Coinbase: The Journey to Becoming the Premier US Exchange 

1:47 pm  |  29.01.2024

Coinbase is a compelling narrative of overcoming challenges and pioneering a revolutionary product that would later emerge as one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States.

The Founders’ Resilience

The journey began with a family of engineers in California, whose interest in programming led them to create their first websites. After obtaining two advanced degrees in economics and programming from Rice University, the founders encountered the complexities of online payments during their first startup in 2004.

Facing setbacks in consulting, they decided to make a radical life change by moving to Argentina, only to return to the USA after encountering disappointments. Joining Airbnb in the finance department, they tackled international transfer issues, gradually recognizing the inefficiencies within the financial system.

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Bitcoin: A Turning Point

While at Airbnb, a pivotal moment occurred when a white paper from the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin, often likened to a revelation, crossed their paths. Brian Armstrong, the key figure in this story, saw the potential for a revolutionary solution to the problems within the financial system.

Building the Future: From Idea to Reality

Driven by the belief in Bitcoin’s transformative power, Armstrong emerged as the richest crypto company founder in 2017 with a net worth of $6.5 billion. Coinbase, the company he co-founded, soared to a valuation exceeding $100 billion, solidifying its position as the largest gateway for development projects in the United States.

Armstrong’s journey reflects a determination to address problems head-on rather than waiting for others to solve them. Recognizing the endless potential and inefficiencies in the financial system, he aimed to change the world by spearheading Coinbase.

Armstrong’s initial ideas, shared on platforms like Reddit and Hacker News, faced skepticism. The post titled “PayPal for Bitcoin” introduced the concept of Coinbase (then Bitbank), soliciting a co-founder for the project. Negative comments poured in, questioning the potential and convenience of the proposed solution.

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Fred Esam: Another Crypto Enthusiast

Simultaneously, in New York, Fred Esam, a trader at Goldman Sachs, embarked on his journey into Bitcoin. His encounter with Armstrong’s idea on Hacker News resonated with him, leading to a meeting that would eventually shape the future of Coinbase.

While Brian Armstrong and Fred Esam aligned on their vision for Coinbase, disagreements with Ben Reeves, a British programmer and co-founder of, led to their separation. The divergence centered on the debate between a decentralized system, championed by Reeves, and Armstrong’s preference for centralization.

Coinbase’s journey, fueled by determination, foresight, and resilience, underscores the transformative power of visionary leadership in the cryptocurrency landscape.

Getting Started with Coinbase: First Investments, User Base, and Rapid Growth

Coinbase, conceived in 2012 within the confines of a small two-room apartment belonging to Fred Esam and Brian Armstrong, emerged with a vision and unwavering belief in their idea.

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At its inception, Coinbase’s mission was clear: to simplify the use of cryptocurrency. In the early days, Bitcoin was valued at $6, and the concept of digital money for global accessibility was a bold and revolutionary idea.

Beginning in 2012, Coinbase offered services for purchasing Bitcoin through bank transfers, entering an underserved market. The company attracted early users and progressively enhanced the user experience by refining the interface and introducing new features, including support for various tokens.

Accelerated Growth and Funding

Benefiting from the thriving startup environment in the US, Coinbase secured its first funding of $5 million from Union Square Ventures in May 2013. The following December marked a pivotal moment as Andreessen Horowitz, the largest cryptocurrency fund at the time, invested $25 million in Coinbase, setting the stage for subsequent growth.

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With a significant influx of funds, Coinbase experienced unprecedented growth. Within two years, the company expanded its workforce to 1,000 employees, a testament to its rapid ascent in the cryptocurrency landscape.

Challenges Amid Bitcoin’s Fluctuations

Despite initial success, Coinbase faced challenges during Bitcoin’s price decline from $1,160 to $150 in 2014. Issues included team departures, loss of user deposits due to non-acceptance of Bitcoin Cash, and a more challenging client acquisition environment.

Strategic Response and Resilience

In the face of adversity, Coinbase adapted, restoring user deposits and addressing concerns. By January 2015, the company attracted another $75 million in investment from Draper Fisher Jurvertson, the New York Stock Exchange, and the United Services Automobile Association, signaling resilience and investor confidence.

By 2016, Coinbase achieved a transaction volume exceeding $25 billion, showcasing its market dominance. Despite challenges in the bear market of 2017, the company secured $100 million in a new investment round, becoming the first unicorn cryptocurrency exchange with a valuation of $1.6 billion.

Paradigm Shift and Nasdaq Listing

In 2017, Fred Esam departed Coinbase to launch PARADIGM, surprising the industry given Coinbase’s strong ties to leading venture capital funds. Meanwhile, post-pandemic growth saw Coinbase accepting substantial investments, earning over $300 million in 2020.

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In a surprising move, Coinbase announced its listing on Nasdaq. The debut was highly successful, with a valuation of an impressive $100 billion. Brian Armstrong’s strategic decisions over four years led to a staggering 75-fold increase in Coinbase’s stock market valuation, solidifying his reputation as a visionary genius in the cryptocurrency space.

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