By Tanaya Macheel and Jacqueline Corba
Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange and the first crypto start-up to earn a billion-dollar valuation, is taking advantage of the crypto slump to prime even more growth.
Just don't call it "Too Big To Fail."
"I think this is actually the time that Coinbase loves, because we are laying the foundation for something much bigger," Emilie Choi, the company's vice president of corporate and business development, told Cheddar at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. "We are seeing all these really great promising indicators towards what we believe is the next frontier of technology."
In the last year, Coinbase's homebase in San Fran has grown from a single floor to three, and it's opened a New York office to handle the additional business from institutional investors. It currently boasts about 500 employees globally and plans to ultimately continue its international expansion ー cryptocurrencies are borderless, in essence.
The company first cracked the billion dollar valuation last year, when Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were at all-time highs. But it could soon be valued at much more ー some $8 billion, according to a recent Recode report.
Choi, skirting the subject of the rumor, said Coinbase is profitable and doesn't necessarily need to keep raising money. But she acknowledged what new funding would mean for the company at this stage in its development.
"What we often think about is when there is opportunity for market. For example, if we continue to experience a crypto slump, and there’s more of a consolidation of crypto companies, do we want to have more firepower on hand to acquire more companies?" she asked.
With each passing day, Coinbase looks more and more like a banking institution, offering a range of consumer-focused and consumer-friendly products. It also increasingly provides more sophisticated tools to accredited investors and major institutions.
"The mission of Coinbase is to build an open financial system for the world and our consumer product. We're focused on access, ownership, and use," Dan Romero, general manager of Coinbase Consumer told Cheddar.
The company has more than 20 million user accounts, putting it just behind Bank of America's 25 million mobile users, and far ahead of Citi's 10 million. Even millennial-focused Robinhood, which launched in 2013, a year after Coinbase, and introduced crypto trading without fees at the beginning of this year, has 5 million customers across its services.
But unlike the leaders of the old guard of finance, crypto's roots in decentralization will protect companies against moral hazard and help them avoid mistakes of the past, Romero said. That is, if leaders like Coinbase do their jobs right.
"No one controls Bitcoin, no one controls Ethereum," Romero said. "That's the difference between, kind of, the original finance system and the open financial system."