Photo of Coinbase’s 2012 founding in a San Francisco apartment goes viral as shares hit $112bn

Company became first crypto firm to go public and made its CEO one of world’s richest people

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 14 April 2021 22:33 BST
Coinbase’s Historic Wall Street Debut, How It Got Here

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A photo of the founding of Coinbase in a San Francisco apartment in 2012 went viral as the cryptocurrency firm went public and its value reached as much as $112bn.

The company became the first major cryptocurrency firm to go public on Wednesday, riding a surge in the popularity of bitcoin.

Coinbase shares opened at $381 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Wednesday morning, and bounced as high as $429 in its first few minutes of trading, before ending the day at $328.28, which values the company at $85.8bn.

Coinbase’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Armstrong, owns around 40 million shares in the company and is now one of the world’s richest people with a fortune of $16bn.

Mr Armstrong, 38, was a programmer at Airbnb before founding Coinbase and although he has a Twitter following of more than 550,000 he rarely speaks publicly.

But despite its spectacular success, the company’s beginnings were much more humble than their current lofty position.

When Brian Armstrong and co-founder Fred Ehrsam founded the company bitcoin was “worth $6 and only known by a few nerds on the internet,” Mr Ehrsam tweeted.

He said that back then “bitcoin was the crazy idea that the world could have a digital money for everyone.”

Mr Ehrsam added that he and Mr Armstrong had met on Reddit and had the same goal “to make crypto easy to use.”

In a nod to their initial unglamorous surroundings, Mr Ehrsam added  that they had “launched out of a two bedroom apartment we shared with another company.”

And he said that between 2014 and 2017 the company dealt with “serious hardship” as “the outside world thought crypto was dead.”

In 2017 bitcoin’s value, which had reached $20,000, lost one third of its value in a single day and by 2018 it had dropped to as low as $3,122.

“Over a third of employees left,” Mr Ehrsam tweeted.

Mr Ehrsam left the company in 2017, but remained on its board and owns around 6 per cent of the stock, according to Forbes.

And he added: “Crypto will redefine money and information, the two fundamental ways the world coordinates.

“I feel honored to be a small part of this journey which will transform society for the better. I salute all the crypto builders exploring this fertile and critically important frontier. And I look forward to seeing what we all create together.”

The company was founded in 2012 as a way to simplify the purchase of bitcoin and it has become the most popular crypto exchange in the US.

The company now has 56 million users, up from 43 million at the end of last year, and 32 million in 2019.

Coinbase’s 2020 revenue more than doubled to $1.28bn and it turned a profit of $322.3m, after making a loss in 2019.

The company’s founder Bryan Armstrong, owns 39.6 million shares in Coinbase.

Last August he was given a performance award tied to the company’s share price that will let him buy up to 9.29 million shares at $23.46 over 10 years.

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