Reflections on three years building the cryptoeconomy at Coinbase

As I recently celebrated my 3-year “Coiniversary” (the anniversary of my start date at Coinbase), I found myself reflecting on the experience so far and how it compared to my expectations when I made the leap from Google to join Coinbase in 2018.

At the time I made that move, I had been at Google for 5 years, was still relatively early in my career, working with incredible product mentors at one of the world’s preeminent technology companies, and living out my dream to build products that had a meaningfully positive impact on millions of people around the world. I’d spent my last 3 years at Google building Tez for India, the app that would eventually become Google Pay. Tez provided a more seamless way for individuals and businesses to manage their money and make payments, and was built on top of the existing banking infrastructure in India. I poured my heart and soul into it — I learned a ton, forged lifelong relationships, and helped many people solve real financial problems they faced. So when I told my teammates that I was leaving to join Coinbase back in early 2018, they of course thought I was out of my mind. Seeing the impressive progress we were making with Tez, they wondered: how could you possibly improve on what we’re doing here at a small startup like Coinbase?

As it happened, the answer was sitting right in front of us. We had made meaningful progress on our mission in India, and had started thinking about how to expand globally. As we looked to enter countries like Thailand and Vietnam, we started a new round of government negotiations, bank partnerships, and technical investigation of the existing payment rails that we’d need to integrate with. After that, we’d have hundreds of other countries to expand into. And — once we did that — we’d be faced with the same fundamental constraints of those existing systems: money transfers between banks can take many days, be costly, and may only be accessible to a select set of people lucky enough to get access from the controlling intermediaries. If anyone could do it, Google could, but my sense was that improving the accessibility and utility of financial services wouldn’t be achieved within the existing antiquated system — it would require a full rewrite for the modern age.

It was around then I read Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper. I was hooked. By combining innovations at the intersection of cryptography, distributed systems, and game theory, Bitcoin became the first truly global open payments network — totally unencumbered by decades of infrastructural “tech debt” and bloated operational costs in our traditional financial system. The notion that we could have an open infrastructure that could programmatically facilitate the storage and transfer of value captivated me. Imagine the apps and experiences that could be built on top of such an open platform! Imagine having millions of micro-payments transferred from New York to Mumbai to Buenos Aires every day, instantly, for free! In much the same way that the Email supercharged the flow of information from the era of sending letters through the postal service, this new programmable money offered the promise of supercharging the flow of value from the era of sending checks or wire transfers through antiquated centralized banking institutions.

In much the way open internet protocols like HTTP enabled a new paradigm for communication and information exchange, open finance protocols like Bitcoin and Ethereum have enabled a new paradigm for value exchange

So, how has it been? Intense! And incredibly rewarding. Coinbase moves fast, and does the hard things. At any given time, the team is shipping dozens of new features with immediate impact for customers but is also researching new technologies and inventing entirely new products and services that might be years away from external launches. When I first arrived, Coinbase served customers in the US and Europe and enabled them to buy and sell 4 crypto assets. Now, just 3 years later, we serve customers in over 100 countries, and we offer a full suite of crypto-powered experiences across investing and trading, high-yield savings, payments and spending, borrowing, lending, and access to the ever-expanding world of decentralized apps (Dapps) and decentralized finance (DeFi). And that’s just our consumer-facing products! This proliferation and acceleration speaks to both the extraordinary pace of development in the crypto ecosystem and to our team’s commitment to driving that innovation in a way that makes it accessible and useful for the broader public. I’ve also discovered personally through this experience that, while it can be exhausting at times, I get a tremendous amount of energy from this pace of innovation — continuously learning, growing and developing our teams, and keeping us on the vanguard of what’s happening in the industry.

With that innovation, it’s been amazing to see the positive impact we’ve made on our customers. We’ve grown our user base at times by more than a million a month and have now surpassed 56M verified users on Coinbase, providing the tools that have empowered many of them to grow their savings, pay off debt, send remittances to friends and family in emerging markets, and more. Many of our users are already comfortable with crypto and actively using Coinbase to grow their investment portfolios, earn passive income, and make payments to anyone in the world. We’re excited to continue serving those customers even better with crypto-powered features like staking, which enables them to earn up to 7% APY passively just for holding their assets on Coinbase. And — in addition to improving the experience for existing customers — we’re also working to introduce the next billion users to the cryptoeconomy. For them, we’ve launched features like Earn where you can earn crypto as you learn about it and the Coinbase Card which allows you to spend from your Coinbase account at any merchant globally, and earn up to 4% crypto back — all for free. With these efforts, we are demystifying crypto and educating the next generation of crypto adopters on the benefits that can be unlocked with this groundbreaking new technology.

I’m now eagerly looking ahead to my next three years at Coinbase. While crypto may still be exotic to much of the world today, I’m certain it will be a core part of everyone’s lives before long. Coinbase and other participants in the cryptoeconomy will continue to unlock new innovation that dramatically improves our lives. We’ll see thousands of new financial services being launched on top of crypto every day, billions of people around the world getting access to financial services they never would have been able to access before, and the emergence of a vibrant cryptoeconomy connecting individuals and businesses around the world to create even more value than they could have imagined. It won’t be easy, but I’ve never been more excited to continue doing the hard things required to create a truly open financial system. And if you want to make an impact on the future of the cryptoeconomy too — join me.

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