Square Buys Bitcoin; Coinbase and the Call for “Mission-Focus”

When we asked a dozen-odd fintech founders and CEOs what they thought was a bigger deal: AI or Bitcoin, during our FinovateFall 25 in 5 Q&A series, the number of respondents more excited by the former than the latter was sizable. But bitcoin fans made their preference known, suggesting that the brightest days for cryptocurrencies were definitely still ahead of us.

We suspect those bitcoin bulls were buoyed by this week’s news that digital payments company Square has invested $50 million in bitcoin. The approximately 4,709 bitcoins purchased by the San Francisco, California-based company represent a fraction of Square’s total assets – around one percent, as of the end of Q2 2020 – but it is not the first time the company has expressed interest in the cryptocurrency. Via its Cash App, Square has offered bitcoin trading since 2018, and a year later, the company launched Square Crypto, a unit dedicated to supporting open source work on bitcoin. But this week’s investment marks the firm’s first financial investment in BTC.

Square CFO Amrita Ahuja explained the investment in part by expressing optimism about bitcoin’s adoption worldwide, saying that it has “the potential to be a more ubiquitous currency in the future.” Ahuja added that Square anticipated participating in the adoption of bitcoin “in a disciplined way.”

It is likely worth noting that Square founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is a big supporter of bitcoin. In 2018, Dorsey said he believed bitcoin – or a similar cryptocurrency – would become the world’s single currency at some point in the not-too-distant future. CNBC’s coverage of Square’s investment noted that other tech-savvy fintechs, such as Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as a hedge.


As the Black Lives Matter-inspired social justice movement swept through the Western world this summer, corporations went into overdrive with efforts to show their support for ending racial discrimination. Many of these initiatives were outwardly directed toward potential customers, potential future employees, investors, the media, the public at large … But many of these attempts to show support were more inwardly directed, with companies encouraging their own workers to make their concerns with regard to social justice issues known – even, if not especially, in the workplace.

Unique among this trend was Coinbase, whose CEO Brian Armstrong not only took a different tack to politics in the workplace, but also put the company’s money behind its Keep Your Politics to Yourself policy. Armstrong made headlines weeks ago when he wrote in a blog post that, because Coinbase was a “mission-focused” company, “We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.” Moreover, he added that if employees disagreed with Coinbase’s policy of leaving politics at the front door, he was happy to offer them a relatively generous severance (including up to six months of pay depending on tenure) if they decided to leave.

“Life’s too short to work at a company that you are not excited about,” Armstrong wrote, requesting his employees decide whether to stay or go by the end of September. And with Armstrong’s Wednesday deadline come and gone, it appears that 60 workers, approximately 5% of the Coinbase’s workforce, have taken the deal.

The move has been controversial, with others in the technology community – including Jack Dorsey of Square and Twitter – suggesting that a healthier environment could be achieved if companies like Coinbase embraced the challenge of these kind of conversations. But, at this point, Armstrong seems at a minimum happy that the policy did not result in what would have easily been the worst possible outcome. “I’ve heard a concern from some of your that this clarification would disproportionately impact our under-represented minority population at Coinbase,” Armstrong wrote in a follow-up blog post. “It was reassuring to see that people from under-represented groups at Coinbase have not taken the exit package in numbers disproportionate to the overall population.”

It will be worth watching to see if other companies – in or out of tech – take a similar strategy.


Photo by Worldspectrum from Pexels

Road Blocks on the Way to Coinbase’s IPO

You’ve probably heard that cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase is considering going public later this year or early next year.

But this likely won’t be a traditional fintech IPO. That’s because the California-based company’s culture is rooted in the blockchain, a technology that embraces alternative finance. Furthermore, Coinbase would be the first major U.S. cryptocurrency exchange to go public, and the fintech community will be paying close attention to the outcome.

That said, there are some roadblocks Coinbase may encounter on its journey to Wall Street.

First, in order to go public, the transaction would need to be approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The hurdle here is that while the SEC has issued guidance on cryptocurrencies, labeling them as securities that are subject to regulation, the organization hasn’t issued guidelines on specific coins, except for a few. In fact, many mainstream financial institutions are wary of cryptocurrencies and see them as a tool for money laundering and illicit activities.

Coinbase will also need to decide how it will be listed. The company can either undergo a traditional IPO that caters to Wall Street investors, take a direct listing approach, or go public via a token offering on the blockchain. While involving the blockchain may be a logical approach for a blockchain-based company, it may cause difficulty, as even a hybrid model would need to be approved by the SEC.

Coinbase must also balance the cryptocurrency market itself. As Laura Shin points out in her podcast Unconfirmed, Coinbase will likely try to time its public debut with the cryptocurrency market, which is known for its volatility. Debuting during a dip in the cryptocurrency market may result in Coinbase receiving a lower-than-expected initial stock price.


Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

Coinbase to Buy Tagomi to Appeal to Sophisticated Investors

Photo by Mohamed Masaau on Unsplash

The fintech landscape is changing and digital currency wallet and crypto exchange platform Coinbase is ready to change right along with it. This is evident in the San Francisco-based company’s move today to acquire Tagomi, a cryptocurrency brokerage platform. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

Coinbase anticipates that the new addition will help it appeal to advanced traders and “sophisticated” crypto investors, two groups that have shown increased interest in Coinbase as of late. The company has catered to these investors by launching tiered offerings, Coinbase Pro, which offers advanced features such as margin trading and tools to help segregate trading strategies; and Coinbase Prime, which is a professional trading platform for institutional clients.

“We’ve seen a swell in demand from institutional investors over the past year, driving tremendous growth in our Coinbase Custody offering and increased volumes on our trading platforms,” the company said in a blog post. “The addition of Tagomi will round out our product suite for the fast-growing institutional trading market. It will allow us to offer custody, professional trading features, and prime brokerage services on one platform, giving sophisticated investors the seamless, powerful trading experience they have come to expect in equities and FX markets.”

Chicago-based Tagomi was launched just a year-and-a-half ago and has since raised $28 million. The company caters to advanced traders, hedge funds, and family offices, including well-known names such as Paradigm, Pantera, Bitwise, and Multicoin.

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is scheduled to close later this year.

Intuit’s $7 Billion Bid for Credit Karma; FinovateEurope Salutes its Best of Show

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

How’s $7 billion for good karma? One of Finovate’s earliest alums Credit Karma is reportedly the target of what would be Intuit’s biggest acquisition to date. According to The Wall Street Journal, the cash and stock deal could be announced as early as Monday.

Credit Karma will continue to function as an independent company with founder and CEO Kenneth Lin at the helm. The acquisition gives Intuit, maker of online tax filing service TurboTax, another contact point with the online personal finance world. Credit Karma provides its members with access to their credit scores and borrowing histories, helps them monitor their accounts for security breaches and, perhaps most relevantly, has offered a free online tax preparation service since 2017.

If the deal holds up, Intuit will be paying a significant premium for Credit Karma. The personal financial wellness company was last valued at $4 billion, based on a 2018 private market transaction.


With another Finovate conference in the books, our Finovate Best of Show ranks has a new set of members. Congratulations to Dorsum, Glia, Horizn, iProov, Sonect, and W.UP for taking home top honors earlier this month at FinovateEurope!

The victory may have been especially sweet for Sonect, whose Best of Show award-winning demo was also the company’s Finovate debut. The Switzerland-based start-up offers what it calls “the world’s first social cash network” that enables consumers to access cash without having to visit a bank branch or ATM. Sonect offers merchants the ability to grow their business via increased traffic and gives financial institutions a way to extend their ATM networks without the cost of additional hardware.

The Best of Show win was also a first for Horizn. The company, which made its Finovate debut three years ago at FinovateEurope, offers a platform that helps employees and customers maximize the opportunities of digitized financial services. Horizn uses simulator microlearning, as well as gamification and advanced analytics, to promote digital adoption across channels.

And last but not least, a special tip of the hat to Dorsum, Glia, iProov, and W.UP, all of whom won Best of Show honors at FinovateEurope for a second year in a row.


Here’s a round up of recent news from our Finovate alumni.

  • Larky enters reseller agreement with Access Softek.
  • Bison Bank in Lisbon, Portugal selects PSD2-ready software from ndigit.
  • Techround interviews Tradeshift co-founder Mikkel Hippe Brun.
  • Bremer Bank leverages Backbase’s digital-first banking platform to fuel digital transformation.
  • Paysend’s multi-currency global account launches in Europe.
  • Kinetica launches Kinetica Cloud.
  • Futurex taps ISARA to bring quantum-safe cryptography and crypto-agility into its Key Management Enterprise Server (KMES) Series 3.
  • With new FCA license, Meniga seeks to expand product offering.
  • StrategyCorps and Digital Onboarding partner to help banks grow checking account relationships.
  • Baker Hill renews partnership with Washington Trust Bank to streamline loan origination and portfolio risk management.
  • Aire launches Credit Insight Suite to improve access to credit.
  • Coinbase becomes Visa principal to offer more feature for Coinbase Card customers.
  • InComm partners with Eezi to launch Poundland’s gift card program.
  • Enveil secures $10 million in Series A funding for secure data collaboration.
  • Trulioo adds image capture SDK to Trulioo GlobalGateway.
  • Amaiz taps ValidSoft for voice authentication.
  • OurCrowd expands focus on growing early stage tech companies.

Finovate Alum Features and Profiles

eToro’s Evolution – Social trading and investment platform eToro has never been one to stand still for very long. The company’s development cycle is fast enough to make even the most sprightly fintech jealous.

Lending Club Snaps Up Radius Bank for $185 Million – When Lending Club was founded in 2007, the startup aimed to serve as a place to help borrowers avoid dealing with banks. In a somewhat ironic move today, that same startup is becoming a bank itself.

Breach Clarity’s New Offering Provides Consumers Personalized Protection – Fraud detection and prevention company Breach Clarity announced this week it has developed a new platform to help financial service providers offer personalized protection for their customers.

New SumUp Card Empowers SMEs as Business Payment Makers and Takers – The company that has helped bring fintech innovation to e-commerce with its mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), card reading solutions now offers merchants a card of their own.

Coinbase’s New Partnership Helps Give Back with Crypto

To celebrate the season of giving, digital currency wallet and crypto management platform Coinbase announced a partnership that will create a way for its users to donate their crypto.

Coinbase has chosen to integrate with micro donations platform DustAid to provide its users in the U.K. with an option to donate to their choice of three charities:

  • NSPCC, a children’s charity that seeks to keep young people safe from abuse
  • The Little Edi Foundation, which provides support and grants to struggling rural communities in Romania
  • Space for Giants, which helps protect and secure the future of elephants and their landscapes

Donations are facilitated through Coinbase Commerce, Coinbase’s service that allows merchants to accept multiple cryptocurrencies and maintain full control of their own digital currency. Coinbase Commerce launched in early 2018 and integrates directly into a merchant’s checkout screen. Since then, the company has amassed more than 2,000 merchants on the service.

“We firmly believe that by using blockchain technology we can help charities positively impact people all over the world. DustAid’s mission is to make giving a simple, easy and transparent part of our daily lives,” said Duncan Murray, Managing Director of DustAid. “We are really proud to be working with leading organizations like Coinbase and NSPCC to make this a reality and to help children be heard this Christmas.”

After its most recent funding round of $300 million, Coinbase’s total funding reached just under $550 million. Recently, the company launched its Coinbase Pro trading platform on mobile and added five new currencies to the Coinbase Card. Coinbase demoed InstantExchange at FinovateSpring 2014.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • ti&m and aixigo Partner to Digitize Wealth Management.
  • TransferWise Inks International Payments Deal with EQ Bank.
  • Coinbase’s New Partnership Helps Give Back with Crypto.

Around the web

  • ThetaRay Names Edward Sander as Chief Product Officer.
  • Frontier Communications deploys Neustar Certified Caller STIR/SHAKEN technology across its IP network to digitally certify phone calls.
  • Citi and PayPal expand partnership for institutional clients.
  • Worldline and CashSentinel partner to provide a payment solution to comply with Swiss and European online marketplaces.
  • Alaska USA Federal Credit Union selects MX to power mobile banking platform.
  • Minna Technologies deepens partnership with OP Financial Group.
  • Chetu continues European expansion, opens new UK office.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Spreedly Raises $75 Million in Growth Funding.
  • NLP Innovator Eigen Technologies Closes $37 Million Series B.
  • nCino Brings AI to its Bank Operating System with nIQ.
  • Lloyd’s Syndicate to Insure Ledger’s Vault.

Around the web

  • DriveWealth partners with Bamboo to give Nigerians real-time access to trade 3,500+ stocks listed on the U.S. stock market.
  • OnDeck builds liquidity with new $125 million securitization.
  • Salt Edge teams up with Exprivia to expand access to open banking solutions.
  • Insuritas partners with Security Federal Savings Bank to launch digital insurance agency platform.
  • Coinbase adds five new currencies to its Coinbase Card – XRP, BAT, REP, ZRX, and XLM – as it brings its card to ten new countries.
  • Mastercard launches Mastercard Accelerate, a worldwide initiative that gives fintechs access to the company’s suite of digital solutions to help differentiate their offerings.
  • Finastra inks partnership with UAE-based United Arab Bank, which will deploy the company’s Fusion Corporate Channels and Fusion Cash Management solutions.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Coinbase Pro Goes Mobile

There have been mobile apps allowing investors to trade stocks on-the-go for a decade now, but mobile options for crypto traders have been limited. That is, up until today.

Digital currency wallet and crypto management platform Coinbase launched the Coinbase Pro mobile app on iOS today. The company notes it will ship on Android “soon.”

The new app offers much of the same functionality as the desktop platform and allows traders to quickly see prices, check their portfolios, and place orders. Similar to the desktop version, the app features analytical tools such as real-time candles, depth charts, order books, and advanced order types. And, just like the desktop version, orders made via the mobile version are subject to the same fees.

Coinbase Pro launched in May of last year to serve Coinbase’s active crypto traders. Coinbase Pro fees range from 0.50% to 0.0% on trades made in a 30-day period. Similar to Coinbase Pro but for institutional clients, Coinbase offers Coinbase Prime.

After its most recent funding round of $300 million, Coinbase’s total funding hit $525 million and its valuation rose to $800 million. Coinbase demoed InstantExchange at FinovateSpring 2014.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Pendleton Community Bank Signs 3E Software’s Teslar for Automation.
  • Coinbase’s Coinbase Pro Goes Mobile.

Around the web

  • Paystand surpasses 100,000 businesses on its network.
  • Swaper celebrates its third birthday.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • CurrencyCloud’s Grant Boosts Total Funding Over $80 Million.

Around the web

  • Barclays ends partnership with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
  • The ID Co illustrates 12-month plan to expand DirectID’s global data coverage.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Grayscale Selects Coinbase to Store its $2.7 Billion in Crypto Assets

Digital currency wallet and crypto management platform Coinbase landed a major win today. The California-based company announced that Grayscale, a major digital asset fund manager, has partnered with Coinbase to store its $2.7 billion worth of assets on Coinbase Custody.

Launched in 2017, Coinbase Custody is a cold storage solution for crypto assets. In May of this year, Coinbase Custody reported it had reached $1 billion in crypto assets under management. Today’s agreement with Grayscale, which will use Coinbase Custody to store all of its digital assets, more than doubles Coinbase Custody’s AUM.

According to the Coinbase blog, Grayscale selected Coinbase Custody after researching more than 30 other custodians. All were evaluated on factors such as security, regulatory compliance, insurance coverage, scalability, and their suitability as a partner. “We’re honored to have been selected based on such a comprehensive evaluation process,” Coinbase said in a blog post.

Coinbase aims to be top-of-mind with traditional wealth management firms as they add crypto to their offerings. The company’s Coinbase Pro offering provides a compliant way to access a regulated, verified crypto liquidity with APIs and hands-on customer service.

After its most recent funding round of $300 million, Coinbase’s total funding hit $525 million and its valuation rose to $800 million. Coinbase demoed Instant Exchange at FinovateSpring 2014. 

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Grayscale Selects Coinbase to Store Crypto Assets

Around the web

  • Bobsguide awards Taulia partnership award for its alliance with NHS Business Services.
  • Tuition.io powers student loan repayment for Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall.
  • CREALOGIX records over $101 million (CHF 100 million) in sales for the first time.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.