manager of CME ventures. For the past nearly 3 years Danny has been a board member of Camp for All Kids, a camp that promotes and facilitates racial diversity by sending kids from under-served communities to overnight summer camp.
Jackson Bubala is an investor at Motivate Venture Capital. After being a varsity pitcher for Dartmouth College, Jackson spent some time working for Nike and the Cubs before switching to financial services. At Motivate Venture Capital, Jackson has helped invest in 13 pre-seed and seed companies.
Josh Rosenthal is an investor at Polychain Capital. After graduating from University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, Josh became an analyst for Goldman Sachs until becoming an associate at JPMorgan Chase & Co. After a few months at FalconX working in institutional coverage, Josh started at Polychain as a research analyst until becoming a portfolio manager.
Sonia Nagar is a general partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital. Sonia recently became a board observer on ShopThing and a board member of 1871; Sonia has a very diverse background including working at general motors as an engineer, investment banking at Goldman Sachs, working as a product manager at Amazon, and being a senior associate in media, consumer and digital Practice at Booz & Company. Sonia also co-founded Pickie, a personalized iPad magazine that allows readers to shop directly from content. She has been an Angel investor of 17 different startups.
Millions in the Metaverse
Dean Marks, Luis Rameriez, Zunaira Arshad, & Paul Hsu (moderator)
Dean Marks works as managing principal of Sterling Bay. In his thirteen years at Sterling Bay, Dean has overseen all legal aspects of their business, including acquisition and disposition transactions and lease negotiations. One of Dean’s biggest successes includes the assemblage and execution of the transformational Lincoln Yards project and the acquisition and development of more than 20 properties in Fulton Market between 2013-2014. Prior to joining Sterling Bay in 2009, Dean worked in private practice as a commercial real estate attorney at Greenberg Traurig LLP and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP (now Dentons US LLP).
Luis Ramirez is Founder & CEO of Mawari. Luis’s main focus is to democratize the creation and distribution of XR Content. He is a pioneer in cloud rendering and streaming technology for interactive XR experiences. Prior to Mawari, he spearheaded and co-founded the Japanese version of MUTEK, a world-renowned festival dedicated to the dissemination and development of digital creativity in sound, music, and audio-visual art. He also served as a Global Head of Marketing at MUSIC Tribe, one of the world's largest holding companies for pro audio and music instruments
After her education at Yale, Zunaira worked in product and content for two years at ConsenSys, a company developing GTM strategies and content/brand identity for projects across various verticals including finance, healthcare, government, education, and real estate. Zunaira has also been an investor in Kyro Digital Corp. for 7 months.
Blockchain for the Billions: the Finance of Web3
Brett Harrison & Alejandro Ballesteros/Cami Darling (moderators)
Brett Harrison is the President of FTX US, a US-regulated cryptocurrency exchange. In less than a year under Brett’s tenure FTX US has become the 3rd largest crypto exchange in the US by valuation. Prior to joining FTX US, Brett was Head of Semi-Systematic Technology at Citadel Securities, where he managed technology for the firm's Options, ETF, OTC, and ADR trading globally. He spent the majority of his career at Jane Street, where he led the firm's algorithmic trading system development. He previously worked at Headlands Technologies as a senior software developer. Brett received his M.S. and B.A. in Computer Science from Harvard.
Cami Darling is marketing and community manager at Decasonic, as well as host of the Blockchain for the Billions Podcast. Prior to joining Decasonic, Cami helped start-up companies grow their social media communities, and managed customer experience in the beauty and wellness industry. Cami studied communications at Northern Michigan University.
Crypto in Chicago
Ben Weiss, Gabriella Kusz, Samir Mayekar, & Mike Peri (moderator)
Ben Weiss co-founded CoinFlip in 2015 and served as the Chief Operating Officer before being appointed as Chief Executive Officer in April 2021. Since its inception, Ben has led the company’s strategy and helped CoinFlip surpass $1B in transaction volume. In addition to running a burgeoning startup, Ben spends his time working with governing bodies advising on cryptocurrency regulation. Regarded as a thought-leader in the space, he is regularly interviewed by major news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN Business, and Moneywise, and has given several keynote speeches about the future of cryptocurrency. Under his leadership, CoinFlip was named the #1 fastest-growing company in Chicago by
Crain’s in 2021 and 2022. In 2022, Ben was named the Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. He is a Trustee for the New Jersey Blockchain Coalition, and Board Member of the Blockchain Advocacy Coalition.
Gabriella Kusz is Chief Executive Officer at Global Digital Asset and Cryptocurrency Association (GDCA), a global self-regulatory association for the digital asset & cryptocurrency industry. With 17 years in financial services, public policy, and sustainable programming innovation, Gabriella is skilled in developing organizational strategy, engaging with communities, and furthering program achievement globally and locally. Gabriella also pays it forward through her immense effort to help women in web3.
Samir Mayekar is Deputy Mayor for economic and neighborhood development in the City of Chicago. Samir is a specialist in business development & organizational growth, from negotiating complex deals with multinational companies to leading transformational change on nonprofit boards to increase capacity. Samir has a rich history in politics, most notably working as Budget Manager for Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008; furthermore, he graduated with a finance degree from Northwestern, which he went on to use as an advisor of Albright Stonebridge Group for seven years.
Mike Peri is currently a partner at Distributed Ventures, a company that invests in companies that are transforming the future of risk across Insurtech, Fintech and Health & Benefits. After college, Mike became a founding team member in product development for a year until he decided to work as a manager at Erie Family Health Center. After a few years Mike began working at Yaro and became vice President in charge of product and analytics. Mike has taken on various positions as board observer at Axio, Wellth, and Vivante Health.
Culture and Web3: DAOs and other innovations
Dmitriy Berenzon, Dylan Hunzeker, Shiv Malik & Sean Smyth (moderator)
Dmitriy Berenzon is a Research Partner at 1KX, where he focuses on crypto research & investments. He was previously a Research Partner at Bollinger Investment Group, where he led crypto research & investments, and worked with CoinFund, a crypto-focused investment firm. Prior to this, Dmitriy was an Assistant Vice President with Deutsche Bank Labs, where he engaged with startups, investors, and academia to discover, evaluate, and adopt innovative technologies into the Bank.
Dylan Hunzeker is a managing partner at DOH Investments. Dylan has experience in governmental organizations, NGOs, and start-ups. Dylan is a programmer who has authored seminal papers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sphere with an understanding of how blockchain applications can be used elsewhere. After her undergraduate studies, Dylan spent time as an associate at Eigen Capital. Dylan eventually became an investment analyst at Iconic Holding which led her to venture capital. She currently holds a research position at the Stanford Future of Digital Currency Lab.
Shiv Malik is a Chief Executive Officer at Pool Data. Shiv is the author of two books, the co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation think tank, an award nominated broadcaster, and a former investigative journalist for the Guardian. After three years advising the Web3 projects, Golem and Streamr, and co-creating a revolutionary framework for monetising personal data, he co-founded Pool in 2021. Shiv fuels Pool’s drive to bring Data Unions to the world and ensure people have control of their data and a genuine stake in the digital economy.
Sean Smyth is co-founder and CEO of PechaKucha, a global social storytelling platform that celebrates people, passion, and creative thought. Sean's expertise lies in business growth and expansion by forging meaningful relationships, partnerships and programs across multiple platforms. Before PechaKucha, Sean was a Global VP and GM at Groupon for eight years and held various strategic marketing roles prior.
Policy, Regulation and Institutional Adoption of Web3
Dan Gunsberg, Margaret Croke, Nathan Dean, & Paige Bollinger (moderator)
Dan Gunsberg is co-founder and CEO of Hxro, an exchange that includes several new ways to trade crypto options and derivatives. Dan has refined knowledge in cryptocurrencies, blockchain based derivatives, and other digital assets. Before Hxro, Dan was a co-founder of Gordian Block Capital LLC, a multi-strategy cryptocurrency hedge fund. Just before he started at Gordian Block Capital LLC, Dan worked as a chief operating officer at DV Trading LLC for over 6 years.
Margaret Croke represents the State of Illinois’ 12th District. Margaret comes from a robust background in politics where she worked on a few campaigns such as Hillary for America and JB Pritzker for Governor until she ultimately joined the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. After her undergrad at University of Michigan Margaret spent nearly a year and a half working in business development at Proper Suit.
Nathan Dean is a senior policy analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. There, he helps provide political intelligence and research to over 300,000 Bloomberg Terminal clients on government policy and its impact on equity, commodity, and debt markets. Nathan is a senior advisor skilled at disseminating political intelligence to the C-suite, institutional investors and risk managers. Prior to that Nathan worked at CME Group as a Government Affairs Manager.
Paige Bolinger is an Associate Attorney (VC) at Croke Fairchild Morgan and Beres. Paige helps founders, emerging companies, investors, and funds achieve their goals by advising, strategizing, and executing on matters including venture financings, corporate and fund formation, and growth strategies. Prior to her time at Croke Fairchild Morgan and Beres, Paige worked as an advisory board member at BlkArthouse for roughly a year and a half. And a year before BlkArthouse, Paige worked as a corporate associate attorney for Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.
Institutions and Web3: Where do we go from here?
Rumi Morales & Hylton Irons (moderator)
Rumi Morales is a global investor, executive, and entrepreneur bridging traditional institutions and emerging technologies. She is Head of Venture and Growth Investments at Digital Currency Group, guiding its portfolio of over 200 companies and 45 funds across 35 countries. Before joining DCG, Rumi was a partner and board member of Outlier Ventures and head of venture investing at the CME Group. Rumi is a Board Member of several non-profit institutions including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Negaunee Music Institute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber of Digital Commerce.
Hylton Irons is an investor at Listen Ventures, focused on supporting brand-obsessed founders leading early-stage consumer companies. After graduating from Brown University, Hylton spent time at Goldman Sachs as an Investment Banking analyst in the Healthcare group. Since then, Hylton has been focused on helping support the growth of Listen through meeting founders and building within the Chicago tech community. Hylton was featured in Chicago Inno’s 25 under 25 list in 2021 and was a member of Forbes’ 30 under 30 Scholar issue in 2019, recognizing his hard work and leadership.