YOU SAW THE many cryptocurrency-related Super Bowl ads, and maybe you found them weird, or deeply dystopian, or just disturbingly familiar. Nevertheless, perhaps you believe the blockchain has financial rewards left to reap and want to jump in, or you’ve already got some of your money tied up in cryptocurrencies via companies like Coinbase and FTX that were advertising during the big game.
What now? Keeping track of the ups and downs of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto coins and actively trading on those fluctuations can be a full-time job. Day-trading, basically. And jumping into NFTs, the digital baubles you can mint, buy, or sell, is still daunting for many.
For a brief moment, their worlds had changed.
On Tuesday afternoon a Coinbase “display issue” changed the balances of an untold number of customers’ accounts — making many of them billionaires in the process. Billionaires on paper, that is, because as Coinbase hastily pointed out in a statement on Twitter, no real trading was affected by the glitch.
“We’re aware some customers are seeing inflated values for non-tradable crypto assets on Coinbase.com and Coinbase Wallet,” read the Coinbase statement acknowledging the error. “This is a display issue only and does not impact trading.”
Brian Armstrong once feared he’d been born too late. As a teenager growing up in the late 1990s, he could play video games and chat and surf on the burgeoning internet. But he was too young to take part in the dot-com startup boom happening all around him, transforming the economy along with how he spent his days and nights. “I didn’t know if something so important would come along in my lifetime again,” he says today. Something did. And Coinbase is the company he co-founded to do something about it. For most of Coinbase’s nearly 10-year history, Bitcoin and its cybercoin kin were not so much investable assets as they were the focus of a philosophical and economic argument. Old, fiat money asked: How can any store of value be based on an algorithm that solves a cryptologic problem tied to something called a blockchain ledger created by a pseudonymous code ninja named Satoshi Nakamoto? Could a hash function really replace cash?
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Hello and happy weekend! Today we’re talking insurtech, SPACs and how well direct listings can manage the IPO pricing question. But first, crypto.
The crypto beat was busy this week, with Coinbase earnings giving us a good look into just how busy trading activity was for the asset class in the third quarter. If you recall Robinhood’s earnings, what Coinbase had on offer won’t prove a surprise. After the American equity investment platform’s crypto revenues fell sharply, Coinbase also posted declines in its aggregate trading volumes and revenues compared to the second quarter of the year.
CoinDesk reported yesterday that crypto trading startup Coinbase is being valued at $77 billion on private exchanges. And Forbes reported that Stripe is being valued at $115 billion on secondary markets, where private shares can be bought and sold, albeit in a limited fashion.
I instantly wanted to write a piece headlined “Beware those super hot secondary market valuations,“ but after a little digging, I cannot. It turns out that the public markets are so hot, there is historical precedent for seemingly aggressive secondary market transactions being conservative compared to later IPO valuations. And there is further precedent for private market transactions that are more conservative in price terms than venture-determined valuations also working out.
Cryptocurrency company Coinbase has been working with Paysafe to issue the Coinbase Card, a Visa debit card that works with your Coinbase account balance. The company is now a Visa Principal Member, which should help Coinbase rely less on Paysafe and control a bigger chunk of the card payment stack.
Coinbase says it is the only cryptocurrency company that has reached that level of certification. The company will offer the Coinbase Card in more markets in the future. The new status could open up more possibilities and features as well.
One of the amusing things about the fast-maturing Bitcoin ecosystem is how the better-funded start-ups in the space are offering products that increasingly resemble services proffered by banks, the very entities they arguably are trying to disrupt.
With Bitcoin, transactions can be handled anonymously and irreversibly without the need for a third-party mediator. Yet that ability also has made Bitcoin historically prone to theft.
So many bigger Bitcoin start-ups have stepped up to offer different tiers of security. Today, Andreessen Horowitz-backed Coinbase jumps into the ring with a new product called Vault. It is complementary to Coinbase’s wallet, which is intended for day-to-day spending like a checking account.