Brian Armstrong

Who is Brian Armstrong?

Brian Armstrong is a prominent American entrepreneur and software engineer. He is the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States. His influence within the crypto sphere is profound, as he is recognized for overseeing the first-ever crypto exchange to go public in the U.S.

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In 2012, Armstrong and his partner, Fred Ehrsam, set out to create Coinbase to simplify cryptocurrency transactions for the general public. The company quickly gained recognition and garnered support from notable investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Tiger Global Management, and Union Square Venture.

Beyond just leading the company, Armstrong is a vocal advocate for the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies and has shared his insights at numerous conferences and events.

In addition to his advocacy, he actively supports various blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives. He has demonstrated his commitment by generously contributing millions of dollars to charitable causes through his philanthropic organization, GiveCrypto.

Armstrong also serves as a board member of the Blockchain Association, a prominent industry group in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Brian Armstrong’s Net Worth

Armstrong’s estimated wealth falls within the range of $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion. This is calculated from his existing holdings in Coinbase.

His wealth predominantly comes from a mix of assets, including his Coinbase shares, stock options, salary, and investments, which account for approximately 19% of the company.

However, Forbes currently reports his net worth at $3.3 billion.

Education and Personal Life

Armstrong was born on 25 January 1983 near San Jose, California, United States, coming from a family with a strong engineering background. He attended Bellarmine College Preparatory, a private, all-male, Catholic school for his secondary education.

Armstrong continued his academic pursuits at Rice University in Texas, graduating in 2005 with a dual bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science.

His commitment to education didn’t stop there; he continued to hone his skills by earning a master’s degree in computer science in 2006.

During his time at Rice, he co-founded his first business venture, UniversityTutor.com, in 2003. This website served as a global platform connecting parents, students, and independent instructors.

Armstrong held the CEO role at UniversityTutor.com until 2012, when Johnson Educational Technologies LLC acquired the company in 2014.

Brian Armstrong is married to Raline Shah, an Indonesian actress and model. Currently, the couple does not have any children.

Brian Armstrong’s Career Path

Before venturing into the crypto business, Armstrong’s early professional journey involved working as a developer at IBM and consulting at Deloitte.

Below, we provide a comprehensive overview of his career trajectory:

  • In 2010, Armstrong stumbled upon the Bitcoin whitepaper authored by an individual using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. This pivotal experience is believed to have sparked his curiosity and interest in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
  • In 2011, he took on the role of a software engineer at Airbnb. This experience gave him valuable insights into the complex payment systems utilized across the 190 countries where the company operated. While at Airbnb, he became acutely aware of the difficulties in sending money to South America. This realization prompted him to devote his weekends and nights to writing code in Ruby and JavaScript, with the goal of purchasing and storing cryptocurrencies.
  • In 2012, Armstrong entered the Y Combinator startup accelerator but was told to find a co-founder before proceeding. After an extensive search, he connected with Fred Ehrsam, a former Goldman Sachs trader, through a Reddit subgroup. Together, they collaborated and secured $150,000 in seed capital from Y Combinator’s startup incubator program.
  • In October 2012, Armstrong and Ehrsam launched Coinbase from a modest two-bedroom shared apartment.
  • In 2018, Armstrong co-founded GiveCrypto, a philanthropic platform that aims to provide cryptocurrency to marginalized individuals and promote greater financial inclusion.

Coinbase Performance and Trajectory Over the Years

  • In 2012, Armstrong and Ehrsam started their journey to fund Coinbase with $150,000 from Y Combinator.
  • By May 2013, they secured a $5 million Series A investment from Union Square Ventures, thanks to Fred Wilson’s pivotal role. Wilson, known for his successful investments in Twitter, Tumblr, Zynga, Foursquare, and Etsy, co-founded Union Square Ventures.
  • In December 2013, Coinbase secured an additional $25 million with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and Ribbit Capital.
  • In 2018, a Series E round raised $300 million, valuing the company at $8.1 billion.
  • In Dec 2020, Coinbase initiated the process of going public with the SEC.
  • In April 2021, Coinbase went public on NASDAQ. COIN stock opened at $381 per share, valuing the company at $85 billion, briefly touching a $100 billion market cap.
  • Under Armstrong’s leadership, Coinbase made 23 strategic investments. In February 2023, they contributed to an $11 million funding round for Alongside.
  • In August 2023, Coinbase invested in Circle, another cryptocurrency company issuing USDC.

As of now, Coinbase has 76 investors and $498.7 million in funding through 18 rounds. Under Armstrong’s leadership, Coinbase has gained millions of users and handles billions in trading volume.

Coinbase Regulatory Troubles

Coinbase’s relationship with the US SEC has been marked by a significant degree of instability.

In March 2023, the SEC issued a cautionary notice to the exchange, signalling the potential for legal action.

Prior to this development, the regulator had cautioned Coinbase and other cryptocurrency exchanges for flouting securities regulations by contending that cryptocurrencies were not subject to these regulations.

Armstrong had repeatedly offered explanations to the SEC privately and in public forums.

Nevertheless, in June 2023, the SEC escalated the situation by filing a lawsuit against Coinbase. The lawsuit alleged that Coinbase had traded at least 13 cryptocurrency assets that met the criteria for securities and should have been registered accordingly.

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Jimmy Aki
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Jimmy previously worked for BeInCrypto, Bitcoin Magazine, Decrypt, Cryptonews and other major publications. Alongside writing for Techopedia, Jimmy is also a trained economist, accountant and blockchain instructor with hands-on work experience in the financial sector.