Crypto Profiles: Brian Armstrong, The Founder of Coinbase

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Brian Armstrong, one of the most influential people working in the cryptocurrency industry is the CEO and co-founder of one of the biggest and most popular crypto exchange in the world – Coinbase.

He has appeared in various 40 under 40 publications for his achievements, is a proponent for the adoption of Bitcoin, and does not fail to educate people at seminars, conferences, and workshops. Along with Charlie Lee and other early members of the Coinbase platform, he was able to achieve “Unicorn” status with his company.

Brian Armstrong Profile

Brian has worked as an engineer and consultant in foremost companies such as Deloitte and Touche, Airbnb, and IBM (International Business Machines). Brian has always maintained a strong interest in the technology market all is life and has actively participated in developing solutions for the industry.

Early Life

Brian Armstrong was born on January 25, 1983, and he grew up in San Jose, California. While in High School, he started learning Java and CSS as he had developed an interest in computer technology. Due to his nerdiness, he often got strange looks from his fellow students. He got his first paying jobs when he was still in High School and he was designing websites for small-scale business in the areas in of San Jose. He was working out of his neighbor’s garage at the time.

Brian proceeded to study at The Rice University, Houston, Texas, in 2001, where he studied Computer Science and Economics. In 200, he graduated with a double Major in Economics and Computer Science. He went ahead to study in the same university for his Master’s Program, finishing with a Master’s degree in Computer Science in 2006. After leaving college, he decided to spend one year in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Pre-Blockchain Career

At Rice University, Brian, a junior at the time, spent four months as an intern at IBM in San Jose, California, where he designed Java-based stools for Network Attached Storage devices, with his knowledge in Java. Upon completion from Rice University, he got a job at Deloitte and Touche as an Enterprise Risk Management Consultant.

Brian co-founded UniversityTutor.com with John Nelson in June 2003, while he was still a junior. The website helps tutors create a tutoring enterprise and offer their services to a host of potential student-client. Parents and students, on the other hand, can find any tutor(s) of their choice. The platform provides and encourages a link between students and tutors through matching attributes based on a number of parameters. These parameter attributes include educational level, geographical locations, subject area, proximity, and a host of others. The platform is unique in that it allows intending tutors and students set up meeting points at their convenience, as it is built for ease and convenience. Brian remained at UniversityTutor.com as its CEO for eight years from August 2003 to May 2012.

University Tutor, An Online Tutoring Service Website

While at UniversityTutor.com, Brian started working at Airbnb.com as a Software Engineer in May 2011. He stayed at Airbnb.com for just one year, before leaving in June of 2012 to establish Coinbase.

Blockchain Technology Career

Brian came in contact with Bitcoin in Christmas of 2010 and became interested, but he realized that there weren’t many Bitcoin startups at the time. But he saw this as an opportunity and began to think of ways to take advantage of this potentially large market, being an avid participant in the development of startup enterprises. This gave birth to Coinbase.

His passion for business startups did not start today. Since High School, he had always had a zeal for establishing businesses. He and his friends then in High School, always went through a lot of business ideas, making mistakes along the way, which shaped him and served him well when he began to undertake serious business endeavours like Coinbase.

Coinbase Takeoff

All his life, Brian’s dream was to be a tech guru and he never failed to pursue a career in the tech industry. His double major in Computer Science and Economics, coupled with his experience in computer programming equipped him for a foray into the tech startup arena. Having come in contact with Bitcoin and taken a considerable interest, he looked for a way to develop the marketplace place for the then emerging cryptocurrency.

Brian, together with Fred Ehrsam, created the famous exchange service, Coinbase, in June 2012. The duo envisioned Coinbase to be a Bitcoin marketplace where people will be able to purchase the cryptocurrency. At that time, using Bitcoins for everyday transactions was almost impossible. The team then enrolled their startup in the Y Combinator Startup Incubator Program. The program is famous for providing platforms for startups and investing in them. They have invested in other startups in the past like Dropbox, Airbnb, Reddit, and Weebly. The company launched fully in October 2012 and started providing Bitcoin buying and selling services through bank transfers.

Coinbase Website

Coinbase has had a number of notable investors and venture capitalists over the years. Due to this, Brian and Fred have been to rapidly expand the size of the Coinbase operation in a short time. In 2013, Brian and Coinbase were able to secure a $5 million investment from Union Square Ventures (USV). In December 2013, USV in association with Ribbit Capital and Andreessen Horowitz invested a total of $25 million in Coinbase.

In January 2015, Coinbase became the first Bitcoin exchange to be a recipient of direct investment from a major financial institution. The New York Stock Exchange, in conjunction with several banks and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, invested a whopping $75 million into the company.

In 2016, 4.7 million people had accounts with Coinbase. In 2017, the number rose to 13.3 million and this meteoric rise is due to Brian’s passion for alternative currencies to build a company that would go ahead to be the first blockchain-related company to attain the Unicorn status.

Charlie Lee, the creator of Litecoin, one of the cryptocurrency giants, is reported to be the third person that was hired to work on the Coinbase platform upon its creation. Charlie began working with Brian at Coinbase right after leaving his job at Google. He worked as the Director of Engineering while at the company until he left in June of 2017.

GDAX & BitLicence

In May 2016, the company began offering its services on a rebranded platform called GDAX (Global Digital Asset Exchange). Among the list of supported cryptocurrencies, Ether, the value token of Etherum, was added to the list.

GDAX Website

GDAX Website, Cryptocurrency Exchange

The New York State DFS (Department of Financial Services) in January 2107, issued a BitLicense to Coinbase. This move allowed the company to offer virtual currency trading services in New York. In March of the same year, Coinbase received authorization from the New York DFS to provide Litecoin and Etherum trading services in the state.

Unicorn Status

In August 2017, news broke out that Coinbase had attained the Unicorn status, the first cryptocurrency to attain the prestigious status. For a cryptocurrency to get to the unicorn, it must be valued at $1 billion or more. Coinbase had a valuation of $1.6 billion, making it the first startup in the world of crypto with a valuation of more than $1 billion. Coinbase had initially raised $117 million from Andreessen Horowitz, USAA, BBVA, New York DSF, and Draper Fisher, among others.

Coinbase also raised $100 million in a Series D funding at a private valuation of $1.6 billion that included capital raised. The round was led by top-tier growth stage venture capital firm, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), who has been involved with several companies including Netflix, Twitter, Slack, among others. Others at the round-table included Spark Capital, Battery Ventures, Greylock Partners, Section 32, and Draper Associates.

The company was initially valued at $400 million in 2014, according to Coin Telegraph. Today, the company has witnessed tremendous growth as it is 2.5 times bigger, and investors see this growth as consistent and satisfactory. According to Brian, digital currencies are having their “Netscape” moments. The pace of innovations have been accelerating, and exciting projects and companies are being built on top of digital currency. Coinbase became the most downloaded app on the iPhone in the US in 2017.

IRS Inquiry

In the years 2013-2015, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) demanded that Coinbase produce detailed personal information for more than one million customers with what is known as a “John Doe Summons“.

Coinbase fought back against the IRS and their wide reaching summons and won a victory and only had to provide information about accounts that conducted Bitcoin transactions, either through exchanging Bitcoin for dollars or through sending and receiving coins from another bitcoin user, worth $20,000 and above.

Coinbase Future

Coinbase is headquartered in San Francisco, California. Over the years, they have spread to various countries around the globe. They broker exchanges of Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Etherum with fiat currencies in 32 countries and carry out Bitcoin transactions and storage in over 185 countries around the world. Just recently Coinbase was granted access to the UK’s Faster Payments Scheme which means they can offer almost instant fiat bank payments to it’s UK-based customers.

Despite the hiccups Coinbase has faced, it has continued to grow and Brian is a bundle of optimism. The company’s best interest to advocate for less restriction. In the near future, Brian believes that Bitcoin will be completely legal and some countries will have actual currency control. He also believes that the Bitcoin will surpass the dollar as a reserve currency in 10-15 years.

Important Note: There have been reports of scammers approaching companies via Telegram, LinkedIn and Other Social platforms purporting to represent Blockonomi and offer advertising offers. We will never approach anyone directly. Please always make contact with us via our contact page here.


Priyeshu Garg is a software engineer at a unicorn, while he is not solving complex programming problems - he writes about blockchain and trades cryptocurrencies.

Beanstalk Gaming & NFTs
As Featured In
As Featured In