The success of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, the largest of its kind in the U.S., has made its founder and CEO Brain Armstrong an overnight billionaire. And as soon as the 36-year-old entrepreneur realized he’d made way more money than he ever needed, he joined the Giving Pledge, the billionaire philanthropist club created by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, committing to give away the majority of his wealth.
“Once a certain level of wealth is reached, there is little additional utility from spending more on yourself. One’s ambition begins to move outwards,” Armstrong said when he signed the Giving Pledge in December of 2018.
That ambition applies to his business as well. At a company event this week, Armstrong laid out a roadmap for Coinbase’s next decade. His ultimate vision sounds intimidating yet familiar for a tech entrepreneur his age: to change the world.
A central theme in Armstrong’s presentation is economic freedom, a term often used by economists and politicians to describe the degree of financial soundness of people in a society.
Armstrong noted the widely varying levels of economic freedom in different countries and the overall slow progress of global economic freedom in the past 25 years. This situation, however, may be changed by Coinbase one day.
“We can actually bend this curve,” Armstrong said, pointing to a flattened line on the screen describing the historical trend of global economic freedom. “The vision for Coinbase is creating more economic freedom for every person and business in the world over the next 10 years.”
But how will it work? Armstrong explained that cryptocurrency has a number of unique characteristics that will allow regular people to take the key steps in achieving economic freedom. For example, crypto’s barrier-free cross-border payment system would facilitate free trade and make it easier for startup founders to raise funds globally.
Crypto could even help combat inflation, a major weakness in government-backed currencies, Armstrong said. Earlier this year, a Coinbase-backed startup called Stablecoin launched a payment app in Venezuela to help local residents cope with worsening hyperinflation in the South American country.
Moving into the future, Coinbase will continue counting on its incubator program, Coinbase Ventures, to create a network of companies in the crypto ecosystem. Launched just a year ago, the venture arm has funded more than 50 startups in the blockchain and crypto space.
“Coinbase can’t do it alone, there needs to be thousands of companies out there,” Armstrong said, adding that, if all goes according to the plan, Coinbase could enable “a billion people, in five to 10 years, to access an open financial system through our products every day.”