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The news is abuzz with excitement about Coinbase’s IPO. The San Francisco-based digital currency platform began trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker COIN for $381 per share today and closed out the day at just over $328 per share.
It’s always exciting when a fintech company goes public, but there are a few reasons why Coinbase’s debut is particularly compelling:
Coinbase’s listing helps legitimize cryptocurrency in general. Many everyday consumers consider cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange for fraudsters and bad actors on the dark web. This will shift, however, to placing digital currencies in a more positive light and consumers will begin to understand the true benefits of crypto– a tool for faster payments, a way to lower fees, and an agent for a more inclusive financial system.
Sets the stage
The Coinbase IPO sets a precedent for others in the cryptocurrency industry to go public. Digital currency wallets and crypto marketplaces are closely tied to the price of cryptocurrencies, which have historically been extremely volatile.
Despite the uncertainty, Coinbase has proven to be profitable. According to the New York Times, Coinbase made $730 million to $800 million in net profit on $1.8 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year. The company’s performance in the public eye will dictate the moves of others in the cryptocurrency industry, including bitcoin exchange Kraken, which is considering a public listing next year.
Ready for CBDCs?
One effect we may see come from Coinbase’s move into the public eye is its potential to prime the U.S. market for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). This reflects back to the first discussion point about offering a sense of legitimacy to the cryptocurrency realm.
The U.S. hasn’t taken any formal actions toward the launch of its own digital currency. However, multiple other nations, including China, Brazil, and Russia, have recently made announcements regarding their own nations’ CBDCs. Bringing cryptocurrency into the realm of traditional finance helps ready the everyday U.S. consumer for the eventual proliferation of digital currencies.
An increase in demand
Will Coinbase’s exposure outside the cryptocurrency space increase the number of people holding digital currencies?
Ben Weiss, CEO of crypto ATM provider CoinFlip answers it this way, “While it is hard for us to know if more people will get into crypto just because Coinbase is trading publicly, we know for sure that at least people who were too scared of the volatility of bitcoin can now take a more traditional approach by buying Coinbase stock. There will definitely be a lot of these people and hopefully this is a gateway for them to get into bitcoin over time.”
From its role as a digital currency innovator to its controversial, politics-free workplace stance, Coinbase continues to be one of fintech’s most compelling stories. And with the company moving ever closer toward a becoming a publicly-traded firm, attention on the San Francisco, California-based digital currency exchange only has intensified.
There may be no better example of this dynamic than an article published on Bloomberg.com this week headlined “Coinbase Is a $100 Billion Crypto Cult.” The author, Jared Dillian, is an investment strategist who wastes little time in letting readers know where he stands on a platform that “has frequent service outages, nonexistent customer service, and sky-high transaction costs.”
Nevertheless, as Dillian acknowledges, there are precious few alternatives for individual cryptocurrency investors. Moreover, much of his dissatisfaction seems to stem from an unfavorable comparison between Coinbase and discount stock brokerages – which have very different histories as well as very different ways of generating revenue.
As for the cult reference, that too has less to do with Coinbase and more to do with the author’s take on the contemporary enthusiasm/mania for cryptocurrencies. If you believe that investment in Bitcoin and other digital assets “has crossed over into religion territory” and represents “an investment cult,” then it is understandable to be critical of an institution that facilitates the behavior. But that, as Dillian indicates, is akin to blaming the store for selling picks and shovels to the gold miners.
What is Coinbase eight and a half years after its launch in 2012 (and six and a half after its Finovate debut)? Will its going public mark the beginning of a new era in digital asset adoption by institutions and individuals? Or, as has been the case in the past, will the news signal, if not an end, then at least a pause in what has been a surge in interest in cryptocurrencies since the spring of 2020?
Here’s what we know: Coinbase has filed with the SEC to go public by way of a direct listing, selling shares directly to the public rather than via a traditional IPO. The company will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker COIN. In terms of the company’s current valuation, at its most recent funding in 2018, Coinbase was valued at $8 billion. More recently, Axios has reported that Coinbase was valued at $100 billion when it sold shares on the Nasdaq Private Market earlier this year.
Coinbase currently has 43 million verified users (up from 12,000 in 2012). The company has a lifetime trading volume of $456 million and currently has more than $90 billion in assets on its platform. In fiscal 2020, the company experienced trading volume of $38 billion more than double that of fiscal 2018. And perhaps most critically, Coinbase has begun to secure the kind of institutional support that both the company and the cryptocurrencies it manages need. The company reported having 7,000 institutional customers as of the end of 2020, a seven-fold increase over 2017. Revenue growth also has been strong for Coinbase, with the company achieving revenues $1.3 billion in fiscal 2020 compared to $533.7 million in fiscal 2019.
What does this mean for a publicly-traded entity? The best case for $COIN may rest in its ability to serve as a safer haven for crypto-curious investors who do not have the interest in analyzing – or even deeply understanding – individual digital assets. Coinbase could find itself serving a role, in the near-term, that might otherwise be played by a Bitcoin or cryptocurrency exchange-traded fund. And if we are still in the early days of the Digital Asset Age, that may not be a bad place to be.
With bitcoin and cryptocurrencies enjoying renewed interest, it’s worth noting that many fintech fans encountered their first bitcoin-related businesses through Finovate conferences.
Here’s a look at some of the companies that have brought their bitcoin and crypto-powered innovations to the Finovate stage.
OpenCoin – FinovateSpring 2013 – The company now well-known as Ripple was introduced to Finovate audiences back in 2013. At FinovateSpring that year, Chris Larsen – CEO of a startup called OpenCoin – introduced its virtual currency and distributed open source payment network. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, Ripple currently has more than 300 financial institutions who leverage its RippleNet blockchain network to power real-time payments.
KlickEx – FinovateAsia 2013 – New Zealand-based KlickEx unveiled its asset-backed and algorithmic cryptocurrency for institutional and retail users at FinovateAsia in 2013. The company, founded in 2009, recently announced a partnership with the National Reserve Bank of Tonga to launch a new national payment system.
Coinbase – FinovateSpring 2014 – Among the bigger names in bitcoin and cryptocurrency to have demonstrated their technology at Finovate conferences is San Francisco, California-based Coinbase. Debuting at Finovate with its Instant Exchange in 2014, Coinbase has grown into one of the biggest players in the cryptocurrency market with more than 35 million verified users and more than $320 billion in total volume traded on its platform.
AlphaPoint – FinovateEurope 2015 – With more than $350 million in monthly trading volume and 20 digital currency exchanges operating in 15 countries, AlphaPoint is a leading fintech exchange platform provider for digital currencies. The company demoed version two of its digital currency exchange platform at FinovateEurope in 2015.
CoinJar – FinovateEurope 2015 – Australia’s largest and longest-operating bitcoin company, CoinJar demonstrated its platform at FinovateEurope 2015. The Best of Show-winning firm was the first in its market to offer a bitcoin debit card that enabled cardholders to use the cryptocurrency for everyday purchases.
Bitbond – FinovateEurope 2015 – Berlin, Germany’s Bitbond offers a global P2P bitcoin lending platform that enables anyone with an Internet connection to both get loans as well as invest their savings for interest. The company demonstrated its AutoInvest functionality, which facilitates and automates fund allocation in a portfolio, at FinovateEurope 2015.
itBit – FinovateSpring 2015 – New York-based itBit demonstrated its bitcoin trading platform at FinovateSpring in 2015. The company’s technology enables both institutional and retail investors to buy and sell bitcoin. Rebranded as Paxos in the fall of 2016, the company has since highlighted its work in private blockchains and distributed ledger technology.
Blockstack.io – FinovateFall 2015 – Best of Show winning Blockstack.io offers a hosted and licensed enterprise blockchain platform that enables financial services companies and others to build applications on their own private blockchain. The San Francisco, California-based company, founded in 2015, was acquired by Digital Asset Holdings for an undisclosed sum before the end of the year.
ArcBit – FinovateFall 2015 – With a pledge to leverage bitcoin and blockchain technology to bring banking to the underbanked, ArcBit, which made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall in 2015, offers a mobile wallet specifically designed to give bitcoin owners full control over their cryptoholdings.
Coinalytics – FinDEVr San Francisco 2015 – Our developers conference, FinDEVr is one way that many bitcoin and crytocurrency innovators were able to bring their innovations to the public. Coinanalytics, which offers an end-to-end intelligence platform for the bitcoin industry, is an example of the kind of company developing solutions to make bitcoin a better opportunity for payments, financial services, and IoT.
BlockCypher – FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2015 – Another alum of our developer’s conference, BlockCypher offers companies a cloud-optimized, enterprise-grade blockchain platform that enables them to build reliable blockchain apps. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, the company was founded in 2014.
Gem – FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2015 – Founded in 2014 and based in Venice, California, Gem demonstrated its API which provides a comprehensive security solution for bitcoin apps – without taking control over funds. With a few lines of code, Gem enables developers to provide an interface to their bitcoin apps that gives users better funding options.
Ledger – FinovateEurope 2016 – Headquartered in Paris, France and founded in 2015, Ledger designs trusted hardware solutions for bitcoin and blockchain apps. The company’s solutions, including the Nano X and Nano S, provide cryptocurrency owners with a secure, portable way to take and manage their digital assets wherever they are.
Stratumn – FinDEVr New York 2016 – Enterprise blockchain technology company Stratumn provides firms with the infrastructure and tools they need to to build, deploy, and run blockchain. The company presented the high performance, proof-of-existence engine of its development platform at our developer’s conference in 2016. Jerome Lefebvre took over as CEO of the company from co-founder Richard Caetano in the fall of 2019.
Plutus.it – FinovateEurope 2018 – London-based Plutus demonstrated its Tap & Pay and Debit Card solutions that enable consumers to pay with bitcoin or Ethereum at any contactless point of sale. Founded in 2016, the company currently supports more than 26,000 Plutus accounts and credits its users for acquiring more than $100,000 in rewards via its Pluton Rewards program.
Amber Labs – Finovate MiddleEast 2019 – Best of Show winner Amber Labs is a bitcoin exchange, wallet, and micro-investment app in one. Headquartered in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and founded in 2017, Amber Labs offers a mobile first, automated investment platform for retail customers looking to buy and sell bitcoin.
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.
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.
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.
How’s $7 billion for good karma? One of Finovate’s earliest alumsCredit 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.
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.
Larkyenters reseller agreement with Access Softek.
Bison Bank in Lisbon, Portugal selects PSD2-ready software from ndigit.
OurCrowdexpands 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.
To celebrate the season of giving, digital currency wallet and crypto management platform Coinbaseannounced 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 demoedInstantExchange at FinovateSpring 2014.
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 Coinbaselaunched 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 offersCoinbase 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 demoedInstantExchange at FinovateSpring 2014.