Finally, what we’ve been waiting for: the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commisison has published Coinbase’s S-1, clearing the way for a direct listing on Nasdaq.
While some major details are still missing (most notably when they plan to list), we now have a glimpse into how a major crypto exchange works, what it’s worried about and just how much the market is growing.
The figures are indeed eye-opening: in the fourth quarter of 2020, the number of verified users on Coinbase’s platform reached 43 million after adding almost 45,000 new users a day. The average number of monthly transacting users grew by over 30% in the fourth quarter alone, to 2.8 million.
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Also eye-opening is the inflow of institutional investors, something that we’ve talked about often in this column. Over the fourth quarter, institutional trading volume grew over 110% to $57 billion, while retail trading volume grew by almost 80%. The company services 7,000 institutional accounts.
The Coinbase filing gave everyone who works in this industry something to chew on. There was the bold vision, the numbers, the services overview, and some details on their recent acquisitions. There was even a nod to Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, who was featured on the front page as a designated recipient of copies of the filing documents.
And for those interested in the future of work, the customary physical location of the filer was given as “Address not applicable,” with the footnote: “In May 2020, we became a remote-first company. Accordingly, we do not maintain a headquarters.”
While there is much to enjoy in the filing, and no doubt much to continue to pick apart over the next few days, let’s take a step back and look at what this document is really about, and what it says about the future of capital markets. Deep down, it’s about the reshaping of trust.
Opening the books
One of the big steps forward for the industry is greater transparency as to the inner workings of a key infrastructure company.
With greater transparency comes greater trust. This is not the same as trust that Coinbase’s value will go up and up. It’s trust that there is a real business opportunity here, for investors and builders.
We’ve all experienced the dismissal from mainstream economists and investors that crypto is anything but hot air. We’ve all seen how market innovations are dismissed as trivial or even irritating. Yet with this hefty document, even the most skeptical of market observers will look at the numbers and realize that this business is substantial, and that crypto assets move significant amounts of money. What’s more, the market is attracting a…