The soaring value of cryptocurrencies added another name to the list of the world’s wealthiest billionaires on Wednesday with the introduction of Coinbase, the US’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, on to the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s CEO and co-founder, has a 20% stake in the company which analysts expected to be valued at between $65bn and $100bn. Shares surged 58% when the sale started valuing the company at about $100bn and making his net worth $20bn.
Surging prices for assets including stocks and cryptocurrencies led to the creation of a record-breaking 2,755 billionaires last year, according to Forbes annual billionaire poll. At $20bn Armstrong would enter the list at 88th place, ahead of the former Google boss Eric Schmidt.
Armstrong co-founded the company in 2012 with Fred Ehrsam, who also became a billionaire on Wednesday, with the goal of making cryptocurrency accessible to the masses. At the time, those looking to invest in bitcoin needed some basic programming skills to operate bitcoin’s network. Now, users of Coinbase can purchase 50 types of cryptocurrencies on the platform, the most popular of which are bitcoin and Ether.
On Wednesday morning, Coinbase appeared on Nasdaq’s stock exchange under the ticker “Coin” with a starting reference price of $250.
Coinbase is the first major cryptocurrency business to appear in the US stock market. While the company has survived the volatility of cryptocurrency’s value and regulation, its debut on to the exchange marks the latest shift of cryptocurrency moving from the fringe to the mainstream.
Earlier this year, the Tesla chief executive, Elon Musk, announced that the company had invested $1.5bn in bitcoin and would soon accept the cryptocurrency as a form of payment. Major Wall Street players, including JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, have also indicated an interest in bitcoin and cryptocurrency recently. Musk’s announcement, along with Wall Street’s endorsement of the cryptocurrency, saw the price of bitcoin soar to $60,000 in February. On Tuesday, the day before Coinbase went public, bitcoin rose to another all-time high, reaching $63,000.
Coinbase says it has 56 million verified users across over 100 countries who utilize the platform to invest, save and use cryptocurrency. The company acts like a bank and brokerage firm, allowing users to purchase, invest in and store cryptocurrency. The company says it holds $223bn on the platform and trades $335bn volumes in a quarter.
In multiple interviews over the years, Armstrong, who keeps a relatively low profile compared with his fellow Silicon Valley founder counterparts, has said his ultimate goal – as is the goal of many who have turned to cryptocurrency – is to do away with the financial systems of old in favor of a global, more efficient financial system.
“I don’t think crypto is here to solve every problem in the world. But it’s here to solve one very important meta-challenge, which is economic freedom,” he told the Wall Street Journal.