"Tech writer Roberts debuts with a page-turning account of the rise of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase from the Y Combinator startup incubator to becoming a 'pillar of the larger crypto economy.'" — Publisher's Weekly For a moment late in 2018, one bitcoin, which physically amounts to a few electrons blipping on a tiny bit of silicon, was worth $20,000—the same as a pound of gold. Libertarian technologists who believed bitcoin would be the foundation of a new world order saw the moment as an apotheosis. Everyone else saw a bubble. Everyone else was right, and the bubble burst. But bitcoin survived, and the battle for its soul rages on. Kings of Crypto drops us into the unfolding drama, tracing the rise, fall, and rebirth of cryptocurrency through the experiences of major players across the globe. We follow Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brian Armstrong and the turbulent rocket ride of his startup, Coinbase, as he tries to take bitcoin mainstream while fighting off hackers, thieves, and zealots. Author Jeff John Roberts keenly observes the world of virtual currencies and what happens when startups try to disrupt the world of high finance. Clear explanations of crypto technology are woven into an amazing landscape full of meme-fueled startup hijinks, hacking (so much hacking!), shady investors, government investigations, billionaire bros and their Lambos, and closed-door meetings with Jamie Dimon. This is the surprising story of the origins of cryptocurrency and how it is changing money forever.
Coinbase is an exchange for buying and selling cryptocurrencies. It was founded by computer software aces driven by the ideology represented by cryptocurrencies, freedom from government and Wall Street. Working day and night designing and coding their product, they launched their Silicon Valley startup in 2012. Over the next decade Coinbase survived many challenges: being hacked, huge swings in the value of bitcoin and other coins, legal issues, deep divisions in the cryptocurrency community, skepticism of established financial organizations, and more. Coinbase persevered making its founders and many others incredibly rich, going public in April 2021, and establishing relationships with Wall Street banks. It’s listed on the Nasdaq as COIN and as of this writing Coinbase has a market cap of $42 billion. The total value of Crypto worldwide now is around 2$ trillion give or take a few hundred billion. It fluctuates wildly.
I got more out of this book than a Silicon Valley startup success story. I learned a little about blockchain and crypto, the community that supports them, the challenges ahead and possible directions for the future. I found myself hitting the web frequently to fill in blanks left by the book. Below are my thoughts.
Perhaps the most important point is to distinguish the two draws of crypto: Libertarian finance and blockchain technology. Blockchain technology used for bitcoin and other cryptos provides robust security for the transactions. Transactions are stored in blocks on multiple computers and cannot be changed. The transactions can be used to record who owns a coin or any other record. Companies are using private blockchains to track food shipments and other possible uses are endless. Apps can be built into blockchain as well. For example, a smart contract that records when the terms are met and automatically makes payments, executes trades or takes other actions.
The fanatic believers who launched Coinbase and their compatriots were motivated by blockchain’s ability to provide anonymity. Governments could not see one’s wealth stored in crypto. This has drawbacks. Transactions for drugs and other illegal activities are easily concealed. Binance, the largest coin exchange, is reportedly being investigated by the US government for money laundering and tax evasion. It and other crypto exchanges have been repeatedly hacked, some losing tens of millions even hundreds of millions of dollars. When hackers steal the private keys that access the blocks holding the coins, identifying the new coin owners isn’t possible and the coins cannot be recovered. Although if the thieves spend the stolen coins that can be tracked.
There is the issue of control of the network. Operations and any changes have to be agreed upon by a majority of the miners who create blocks and the node operators who store, validate and exchange blocks. Whatever a majority of them agree to will be done. Dissenters are free to start a new blockchain. Different blockchains and their coins have different rules. Governments cannot access the blocks directly, but they do hold sway over network stakeholders. Countries can regulate miners, node operators and exchanges. China has outlawed independent crypto citing criminal activity, particularly evasion of currency regulations, and to keep capital from leaving the country. And like gold which constrained economic policies for countries operating under the gold standard, if crypto became the dominant currency, adjusting the money supply to meet current needs might not be possible. Crypto coins called stable coins have been launched. These are linked to another asset such as dollars or gold. This allows the use of the blockchain anonymity feature with changes in their value determined by the asset backing them. Another issue, mining crypto uses a lot of energy, problematic for the expense and climate change.
Crypto still strikes me as speculative. There are around 18,000 competing cryptocurrencies, most of which have little volume. Value changes with the popularity of a particular coin. Few people will access the blockchains directly. Most will go through exchanges like Coinbase which make transactions easy to execute. Regulation of exchanges varies widely depending on where they are based and they are frequently hacked. Then there is the use for illegal activity and the impact on climate. While I see a promising future for blockchain for record keeping, the future of crypto is unclear. Governments will regulate it and the libertarian dream of wealth unknown and untouched by any government will be challenged. Authoritarian governments can turn crypto into even more control. China only allows its own crypto that it can use to permanently record and track every transaction of its citizens.
This is the story of Coinbase, a trading platform for cryptocurrency. Through it you see the development of “crypto”, how it has become a growing share of the economy and its potential future.
Prior to Coinbase you needed programming skills to enter the cryptocurrency market. Coinbase was built on the premise that there was a huge demand for this currency and a libertarian style belief in a currency untethered to a government. Coinbase made Brian Armstrong and its other founders and initial developers (most cast aside in along the way) fabulously wealthy.
Developing a financial trading platform from scratch is a formidable job, but the developers had a missionary zeal. The code they developed is called “blockchain”. I’m not sure I understand it, but it has to do with capturing 10 minute intervals of trade and sending these trade records to decentralized locations. Blockchain is good for security, but as your customer base grows the 10 minute intervals can mean a traffic jam.
Roberts takes you through the ups and downs of Coinbase. There are market forces (booms and “crypto winters”), regulatory issues and lots of personnel turnover. As new currencies came on the market (through ICOs – Initial Coin Offerings), Coinbase stayed with trading for only four. There were internal civil wars, some based on turf, but others on the clash of the anti-establishment mission and the pressure to expand into banking-like services.
You see Coinbase respond to competition. Two significant competitors - GDAX and Binance - forced Coinbase into the Wall Street world they had shunned. GDAX developed Ethereum, which uses the blockchain technology for legal contracts and was able to enter a more professional market (as distinguished from Coinbase which was founded to serve the general public). More recently, Binance grew from trading currency to rivaling banks while attempting to skirt regulation. It has pioneered services like storage, and has captured the large Asian market.
In this short journey through the crypto world, you encounter crypto celebrities who are not yet household names. First is Satoshi Nakamoto who wrote the initial 9 page document outlining the role and mission of a crypto that inspired the original crypto entrepreneurs. Vitalik Buterin, the child of Russian immigrants, created a new blockchain (Ethereum) and made it accessible to non-programmers for legal contacts. CZ - Chengpen Zhao who as a child immigrated to Canada with his parents is the founder of Binance. He dreams of running unregulated banks from his yacht in international waters.
You see the future of d.App which are the decentralized applications of blockchain (if I didn’t describe this accurately – you get the drift). You learn enough about ICOs to question if they differ from (regulated) IPOs. You think about “cold storage” (originally thumb drives in the pocket of crypto pioneers). You ponder the outcome of a global private company or a fanatical dictator gaining control the world’s currency/currencies.
Above is just a sketch of what this 225 page book covers. It would have been better if I started with a book on the currency instead of its trading platforms (I didn’t understand the difference when I picked this up), but Roberts did a masterful job of summarizing crypto world. If you are interested in a “crypto for dummies” type of history you will benefit from this highly readable survey.
I finished Kings of Crypto: One Startup's Quest to Take Cryptocurrency Out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street by Jeff John Roberts. This short book gives a fast paced picture of the crazy Silicon Valley startup culture and how the ups and downs of coinbase in the last 8 years impacted the crypto industry and blockchain in general. Jeff starts from 2012 when Brian Armstrong was walking into YCombinator's Mountain View office to raise fund and ends up with his meeting in Manhattan with Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase. In between came many of the crypto figures that I am very familiar with - * Brian Armstrong * Fred Ehrsam * Ben Reeves * Vitalik Buterin * Andreas Antonopoulos * Charlie Lee * Jed McCaleb * Balaji Srinivasan
As I have been following the crypto industry and rad a lot about blockchain, did trading since mid 2017, I found the second half of the book as a validation of what I knew and the first half of the book with full of new insights. This book is a fun read and you will pick up a few leadership tips and mistakes to avoid as you go through.
This book is one part business school case study of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, and another frankly much better part which is a pocket history of the evolution of cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin specifically since its inception in 2009. I enjoyed reading some of the journalistic accounts (whatever their veracity) of the key players in the origins of Coinbase, a company that is on the way to IPO and may end up becoming crypto's equivalent of J.P. Morgan in the end. But as an outside observer it was more useful to just get a feel for the evolution of the industry, which this book manages to provide in a brief and accessible format. Although many believe that the current 2020-2021 bull market is a speculative frenzy, in reality cryptocurrency already had its dot-com bubble moment in 2017, following the last bitcoin halving cycle, when all types of bad money projects came out and imploded. After going to that episode, common to many early-growth tech industries, cryptocurrency has become much more mature despite the fact that many ordinary people have yet to come on board or understand what it's really about. A lot of early adopters got burned in previous cycles, getting wiped out by quasi-criminal mismanagement at places like the Mt. Gox exchange or by scam currencies that proliferated during the "Initial Coin Offerings" (ICO) boom.
Things are more stable now and cryptocurrency is well on the path to regulated entry into the mainstream. It is probably a safer time to take an interest while still being relatively early, although the era of getting rich after putting one thousand dollars into bitcoin is long past. Coinbase is an interesting company and one should keep an eye on its development as it goes public. The book hints at the end that all of this is going to end up disrupting Wall Street though doesn't go to deep into such provocative speculations. I would argue that the writing is on the wall and this short story about one small firm dealing in bitcoins contains within it the seed of much creative destruction to come.
This is a good account of some of the Coinbase story (it's ongoing, but it's been about 8 years already...), including the internal political and product debate, concerns about how Coinbase fits in with the rest of the broader crypto (and broader financial) community, and some of the concerns about Coinbase vs. future competitors. There's a brief intro to crypto generally, but I think it assumes you're somewhat familiar with Bitcoin at this point, and the book probably isn't good as a first introduction. I know a lot of the people involved in the story (and actually was involved in reviewing Coinbase's application to Y Combinator back when they originally applied, plus have been to their various offices a few times), and everything presented about which I have some knowledge appears consistent with reality.
Very enjoyable, story and character driven so no need for a deep knowledge of the field of crypto or even finance really. For some reason the kindle and physical book are not out until almost a year from now, but the audio book is available already.
This book will not age well. This book is mostly propaganda. For example, early on in the book, the author makes a vastly oversimplified argument that Nick Szabo is probably Satoshi Nakamoto and essentially hand waves and says “because Occam’s Razor”. Tell me, then, why Nick Szabo didn’t know that the original Bitcoin design was Turing complete? Watch for yourself at 16:52: https://youtu.be/LdvQTwjVmrE
Nick blithely instructs CSW to write a paper on the “esoteric” statement about Bitcoin’s Turing completeness. CSW did write a paper about that. And hundreds of others. And he also filed and is in the process of filing thousands of patents. CSW was proven right. Bitcoin (now trading as “BSV - Bitcoin Satoshi Vision”) is Turing complete. The implications for that cannot be understated.
This book makes ZERO mention of CSW. How interesting. Have you seen Coinbase’s IPO prospectus recently? In it, they state very clearly a major potential risk to their business: the revealing of Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity and / or the movement of Satoshi’s million plus Bitcoins.
Who loves Bitcoin more than anyone else? Who knows more about Bitcoin than anyone else? Who has more Bitcoin patents and papers than anyone else? Who leads largest Bitcoin development team in the world? Who has more than 20 university degrees? Who has an official (and uncontested) copyright on the original Bitcoin white paper? Who has done more than 50 hours of fast paced interviews discussing the Bitcoin white paper in depth? Who has actually said he is Satoshi Nakamoto? Who actually wants Bitcoin technology to be used for good? Who is taking the battles to court and submitting evidence and providing testimony under oath? CSW.
Cool story, bro. Not as cool as The Infinite Machine, but pretty cool still. What I love about the Web3 stories is that they are all so recent - most of the main characters are still 100% in the game (and in their 30s). For a book it has its downsides as well - Libra isn't a thing and let's just say China isn't exactly stealing the crypto thunder.
This book showcases the story of Coinbase, a bitcoin startup turned billion dollar firm. It is fascinating to see how the its founders Brian and Fred poured their hearts and soul to build something despite the skepticism of many people around them.
This is also a story of teamwork, the ups and downs, the challenges, and thriumphs of the team involve in this company.
I like the way the story was written in this book. It feels like I am watching a movie with the way the author described the “characters” in this book.
This is a great book. The lessons in every story will help teams and organizations deal with their own challenges.
I find it impressive that Brian Armstrong agreed to this book being published. There are a lot of critics. It shows his humbleness and good intents. The book is a good overview of the last few years in the crypto space but it does not really emphasize the potential of blockchain, it's oriented towards retail investing mostly. It shows how challenging it can become to keep a crypto culture. Coinbase is growing and losing a part of its spirit over time, especially because of growth and also because of investors' pressure. Still there are good intents from its billionaire founder. Hopefully he will be able to achieve what he initially wanted. Making such a company decentralized can't easily be happening at this stage. It sounds more like a dream from which he is getting further every day. To be successful right now Coinbase needed to play the capitalism game. Competition happens in this system while the crypto space is a lot about cooperation if we look at DeFi. There are challenges in terms of managing egos, managing culture, and managing changes in both spaces but the space of the future is the cooperative economy in my opinion.
Kings of Crypto is the story of Coinbase around the rise, the fall, and rebirth of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is a revolutionary idea. Unfortunately, it was not accessible to most people. Coinbase was built to allow cryptocurrency trading as simple as placing orders using a credit cards and hiding the complexity of setting up wallets and many software setups, in the case of defeating the idea of decentralization, as one core tenet of Bitcoin.
# Important Ideas
- Coinbase is a really good example of how the first mover can be defeated easily by complacency. Coinbase was almost eaten by Binance and faced significant competition with the rise of Gemini and also Kraken. - Cryptocurrency is one industry where regulation is coming after the ideas. In this situation, Coinbase could have been sacked by regulatory and can survive due to some element of luck. - Cryptocurrency has been always associated as money-laundering scheme, the method of payment for many illicit activities, with the biggest case of The Silk Road. However, Coinbase story tells that as a knife can be used to cut for food or to kill and as conventional money can be also used to trade for the illicit things, cryptocurrency also has a good use case too. - One interesting point from the book is on how, as regulation is getting tighter in the US for cryptocurrency, it forces many companies and idea around cryptocurrency to move overseas. - One main important ideas to highlight is despite the promise on how bitcoin can be method of payment without the need of an intermediary that can be used by many people, it still fails to reach the mainstream. The volatility and also the slow transaction speed disable that really core idea. Therefore, there is still a huge potential to dig more ideas and products on this topic for any business founders out there.
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Digital Gold, The Age of Cryptocurrency, and Blockchain Revolution.
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Peter Thiel talks about “open secrets”—business ideas that are just there for the plucking by those who are not afraid to challenge conventional thinking.
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Olaf selected bitcoin as the topic for his final thesis.
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A stack of $100 bills can finance a drug deal or be donated to an orphanage.
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A stack of $100 bills can finance a drug deal or be donated to an orphanage. Bitcoin is no different, despite its perception as an outlaw currency.
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Meanwhile, a visionary pro-grammer named Jed McCaleb, who’d founded the world’s biggest crypto exchange, helped launch a versatile currency called Ripple before hatching another one called Stellar.
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In early February, a young Frenchman named Mark Karpelès sat in a Tokyo apartment with Tibanne, his orange-and-white tabby cat.
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One of them, Secret Service Special Agent Shaun Bridges, had robbed Silk Road accounts to the tune of at least 1,500 bitcoin—worth over $800,000 at the time—that belonged to the US government.
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And the DEA’s Carl Mark Force IV did something much worse.
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Pieter Wuille, a tousled Belgian with a PhD in computer
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Notable members include Pieter Wuille, a tousled Belgian with a PhD in computer science,
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Shortly after the Ethereum network was up and running, a group of people got together and put $150 million into an investment platform called the DAO.
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“At Coinbase we are passionate about creating an open financial system for the world.
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Despite its general sketchiness—no one was quite sure who controlled it—Bitfinex still enjoyed a global base of customers who liked its fast-and-loose approach to financial regulation, which allowed them to get richer quicker.
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Alford’s discovery led the Justice Department to identify and convict Ross Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate.
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A great number came from the country’s lower-income strata—they called themselves “dirt spoons”—and saw owning crypto as a once-in-a-lifetime shot at subverting what they saw as a rigged class system.
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And in a Hail Mary gambit, the CEO of Kodak—the once-proud camera maker from upstate New York—announced it would back KodakCoin, a half-baked scheme to manage photographs on the blockchain.
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Not long after the July warning, a clever lawyer named Marco Santori had unveiled a document called the SAFT (short for Simple Agreement for Future Tokens). The SAFT was a riff on a familiar startup investment contract known as SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity)—and
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It was Fred Ehrsam who had introduced the hedger in the first place, back in the days when Coinbase lacked its own exchange and had to source bitcoins on the open market.
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Brian was freed from managing every last thing. Finally, he had time to pursue personal activities. He took flying
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Brian was freed from managing every last thing. Finally, he had time to pursue personal activities. He took flying lessons and dated actresses.
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Analytical as ever, Brian subscribed to research that suggested the best way to alleviate poverty was to give money to people who are poor.
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“We were getting our asses kicked by Binance, and we didn’t have a strategy,” recalls Coinbase lawyer and political fixer Mike Lempres.
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In less than a year, and while Brian and Coinbase were cleaning their shop and waiting for the market to recover, Binance eclipsed Coinbase and other established exchanges to become the most popular crypto service in the world.
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According to one crypto entrepreneur who has worked in Asian markets, the reason Coinbase didn’t see Binance coming is because it’s hard to see anything with your head up your ass.
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Presiding over all of it is Jamie Dimon, the most influential banking CEO in the world and bitcoin’s most famous, most powerful nemesis.
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One obvious use for tokens, says Balaji Srinivasan, is for cap tables—the documents that show who owns how many shares in a company, a fixture of the startup and venture capital worlds.
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The Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller’s latest book, Narrative Economics, devotes its first chapter to bitcoin.
Fascinating story of Brian Armstrong and Coinbase, good read alongside Digital Gold.
Coinbase was part of Y Combinator and Brian Reeves was originally going to be part of the founding team but parted ways due to differences in opinion around centralization. Fred Ehrsam would join later. The culture of the team was "running through walls."
In 2016 there was only a single class at Stanford on cyrpto (taught by Katie Haun). By 2019, 56% of the top fifty global colleges/universities offered at least one class. Cornell had 14 and Columbia, MIT and NYU each offered over a dozen.
** Olaf Carlson-Wee was the first employee at Coinbase and later founded Polychain Capital. His advice for startups was to "hire your customers." Bitcoin had hit $1100 in Dec 2013 but after the collapse of Mt. Gox it had fallen to $400 by the fall of 2014. In 2015, the price was barely above $200. Olaf told friends "can you believe how cheap it is? It's never going to be this price again."
** Charlie Lee used his 20% time at Google to learn about Bitcoin in 2011. He was the creator of Litecoin and eventually joined the Coinbase team.
** Martine Niejadlik joined Coinbase in fall 2013 as employee number four. "She was the first woman, first parent and first forty something."
** Juan Saurez was also hired in 2013 as the first lawyer on staff. "A big strategy didn't win the day for us. All we had to do was say, don't get hacked, don't break the law and maintain a banking relationship."
** Mark Karpeles and his cat Tibanne ran Mt. Gox after buying it in 2011 from Jed McCaleb (almost more like he was given the site). By 2013, 70% of all bitcoin trading took place on the platform.
** Business Model 2% on retail customers but 25 bps for institutional trades. In 2015, the board wanted the company to pivot to "enterprise blockchain" but Armstrong "flat-out refused." "The Coinbase Secret Master Plan" blog posting in Sep 2016
** Crypto Winter and Hacks Third of newer employees quit in 2015 Aug 2016 Bitfinix in HK lost $73M which then reduced all accounts by 36% as a result Bitcoin fell to $3200 on Dec 15, 2018, again over 80% below it's earlier peak.
** Winklevoss Twins Won $65M settlement in 2008 which they accepted in stock, this grew to $500M They then invested $11M into bitcoin in 2013
** Gary Alford IRS special agent that read documents three times and made the connection between an old posting and Ross Ulbricht's personal gmail account
** Balaji Srinivasan "Thoughts on tokens" essay on ICOs. Trump administration interviewed him about running the FDA given his ex0pertise in genetics. Partner at a16z (where his decks could run over 300 slides) who eventually became CTO at Coinbase through an aqui-hire. Would eat Tate's and half-and-half while working around the clock. "Some people lead by loyalty and inspiration. Balaji leads by fear and by money (Nathalie McGrath, VP of People)." Believes cap tables should be managed through blockchain.
** Asiff Hirji Coinbase's COO that struggled to oversee the company in direct confrontation with Balaji. Resigned in 2019 when Armstrong reasserted his leadership.
** Changpeng Zhao (CZ of Binance) Grew up in Vancouver from the age of 12 and launched Binance in 2017 with the advent of Binance coins First discovered bitcoin in 2013 at the age of thirty six, worked briefly at Blockchain for Ben Reeves
Interesting anecdote of how Fred Wilson was sick for the Coinbase "pitch" meeting to his partners. As a result, the firm decided to only invest $2.5M instead of the $5M Series A. Ultimately, Micky Malka of Ribbit Capital came up with the other $2.5M.
Only about 2K transactions per block were possible, Armstrong wanted to change this in the way that Ethereum allowed for more throughput. This created tension between "Bitcoin Core" traditionalists (small-blockers worries about individual rights).
Ethereum's (created by Vitalik Buterin) advantages around smart contracts. $150M DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) that was then hacked in Jun 2016. The investors lost $50M within minutes and there had to be a decision by Buterin. On Jun 20, 2016 there was a "hard fork" to back out the fraud perpetuated by the criminals. Those that disagreed and fought the decision stayed with the original blockchain called Ethereum Classic.
"I AM HODLING" and conversations around lambos and being rekt.
"Puertopia" paradise and tax haven for crypto millionaires and billionaires.
Stablecoins have been around for years. Tether is the best known one and "appeared in 2015."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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Mildly frustrating book. I thought there was a good smattering of information about Coinbase and kind of the adolescence of cryptocurrency. I think the core problem is at the author prioritizes narrative over painting an accurate picture.
It became clear about a quarter of the way through that the author was favoring crafting a narrative over presenting factual information. The example that rattled my druthers was when the author talks about how clever Coinbase was with their “run through brick walls mentality“ and provides a Geofence feature on their app as an example. In this, the Coinbase developers block Apple headquarters in order to trick the App Store people into believing that the Coinbase app didn’t violate App Store policy around buying crypto. He makes a big deal of this. Citing it as a great example of that headstrong mentality. However three chapters later, the author talks about how it only worked for a month. It’s not an example of being scrappy, It’s a harebrained idea that was quickly found out and proved to be harmful.
Then inturn the problem is that if the author is so clearly favoring narrative over accuracy, what else is flawed or in accurate. I haven’t followed coinbase closely enough to know, and while I’m glad that I became more familiar with the main people in the arc of the company, I’m really not sure how much to trust this book.
Read it for the entertainment and as a sort of business story, but I don’t think there’s a lot of actionable or quality information in here.
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1. The history of Crypto: A lot of crypto-related terms in news articles don't get explained, making them hard to follow. Learning about bitcoin's evolution from a currency alternative to a store of value, with so many 'forks' along the way was interesting. Whatever idea people had for crypto initially didn't really translate in practice and Coinbase had to constantly evolve to keep up. 2. Corporate Politics: The internal politics of Coinbase was interesting to me as a neophyte in the corporate world. The company had to evolve from a hacker culture to a full-fledged corporation and with many forces exerting push/pull in either direction. 3. Ideals/practice: The larger ideal of bitcoin is decentralization and resistance against government control. The cons of this (criminality, money-laundering) aside, the book is a great story of how the push and pull between establishment/status quo and a new idea takes place. Here it's framed as silicon valley vs wall street. Clearly both sides have a lot to learn from each other and finance seems poised for a technological paradigm shift.
It's clear that no matter how great an idea, its success lies in implementation. As a former crypto-sceptic, this book made me feel more 50/50 on bitcoin.
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1) Not the author's fault, but the book is shockingly outdated even though it was published just 2-3 years ago. Guess that's how fast crypto has moved since 2020. Also, Coinbase SPAC'd so a few more chapters have been written since.
2) There's not very much depth about Brian Armstrong, despite him being the supposed profiled king. Feels like there's more info on Balaji than BA. There's also just not much depth in general -- about the business, numbers, coins, etc.
3) On Balaji, well, guess he's an asshole? In case that wasn't ascertainable from his social media presence.
4) Ask anyone in crypto who the 'kings' have been, past or present. I don't think BA would be the first name out of anyone's mouth. He's more like a Secretary or Minister -- gets stuff done, not high profile, rather boring (not a bad thing!) SBF or CZ are more befitting of the 'king' title (corrupt, legion of servants, cult following, etc.) I think the equivalent profile on them would have been more apt. Wonder why the author chose to write about Coinbase and BA instead.
'Kings of Crypto' is a light but solid recounting of the story of the founding and rise of Coinbase, the top U.S. cryptocurrency exchange. Roberts gives lots of credit for Coinbase's success to its founding pair, whose bold vision, executive focus, and personal drive enabled them to win powerful venture capital backing, attract talent, and out-survive competitors during the early "wild west" days of bitcoin trading. Roberts also highlights that despite Coinbase's brand as "the White Knight of Crypto" earnestly dedicated to winning the trust of non-techie retail consumers, the company has struggled mightily with the technical and human components of customer service in its dynamic and turbulent industry. Written prior to Coinbase's NASDAQ direct listing in April 2021, 'Kings of Crypto' sets the table for understanding Coinbase's position at the current moment - both perhaps the most influential institutional leader in the global crypto market, but one facing significant challenges to holding on to that position from new innovations, formidable competitors, and internal culture.
The book tells the story of Coinbase - from its inception to COVID19. Concurrent with Coinbase, it naturally touched upon crypto related events around Coinbase - from the blocksize war, to the rise of ethereum, the ICO craze and the subsequent Crypto winter.
It is impressive the legions of industry leaders out of Coinbase - Fred Ehrsam of Paradigm, Olaf Carson-Wee of Polychain, Katie Haun of A16z (now she's raising her own fund), among others.
Roberts is a great writer. The book reads fluidly. However, I took two stars off because I think the level of primary research is still lacking. He has done interviews - but compared with truly great books in this category such as "The Man who Solved the Market", there is more work to be done in my view. But nonetheless - it is a fun and informative read. Coinbase will be much more important to the global financial system in 5-10 years. People should know more about its history.
This is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to dabble into the world of crypto without going into the high level details of the world of blockchain. It presents the journey of Coinsqaure while providing knowledge on the workings of world of cyrpto currency. I am beyond inspired by how much of a visionary their CEO Brain is. To not only be a visionary to predict the future of crypto currency but also to take a chance at building a startup that relies on the framework of cyrpto takes a certain level of ingenuity that very few people ever have. Technology is the future and it is only moving at an exponential rate everyday. As a customer of Coinsqaure it was great to see read how far they have come and how much father they will go. This book almost felt like a fast paced action movie!
I picked this up in the airport today and read it on my cross country flight. Having dipped my toe into the world of crypto currency this past week I wanted to understand the history, the ups and downs of the market and any other tips and warnings I can glean.
The book did all is this quite well. While dragging sometimes in the play by play history of Coinbase and its core players, the history of Bitcoin was well worth it. I still have a lot more to learn, but this was a nice intro.
Of course one thing I took away is that I can quickly lose the few thousand dollars I just invested at a high of $57,000+ per Bitcoin. Kind of crazy and I won’t be shocked if it is another bubble. On the flip side, I feel like this could be a significant part of our future and now is as good a time as any to jump in.
The book is a bit outdated now given how fast things can move in cryptospace. But it gives a decent background knowledge for those who are interested or are already going down the rabbit hole.
The big take away is how the West crypto enthusiasts, as a whole, severely underestimated CZ and how Binance manage to blitzscaling everything; it is up to the point that even CZ cannot keep up with his conquering in this space e.g. BSC is one of a few examples that has gained lots of traction lately despite how centralised it is.
I will revisit my comment within a few years to see how CZ has progressed to eat the whole world.
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