About Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong is the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, which is a renowned digital currency exchange and wallet service, especially in the US. With Coinbase, he’s working on his vision to make cryptocurrencies more accessible to people. This profile will explore Armstrong’s successes and also the failures that he had to endure over the years due to his vision.
Early Life and Education
Brian Armstrong was born on 25th January 1983 in California to both engineer parents. He inherited their talents and performed well in his academic career and later in high school. Upon graduating high school, Armstrong went to Rice University, where he earned a dual bachelor’s in computer science and economics.
Later, in 2006, he again attended Rice University and graduated with a master’s in computer science. While studying at Rice, he co-founded his first venture known as UniversityTutor.com, a platform connecting students, parents, and online tutors in one place. His startup was later acquired by Johnson Educational Technologies LLC in 2014.
He also interned for IBM as an intern developer and then later went on to work in enterprise risk management for Deloitte and Touche.
Discovering Bitcoin and Blockchain
While working at Deloitte in 2010, Armstrong came across Bitcoin’s whitepaper, which instantly pushed him to develop an in-depth understanding of blockchain technology & digital currencies. Later, when he joined Airbnb as a software developer in 2011, he was exposed to the global payment system, where he found several issues regarding cross-border payment transfers.
Transitioning from Silicon Valley to Crypto
The majority of the issues that Armstrong encountered were regarding transaction speed and strict regulations from local and international banks. Both these issues were making it difficult for tourists to pay for their Airbnb while booking it from another country.
Founding and Building Coinbase
Armstrong started to work on these difficulties on weekends and sometimes during the night, where he would write code that would help users easily buy and hold cryptocurrencies. After leaving Airbnb in 2012, he entered the Y Combinator startup accelerator program and successfully won an investment of $150,000, which he primarily used to build Coinbase.
As the founder of Coinbase, it was his duty to find a co-founder by Y Combinator. To do this, Armstrong wrote a post on Hacker News about seeking a co-founder, and it instantly became a hit. After doing more than fifty dates, Armstrong met Fred Ehrsam, a British bitcoin enthusiast and a computer scientist.
Later, they teamed up and started to develop Coinbase. In total, Coinbase raised $30 million in 2013, which was one of the largest sums ever for a crypto project at the time that ultimately helped it to become instantly recognized in the ecosystem.
Coinbase Innovations and Impact
Part of Coinbase’s success lies in the range of products that cater to investors, retail traders, developers, and businesses within the Web 3 and crypto industry. The products that it offers can be divided into three different parts, which have helped to expand Coinbase’s access:
Developers Program, which helps blockchain and software developers by providing them with wallet infrastructure API and development kits that help them to create Decentralized Applications that can accept payments in cryptocurrencies.
Coinbase Prime and Coinbase Pro are two platforms focused on institutional investors by offering them secure storage and multiple exchanges on one platform, which are ideal for corporate entities.
Coinbase wallet, which is for retail traders and holders, gives them an easy-to-use platform to store, trade, and purchase various cryptocurrencies. This platform is the main reason for the success of Coinbase, allowing it to be massively adopted.
The Future of Crypto’s Mainstream Adoption
While Coinbase has seen steady growth over the past few years due to Armstrong’s leadership, however, this growth is directly linked to the bulls and bears that the crypto market experiences. Regardless, he remains optimistic and believes cryptocurrencies will act as an investment vehicle that will help create a new financial system that is parallel to traditional finance.
Wealth, Criticism, and Influence as a Crypto Leader
According to Forbes, Armstrong’s wealth in 2023 is at $3.7 billion, placing him at 1,368 world’s richest persons. Alternative sources estimate his wealth is somewhere between $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion, as the calculation is based on his current ownership of 19% of Coinbase, which is equivalent to 39.6 million.
Back in 2020, Coinbase faced scrutiny when an issue of pay disparities emerged after it was reported by the New York Times. The article stated female and black workers were paid less. However, Armstrong immediately denied such accusations and assured Coinbase is an inclusive workplace.
On the other hand, Armstrong is considered a frontrunner in the crypto industry mainly because, over the years, he has remained vocal for economic freedom, something that is also Coinbase’s mission.
Perspectives on Crypto Regulation
Armstrong has consistently advocated for more transparent regulations from the authorities. This is because he believes regulations are the only way forward that will ensure cryptocurrencies can co-exist. He has often criticized authorities for not actively listening to the crypto community and bringing up “clearer” regulations.
In addition, Armstrong has also called for a balanced approach by the government, as this will foster innovation within the sector. Lastly, he believes open-source software is going to bring a real revolution that will help to accelerate progress in not just science but several other industries that are serving to make this world a better place.