Coinbase CTO: Business in the Front, Party in the Back


Coinbase is known for many things. It’s considered the most popular U.S. cryptocurrency exchange and the world’s largest crypto-to-fiat trading platform. In a recent “Fireside Chat” at the  TechCrunch blockchain event in Zug, Switzerland, Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan painted a different picture, saying the exchange is more like a mullet for its business in the front and party in the back approach.

“Coinbase is a mullet in the sense of we interface with banks and regulators and governments. So we have to have an orderly kind of thing here. And then there’s the whole crypto space. And so it’s like this ultimate mullet business. We have to maintain good relationships on both sides,” Srinivasan said.

He went on to describe a “balancing act,” one that if you err too much on one side or another could interfere with Coinbase’s goal, which is to “mainstream cryptocurrencies” and “mainstream blockchain.”

And while Srinivasan conceded that Coinbase would probably never be the first-mover, they would be early adopters of a technology, something that users on the exchange know too well.

Token Tussle

The largest criticism of Coinbase (aside from fees, which can be said of most exchanges) is that it supports too few altcoins, especially when its U.S. peers like Gemini exchange, which is run by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, just added the controversial privacy coin Zcash.

Gemini also recently poached an executive from the oldest and most traditional stock exchange in the world — The New York Stock Exchange. Gemini hired NYSE Chief Information Officer Robert Cornish to expand its cryptocurrency platform so that it can handle more trading volume from institutional investors. In addition to Zcash, Gemini also supports bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and is reportedly in the process of adding Litecoin.

As for Coinbase, at the moment it only supports a handful of the leading cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin and most recently Ethereum Classic (ETC). Many traders were expecting the No. 3 digital currency XRP (XRP) of which Ripple is the majority holder to be next.

Coinbase previously revealed its desire to support more ERC20 tokens, but Srinivasan played his hand close to the vest, providing little-to-no details about the number of coins that are in the pipeline. The exchange has found itself in hot water before, having botched the rollout of the maiden bitcoin fork Bitcoin Cash. He did say to “stay tuned” in the coming months, which suggests that there could be at least one more coin announcement by year-end.

Meanwhile, Coinbase is moving toward an algorithm-fueled decision process for adding more tokens. Additionally, the exchange recently added Coinbase Custody, which is a platform for securing large amounts of crypto for institutional investors, and obtained a broker-dealer license, which can usher in delivering “the benefits of blockchain to the equity markets,” said Srinivasan, pointing to 24/7 trading. In the interim, Coinbase will continue being the life of the party while also playing by the rules.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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