Coinbase CEO Talks About the Company’s Interaction with Bitcoin and Other Stuff

7 min read

Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong expressed last week his points of view on crypto space and the company’s involvement in its development.

Speaking at the Bloomberg TV‘s second annual “Players Technology Summit” held on 14 August 2018 in San Francisco, Brian Armstrong, co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, explained how he became part of the Bitcoin community, the progress of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, Bitcoin’s market price, his point of view on the US SEC as well on distrust in the crypto sector offered by some financial giants such as Warren Buffett. In addition, he talked about how ICO will evolve and the future of the global adoption rate of cryptocurrencies. Here are some of the focal points from the interview.

How Coinbase CEO met the crypto space

“I had started computer science and economics in school. I had taken a year to leave abroad in Argentina, which is a country that had got into hyperinflation. And then… I joined Airbnb. And they were a company that was moving money to 190 countries all over the world. So, I sort of had a front row seat into the difficulty of integrating with the global financial system. Every country has kind of their own systems you have to integrate with… In December of 2010, I happened to read the Bitcoin white paper, which was written by this mysterious person who nobody knows: Satoshi Nakamoto… It definitely captured my imagination when I read it because it talked about how the whole world could have this universal currency that ran on the internet… It just grabbed me and I felt like this is the most important thing I have read in like five years. So, I started go around to different meetups in San Francisco… they had these very early Bitcoin meetups… I remember thinking ‘Oh my gosh! I am too late to the game!’ because there was already Bitcoin exchanges… this was the 2011 timeframe… I’d go to these meetups and the room was half [full of] brilliant computer scientist people and half completely crazy people… So, in that environment, I started to tinker with the prototype on nights and weekends, which eventually would became Coinbase, and so that was a little bit of the origin story.”

The progress of Coinbase

  • Coinbase holds “10 to 20 billion dollars of customers’ crypto.”
  • “So, I think we are the largets custodian of crypto right now (that we know of).”
  • Coinbase’s first product was a hosted Bitcoin wallet.
  • “But a funny thing happened: all these people were signing up for the product, and they were like ‘I like the product, but I don’t have any bitcoin to keep in the wallet, and so it would be nice if I could buy some”, and that was the next feature we launched: an easy way to buy and sell it, and that became the first product that got mainstream adoption. We’ve got about 25 million customers of that product now.”
  • “We now have a number of products… Another one we launched is an exchange… If Coinbase like the Charles Schwab or Fidelity of crypto, our exchange is like the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq of crypto. So, we did about $150 billion of crypto trading on that exchange [GDAX, which is now called Coinbase Prime] in the last year, and now we have other products coming out as well. We have a custodian for institutions, we have an asset management firm that creates these index funds…”
  • “Our mission as a company is to create an open financial system for the world, and one of the first things we need to do to make that happen is enable people all over the world to get their fiat money in and out of crypto money, and so to be like that bridge all over the world… Once we do that, we need to shift crypto into what I call the utility phase, meaning ‘let’s have people actually try to use it in their daily lives for various goods and services…”
  • “We now have about a 1000 people at the company.”

CEO’s point of view over the US SEC

“For my point of view, the SEC has been pretty positive on it. I don’t expect them to take some brand new technology and instantly bless it. Their job is to ensure there’s a safe market out there, that consumers aren’t going to get defrauded… Rightfully so, they are looking at it with a lot of scrutiny, especially as there are so many new coins coming out there that are of questionable value… So, from my point of view, they’ve been actually good to work with, just helping the ones that are more established come out, and the next big challenge we have working with them is we need to jointly define a standard for what is an acceptable cryptocurrency, how do you classify one as a security vs commodity, and all those kinds of questions.”

How ICO will evolve

“We’ve taken a more cautious approach to looking at ICOs… With that being said, I do think ICOs are an important innovation in the world, and the reason is that it’s really difficult for people out there in the whole world to raise money for new ventures… Yes, there’s a lot of legal questions to work through… There are questions about quality with some of them, but I expect the ICO trend to continue… In fact, this year,  I think already it is track to be 4X the size it was in 2017, and ICOs have broken all the previous crowd funding records out there.”

The global adoption of cryptocurrencies

“There are certainly countries undergoing economic crisis, and there are pockets of people in those areas that are getting interested in cryptocurrency… It’s terrible to see what is happening in places like Venezuela… One effort that I started, on the side, is a non-profit called “GiveCrypto.org”, and what we are doing is trying to make small payments out to people in the world who are going through economic crisis… I am bullish on that in the next 3-5 years… and you could see people organically adopting crypto as an alternative… The vast majority of usage is in the investment phase… In the U.S., I would say that is 90% of the activity. Let’s say 10% is real world usage…. People are using it online… online crowd funding… people creating a bunch of games … people creating user generated content sites… those are the kind of use cases that will take off first…”

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