Coinbase just went public in what was one of the most highly anticipated IPOs of the year. Opening at $381 per share, the company instantly hit a valuation of $85 billion, making its CEO and Co-founder, Brian Armstrong, a billionaire many times over. It truly was a watershed moment for cryptocurrency and, in response, the price of Bitcoin rallied to the all-time high of $64,000 in anticipation of the IPO.
Founded in 2012 with then business partner Fred Ehrsam, Armstrong operated Coinbase out of a 2-bedroom apartment when a Bitcoin was only worth $6. The two partners saw value in Bitcoin’s promise of digital currency for everyone and created a mission based on their bullish view, “to make crypto easy to use.”
The son of engineers, Armstrong’s prior experience to Coinbase included working as a developer for IBM, a consultant for Deloitte, and a software engineer for Airbnb. During this time, he came across Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper on Bitcoin and was inspired by the possibility of digital currency while seeing first-hand the difficulties in sending money around the world. After entering a Y Combinator startup accelerator to fund Coinbase, he received a $150,000 investment.
Today, Coinbase’s mission is about creating an open, global financial system. Armstrong sees cryptocurrency as a means to economic freedom for people all over the world. The company currently has 56 million users with a first quarter revenue sitting at an estimated $1.8 billion with $800 million being net income.
The growth has been accelerated by the rising popularity of cryptocurrency following the pandemic. Although his company’s value rises and falls with the value of Bitcoin, Armstrong has held on to Coinbase with the same faith with which he held Bitcoin in its early days, through its multiple crashes, and the loss of employees that followed.
The company’s success comes from its dedication to Armstrong’s mission of providing transparency into the crypto economy. Coinbase allows itself to be the ‘on-ramp’ to cryptocurrency, offering an easy-to-use platform, education to millions, and transparency of fees (something that other platforms lack). Its friendly platform has been a cryptocurrency gateway for millions of users across geographies from retail to recently corporate investors. Although Armstrong keeps out of the public eye for the most part, his mission rings loud and clear.