Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) (#499)

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Katie Haun (@katie_haun) is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Previously, she spent a decade as a federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime, and corporate crime, alongside agencies including the SEC, FBI, and Treasury. She created the government’s first cryptocurrency task force and led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the corrupt agents on the Silk Road task force.

While serving as a federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, she also prosecuted RICO murders, organized crime, public corruption, gangs, and money laundering. She held senior positions at Justice Department headquarters in both the National Security Division and attorney general’s office, where her portfolio included antitrust, tax, and national security. Katie has testified before both houses of Congress on the intersection of technology and regulation.

Katie serves on the board of Coinbase, where she chairs its audit and risk committees, and HackerOne. She also advises numerous technology companies and has invested in a range of companies from seed to Series C stage. She teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Stanford Business School and previously taught cybercrime at Stanford Law School.

Katie clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and is an honors graduate of Stanford Law School. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) (#499)
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to listen to another episode about cryptocurrency? Make sure to check out my conversation with Nick Szabo, in which we discuss social scalability, strengths and weaknesses of Etherium, blockchain governance, quantum thought, future careers, and much more.

#244: The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency — Nick Szabo
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SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Katie Haun:

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SHOW NOTES

  • Katie gives us a rundown of how blockchain technology both powered the Silk Road darknet market and dropped the breadcrumbs that led to its downfall — as well as the arrest of the corrupt agents who were exploiting the investigation for their personal enrichment. [06:45]
  • As an aside for anyone not already in the know: what is blockchain technology? [16:57]
  • How did Katie get the tip that there were corrupt agents profiting from the investigation? [21:23]
  • What does the job of a federal prosecutor entail? [24:30]
  • As a federal prosecutor, Katie never lost a case. To what does she attribute this perfect record? What is it about her methodology that differentiated her from others in her field? [26:00]
  • What made “fearless and egoless” Assistant US Attorney Wil Frentzen such a good mentor (and a bit of a character) during this time? [32:15]
  • A story about the time Katie and Wil made sure Google wasn’t above the law. [35:58]
  • How is the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act used to take down organized crime? [38:55]
  • While working to put violent criminals behind bars, what was the self-talk that kept Katie level-headed when risks to personal safety were of valid concern? How large are these criminal organizations, and how much reach do they have in the outside world? [41:40]
  • Was there ever an instance where Katie genuinely feared for her life while prosecuting these types of criminals? [47:34]
  • When did Katie first hear about Bitcoin, and how did her impression of it change as she learned more about it? [48:37]
  • From navigating the mistrust of early players in the emerging crypto space to finding common ground and eventually joining the Coinbase board of directors. [51:57]
  • Why it’s important for there to be ongoing dialogue between governments and crypto developers. [56:31]
  • On illustrating the potential good of cryptocurrency with Paul Krugman and others who are skeptical of — or even downright hostile toward — it. [58:24]
  • What are NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and how do they work? [1:01:16]
  • What developments does Katie expect to see in crypto or blockchain over the next three to five years? [1:08:05]
  • In what ways does Katie see regulation of these new technologies taking shape as government adapts to understanding them? [1:15:07]
  • What types of countries will most readily embrace digital currencies in a powerful way, and is Katie concerned that the US might just show up too late to the party? [1:21:03]
  • How might Bitcoin volatility decrease to the point where larger institutional investors would allow it into their portfolios as they do gold? [1:29:50]
  • What roads less traveled have been the most challenging for Katie? [1:32:58]
  • What’s the story behind Katie’s pivot from government prosecutor to joining the board of a cryptocurrency company and working with venture capital? [1:38:42]
  • Does Katie agree with one of our mutual friends that she is a child whisperer of sorts? How was she inspired to excel when she was a child, and what does her son want to be when he grows up? [1:45:27]
  • Favorite books and the memories with which they’ve become entwined. [1:53:00]
  • Katie’s ask of the audience: explore crypto (and suggested resources to get started). [1:57:55]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:04:13]

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8 Replies to “Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) (#499)”

  1. Hi Tim,

    I’d encourage you to think about everything happening in the “crypto” space through a monetary lens rather than a technological one. NFTs, dollar-denominated stable coins, and other “bleeding edge” technologies may have some interesting use cases, but none of these hold a candle to Bitcoin nor have its potential to change the structure of the world. I encourage you to talk to some (non Silicon Valley) Bitcoiners like Michael Saylor, Vijay Boyapati, or fellow Austinite Pierre Rochard.

  2. It is so comforting to know that we have people of Katie Haun’s high intelligence working as prosecutors and as former prosecutors in this country. The types of legal matters that Tim Ferriss and Ms. Haun discussed on this podcast are, I’m sure, so hard to get one’s head wrapped around, and having people of this caliber in the Federal Prosecutor’s Office is invaluable. About a decade ago, I served on the Los Angeles County Grand Jury Duty. That thirty day period was so educational to me, and the various assistant D.A.’s, such as Deborah Brazil and Alan Jackson, worked with us to really make sure we understood that issues that were at hand in various cases. I really respect people who push hard no only to de-tangle complicated crimes, but also who make an effort to help juries to understand what they are dealing with in a really digestible way. Fantastic interview Tim!

  3. I really enjoyed this podcast but was hpping to watch the TedTalk that was referenced toward the end of the talk. Is there a chance we could find out what it is?
    Thanks

  4. Thanks for this! Such great insight into that world and it’s good to hear that some are ready to put work, ethics and code before ego and career!

  5. Tim! I am a HUGE fan of yours. You have a commitment to excellence like no other, and consistently produce solid content. Do you ever plan on merch?? I would love to have something in my apparel to wear that points to you. Thanks!!