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Crypto investors ‘should have been thinking long term,’ says Reddit co-founder and Coinbase backer Alexis Ohanian

Cryptocurrency investors “should have been thinking long term,” says Reddit cofounder and Coinbase backer Alexis Ohanian.

A longtime believer in cryptocurrency, Ohanian called its decline a “painful thing.” By the end of last year, Bitcoin had plummeted 80% from where it stood a year prior. But Ohanian said disappointed investors should have sought earnings over the long run.

“I think that's just generally good advice for any kind of investing, but especially something so nascent as crypto,” said Ohanian, the co-founder of venture capital firm Initialized Capital.

He bemoaned the current “crypto winter” but said it will ultimately prove beneficial because “speculators have fled and the people who are now building on crypto are true believers...they’re actually building the infrastructure that it's going to take to really make this happen.”

Ohanian made the comments to Editor-in-chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that will air on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Also in the episode, Ohanian talked about what he says is an overlooked tech market, why potential regulations of the social media make him nervous, and how race has played a role in his marriage with tennis superstar Serena Williams.

Weeks after graduating from college, Ohanian co-founded the social media site Reddit, an instant hit that’s now one of the most popular destinations on the internet. At age 23, he became a multi-millionaire when he and his partner sold the site to Conde Nast. He later co-founded Initialized Capital, which finds and develops software companies, among them Coinbase and Instacart.

Cryptocurrency once garnered lots of hype, Ohanian said, but another big tech market has attracted hardly any: services for the elderly.

“We're seeing all this infrastructure being built now by millennials for boomers, who are a growing and growing portion of the population, who have the dollars to spend, and who are now tech literate enough,” Ohanian said.

Alex Ohanian
Andy Serwer and Alex Ohanian

He pointed to ventures like Voyage, an autonomous taxi service built for retirement communities; and True Link Financial, which provides banking services for the elderly that protect them from scams.

Ohanian calls the sector “elder tech.”

“I’ve tried to coin that,” he said. “I'm excited by it because this is a massive, very underserved market. It's going to make lives a lot better, too.”

Potential regulations on social media companies, however, do not excite Ohanian, who said such proposals make him “very nervous.”

“It is really important that as a government we take into consideration the fact that if we set a standard of rules, the people in power today will get to set them, but the people in power tomorrow will get to change them,” he said.

In November 2017, Ohanian married tennis superstar Serena Williams, two months after the birth of their daughter Alexis Olympia. Part of one of the country’s most recognizable interracial couples at a divisive political moment, Ohanian said critics have not confronted him about it, at least face to face.

“It's probably because I'm a very big man and they're too scared,” he said. “But look, I would be foolish to say that [race] does not play a role in our marriage and in our lives.”

“There are moments when I've absolutely misstepped or misunderstood,” he added. “And those are painful moments because we all like to think of ourselves as good people. And it doesn't mean that we're not good people, per se. It's those moments that I feel like are opportunities for growth.”

Ohanian also gave his outlook on the 2020 Democratic presidential race, pointing to a candidate who has flown under the radar.

“I've been most intrigued by the fact that the Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, has been all but overlooked by most of media,” he said. “If I have any lessons learned from watching social, particularly Reddit, but watching social during Trump's rise, during Obama's rise, it's that there are a lot of these signals you see online that bubble up.”

He gave one other reason for his interest in Gabbard.

“She is the first millennial presidential candidate,” he said.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.

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