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Tether had 'record-breaking' net profits in Q4, Polygon Labs does layoffs and hackers steal $112M of XRP

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Hello and welcome back to the third edition of the new and improved TechCrunch Crypto newsletter. As previously mentioned, alongside our regularly scheduled news bits, I’ll be adding some fresh recurring segments and features -- so if you like what you see (or don’t), let me know at jacquelyn@techcrunch.com.

Happy February, friends! We’ve made it through one-twelfth of the year; that wasn't so hard was it? Only have to do it 11 more times to make it to 2025.

As January came to an end, hackers got busy and stole a lot of XRP tokens, Polygon did layoffs, new reports show demand for AI and blockchain to work together, Ethereum developer interest hit new highs last year and Tether reported record profit from the fourth quarter of 2023. More details below.

This week in web3

  1. Polygon Labs lays off 60 employees, about 19% of its staff, CEO says

  2. AI and blockchains might need one another to evolve, according to new report (TC+)

  3. Hackers steal $112 million of XRP Ripple cryptocurrency

  4. Ethereum developer interest hit new all-time highs in 2023 despite a bear market (TC+)

  5. Solana Mobile still has a long way to go until it hits breakeven (TC+)

Crunching numbers

This week the crypto market was pretty bullish as the two biggest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, bitcoin and ether, rose 7% and 4.4%, respectively, on the week, according to CoinMarketCap data. The global crypto market cap increased 5.2% over a seven-day period to $1.62 trillion.

Separately, Tether reported that in the fourth quarter of 2023 it brought in a “record-breaking” net profit of $2.85 billion, making up 46% of the total $6.2 billion in net profits last year. Tether is the world’s largest stablecoin by market capitalization and volume and third largest cryptocurrency behind bitcoin and ethereum. Its total assets (which back its stablecoins) are at $97 billion, as of December 31, 2023. Its liabilities were about $91.6 billion and it has about $5.4 billion of excess reserves, which are “fully covering” its outstanding $4.8 billion in secured loans, the report added.

If you’re thinking, “these are big numbers,” you’re right. See below.

Our favorite ‘Crypto Twitter’ post

Following all the talk about Tether…

This post on X by Bitwise Asset Management’s CIO Matt Hougan speaks for itself. Sorry Goldman Sachs, better luck next quarter:

Tether made more money last quarter than Goldman Sachs. Tether: $2.85 billion Goldman: $2.01 billion

The latest pod

For this week’s episode, I interviewed Chris Dixon, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

Chris has been at the firm since 2012 and founded and leads a16z’s crypto team, which invests in the web3 world through four mega-funds with over $7 billion under management. He’s also the author of the recently released book "Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet."

Prior to a16z, Chris co-founded two startups, SiteAdvisor and Hunch, acquired by McAfee in 2006 and eBay in 2011, respectively. He also attended Columbia University for his bachelor of arts degree and masters in philosophy and has an MBA from Harvard University.

In this episode, we discuss the new book, how crypto’s perception has changed and what purpose blockchains can ultimately bring to the world.

We also dove into:

  • Big Tech vs. crypto

  • Importance of decentralization

  • a16z web3 investments

  • Blockchain gaming

  • Embracing the future

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to keep up with the latest episodes, and please leave us a review if you like what you hear!

Follow the money

  1. Squid raised $4 million in a strategic round to help support cross-chain interoperability

  2. Velar raised $3.5 million to build a perpetual decentralized exchange on Bitcoin

  3. Web3 gaming startup Yooldo raised $1.5 million, raising its valuation to $13 million

  4. Options-focused protocol Ithaca Finance raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding

  5. Portal raised $34 million in a seed round to develop its decentralized bitcoin ecosystem

This list was compiled with information from Messari as well as TechCrunch’s own reporting.

What else we’re writing

Want to branch out from the world of web3? Here are some articles on TechCrunch that caught our attention this week.

  1. Why there’s no clear winning pricing strategy in B2B SaaS (TC+)

  2. Three San Francisco supervisors receive threats following YC President Garry Tan’s tweet

  3. Apple Vision Pro to launch with over 600 apps and games optimized for the new headset

  4. Senate hearing with five social media CEOs was a missed opportunity

  5. Tech layoffs scale to three-quarter high (TC+)