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Get to Know the Co-founder: Brian Armstrong of Coinbase

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Coinbase, the ‘unicorn’ which was initially launched as a Bitcoin wallet, was co-founded by tech savvy Brian Armstrong. Working as an engineer and consultant in leading companies such as IBM, Deloitte & Touche and Airbnb, he worked on another venture before ending up at Coinbase. His company successfully generated $1 billion in revenue last year, while he went on to become a billionaire himself.

Education & Career

Brian Armstrong was born on January 25th 1983, and grew up in San Jose, California. As a child, he loved studying Java and CSS, and he even built a website in his high school days. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics from Rice University in 2005. During this time, he interned at IBM as a team leader, and founded Universitytutor.com in 2003. Prior to completing his Master’s degree in Computer Science in 2006, he worked as a consultant for five months at Deloitte & Touche in 2005.

In 2010, Armstrong started working as a senior software engineer at CarWoo.com. After almost 15 months, he found a job at Airbnb as a software engineer. Similar to his last employment, he left the position after 12 months, when he eventually co-founded Coinbase.

The Success of Coinbase

Armstrong became interested in Bitcoin in 2010, when transacting cryptocurrencies was far more difficult and inconvenient. Hence, he, along with, Fred Ehrsam created the famous exchange service, Coinbase, in June 2012. Back then, using Bitcoins for every day transactions was close to impossible. He bought a beer for $6.50 with one Bitcoin, but the process was lengthy and messy. The team presented their startup in the Y Combinator demo day and in turn received seed funding. From a partnership with Reddit to allow ‘Reddit Gold’ payments with Bitcoin, to selling over $1 million in Bitcoin by February 2013, Coinbase was on its way to become the most successful wallet and exchange in the world.

Meanwhile, Armstrong was giving free Bitcoins to people who wanted to learn more about the cryptocurrency. He even gave his Airbnb colleagues one Bitcoin each – fast forward a few years, those people will be unable to stop thanking him for his generosity. Coinbase was also planning to extend its services to different countries including Singapore, the UK and Canada in 2015.

2017 was an eventful year for the company. Ehrsam announced that he was leaving the platform while the IRS filed and won a court case against Coinbase when they found out that some customers were not paying taxes. Even after all these obstacles, Armstrong is credited for driving the company towards success and helping it attain the status of a ‘unicorn’, a title given to a startup that is worth over $1 billion. It also became the most downloaded app on the iPhone in the US while its founder secured 34th position in Fortune’s 40 under 40 list last year.

Awards & Achievements

Notable Quotes

On IRS and Coinbase:

“My belief is that the vast majority of people using digital currency today are not seeking to evade taxes. They are simply investors seeking returns and people interested in a nascent new technology.”

On Coinbase:

“The average person may, at a high level, think of us as a digital currency bank, but we’re not a bank.”

On Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies:

“I do think some digital currency will end up being the reserve currency of the world. I see a path where that’s going to happen.”

On Digital Currency:

“I do think some digital currency will end up being the reserve currency of the world. I see a path where that’s going to happen.”

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