I was recently asked, “who do you look up to?” I hesitated to answer because there are so many incredible minds in the crypto ecosystem that it is truly a tough question. I thought about who is doing the most to bring the decentralized ecosystem to the masses. Who is staying true to the core values that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology represent? After some minutes of deep thought, I landed on my answer.
Brian Armstrong had a vision in early 2012, before any of the hype, before any of the ICOs, back when there were only a handful of coins in existence. His vision was to enable people to purchase bitcoin as easily as one could buy stocks online. In 2018, that sounds like a no-brainer; but, back in 2012, being able to connect your bank account to an online brokerage and purchase bitcoin was unheard of. As the vast majority of bitcoin trades were done in-person, enabling people to buy bitcoin from the comfort of their own home was a game changer.
Brian Armstrong and his co-founder, Fred Ehrsam, started Coinbase in 2012 with the goal of making cryptocurrency as accessible as listed equities. That goal has largely been achieved and has evolved into a larger vision that is clarified in their new mission statement: “To Create an Open Financial System for the World.” In September of 2016, Armstrong clearly laid out this vision for an Open Financial System –
Phase 1: Develop the protocol (1M people)
“Coinbase works closely with the open source communities around each protocol, contributing financially in some cases, but we did not play a major role in this phase.”
Phase 2: Build a digital currency exchange (10M people)
“In this phase, we’ve built Coinbase for consumers and GDAX for institutions and pro traders. This is our core business today, and we’ll use the revenue from this phase to invest in the later phases while continuing to expand our core businesses to more countries.”
Phase 3: Build a consumer interface for digital currency apps (100M people)
“Coinbase will participate here by building or investing in teams who are working on this application.”
Phase 4: Build the apps of an open financial system (1B people)
Loans (mortgages, small business lending, micro-lending, etc)
Venture Capital (seed, traditional VC, venture debt, etc)
Investing (stocks, index funds, savings accounts, etc)
Identity & Reputation (IDs, authentication, credit scores, etc)
Remittance (sending money cross-border)
Merchant Processing (point of sale, internet orders)
“Coinbase will participate in this area by buying, building, or investing in various companies. We will also build developer tools and work with regulators to craft appropriate regulation in this space.”
Let’s see how Armstrong is positioning Coinbase to achieve this vision.