Brian Armstrong: The Coinbase CEO Leading Cryptocurrency Adoption

Who is the man behind Coinbase, crypto’s most accessible exchange?

Brian Armstrong portrait with him waving from his eye. 

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong is gathering momentum on his quest to become the new face of cryptocurrency in the United States. After Sam Bankman-Fried’s scandalous fall from grace and the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange, the blockchain industry desperately needs a new champion. 

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Brian Armstrong is doing what every other crypto founder promised to do. Through Coinbase, Armstrong is simplifying cryptocurrency. He’s introducing popular coins like Ethereum to retail investors and onboarding millions of new users into the Web3 world.

Brian Armstrong smiles into the distance

Is Brian Armstrong a positive influence on the crypto industry, or is he just another Bitcoin billionaire? Who is the smiling co-founder behind the world’s most accessible crypto exchange?

Who is Brian Armstrong?

Brian Armstrong is the CEO and co-founder of Coinbase, one of the largest exchanges in the cryptocurrency industry. He’s also a respected advocate for blockchain technology and its potential. Considered a thought leader within the space, Armstrong is a popular guest on crypto podcasts and discussion panels. 

Education

The Coinbase chief executive always had a keen interest in technology and programming. Brian Armstrong enrolled at Rice University in 2001, where he first completed a dual bachelor’s degree. Majoring in economics and computer science, Armstrong also launched a business within the university that paired tutors and students.

After his undergraduate degree, Armstrong continued his studies and completed a master’s in computer science. He briefly worked for an education company in Buenos Aires, where he saw firsthand how uncontrolled inflation decimates a local economy. 

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Bitcoin was not yet a reality, but it was already needed. This experience planted a seed of curiosity in Armstrong, which gave him the conviction he needed to back bitcoin and blockchain technology when it burst onto the internet just a few years later.

Early Career 

Brian Armstrong began his career as a software engineer and developer. He held positions at some of the world’s most recognizable firms, such as IBM and Deloitte. During this time, Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. Armstrong was fascinated. He began writing software for buying and storing crypto in his spare time.

In 2011, Armstrong joined AirBnb’s team of talented software engineers. At the time, AirBnb was managing over 190 different fiat currencies. International payments and transactions for the business were a nightmare, reinforcing Armstrong’s belief that digital currency was the ideal solution.

The Birth of Coinbase

While he wasn’t interested in mining, Armstrong’s entrepreneurial side saw the value in managing Bitcoin transactions and holders for others who struggled with the technical side of blockchain technology. He’d already been writing his own code for crypto management and presented his findings to Y Combinator, who funded Armstrong $150,000 to continue developing the project.

Brian Armstrong trawled the internet looking for his perfect co-founder. After over 50 attempts, he finally found Fred Ehrsam in a crypto subreddit. In 2012 they launched their startup and co-founded the Coinbase we know today. 

Coinbase: A Publicly Traded Crypto Exchange

Coinbase has proved a roaring success since it launched back in 2012. The crypto exchange claims to host over 110 million verified users. Expanding beyond trading and storage, Coinbase has opened the possibilities of extra features, like its own NFT marketplace, crypto wallet, and staking services.

Screenshots of the Coinbase NFT Marketplace

In December 2020, Coinbase filed a listing with the SEC and became a publicly traded entity. The company’s COIN stock debuted on the NASDAQ stock exchange in April 2021 with a valuation of $85 billion.

Trouble in Paradise

It hasn’t been smooth sailing despite Coinbase’s evident success and astronomical growth. 2022 was a difficult year for the cryptocurrency industry, with multiple black swan events like the Luna Collapse and FTX insolvency devastating markets. This has led to calls for tightened crypto regulation and a sustained bear market.

The enduring crypto winter meant Brian Armstrong had to make significant restructuring decisions amongst Coinbase employees. Mass crypto job layoffs were inevitable, with the company reducing its headcount by 20% in January 2023. This announcement came just six months after the firm initially severed ties with 20% of its team in June 2022.

Base – The Coinbase Blockchain

For many retail crypto enthusiasts, the world of on-chain transactions and decentralized finance seems remote and complex. In his most recent attempt to bring blockchain technology to the people, Brian Armstrong and Coinbase announced they’d launch their Ethereum scaling solution.

Base will be built using Optimism’s OP Stack, an open-source development that helps businesses deploy their Layer-2 blockchains using Ethereum and the base layer. Armstrong intends to use the Base blockchain as to platform to onboard Coinbase’s millions of users into the world of on-chain activity, including DeFi and NFTs. The move is widely considered a positive step for the blockchain industry.

On The Flipside

  • False idols and cult figures plague cryptocurrency history. Sam Bankman-Fried, Do Kwon, and the notorious ‘Bitconnect Guy’ Carlos Matos were all adored and worshipped by their supporters. These very same supporters suffered the most when these ‘leaders’ hollow empires were exposed.
  • While there is nothing to suggest that Brian Armstrong has bad intentions or is inadequately equipped to run Coinbase, it’s important to always do your due diligence. Blindly supporting charismatic founders has burnt crypto enthusiasts in the past. 

Why You Should Care

Coinbase is one of the most well-respected crypto exchanges in the industry. It’s beginner-friendly and has helped bring millions of people into crypto. It’s important to know more about the team and leadership behind Coinbase, which may overtake Binance and become the largest exchange in crypto.

FAQs

How much is Brian Armstrong worth?

According to Forbes, Brian Armstrong has a net worth of roughly 2.6 billion USD.

How does Coinbase make money?

Coinbase is a cryptocurrency exchange. Therefore, it makes most of its revenue by collecting trading fees from its users.

What did Brian Armstrong do before Coinbase?

Before co-founding Coinbase in 2012 with Fred Ehsram, Brian Armstrong was a software engineer. He previously worked at industry-leading firms like IBM, Deloitte, and AirBnb.

How much of Coinbase does Armstrong own?

Since Coinbase went public in 2021, Armstrong has owned approximately 19% of the company’s total shares.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Author
Finn Miller

Finn Miller is a New Zealand-based blockchain writer for DailyCoin who specializes in simplifying complex blockchain topics. He is experienced in crafting whitepapers, researching on-chain data, and advising emerging crypto projects, and uses his unconventional approach to learning and passion for knowledge to provide cornerstone educational content for readers of all levels. When not exploring the depths of DeFi, Finn can be found exploring his other passion, the great outdoors.