Congrats to Brian Armstrong and the entire Coinbase team on today’s historic IPO! As we celebrate their hard work and this accomplishment, I’m taken back to a lunch conversation that Brian and I had before I invested in 2017.
We talked about a range of commonalities – from our shared love of EDM, to his decision to leave a great job at Airbnb and found Coinbase, to the personal leadership growth that surrounds having a co-founder step down from day-to-day responsibilities.
We had another backstory in common — that many of his employees were coming into sudden and substantial wealth thanks to the dramatic rise in value of the currencies that was happening in late 2017.
I was fortunate to join Google in mid 2003, pre-IPO. And similarly, that company’s success vaulted many of its early employees into financial independence.
“How do you think sudden wealth may change the culture and composition of the company?”
I’ll never forget his thoughtful response, and it became clear that for many at Coinbase, being deeply invested in crypto was not just a matter of financial return — it is about rewriting the infrastructure of finance and democratizing and decentralizing access to modern replacements for every layer of the stack. Yes, many of the early team already did not need to ever work again, but it wasn’t about that — it’s also about proving to their friends and family that this wasn’t just a fluke. Indeed, he was watching his team work even harder and more passionately than ever before.
With today’s current BTC price hovering around $60k, it’s easy to forget that, in 2017, the press was filled with headlines of doubt. The Economist had just published, “What if the bitcoin bubble bursts? Is the latest frenzy like tulipmania, a gold rush or the dotcom boom?” In the month that preceded our investment, the price of Bitcoin had risen from the mid $600s to over $2k, and the major outlets portended a return to earth. And yet through the rise and fall and again today’s meteoric rise of the currencies, Coinbase kept executing, and today has 56 million verified users, supports 100+ countries, and has $335B quarterly volume traded.
There's an oft-quoted adage of the power of hiring missionaries over mercenaries, and I'd like to take that one alliterative step farther: where possible, choose maximalists.
The term refers to someone who advocates immediate and direct action in effort to pursue a set of holistic goals — and who leaves no room for contrary beliefs. The crypto community is full of these kind of passionate creators, and their power to both hold tight to their investments and their visions is what makes them so unstoppable. The past four years of working with the Coinbase team has proven to me that this is a company with moral maximalists at its core, and they will continue to legitimize and grow the industry beyond what most people think is currently possible.
At Greylock, our mission is to help realize this kind of rare potential. Today, we are honored to be a part of the Coinbase story and congratulate the entire team for their undying focus on building the crypto-economy – a more fair, accessible, efficient, and transparent financial system enabled by crypto.