A manager at a $6 billion quant fund gives the best intro to cryptocurrencies we’ve heard

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Patrick O’Shaughnessy vividly recalls the week he was introduced to the world of cryptocurrencies.

O’Shaughnessy, a manager at his family’s $ 6 billion quant asset manager of the same name, was chatting with one of his analysts over lunch at the beginning of this year about what they did over the weekend.

“He told me he bought a bunch of cryptocurrencies: ether, bitcoin, and litecoin,” O’Shaughnessy told Business Insider. “And I was like, ‘What the hell is a cryptocurrency?'”

He figured that if one of his guys was spending time on “this stuff,” he’d have to learn more.

Serendipitously, the next day O’Shaughnessy got an email from Matthew Goetz, a former vice president at Goldman Sachs, who wanted to connect with O’Shaughnessy to tell him about the cryptocurrency hedge fund he was looking to start with Ari Paul, formerly of Susquehanna, a quantitative trading firm.

Today, that hedge fund is BlockTower Capital.

That weekend, O’Shaughnessy met up with Paul in Chicago to talk crypto. The conversation, which was 95% Paul answering O’Shaughnessy’s litany of questions, triggered his journey into the world of cryptocurrencies.

That journey, which O’Shaughnessy says is still ongoing, produced one of the best introductions to blockchain that this reporter has ever come across: “Hash Power.”

The audio documentary, a collaborative effort from O’Shaughnessy and the gang at BlockTower, is meant for newcomers, but it’s weighty with interviews and insights from leaders in the field — including Fred Ehrsam, the cofounder of Coinbase — and a slew of crypto-investors.

The first episode is a high-level look at the technology underpinning bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies: blockchain. It starts with a definition by Jeremiah Lowin, the director of risk management at Kokino:

“This is a database. What’s special about it is it’s distributed. It’s all across the world. It’s hosted by many, many different computers in this sort of peer-to-peer framework. So there is no one central server running this, and, critically, there is no one person who has control of it.

“So we have this distributed global decentralized database. So what? Why is that interesting? What’s interesting about this is the original bitcoin paper produces a way to let people trust the content of this database even though they don’t know who all the other people around the world are who are writing into it.”

The episode is further guided by Naval Ravikant, the CEO of AngelList; Peter Jubber of Fidelity; Olaf Carlson-Wee, the first employee of Coinbase; and others. Have a listen:

The next two episodes will cover investing in cryptocurrencies and new projects in the field.

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