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.
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels
The post Cryptocurrencies and the Road to a Public Coinbase appeared first on Finovate.
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