S-1/A 1 coinbaseglobalincs-1a2.htm S-1/A Document


As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 23, 2021
Registration No. 333-253482
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549
AMENDMENT NO. 2
TO
FORM S-1
REGISTRATION STATEMENT
UNDER
THE SECURITIES ACT OF 1933
Coinbase Global, Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware738946-4707224
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(Primary Standard Industrial
Classification Code Number)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification Number)
Brian Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer
Coinbase Global, Inc.
Address Not Applicable1
(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including
area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)
The Corporation Trust Company
1209 Orange Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
(302) 777-0200
(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including
area code, of agent for service)
Copies to:
Mark C. Stevens
Michael A. Brown
Ran D. Ben-Tzur
Faisal Rashid
Jennifer J. Hitchcock
Fenwick & West LLP
228 Santa Monica Blvd, Suite 300
Santa Monica, California 90401
(310) 434-5400
Paul Grewal
Juan Suarez
Doug Sharp
Coinbase Global, Inc.
Address Not Applicable1
 Satoshi Nakamoto
1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa
Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public:
As soon as practicable after this registration statement becomes effective.
If any of the securities being registered on this Form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or Securities Act, check the following box: ☒
If this Form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, please check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering. ☐
1       In May 2020, we became a remote-first company. Accordingly, we do not maintain a headquarters.



Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.
Large accelerated filer ☐Accelerated filer ☐
Non-accelerated filer ☒Smaller reporting company ☐
Emerging growth company ☐
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act. ☐

CALCULATION OF REGISTRATION FEE
Title of Each Class of Securities to be RegisteredAmount to be RegisteredProposed Maximum Offering Price Per Share
Proposed Maximum Aggregate Offering Price(1)
Amount of Registration Fee
Class A common stock, $0.00001 par value per share114,850,769Not applicable$943,218,155$102,906
(1)Estimated solely for purposes of calculating the registration fee pursuant to Rule 457(a) of the Securities Act. Given that there is no proposed maximum offering price per share of Class A common stock, the registrant calculates the proposed maximum aggregate offering price, by analogy to Rule 457(f)(2), based on the book value of the Class A common stock the registrant registers, which will be calculated from its audited balance sheet as of December 31, 2020. Given that the registrant’s shares of Class A common stock are not traded on an exchange or over-the-counter, the registrant did not use the market prices of its ordinary shares in accordance with Rule 457(c).
(2)The registrant previously paid $109,100 in connection with the initial filing of this registration statement.

The registrant hereby amends this registration statement on such date or dates as may be necessary to delay its effective date until the registrant shall file a further amendment which specifically states that this registration statement shall thereafter become effective in accordance with Section 8(a) of the Securities Act or until the registration statement shall become effective on such date as the Securities and Exchange Commission, acting pursuant to said Section 8(a), may determine.



The information in this prospectus is not complete and may be changed. The securities may not be sold until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This prospectus is not an offer to sell these securities and it is not soliciting an offer to buy these securities in any jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted.
Subject to Completion, dated March 23, 2021.
114,850,769 Shares of Class A Common Stock
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This prospectus relates to the registration of the resale of up to 114,850,769 shares of our Class A common stock by the stockholders identified in this prospectus, or the registered stockholders. Prior to the listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market there has been no public market for our Class A common stock. Unlike an initial public offering, the resale by the registered stockholders is not being underwritten by any investment bank. The registered stockholders may elect to sell their shares of Class A common stock covered by this prospectus, as and to the extent they may determine. Such sales, if any, will be made through brokerage transactions on the Nasdaq Global Select Market at prevailing market prices. For more information, see the section titled “Plan of Distribution.” If the registered stockholders choose to sell their shares of Class A common stock, we will not receive any proceeds from the sale of such shares.
We have two classes of common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. The rights of the holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock are identical, except with respect to voting and conversion rights. Each share of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote. Each share of Class B common stock is entitled to twenty votes and is convertible at any time into one share of Class A common stock. The holders of our outstanding Class B common stock hold approximately 99.2% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock, with our directors, executive officers, and 5% stockholders, and their respective affiliates, holding approximately 60.5% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock. Prior to any sales of shares of Class A common stock, a registered stockholder who holds Class B common stock must convert their shares of Class B common stock into shares of Class A common stock.
No public market for our Class A common stock currently exists. However, our shares of Class A common stock and Class B common stock (on an as-converted basis) have a history of trading in private transactions. Based on information available to us, the low and high sales price per share of Class A common stock and Class B common stock (on an as-converted basis) for such private transactions during the first quarter of 2021 (through March 15, 2021) was $200.00 and $375.01, respectively. The volume weighted-average price per share for the first quarter of 2021 (through March 15, 2021) was $343.58. For more information, see the section titled “Sale Price History of our Capital Stock.” Our recent trading prices in private transactions may have little or no relation to the opening public price or the subsequent trading price of our shares of Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Further, the listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market without underwriters is a novel method for commencing public trading in shares of our Class A common stock, and consequently, the trading volume and price of shares of our Class A common stock may be more volatile than if shares of our Class A common stock were initially listed in connection with an underwritten initial public offering.
On the day that our shares of Class A common stock are initially listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, or Nasdaq, will begin accepting, but not executing, pre-opening buy and sell orders and will begin to continuously generate the indicative Current Reference Price (as defined below) on the basis of such accepted orders. During a 10-minute “Display Only” period, market participants may enter quotes and orders in Class A common stock in Nasdaq’s systems and such information is disseminated, along with other indicative imbalance information, to Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, or Goldman Sachs, and other market participants (including the other financial advisors) by Nasdaq on its NOII and BookViewer tools. Following the “Display Only” period, a “Pre-Launch” period begins, during which Goldman Sachs, in its capacity as our designated financial advisor to perform the functions under Nasdaq Rule 4120(c)(8), must notify Nasdaq that our shares are “ready to trade.” Once Goldman Sachs has notified Nasdaq that our shares of Class A common stock are ready to trade, Nasdaq will calculate the Current Reference Price (as defined below) for our shares of Class A common stock, in accordance with the Nasdaq’s rules. If Goldman Sachs then approves proceeding at the Current Reference Price, Nasdaq will conduct price validation checks in accordance with Nasdaq rules. As part of conducting its price validation checks, Nasdaq may consult with Goldman Sachs and other market participants (including the other financial advisors). Upon completion of such price validation checks, the applicable orders that have been entered will then be executed at such price and regular trading of our shares of Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market will commence. Under the Nasdaq rules, the “Current Reference Price” means: (i) the single price at which the maximum number of orders to buy or sell our shares of Class A common stock can be matched; (ii) if more than one price exists under clause (i), then the price that minimizes the number of our shares of Class A common stock for which orders cannot be matched; (iii) if more than one price exists under clause (ii), then the entered price (i.e. the specified price entered in an order by a customer to buy or sell) at which our shares of Class A common stock will remain unmatched (i.e. will not be bought or sold); and (iv) if more than one price exists under clause (iii), a price determined by Nasdaq after consultation with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, or J.P. Morgan, Allen & Company LLC, or Allen & Co., and Citigroup Global Markets Inc., or Citigroup, in their capacity as financial advisors, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Co., and Citigroup will exercise any consultation rights only to the extent that they may do so consistent with the anti-manipulation provisions of the federal securities laws, including Regulation M (to the extent applicable), or applicable relief granted thereunder. The registered stockholders will not be involved in Nasdaq’s price-setting mechanism, including any decision to delay or proceed with trading, nor will they control or influence Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Co., and Citigroup in carrying out their roles as financial advisors. Goldman Sachs will determine when our shares of Class A common stock are ready to trade and approve proceeding at the Current Reference Price primarily based on consideration of volume, timing, and price. In particular, Goldman Sachs will determine, based primarily on pre-opening buy and sell orders, when a reasonable amount of volume will cross on the opening trade such that sufficient price discovery has been made to open trading at the Current Reference Price. For more information, see the section titled “Plan of Distribution.”
We have applied to list our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “COIN.” We expect our Class A common stock to begin trading on or about  , 2021.
We will be treated as an “emerging growth company” as that term is used in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 for certain purposes until we complete this listing. As such, in this prospectus we have taken advantage of certain reduced disclosure obligations that apply to emerging growth companies regarding selected financial data and executive compensation arrangements.
See the section titled “Risk Factors” beginning on page 15 to read about factors you should consider before buying shares of our Class A common stock.
Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any other regulatory body has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the accuracy or adequacy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.
                                    , 2021



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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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You should rely only on the information contained in this prospectus or contained in any free writing prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. Neither we nor the registered stockholders have authorized anyone to provide any information or to make any representations other than those contained in this prospectus or in any free writing prospectuses we have prepared. Neither we nor the registered stockholders take responsibility for, and can provide no assurance as to the reliability of, any other information that others may give you. The registered stockholders are offering to sell, and seeking offers to buy, shares of their Class A common stock only in jurisdictions where it is lawful to do so. The information contained in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date of this prospectus, regardless of the time of delivery of this prospectus or of any sale of the Class A common stock. Our business, financial condition, operating results, and prospects may have changed since that date.
For investors outside of the United States: Neither we nor any of the registered stockholders have done anything that would permit this offering or possession or distribution of this prospectus in any jurisdiction where action for that purpose is required, other than in the United States. Persons outside the United States who come into possession of this prospectus must inform themselves about, and observe any restrictions relating to, the offering of Class A common stock by the registered stockholders and the distribution of this prospectus outside of the United States.
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ABOUT THIS PROSPECTUS
This prospectus is a part of a registration statement on Form S-1 that we filed with the SEC using a “shelf” registration or continuous offering process. Under this shelf process, the registered stockholders may, from time to time, sell the Class A common stock covered by this prospectus in the manner described in the section titled “Plan of Distribution.” Additionally, we may provide a prospectus supplement to add information to, or update or change information contained in, this prospectus (except for the section titled “Plan of Distribution,” which additions, updates, or changes that are material shall only be made pursuant to a post-effective amendment). You may obtain this information without charge by following the instructions under the section titled “Additional Information” appearing elsewhere in this prospectus. You should read this prospectus and any prospectus supplement before deciding to invest in our Class A common stock.
As used in this registration statement, the term “registered stockholders” refers to the stockholders with shares registered hereunder pursuant to the table appearing in the section titled “Principal and Registered Stockholders” and their pledgees, donees, transferees, assignees, or other successors-in-interest.
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Glossary to the Cryptoeconomy
Throughout this prospectus, we use a number of industry terms and concepts which are defined as follows:
Address: An alphanumeric reference to where crypto assets can be sent or stored.
Bitcoin: The first system of global, decentralized, scarce, digital money as initially introduced in a white paper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System by Satoshi Nakamoto.
Block: Synonymous with digital pages in a ledger. Blocks are added to an existing blockchain as transactions occur on the network. Miners are rewarded for “mining” a new block.
Blockchain: A cryptographically secure digital ledger that maintains a record of all transactions that occur on the network and follows a consensus protocol for confirming new blocks to be added to the blockchain.
Cold storage: The storage of private keys in any fashion that is disconnected from the internet. Common cold storage examples include offline computers, USB drives, or paper records.
Crypto: A broad term for any cryptography-based market, system, application, or decentralized network.
Crypto asset (or ‘token’): Any digital asset built using blockchain technology, including cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and security tokens.
Crypto Asset Volatility: Represents our internal measure of crypto volatility in the market relative to prior periods. The volatility of crypto assets is measured on an hourly basis (using 10 minute price intervals within each hour) for each crypto asset supported for trading on Coinbase, averaged over the applicable time period (quarterly), then weighted by each crypto asset’s share of total trading volume during the same time period across a select set of trading platforms, in addition to the Coinbase platform, that operate in similar markets including itBit, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, bitFlyer, Binance.US, Binance, Kraken, Gemini, Bittrex, and Poloniex.
Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin and alternative coins, or ‘altcoins’, launched after the success of Bitcoin. This category of crypto asset is designed to work as a medium of exchange, store of value, or to power applications and excludes security tokens.
Cryptoeconomy: A new open financial system built upon crypto.
Customer: A retail user, institution, or ecosystem partner on our platform.
DeFi: Short for Decentralized Finance. Peer-to-peer software-based network of protocols that can be used to facilitate traditional financial services like borrowing, lending, trading derivatives, insurance, and more through smart contracts.
Ecosystem partners: Developers, creators, merchants, asset issuers, organizations and financial institutions, and other groups building decentralized protocols, applications, products, or other services for the cryptoeconomy.
Ethereum: A decentralized global computing platform that supports smart contract transactions and peer-to-peer applications, or “Ether,” the native crypto assets on the Ethereum network.
Fork: A fundamental change to the software underlying a blockchain which results in two different blockchains, the original, and the new version. In some instances, the fork results in the creation of a new token.
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Hodl: A term used in the crypto community for holding a crypto asset through ups and downs, rather than selling it.
Hot wallet: A wallet that is connected to the internet, enabling it to broadcast transactions.
Institutions: Businesses that include hedge funds, small to large financial institutions, and corporations.
Miner: Individuals or entities who operate a computer or group of computers that add new transactions to blocks, and verify blocks created by other miners. Miners collect transaction fees and are rewarded with new tokens for their services.
Mining: The process by which new blocks are created, and thus new transactions are added to the blockchain.
Network: The collection of all miners that use computing power to maintain the ledger and add new blocks to the blockchain. Most networks are decentralized, reducing the risk of a single point of failure.
Protocol: A type of algorithm or software that governs how a blockchain operates.
Public key or private key: Each public address has a corresponding public key and private key that are cryptographically generated. A private key allows the recipient to access any funds belonging to the address, similar to a bank account password. A public key helps validate transactions that are broadcasted to and from the address. Addresses are shortened versions of public keys, which are derived from private keys.
Retail users: Individual users with an account on our platform.
Security token: A crypto asset that is a security. This includes digital forms of traditional equity or fixed income securities, or may be assets deemed to be a security based on their characterization as an investment contract or note.
Smart contract: Software that digitally facilitates or enforces a rules-based agreement or terms between transacting parties.
Stablecoin: Crypto assets designed to minimize price volatility. A stablecoin is designed to track the price of an underlying asset such as fiat money or an exchange-traded commodity (such as precious metals or industrial metals). Stablecoins can be backed by fiat money or other crypto assets.
Staking: An energy efficient equivalent of mining. Stakers use pools of tokens as collateral to validate transactions and create blocks. In exchange for this service, stakers earn a reward.
Supported crypto assets: The crypto assets we support for trading and/or custody on our platform, which included over 90 crypto assets as of December 31, 2020.
USD Coin or USDC: A stablecoin issued through the Centre Consortium (co-founded by Coinbase and Circle Internet Financial Limited, or Circle), backed by fully reserved assets, held by the issuer, and able to be purchased and sold on a 1:1 basis for U.S. dollars.
Wallet: A place to store public and private keys for crypto assets. Wallets are typically software, hardware, or paper-based.
Wallet user: A retail user who has established an account with a username on our non-custodial software-based product. Coinbase Wallet is an application that allows the user to connect to DeFi applications and self-custody crypto assets. While they operate separately from our main
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platform, wallet users are included in the following key business metrics: Verified Users and Monthly Transacting Users.
For additional information regarding our key business metrics, which include Verified Users, Monthly Transacting Users, Assets on Platform, and Trading Volume as well as our use of Adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure, see the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure.”
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PROSPECTUS SUMMARY
This summary highlights selected information that is presented in greater detail elsewhere in this prospectus. This summary does not contain all of the information you should consider before investing in our Class A common stock. You should carefully read this prospectus in its entirety before investing in our Class A common stock, including the sections titled “Risk Factors,” “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements,” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and our consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes, provided elsewhere in this prospectus. Some of the statements in this prospectus constitute forward-looking statements. See the section titled “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.” Unless the context otherwise requires, the terms “Coinbase,” “the company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” in this prospectus refer to Coinbase Global, Inc. and our consolidated subsidiaries.
Overview
Coinbase powers the cryptoeconomy.
Our mission is to create an open financial system for the world. Today, the way that we invest, spend, save, and generally manage our money remains cumbersome, inaccessible, expensive, and regionally isolated. In contrast, the internet has transformed our society by connecting the world and enabling the seamless exchange of information. The legacy financial system is struggling to keep pace with the speed of technological advancements in a global and digitally interconnected society, resulting in the need for a new, natively digital financial system.
We are building the cryptoeconomy – a more fair, accessible, efficient, and transparent financial system for the internet age that leverages crypto assets: digital assets built using blockchain technology.
We started in 2012 with the radical idea that anyone, anywhere, should be able to easily and securely send and receive Bitcoin, the first crypto asset. We built a trusted platform for accessing Bitcoin and the broader cryptoeconomy by reducing the complexity of the industry through a simple and intuitive user experience.
Today, we are a leading provider of end-to-end financial infrastructure and technology for the cryptoeconomy. Customers around the world discover and begin their journeys with crypto through Coinbase. In the early days of the internet, Google democratized access to information through its user-friendly search engine, enabling virtually any user with an internet connection to discover the world’s information. Similarly, Coinbase is democratizing access to the cryptoeconomy by enabling anyone with an internet connection to easily and securely invest in and use crypto assets.
Customers that start with us, grow with us as they experience the benefits of the open financial system by using crypto-based products for staking, spending, saving, and borrowing. Today, our platform enables approximately 43 million retail users, 7,000 institutions, and 115,000 ecosystem partners in over 100 countries to participate in the cryptoeconomy:
Retail users: We offer the primary financial account for the cryptoeconomy – a safe, trusted, and easy-to-use platform to invest, store, spend, earn, and use crypto assets.
Institutions: We provide hedge funds, money managers, and corporations a one-stop shop for accessing crypto markets through advanced trading and custody technology, built on top of a robust security infrastructure. We also offer a state of the art marketplace with a deep pool of liquidity for transacting in crypto assets.
Ecosystem partners: We provide developers, merchants, and asset issuers a platform with technology and services that enables them to build applications that leverage crypto protocols, actively participate in crypto networks, and securely accept cryptocurrencies as payment.
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Bitcoin sparked a revolution by proving the ability to create digital scarcity: a unique and finite digital asset whose ownership could be proven with certainty. This innovation laid the foundation for an open financial system. Today, all forms of value – from those natively created online such as in-game digital goods to traditional securities like equities and bonds – can be represented digitally, as crypto assets. Like the bits of data that power the internet, these crypto assets can be dynamically transmitted, stored, and programmed to serve the needs of an increasingly digital and globally interconnected economy.
Today, we enable customers around the world to store their savings in a wide range of crypto assets, including Bitcoin and USD Coin, and to instantly transfer value globally with the tap of a finger on a smartphone. We provide companies with new ways to transact, incentivize, and reward their users, from offering compounding rewards on savings that pay out by the second to compensating users for virtually completing tasks through global micropayments.
We power the cryptoeconomy by combining the best of both emerging blockchain technology and traditional finance to create trusted and easy-to-use products for the industry. We have built a robust backend technology platform to support the global, real-time, and 24/7/365 demands of crypto asset markets. We invest heavily in regulatory compliance by working with regulators around the world to shape policy, and have pioneered industry-leading security practices for safeguarding crypto assets. Our early focus on trust and usability has allowed us to become the primary on-ramp to the cryptoeconomy from the fiat-based financial system.
Our unique approach draws retail users, institutions, and ecosystem partners to our platform, creating a powerful flywheel: retail users and institutions store assets and drive liquidity, enabling us to expand the depth and breadth of crypto assets that we offer, and launch new, innovative products and services that attract new customers. Our scale and leadership position draws ecosystem partners to connect with our millions of customers around the world, further enhancing the value of our platform.
This self-reinforcing dynamic is enabled by our culture of repeatable innovation and continuous investment in our proprietary technology platform that is purpose built to address the unique engineering, cybersecurity, compliance, and usability challenges of directly interacting with blockchain protocols. With every turn of our flywheel, we develop a deeper understanding of our customers’ needs and leverage our scalable platform to intelligently design, develop, launch, and market new, innovative products and services to our customers. This allows us to build a more tailored suite of products and services and enhances the value of our platform over time. By providing the necessary infrastructure and distribution for our current and future ecosystem partners to build and extend their reach, we also foster the growth of the ecosystem.
We have seen this flywheel work effectively across our business and we have grown rapidly as a result. As of December 31, 2020, our customers had traded over $456 billion on our platform since inception and stored over $90 billion worth of assets across our platform. This growth has come with minimal outbound sales and marketing effort – since inception over 90% of our retail users had found us organically or through word-of-mouth.
Since inception through December 31, 2020, we generated over $3.4 billion in total revenue, largely from transaction fees that we earn from volume-based trades on our platform by retail users and institutions. For the year ended December 31, 2020, transaction revenue represented over 96% of our net revenue. We have leveraged the strength of our trading business to scale and broaden our platform by investing in our flywheel to launch new products and services and grow the ecosystem.
Today, we directly integrate with over 15 blockchain protocols, support over 90 crypto assets for trading or custody, and offer a suite of subscription products and services that have enhanced the customer value proposition and power of our platform. Retail users are now engaging with multiple products — across the four quarters ended December 31, 2020, on average, 21% of retail users who invested also engaged with at least one non-investing product2 per quarter. When retail users invested
2 Non-investing products include our Distribute, Stake, Save, Spend, and Borrow & Lend products.
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and engaged with at least one non-investing product, we saw average net revenue per retail user increase by approximately 90%. Although subscription products and services do not currently contribute a significant portion of net revenue relative to our trading business, we experienced 126% annual growth in revenue from these products and services from 2019 to 2020. We are committed to growing more stable revenue from subscription products and services, and expect that they will contribute a larger portion of our total revenue over time as our customers connect with the broader cryptoeconomy.
The overall market capitalization of crypto assets grew from less than $500 million to $782 billion between December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate, or CAGR,3 of over 150%. Over the same period, our retail users grew from approximately 13,000 to 43 million. More recently, we have experienced significant growth in the number of institutions on our platform, increasing from over 1,000 as of December 31, 2017 to 7,000 as of December 31, 2020.
While we have grown rapidly, similar to the evolution of the internet, e-commerce, and prior paradigm shifts in technology, our journey has not been linear. Our growth has come in waves driven by innovation in the cryptoeconomy and requires long-term perspective to evaluate our performance. Each wave expands the existing retail user community and further diversifies the ecosystem by attracting new market participants such as institutions and developers. In the short-term, we experience high variance in Trading Volume and net revenue between quarters driven by the volatile nature of the crypto asset markets. Over longer periods, we have experienced clear growth, with median quarterly Trading Volume increasing from $17 billion to $21 billion to $38 billion in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively.
We have grown quickly and in a capital-efficient manner since our founding. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019, we generated total revenue of $1.3 billion and $533.7 million, respectively, net income (loss) of $322.3 million and $(30.4) million, respectively, and Adjusted EBITDA of $527.4 million and $24.3 million, respectively. See the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure—Non-GAAP Financial Measure” for information regarding our use of Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA.
Limitations of Today’s Financial System
Today’s financial system relies upon a patchwork of intermediaries that spans banks, brokers, clearinghouses, custodians, exchanges, payment processors, and their networks to facilitate money movement, safekeeping, lending, credit, and other capital markets activity. The trust and reliance on this complex web of intermediaries imposes the following limitations:
Access. Geographic and socioeconomic factors often limit access to legacy financial infrastructure, such as bank accounts, that are required to send, store, or receive funds.
Efficiency. Multiple administrative layers, including protocols, people, procedures, and infrastructure are required to facilitate the movement of money, imposing legacy constraints on financial transactions, adding friction, and leading to the duplication of functions across the value chain.
Cost. Redundancy and inefficiency result in higher costs for end users.
Many companies in the technology and financial technology industries have recognized and attempted to address some of these issues. However, these companies have built their products and services on top of the same antiquated financial infrastructure, effectively porting the limitations, inefficiencies, and costs of the traditional financial system online. As a result, these solutions do not address the core limitations of the current financial system.
3 Based on publicly available data from the earliest available date. Calculation period is December 31, 2012 to December 31, 2020.
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The Need for An Internet of Value
While the internet has transformed how we communicate and purchase goods and services, the existing financial system has hardly changed. We have reached a tipping point for the need for a new, natively digital financial system.
Crypto deeply integrates the concept of money into the internet ecosystem as a means of value exchange, storage, and unit of account, effectively creating a resilient internet of value. This enables network participants to transact with each other on the basis of trust without intermediaries. Crypto enables the digital representation and instant, secure exchange of nearly any asset of value globally in a manner as fast and seamless as the exchange of information on the internet. Today, over 50 distinct blockchain protocols support more than 7,500 crypto assets that enable all forms of digital records and transactions, including contracts, documents, identity, rights, securities, titles, in-game digital goods, and many others, to be controlled programmatically.
Anyone, anywhere with an internet connection can directly access this network of value exchange.
Applications in the Cryptoeconomy are Expansive
A fundamental advantage of the cryptoeconomy is that unlike the traditional financial system that relies on rigid infrastructure, crypto assets rely on software-based networks built on top of the internet. As a result, crypto assets are easily programmed, maneuvered, and as frictionless to send and receive as information on the internet.
The inherent programmability of crypto assets enables the creation of “smart contracts,” self-enforcing agreements between transacting parties directly written into lines of code. Smart contracts represent a step change in the utility of blockchain-based networks by allowing parties to enter into contractual agreements without the need for a centralized intermediary.
Today, the applications of crypto assets span core financial and non-financial applications:
Store of value. Adoption of crypto assets with attributes such as a finite supply, such as Bitcoin, or inherent parity with a fiat currency, such as USD Coin, have emerged as stores of value around the world.
24/7/365 real-time cross-border payments. Crypto asset markets operate 24/7/365 and facilitate the instant transfer of value, eliminating the need for any intermediary, siloed payment networks, or specialized infrastructure.
Democratization of financial markets. Blockchain protocols establish a universal source of truth, eliminating reconciliation workflows, allowing for near instantaneous settlement, enabling capital to flow more freely, and simplifying transactions that require significant documentation.
Peer-to-peer financial applications (DeFi applications). Crypto assets rely on software-based networks that can be used to facilitate traditional financial services like borrowing, lending, trading derivatives, and insurance through smart contracts.
Digital marketplaces for…anything. Crypto allows for the creation of new digital global marketplaces and business models that were previously not possible by substituting centralized intermediaries with open markets governed by programmable rules and incentives.
Our Opportunity
Crypto has the potential to be as revolutionary and widely adopted as the internet. The unique properties of crypto assets naturally position them as digital alternatives to store of value analogs such as gold, enable the creation of an internet-based financial system, and provide a development platform for
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applications that are unimaginable today. These markets and asset classes collectively represent hundreds of trillions of dollars of value today.
Similar to the early days of the internet, this evolution will take time, but we expect the cryptoeconomy to expand into the mainstream and touch every individual and business around the world in the coming decades. While we are still in the early stages of adoption, the market value of exchange-traded crypto assets was already approximately $782 billion as of December 31, 2020. Our objective is to drive the growth of the overall cryptoeconomy by serving the needs of all consumers who manage their financial lives on a mobile device, and every institution – large or small – that embraces the emerging internet of value.
We expect our customer base to grow alongside the ecosystem we serve as we continue to support more asset classes and add more products to our platform. Our objective is to bring crypto-based financial services to anyone with a smartphone, a population of approximately 3.5 billion people today.
Our Platform
We have developed a complementary suite of products and services that are designed to meet the distinct needs of our customers as they transact in the cryptoeconomy. Our customers – retail users, institutions, and ecosystem partners – come together on our platform to create a powerful flywheel for our business.
Our platform and flywheel are powered by a robust backend technology system that enables us to develop, launch, and market scalable new products and services. Our technology platform includes the following elements:
15+ native blockchain integrations and counting. We have developed custom technology and processes to directly integrate with over 15 blockchain protocols and efficiently support new protocols.
Advanced cybersecurity and cryptography technology. We have pioneered industry-leading standards for managing private cryptographic keys and use sophisticated cybersecurity technologies such as multi-party computation to safeguard a wide range of crypto assets.
Proprietary crypto compliance infrastructure. We have built bespoke transaction monitoring systems to analyze crypto asset transactions in real-time on the blockchain, allowing us to support new products and services.
Powerful product experiences. Investments in our technology platform give us the ability to create unique product experiences for our customers that allow them to easily participate in technically complex parts of the cryptoeconomy.
What Sets Us Apart
We believe the following advantages set us apart from our competitors:
We are a market leading brand exclusively focused on the cryptoeconomy. Keeping pace with the breadth and depth of innovation in the cryptoeconomy requires focus. We have and remain solely focused on building technology to power the cryptoeconomy since 2012. Our focus allows us to nimbly adapt to quickly shifting trends and support the growth of the industry. As the cryptoeconomy grows, our competitive advantage grows.
We have a trusted platform owing to our heritage of security and culture of regulatory compliance. We are a financial technology provider that offers services to customers in over 100 countries, and we are proud to be one of the longest running crypto platforms where customers have not lost funds due to a security breach of the platform. We are also licensed to engage in
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money transmission and virtual currency business in almost all U.S. states and we continue to pursue licensing in select jurisdictions internationally.
We are the default starting place for new user journeys into the cryptoeconomy. By reducing the complexity of crypto and emphasizing intuitive product design, we have become a primary on-ramp for customers’ journeys into the cryptoeconomy.
We have significant scale, securely storing over $90 billion in total assets. We believe our market leading share of assets on our platform is a competitive advantage, and that we have a substantial opportunity to build on our customer relationships by growing with our customers and offering a broader suite of products and services.
We have a robust technology platform that enables unique product experiences for our industry. Our custom technology platform is built to deal with the real-time, global and 24/7/365 nature of crypto asset markets, enabling us to rapidly research, develop, and launch new products and features.
We operate a marketplace with one of the deepest pools of liquidity and a network effect. We have a deep pool of liquidity for exchanging a wide range of crypto assets, supported by a healthy mix of retail and institutional activity.
Growth Strategy
Coinbase grows as the cryptoeconomy grows. We live in a world that is increasingly global, digital generations control a growing share of the world’s wealth, and each year we see more commerce happening online. Each of these secular trends supports the growth of the cryptoeconomy and Coinbase. More importantly, we feel we have a tremendous opportunity to actively drive our business by:
Adding more customers. Any person or business with an internet connection that is looking to access or interact with the cryptoeconomy can be an active user and customer on our platform. We intend to add more customers by expanding and growing:
touchpoints with our customers to increase adoption and engagement with our products.
retail user reach through growth marketing.
institutional sales coverage and trading operations support to better serve large institutional customers.
ecosystem relationships through targeted community engagement and product development.
access to our products and services by adding support for geographically local payment methods.
internationally to broaden local access to the cryptoeconomy.
Expanding the depth and breadth of assets. Any asset or form of value can be represented as a crypto asset and be supported on our platform, subject to meeting our security, legal, and compliance requirements. We plan to expand the depth and breadth of assets offered by expanding:
support for digitally native crypto assets.
support for new and novel native blockchain protocol features.
investments in infrastructure and regulatory clarity to help pave the path for new assets to be represented as crypto assets.
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Launching innovative products. Any known, and many yet to be created financial and non-financial products can be built for the cryptoeconomy. We will continue to innovate by providing:
customers more opportunities to engage with crypto by developing and launching innovative products and services across our platform.
partnerships to create more opportunities for our customers to engage in new crypto-based financial transactions.
technology to help our ecosystem partners better connect and transact with customers.
Summary of Risk Factors
Our business and an investment in our Class A common stock is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those highlighted in the section titled “Risk Factors” immediately following this prospectus summary. Some of these risks include:
Our operating results have and will significantly fluctuate due to the highly volatile nature of crypto.
Our net revenue is substantially dependent on the prices of crypto assets and volume of transactions conducted on our platform. If such price or volume declines, our business, operating results, and financial condition would be adversely affected.
A majority of our net revenue is derived from transactions in Bitcoin and Ethereum. If demand for these crypto assets declines and is not replaced by new crypto asset demand, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
The future development and growth of crypto is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to predict and evaluate. If crypto does not grow as we expect, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Cyberattacks and security breaches of our platform, or those impacting our customers or third parties, could adversely impact our brand and reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We are subject to an extensive and highly-evolving regulatory landscape and any adverse changes to, or our failure to comply with, any laws and regulations could adversely affect our brand, reputation, business, operating results, and financial condition.
We operate in a highly competitive industry and we compete against unregulated companies and companies with greater financial and other resources, and our business, operating results, and financial condition may be adversely affected if we are unable to respond to our competitors effectively.
We compete against a growing number of decentralized and noncustodial platforms and our business may be adversely affected if we fail to compete effectively against them.
As we continue to expand and localize our international activities, our obligations to comply with the laws, rules, regulations, and policies of a variety of jurisdictions will increase and we may be subject to investigations and enforcement actions by regulators and governmental authorities.
We are and may continue to be subject to material litigation, including individual and class action lawsuits, as well as investigations and enforcement actions by regulators and governmental authorities, which may adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
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If we cannot keep pace with rapid industry changes to provide new and innovative products and services, the use of our products and services and, consequently, our revenue could decline, and our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely impacted.
A particular crypto asset’s status as a “security” in any relevant jurisdiction is subject to a high degree of uncertainty and if we are unable to properly characterize a crypto asset, we may be subject to regulatory scrutiny, investigations, fines, and other penalties, and our business, operating results, and financial condition may be adversely affected.
We currently rely on third-party service providers for certain aspects of our operations, and any interruptions in services provided by these third parties may impair our ability to support our customers.
Loss of a critical banking or insurance relationship could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Any significant disruption in our products and services, in our information technology systems, or in any of the blockchain networks we support, could result in a loss of customers or funds and adversely impact our brand and reputation and business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our failure to safeguard and manage our customers’ fiat currencies and crypto assets could adversely impact our business, operating results and financial condition.
The loss or destruction of private keys required to access any crypto asset held in custody for our own account or for our customers may be irreversible. If we are unable to access our private keys or if we experience a hack or other data loss relating to our ability to access any crypto assets, it could cause regulatory scrutiny, reputational harm, and other losses.
The registration and listing of our Class A common stock differs significantly from an underwritten initial public offering.
The price of our Class A common stock may be volatile, and could, upon listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, decline significantly and rapidly. Market volatility may affect the value of an investment in our Class A common stock and could subject us to litigation.
The dual class structure of our common stock will have the effect of concentrating voting control with those stockholders, including our directors, executive officers, and 5% stockholders, and their respective affiliates, who held in the aggregate 60.5% of the voting power of our capital stock upon the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part. This ownership will limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters, including the election of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, and any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets, or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval.
None of our stockholders are party to any contractual lock-up agreement or other contractual restrictions on transfer. Following our listing, the sales or distribution of substantial amounts of our Class A common stock, or the perception that such sales or distributions might occur, could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
Channels for Disclosure of Information
Following the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, we intend to announce material information to the public through filings with the SEC, the investor relations page on our website (www.coinbase.com), press releases, public conference calls, public webcasts, our Twitter feed (@coinbase), our Facebook page, our LinkedIn page, our YouTube channel, and Brian Armstrong’s Twitter feed (@brian_armstrong).
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The information disclosed by the foregoing channels could be deemed to be material information. As such, we encourage investors, the media, and others to follow the channels listed above and to review the information disclosed through such channels.
Any updates to the list of disclosure channels through which we will announce information will be posted on the investor relations page on our website.
Corporate Information
We were initially incorporated in May 2012 as Coinbase, Inc., a Delaware corporation. In January 2014, Coinbase Global, Inc. was incorporated as a Delaware corporation to act as the holding company of Coinbase, Inc. and our other subsidiaries. In April 2014, we completed a corporate reorganization whereby Coinbase, Inc. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coinbase Global, Inc. Coinbase Global, Inc.’s principal assets are the equity interests of Coinbase, Inc. In addition to Coinbase, Inc., Coinbase Global, Inc. is the parent company of a number of other operating subsidiaries, including (i) CB Payments, Ltd, a private limited company incorporated under the laws of the United Kingdom, which provides fiat currency payment processing services to our international customers and (ii) Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC, a New York limited liability trust company, which is authorized to exercise fiduciary powers under New York state banking law and holds certain crypto assets in trust for the benefit of our institutional customers.
In May 2020, following the global pandemic resulting from the coronavirus known as COVID-19, we became a remote-first company, meaning that for the vast majority of roles, our employees have the option to work remotely. Due to this, we do not currently have a principal executive office. Our website address is www.coinbase.com. The information contained on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not incorporated by reference into, and is not a part of, this prospectus. Investors should not rely on any such information in deciding whether to purchase our Class A common stock.
Coinbase, the Coinbase logo, Coinbase Analytics, Coinbase Commerce, and other registered or common law trade names, trademarks, or service marks of Coinbase appearing in this prospectus are the property of Coinbase. This prospectus contains additional trade names, trademarks, and service marks of other companies that are the property of their respective owners. We do not intend our use or display of other companies’ trade names, trademarks, or service marks to imply a relationship with, or endorsement or sponsorship of us by, these other companies. Solely for convenience, our trademarks and trade names referred to in this prospectus appear without the ® and ™ symbols, but those references are not intended to indicate, in any way, that we will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, our rights, or the right of the applicable licensor, to these trademarks and trade names.
JOBS Act
We will be treated as an emerging growth company, as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, or JOBS Act, for certain purposes until the earlier of the date on which we complete this listing or December 31, 2021. As such, in this prospectus we have elected to take advantage of certain reduced disclosure obligations that apply to emerging growth companies regarding selected financial data and executive compensation arrangements.
How the Crypto Community Can Participate in Our Direct Listing
Eligible Investors. Coinbase is offering our Class A common stock for sale via a direct listing. A direct listing provides any person or business with a brokerage account the opportunity to place an order for our shares in the opening order book.
Find a broker. In order to buy a share of our Class A common stock, a potential investor will first need to find a broker. A broker is an individual or firm that helps a potential investor purchase a share trading on a securities exchange, like Nasdaq. In exchange for their services, a broker will typically charge a fee to the investor wishing to purchase shares. Some brokers are self-service,
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meaning a potential investor trades shares through an online portal or website. Other brokers are full service, meaning a potential investor will reach out to a person to help them trade their shares. We make no recommendation as to a particular broker to use, but do suggest any potential investor use the BrokerCheck system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, to research the background and experience of brokers. FINRA is an independent, non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with the public in the United States. FINRA is authorized by Congress to protect investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly.
Open an account with the broker. After finding a broker, the broker will provide instructions on trading shares of our Class A common stock. A potential investor will likely need to open an account with that broker, which requires providing personal information. A potential investor will also need to provide the broker with money to purchase shares in advance of being able to trade shares of our Class A common stock. Contact a broker at least a week in advance of the first day of trading to minimize the possibility of any issues setting up and funding an account prior to purchasing shares of our Class A common stock.
Purchasing shares. We expect our shares of Class A common stock will be listed on Nasdaq on or about , 2021, which means that shares of our Class A common stock may be bought and sold on Nasdaq on such date. A broker will be able to advise on how to purchase shares of our Class A common stock in the opening order book, the listing date or any time after such date.
We and the financial advisors make no recommendation as to whether a potential investor should purchase or sell shares of our Class A common stock or which broker to use for facilitating such transactions. Furthermore, there can be no guarantee that a potential investor who has placed an order for our shares will receive such shares in the opening book order or otherwise.
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SUMMARY CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OTHER DATA
The following tables summarize our consolidated financial and other data. We derived our summary consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019 (except for the pro forma share and pro forma net income per share information) and the consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2020 from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected in any other period in the future. The following summary consolidated financial and other data should be read in conjunction with the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this prospectus.
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Year Ended December 31,
20202019
Consolidated Statement of Operations Data(in thousands, except per share data)
Revenue:
Net revenue$1,141,167 $482,949 
Other revenue136,314 50,786 
Total revenue1,277,481 533,735 
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense135,514 82,055 
Technology and development271,732 185,044 
Sales and marketing56,782 24,150 
General and administrative279,880 231,929 
Restructuring— 10,140 
Other operating expense124,622 46,200 
Total operating expenses868,530 579,518 
Operating income (loss)408,951 (45,783)
Other income, net(248)(367)
Income (loss) before provision for (benefit from) income taxes409,199 (45,416)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes86,882 (15,029)
Net income (loss)$322,317 $(30,387)
Net income (loss) attributable to common stockholders:
Basic$108,256 $(30,387)
Diluted$127,471 $(30,387)
Net income (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Basic$1.58 $(0.50)
Diluted$1.40 $(0.50)
Weighted-average shares of common stock used to compute net income (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Basic68,671 61,317 
Diluted91,209 61,317 
Pro forma net income per share attributable to common stockholders (unaudited):
Basic$1.76 
Diluted$1.57 
Pro forma weighted-average shares of common stock used to compute pro forma net income per share attributable to common stockholders (unaudited):
Basic182,945 
Diluted205,575 
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As of December 31, 2020
Actual
Pro Forma(1)
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data(in thousands)
Cash and cash equivalents$1,061,850 $1,061,850 
Customer custodial funds3,763,392 3,763,392 
Total assets5,855,414 5,855,414 
Custodial funds due to customers3,849,468 3,849,468 
Total liabilities4,329,363 4,329,363 
Convertible preferred stock562,467 — 
Total stockholders’ equity963,584 1,526,051 
__________________
(1)The pro forma column reflects the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our Series FF, Series A, Series B, Series C, and Series D convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 104,046,301 shares of our Class B common stock and all outstanding shares of our Series E convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 8,831,952 shares of our Class A common stock.
Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure
In addition to our financial results, we use the following business metrics to evaluate our business, measure our performance, identify trends affecting our business, and make strategic decisions. To evaluate our operating performance, and for internal planning and forecasting purposes, we also use Adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure. For additional information regarding these measures, see the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure.”
As of or for the Year Ended December 31,%
Change
20202019
(in millions, except percentages)
Verified Users43 32 34.4 %
Monthly Transacting Users2.81.0180.0 %
Assets on Platform$90,307 $16,969 432.2 %
Trading Volume$193,097 $79,906 141.7 %
Net income (loss)$322 $(30)NM
Adjusted EBITDA(1)
$527 $24 2,095.8 %
__________________
(1)Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure. For more information regarding our use of this measure and a reconciliation of net income to Adjusted EBITDA, see “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure—Non-GAAP Financial Measure.”
*NM—Not meaningful
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riskfactors1a1a.jpg



RISK FACTORS
Investing in our Class A common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below, together with all of the other information in this prospectus, before making a decision to invest in our Class A common stock. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties that we are unaware of or that we deem immaterial may also become important factors that adversely affect our business. If any of the following risks occur, our business, operating results, financial condition and future prospects could be materially and adversely affected. In that event, the market price of our Class A common stock could decline, and you could lose part or all of your investment.
The Most Material Risks Related to Our Business and Financial Position
Our operating results have and will significantly fluctuate due to the highly volatile nature of crypto.
All of our sources of revenue are dependent on crypto assets and the broader cryptoeconomy. Due to the highly volatile nature of the cryptoeconomy and the prices of crypto assets, our operating results have, and will continue to, fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter in accordance with market sentiments and movements in the broader cryptoeconomy. For example, the average three month Crypto Asset Volatility (as defined in our Glossary to the Cryptoeconomy) supported on our platform increased by 73% from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, before decreasing by 36% from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2020. Our operating results will continue to fluctuate significantly as a result of a variety of factors, many of which are unpredictable and in certain instances are outside of our control, including:
our dependence on offerings that are dependent on crypto asset trading activity, including trading volume and the prevailing trading prices for crypto assets, whose trading prices and volume can be highly volatile;
our ability to attract, maintain, and grow our customer base and engage our customers;
changes in the legislative or regulatory environment, or actions by governments or regulators, including fines, orders, or consent decrees;
regulatory changes that impact our ability to offer certain products or services;
our ability to diversify and grow our subscription and services revenue;
pricing for our products and services;
investments we make in the development of products and services as well as technology offered to our ecosystem partners, international expansion, and sales and marketing;
adding and removing of crypto assets on our platform;
macroeconomic conditions;
adverse legal proceedings or regulatory enforcement actions, judgments, settlements, or other legal proceeding and enforcement-related costs;
the development and introduction of existing and new products and services by us or our competitors;
increases in operating expenses that we expect to incur to grow and expand our operations and to remain competitive;
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system failure or outages, including with respect to our crypto platform and third-party crypto networks;
breaches of security or privacy;
inaccessibility of our platform due to our or third-party actions;
our ability to attract and retain talent; and
our ability to compete with our competitors.
As a result of these factors, it is difficult for us to forecast growth trends accurately and our business and future prospects are difficult to evaluate, particularly in the short term. In view of the rapidly evolving nature of our business and the cryptoeconomy, period-to-period comparisons of our operating results may not be meaningful, and you should not rely upon them as an indication of future performance. Quarterly and annual expenses reflected in our financial statements may be significantly different from historical or projected rates. Our operating results in one or more future quarters may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. As a result, the trading price of our Class A common stock may increase or decrease significantly.
Our total revenue is substantially dependent on the prices of crypto assets and volume of transactions conducted on our platform. If such price or volume declines, our business, operating results, and financial condition would be adversely affected.
We generate substantially all of our total revenue from transaction fees on our platform in connection with the purchase, sale, and trading of crypto assets by our customers. Transaction revenue is based on transaction fees that are either a flat fee or a percentage of the value of each transaction. For our retail brokerage product, we also charge a spread to ensure that we are able to settle purchases and sales at the price we quote to customers. We also generate total revenue from our subscription products and services and, while revenue from these products and services have not been significant to date, most of this revenue will also fluctuate based on the price of crypto assets. As such, any declines in the volume of crypto asset transactions, the price of crypto assets, or market liquidity for crypto assets generally may result in lower total revenue to us.
The price of crypto assets and associated demand for buying, selling, and trading crypto assets have historically been subject to significant volatility. For instance, in 2017, the value of certain crypto assets, including Bitcoin, experienced steep increases in value, and our customer base expanded worldwide. The increase in value of Bitcoin from 2016 to 2017 was followed by a steep decline in 2018, which adversely affected our net revenue and operating results. The price and trading volume of any crypto asset is subject to significant uncertainty and volatility, depending on a number of factors, including:
market conditions across the cryptoeconomy;
changes in liquidity, market-making volume, and trading activities;
trading activities on other crypto platforms worldwide, many of which may be unregulated, and may include manipulative activities;
investment and trading activities of highly active retail and institutional users, speculators, miners, and investors;
the speed and rate at which crypto is able to gain adoption as a medium of exchange, utility, store of value, consumptive asset, security instrument, or other financial assets worldwide, if at all;
decreased user and investor confidence in crypto assets and crypto platforms;
negative publicity and events relating to the cryptoeconomy;
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unpredictable social media coverage or “trending” of crypto assets;
the ability for crypto assets to meet user and investor demands;
the functionality and utility of crypto assets and their associated ecosystems and networks, including crypto assets designed for use in various applications;
consumer preferences and perceived value of crypto assets and crypto asset markets;
increased competition from other payment services or other crypto assets that exhibit better speed, security, scalability, or other characteristics;
regulatory or legislative changes and updates affecting the cryptoeconomy;
the characterization of crypto assets under the laws of various jurisdictions around the world;
the maintenance, troubleshooting, and development of the blockchain networks underlying crypto assets, including by miners, validators, and developers worldwide;
the ability for crypto networks to attract and retain miners or validators to secure and confirm transactions accurately and efficiently;
ongoing technological viability and security of crypto assets and their associated smart contracts, applications and networks, including vulnerabilities against hacks and scalability;
fees and speed associated with processing crypto asset transactions, including on the underlying blockchain networks and on crypto platforms;
financial strength of market participants;
the availability and cost of funding and capital;
the liquidity of crypto platforms;
interruptions in service from or failures of major crypto platforms;
availability of an active derivatives market for various crypto assets;
availability of banking and payment services to support crypto-related projects;
level of interest rates and inflation;
monetary policies of governments, trade restrictions, and fiat currency devaluations; and
national and international economic and political conditions.
There is no assurance that any supported crypto asset will maintain its value or that there will be meaningful levels of trading activities. In the event that the price of crypto assets or the demand for trading crypto assets decline, our business, operating results, and financial condition would be adversely affected.
A majority of our net revenue is from transactions in Bitcoin and Ethereum. If demand for these crypto assets declines and is not replaced by new demand for crypto assets, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We support a diverse portfolio of crypto assets for trading and custody. However, for the year ended December 31, 2020, we derived the majority of our net revenue from transaction fees generated in connection with the purchase, sale, and trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum; these trading pairs drove over 56% of total Trading Volume on our platform. As such, in addition to the factors impacting the broader
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cryptoeconomy described in this section, our business may be adversely affected if the markets for Bitcoin and Ethereum deteriorate or if their prices decline, including as a result of the following factors:
the reduction in mining rewards of Bitcoin, including block reward halving events, which are events that occur after a specific period of time which reduces the block reward earned by miners;
the development and launch timeline of Ethereum 2.0, including the potential migration of Ethereum to a proof-of-stake model;
disruptions, hacks, splits in the underlying network also known as “forks”, attacks by malicious actors who control a significant portion of the networks’ hash rate such as double spend or 51% attacks, or other similar incidents affecting the Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchain networks;
hard “forks” resulting in the creation of and divergence into multiple separate networks, such as Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum Classic;
informal governance led by Bitcoin and Ethereum’s core developers that lead to revisions to the underlying source code or inactions that prevent network scaling, and which evolve over time largely based on self-determined participation, which may result in new changes or updates that affect their speed, security, usability, or value;
the ability for Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain networks to resolve significant scaling challenges and increase the volume and speed of transactions;
the ability to attract and retain developers and customers to use Bitcoin and Ethereum for payment, store of value, unit of accounting, and other intended uses;
transaction congestion and fees associated with processing transactions on the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks;
the identification of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous person or persons who developed Bitcoin, or the transfer of Satoshi’s Bitcoins;
negative perception of Bitcoin or Ethereum;
development in mathematics, technology, including in digital computing, algebraic geometry, and quantum computing that could result in the cryptography being used by Bitcoin and Ethereum becoming insecure or ineffective; and
laws and regulations affecting the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks or access to these networks, including a determination that either Bitcoin or Ethereum constitutes a security or other regulated financial instrument under the laws of any jurisdiction.
The future development and growth of crypto is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to predict and evaluate. If crypto does not grow as we expect, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Crypto assets built on blockchain technology were only introduced in 2008 and remain in the early stages of development. In addition, different crypto assets are designed for different purposes. Bitcoin, for instance, was designed to serve as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, while Ethereum was designed to be a smart contract and decentralized application platform. Many other crypto networks—ranging from cloud computing to tokenized securities networks—have only recently been established. The further growth and development of any crypto assets and their underlying networks and other cryptographic and
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algorithmic protocols governing the creation, transfer, and usage of crypto assets represent a new and evolving paradigm that is subject to a variety of factors that are difficult to evaluate, including:
Many crypto networks have limited operating histories, have not been validated in production, and are still in the process of developing and making significant decisions that will affect the design, supply, issuance, functionality, and governance of their respective crypto assets and underlying blockchain networks, any of which could adversely affect their respective crypto assets.
Many crypto networks are in the process of implementing software upgrades and other changes to their protocols, which could introduce bugs, security risks, or adversely affect the respective crypto networks.
Several large networks, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, are developing new features to address fundamental speed, scalability, and energy usage issues. If these issues are not successfully addressed, or are unable to receive widespread adoption, it could adversely affect the underlying crypto assets.
Security issues, bugs, and software errors have been identified with many crypto assets and their underlying blockchain networks, some of which have been exploited by malicious actors. There are also inherent security weaknesses in some crypto assets, such as when creators of certain crypto networks use procedures that could allow hackers to counterfeit tokens. Any weaknesses identified with a crypto assets could adversely affect its price, security, liquidity, and adoption. If a malicious actor or botnet (a volunteer or hacked collection of computers controlled by networked software coordinating the actions of the computers) obtains a majority of the compute or staking power on a crypto network, as has happened in the past, it may be able to manipulate transactions, which could cause financial losses to holders, damage the network’s reputation and security, and adversely affect its value.
The development of new technologies for mining, such as improved application-specific integrated circuits (commonly referred to as ASICs), or changes in industry patterns, such as the consolidation of mining power in a small number of large mining farms, could reduce the security of blockchain networks, lead to increased liquid supply of crypto assets, and reduce a crypto’s price and attractiveness.
If rewards and transaction fees for miners or validators on any particular crypto network are not sufficiently high to attract and retain miners, a crypto network’s security and speed may be adversely affected, increasing the likelihood of a malicious attack.
Many crypto assets have concentrated ownership or an “admin key”, allowing a small group of holders to have significant unilateral control and influence over key decisions relating to their crypto networks, such as governance decisions and protocol changes, as well as the market price of such crypto assets.
The governance of many decentralized blockchain networks is by voluntary consensus and open competition, and many developers are not directly compensated for their contributions. As a result, there may be a lack of consensus or clarity on the governance of any particular crypto network, a lack of incentives for developers to maintain or develop the network, and other unforeseen issues, any of which could result in unexpected or undesirable errors, bugs, or changes, or stymie such network’s utility and ability to respond to challenges and grow.
Many crypto networks are in the early stages of developing partnerships and collaborations, all of which may not succeed and adversely affect the usability and adoption of the respective crypto assets.
Various other technical issues have also been uncovered from time to time that resulted in disabled functionalities, exposure of certain users’ personal information, theft of users’ assets, and other negative
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consequences, and which required resolution with the attention and efforts of their global miner, user, and development communities. If any such risks or other risks materialize, and in particular if they are not resolved, the development and growth of crypto may be significantly affected and, as a result, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Cyberattacks and security breaches of our platform, or those impacting our customers or third parties, could adversely impact our brand and reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our business involves the collection, storage, processing, and transmission of confidential information, customer, employee, service provider, and other personal data, as well as information required to access customer assets. We have built our reputation on the premise that our platform offers customers a secure way to purchase, store, and transact in crypto assets. As a result, any actual or perceived security breach of us or our third-party partners may:
harm our reputation and brand;
result in our systems or services being unavailable and interrupt our operations;
result in improper disclosure of data and violations of applicable privacy and other laws;
result in significant regulatory scrutiny, investigations, fines, penalties, and other legal, regulatory, and financial exposure;
cause us to incur significant remediation costs;
lead to theft or irretrievable loss of our or our customers’ fiat currencies or crypto assets;
reduce customer confidence in, or decreased use of, our products and services;
divert the attention of management from the operation of our business;
result in significant compensation or contractual penalties from us to our customers or third parties as a result of losses to them or claims by them; and
adversely affect our business and operating results.
Further, any actual or perceived breach or cybersecurity attack directed at other financial institutions or crypto companies, whether or not we are directly impacted, could lead to a general loss of customer confidence in the cryptoeconomy or in the use of technology to conduct financial transactions, which could negatively impact us, including the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures and technology infrastructure.
An increasing number of organizations, including large merchants, businesses, technology companies, and financial institutions, as well as government institutions, have disclosed breaches of their information security systems, some of which have involved sophisticated and highly targeted attacks, including on their websites, mobile applications, and infrastructure.
Attacks upon systems across a variety of industries, including the crypto industry, are increasing in their frequency, persistence, and sophistication, and, in many cases, are being conducted by sophisticated, well-funded, and organized groups and individuals, including state actors. The techniques used to obtain unauthorized, improper, or illegal access to systems and information (including customers’ personal data and crypto assets), disable or degrade services, or sabotage systems are constantly evolving, may be difficult to detect quickly, and often are not recognized or detected until after they have been launched against a target. These attacks may occur on our systems or those of our third-party service providers or partners. Certain types of cyberattacks could harm us even if our systems are left undisturbed. For example, attacks may be designed to deceive employees and service providers into
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releasing control of our systems to a hacker, while others may aim to introduce computer viruses or malware into our systems with a view to stealing confidential or proprietary data. Additionally, certain threats are designed to remain dormant or undetectable until launched against a target and we may not be able to implement adequate preventative measures.
Although we have developed systems and processes designed to protect the data we manage, prevent data loss and other security breaches, effectively respond to known and potential risks, and expect to continue to expend significant resources to bolster these protections, there can be no assurance that these security measures will provide absolute security or prevent breaches or attacks. We have experienced from time to time, and may experience in the future, breaches of our security measures due to human error, malfeasance, insider threats, system errors or vulnerabilities, or other irregularities. Unauthorized parties have attempted, and we expect that they will continue to attempt, to gain access to our systems and facilities, as well as those of our customers, partners, and third-party service providers, through various means, including hacking, social engineering, phishing, and attempting to fraudulently induce individuals (including employees, service providers, and our customers) into disclosing usernames, passwords, payment card information, or other sensitive information, which may in turn be used to access our information technology systems and customers’ crypto assets. Threats can come from a variety of sources, including criminal hackers, hacktivists, state-sponsored intrusions, industrial espionage, and insiders. Certain threat actors may be supported by significant financial and technological resources, making them even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. Further, there has been an increase in such activities as a result of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. As a result, our costs and the resources we devote to protecting against these advanced threats and their consequences may continue to increase over time.
Although we maintain insurance coverage that we believe is adequate for our business, it may be insufficient to protect us against all losses and costs stemming from security breaches, cyberattacks, and other types of unlawful activity, or any resulting disruptions from such events. Outages and disruptions of our platform, including any caused by cyberattacks, may harm our reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We are subject to an extensive and highly-evolving regulatory landscape and any adverse changes to, or our failure to comply with, any laws and regulations could adversely affect our brand, reputation, business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our business is subject to extensive laws, rules, regulations, policies, orders, determinations, directives, treaties, and legal and regulatory interpretations and guidance in the markets in which we operate, including those governing financial services and banking, trust companies, securities, broker-dealers and ATS, commodities, credit, crypto asset custody, exchange, and transfer, cross-border and domestic money and crypto asset transmission, consumer and commercial lending, usury, foreign currency exchange, privacy, data governance, data protection, cybersecurity, fraud detection, payment services (including payment processing and settlement services), consumer protection, escheatment, antitrust and competition, bankruptcy, tax, anti-bribery, economic and trade sanctions, anti-money laundering, and counter-terrorist financing. Many of these legal and regulatory regimes were adopted prior to the advent of the internet, mobile technologies, crypto assets, and related technologies. As a result, they do not contemplate or address unique issues associated with the cryptoeconomy, are subject to significant uncertainty, and vary widely across U.S. federal, state, and local and international jurisdictions. These legal and regulatory regimes, including the laws, rules, and regulations thereunder, evolve frequently and may be modified, interpreted, and applied in an inconsistent manner from one jurisdiction to another, and may conflict with one another. Moreover, the complexity and evolving nature of our business and the significant uncertainty surrounding the regulation of the cryptoeconomy requires us to exercise our judgement as to whether certain laws, rules, and regulations apply to us, and it is possible that governmental bodies and regulators may disagree with our conclusions. To the extent we have not complied with such laws, rules, and regulations, we could be subject to significant fines, revocation of licenses, limitations on our products and services, reputational harm, and other regulatory consequences,
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each of which may be significant and could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
In addition to existing laws and regulations, various governmental and regulatory bodies, including legislative and executive bodies, in the United States and in other countries may adopt new laws and regulations, or new interpretations of existing laws and regulations may be issued by such bodies or the judiciary, which may adversely impact the development of the cryptoeconomy as a whole and our legal and regulatory status in particular by changing how we operate our business, how our products and services are regulated, and what products or services we and our competitors can offer, requiring changes to our compliance and risk mitigation measures, imposing new licensing requirements, or imposing a total ban on certain crypto asset transactions, as has occurred in certain jurisdictions in the past. For example, under recommendations from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, and the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, the United States and several foreign jurisdictions are likely to impose the Funds Travel Rule and the Funds Transfer Rule (commonly referred to collectively as the Travel Rule) on financial service providers in the cryptoeconomy. We may face substantial compliance costs to operationalize and comply with the Travel Rule and may be further subject to administrative sanctions for technical violations or customer attrition if the user experience suffers as a result. More recently, in December 2020, FinCEN released a proposed rule that would require us to collect personal information from the owners of self-custodied wallets that transfer cryptocurrencies to or receive cryptocurrencies from Coinbase, and report certain transactions to the federal government. There are substantial uncertainties on how these requirements would apply in practice, and we may face substantial compliance costs to operationalize and comply with these rules. We may be further subject to administrative sanctions for technical violations or customer attrition if the user experience suffers as a result. As another example, the recent extension of anti-money laundering requirements to certain crypto-related activities by the E.U. Fifth Money Laundering Directive has increased the regulatory compliance burden for our business in Europe and, as a result of the fragmented approach to the implementation of its provisions, resulted in distinct and divergent national licensing and registration regimes for us in different E.U. member states. Further E.U.-level legislation imposing additional regulatory requirements in relation to crypto-related activities is also expected in the intermediate term which, among other things, may impose new or additional regulatory requirements on both crypto service providers and issuers of certain crypto assets, which may impact the our operations in the E.U.
Because we have offered and will continue to offer a variety of innovative products and services to our customers, many of our offerings are subject to significant regulatory uncertainty. For instance, we are a founding member of the Centre Consortium and the principal reseller of the USD Coin, a stablecoin issued by Circle that is backed one-to-one by U.S. dollar denominated reserves. The regulatory treatment of fiat-backed stablecoins is highly uncertain and has drawn significant attention from legislative and regulatory bodies around the world. The issuance and resale of such stablecoins may implicate a variety of banking, deposit, money transmission, prepaid access and stored value, anti-money laundering, commodities, securities, sanctions, and other laws and regulations in the United States and in other jurisdictions. Certain products and services offered by us that we believe are not subject to regulatory oversight, or are only subject to certain regulatory regimes, such as Coinbase Wallet, a standalone mobile application that allows customers to manage their own private keys and store their crypto assets directly on their mobile devices, may cause us to be deemed to be engaged in a form of regulated activity for which licensure is required or cause us to become subject to new and additional forms of regulatory oversight. We also offer various staking, rewards, and lending products, all of which are subject to significant regulatory uncertainty, and could implicate a variety of laws and regulations worldwide. For example, there is regulatory uncertainty regarding the status of our staking activities under the U.S. federal securities laws. While we have implemented policies and procedures designed to help monitor for and ensure compliance with existing and new laws and regulations, there can be no assurance that we and our employees, contractors, and agents will not violate or otherwise fail to comply with such laws and regulations. To the extent that we or our employees, contractors, or agents are deemed or alleged to have violated or failed to comply with any laws or regulations, including related interpretations, orders, determinations, directives, or guidance, we or they could be subject to a litany of civil, criminal, and
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administrative fines, penalties, orders and actions, including being required to suspend or terminate the offering of certain products and services.
Due to our business activities, we are subject to ongoing examinations, oversight, and reviews by U.S. federal and state regulators, including the New York State Department of Financial Services, or NYDFS, and foreign financial service regulators, including the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and the Central Bank of Ireland, which each have broad discretion to audit and examine our business. We are periodically subject to audits and examinations by these regulatory authorities. As a result of findings from these audits and examinations, regulators have, are, and may in the future require us to take certain actions, including amending, updating, or revising our compliance measures from time to time, limiting the kinds of customers which we provide services to, changing, terminating, or delaying the introduction of our existing or new product and services, and undertaking further external audit or being subject to further regulatory scrutiny. We have received, and may in the future receive, examination reports citing violations of rules and regulations, inadequacies in existing compliance programs, and requiring us to enhance certain practices with respect to our compliance program, including due diligence, monitoring, training, reporting, and recordkeeping. Implementing appropriate measures to properly remediate these examination findings may require us to incur significant costs, and if we fail to properly remediate any of these examination findings, we could face civil litigation, significant fines, damage awards, forced removal of certain employees including members of our executive team, barring of certain employees from participating in our business in whole or in part, revocation of existing licenses, limitations on existing and new products and services, reputational harm, negative impact to our existing relationships with regulators, exposure to criminal liability, or other regulatory consequences. Further, we believe increasingly strict legal and regulatory requirements and additional regulatory investigations and enforcement, any of which could occur or intensify, may continue to result in changes to our business, as well as increased costs, and supervision and examination for both ourselves and our agents and service providers. Moreover, new laws, regulations, or interpretations may result in additional litigation, regulatory investigations, and enforcement or other actions, including preventing or delaying us from offering certain products or services offered by our competitors or could impact how we offer such products and services. Adverse changes to, or our failure to comply with, any laws and regulations have had, and may continue to have, an adverse effect on our reputation and brand and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We operate in a highly competitive industry and we compete against unregulated or less regulated companies and companies with greater financial and other resources, and our business, operating results, and financial condition may be adversely affected if we are unable to respond to our competitors effectively.
The cryptoeconomy is highly innovative, rapidly evolving, and characterized by healthy competition, experimentation, changing customer needs, frequent introductions of new products and services, and subject to uncertain and evolving industry and regulatory requirements. We expect competition to further intensify in the future as existing and new competitors introduce new products or enhance existing products. We compete against a number of companies operating both within the United States and abroad, and both those that focus on traditional financial services and those that focus on crypto-based services. Our main competitors fall into the following categories:
Traditional financial technology and brokerage firms that have entered the crypto asset market in recent years and offer overlapping features targeted at our customers.
Companies focused on the crypto asset market, some of whom adhere to local regulations and directly compete with our platform, and many who choose to operate outside of local rules and regulations or in jurisdictions with less stringent local rules and regulations and are potentially able to more quickly adapt to trends, support a greater number of crypto assets, and develop new crypto-based products and services due to a different standard of regulatory scrutiny.
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Crypto-focused companies and traditional financial incumbents that offer point or siloed solutions specifically targeted at institutional customers.
Our primary source of competition to date has been from companies, in particular those located outside the United States, who are subject to significantly less stringent regulatory and compliance requirements in their local jurisdictions. Their business models rely on being unregulated or only regulated in a small number of lower compliance jurisdictions, whilst also offering their products in highly regulated jurisdictions, including the United States, without necessarily complying with the relevant regulatory requirements in such jurisdictions.
To date, due to limited enforcement by U.S. and foreign regulators, many of these competitors have been able to operate from offshore while offering large numbers of products and services to consumers, including in the United States, Europe, and other highly regulated jurisdictions, without complying with the relevant licensing and other requirements in these jurisdictions, and seemingly without penalty. Due to our regulated status in several jurisdictions and our commitment to legal and regulatory compliance, we have not been able to offer many popular products and services, including products and services that our unregulated or less regulated competitors are able to offer to a group that includes many of our customers, which may adversely impact our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
In recent years, our commitment to compliance and the attendant customer-facing requirements, including customer due diligence requirements, have resulted in our customers transferring significant funds and crypto assets to these unregulated or less regulated competitors. We also have expended significant managerial, operational, and compliance costs to meet the legal and regulatory requirements applicable to us in the United States and other jurisdictions in which we operate, and expect to continue to incur significant costs to comply with these requirements, which these unregulated or less regulated competitors have not had to incur.
Additionally, due to the broad nature of our products and services, we also compete with, and expect additional competition from, digital and mobile payment companies and other traditional financial services companies.
Many innovative start-up companies and larger companies have made, and continue to make, significant investments in research and development, and we expect these companies to continue to develop similar or superior products and technologies that compete with our products. Further, more traditional financial and non-financial services businesses may choose to offer crypto-based services in the future as the industry gains adoption. Our current and potential competitors may establish cooperative relationships among themselves or with third parties that may further enhance their resources.
Our existing competitors have, and our potential competitors are expected to have, various competitive advantages over us, such as:
the ability to trade crypto assets and offer products and services that we do not support or offer on our platform (due to constraints from regulatory authorities, our banking partners, and other factors) such as tokens that constitute securities or derivative instruments under U.S. or foreign laws;
greater name recognition, longer operating histories, larger customer bases, and larger market shares;
larger sales and marketing budgets and organizations;
more established marketing, banking, and compliance relationships;
greater customer support resources;
greater resources to make acquisitions;
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lower labor, compliance, risk mitigation, and research and development costs;
larger and more mature intellectual property portfolios;
greater number of applicable licenses or similar authorizations;
established core business models outside of the trading of crypto assets, allowing them to operate on lesser margins or at a loss;
operations in certain jurisdictions with lower compliance costs and greater flexibility to explore new product offerings; and
substantially greater financial, technical, and other resources.
If we are unable to compete successfully, or if competing successfully requires us to take costly actions in response to the actions of our competitors, our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We compete against a growing number of decentralized and noncustodial platforms and our business may be adversely affected if we fail to compete effectively against them.
We also compete against an increasing number of decentralized and noncustodial platforms. On these platforms, users can interact directly with a market-making smart contract or on-chain trading mechanism to exchange one type of crypto asset for another without any centralized intermediary. These platforms are typically not as easy to use as our platform, and generally lack the speed and liquidity of centralized platforms, but various innovative models and incentives have been designed to bridge the gap. In addition, such platforms have low startup and entry costs as market entrants often remain unregulated and have minimal operating and regulatory costs. A significant number of decentralized platforms have recently been developed and released, including on Ethereum, Tron, Polkadot, and Solana, and many such platforms have experienced significant growth and adoption. For instance, we have seen increased interest in certain decentralized platforms with transaction volumes rivaling our own platform on multiple occasions, and expect interest in decentralized and noncustodial platforms to grow further as the industry develops. If the demand for decentralized platforms grows and we are unable to compete with these decentralized and noncustodial platforms, our business may be adversely affected.
As we continue to expand and localize our international activities, our obligations to comply with the laws, rules, regulations, and policies of a variety of jurisdictions will increase and we may be subject to investigations and enforcement actions by U.S. and non-U.S. regulators and governmental authorities.
As we expand and localize our international activities, we have become increasingly obligated to comply with the laws, rules, regulations, policies, and legal interpretations both of the jurisdictions in which we operate and those into which we offer services on a cross-border basis. Laws regulating financial services, the internet, mobile technologies, crypto, and related technologies outside of the United States often impose different, more specific, or even conflicting obligations on us, as well as broader liability. For example, we are required to comply with laws and regulations related to sanctions and export controls enforced by U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, and U.S. anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws and regulations, enforced by FinCEN and certain state financial services regulators. U.S. sanctions laws and regulations generally restrict dealings by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction with certain governments, countries, or territories that are the target of comprehensive sanctions, currently the Crimea Region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela as well as with persons identified on certain prohibited lists. We have shared key particulars of our compliance program with OFAC and we believe we have a reasonable risk-based program in place. That program includes monitoring of IP addresses to identify prohibited jurisdictions and of blockchain addresses that have either been identified by OFAC as prohibited or that otherwise are believed by us to be associated with prohibited persons or jurisdictions. Nonetheless, there can be no guarantee that these
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measures will be viewed as compliant. In particular, the nature of the blockchain and of our services makes it technically infeasible in all circumstances to prevent transactions with particular persons or addresses. From time to time, we have submitted voluntary disclosures to OFAC or responded to administrative subpoenas from OFAC that have identified such transactions. Certain of these voluntary self-disclosures are currently under review by OFAC. To date, none of those proceedings has resulted in a monetary penalty or other adverse action. However, if we were to be found to have violated sanctions, or become involved in government investigations, that could result in negative consequences for us, including costs related to government investigations, financial penalties, and harm to our reputation. The impact on us related to these matters could be substantial. Although we have implemented controls, and are working to implement additional controls and screening tools designed to prevent similar activity from occurring in the future, there is no guarantee that we will not inadvertently provide our products and services to additional individuals, entities, or governments prohibited by U.S. sanctions in the future.
Regulators worldwide frequently study each other’s approaches to the regulation of the cryptoeconomy. Consequently, developments in any jurisdiction may influence other jurisdictions. New developments in one jurisdiction may be extended to additional services and other jurisdictions. As a result, the risks created by any new law or regulation in one jurisdiction are magnified by the potential that they may be replicated, affecting our business in another place or involving another service. Conversely, if regulations diverge worldwide, we may face difficulty adjusting our products, services, and other aspects of our business with the same effect. These risks are heightened as we face increased competitive pressure from other similarly situated businesses that engage in regulatory arbitrage to avoid the compliance costs associated with regulatory changes.
The complexity of U.S. federal and state and international regulatory and enforcement regimes, coupled with the global scope of our operations and the evolving global regulatory environment, could result in a single event prompting a large number of overlapping investigations and legal and regulatory proceedings by multiple government authorities in different jurisdictions. Any of the foregoing could, individually or in the aggregate, harm our reputation, damage our brands and business, and adversely affect our operating results and financial condition. Due to the uncertain application of existing laws and regulations, it may be that, despite our regulatory and legal analysis concluding that certain products and services are currently unregulated, such products or services may indeed be subject to financial regulation, licensing, or authorization obligations that we have not obtained or with which we have not complied. As a result, we are at a heightened risk of enforcement action, litigation, regulatory, and legal scrutiny which could lead to sanctions, cease, and desist orders, or other penalties and censures which could significantly and adversely affect our continued operations and financial condition.
We are and may continue to be subject to material litigation, including individual and class action lawsuits, as well as investigations and enforcement actions by regulators and governmental authorities.
We have been, currently are, and may from time to time become subject to claims, arbitrations, individual and class action lawsuits, government and regulatory investigations, inquiries, actions or requests, including with respect to both consumer and employment matters, and other proceedings alleging violations of laws, rules, and regulations, both foreign and domestic. The scope, determination, and impact of claims, lawsuits, government and regulatory investigations, enforcement actions, disputes, and proceedings to which we are subject cannot be predicted with certainty, and may result in:
substantial payments to satisfy judgments, fines, or penalties;
substantial outside counsel legal fees and costs;
additional compliance and licensure requirements;
loss or non-renewal of existing licenses or authorizations, or prohibition from or delays in obtaining additional licenses or authorizations, required for our business;
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loss of productivity and high demands on employee time;
criminal sanctions or consent decrees;
termination of certain employees, including members of our executive team;
barring of certain employees from participating in our business in whole or in part;
orders that restrict our business or prevent us from offering certain products or services;
changes to our business model and practices;
delays to planned transactions, product launches or improvements; and
damage to our brand and reputation.
Because of our large customer base, actions against us may claim large monetary damages, even if the alleged per-customer harm is small or non-existent. Regardless of the outcome, any such matters can have an adverse impact, which may be material, on our business, operating results, or financial condition because of legal costs, diversion of management resources, reputational damage, and other factors. For additional information, see the section titled “Business—Legal Proceedings.”
If we cannot keep pace with rapid industry changes to provide new and innovative products and services, the use of our products and services, and consequently our net revenue, could decline, which could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our industry has been characterized by many rapid, significant, and disruptive products and services in recent years. These include decentralized applications, DeFi, yield farming, staking, token wrapping, governance tokens, innovative programs to attract customers such as transaction fee mining programs, initiatives to attract traders such as trading competitions, airdrops and giveaways, staking reward programs, and novel cryptocurrency fundraising and distribution schemes, such as “initial exchange offerings.” We expect new services and technologies to continue to emerge and evolve, which may be superior to, or render obsolete, the products and services that we currently provide. We cannot predict the effects of new services and technologies on our business. However, our ability to grow our customer base and net revenue will depend heavily on our ability to innovate and create successful new products and services, both independently and in conjunction with third-party developers. In particular, developing and incorporating new products and services into our business may require substantial expenditures, take considerable time, and ultimately may not be successful. Any new products or services could fail to attract customers, generate revenue, or perform or integrate well with third-party applications and platforms. In addition, our ability to adapt and compete with new products and services may be inhibited by regulatory requirements and general uncertainty in the law, constraints by our banking partners and payment processors, third-party intellectual property rights, or other factors. Moreover, we must continue to enhance our technical infrastructure and other technology offerings to remain competitive and maintain a platform that has the required functionality, performance, capacity, security, and speed to attract and retain customers, including large, institutional, high-frequency and high-volume traders. As a result, we expect to expend significant costs and expenses to develop and upgrade our technical infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of the industry. Our success will depend on our ability to develop and incorporate new offerings and adapt to technological changes and evolving industry practices. If we are unable to do so in a timely or cost-effective manner, our business and our ability to successfully compete, to retain existing customers, and to attract new customers may be adversely affected.
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A particular crypto asset’s status as a “security” in any relevant jurisdiction is subject to a high degree of uncertainty and if we are unable to properly characterize a crypto asset, we may be subject to regulatory scrutiny, investigations, fines, and other penalties, which may adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
The SEC and its staff have taken the position that certain crypto assets fall within the definition of a “security” under the U.S. federal securities laws. The legal test for determining whether any given crypto asset is a security is a highly complex, fact-driven analysis that evolves over time, and the outcome is difficult to predict. The SEC generally does not provide advance guidance or confirmation on the status of any particular crypto asset as a security. Furthermore, the SEC’s views in this area have evolved over time and it is difficult to predict the direction or timing of any continuing evolution. It is also possible that a change in the governing administration or the appointment of new SEC commissioners could substantially impact the views of the SEC and its staff. Public statements by senior officials at the SEC indicate that the SEC does not intend to take the position that Bitcoin or Ethereum are securities (in their current form). Bitcoin and Ethereum are the only crypto assets as to which senior officials at the SEC have publicly expressed such a view. Moreover, such statements are not official policy statements by the SEC and reflect only the speakers’ views, which are not binding on the SEC or any other agency or court and cannot be generalized to any other crypto asset. With respect to all other crypto assets, there is currently no certainty under the applicable legal test that such assets are not securities, notwithstanding the conclusions we may draw based on our risk-based assessment regarding the likelihood that a particular crypto asset could be deemed a “security” under applicable laws. Similarly, though the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology published a framework for analyzing whether any given crypto asset is a security in April 2019, this framework is also not a rule, regulation or statement of the SEC and is not binding on the SEC.
Several foreign jurisdictions have taken a broad-based approach to classifying crypto assets as “securities,” while other foreign jurisdictions, such as Switzerland, Malta, and Singapore, have adopted a narrower approach. As a result, certain crypto assets may be deemed to be a “security” under the laws of some jurisdictions but not others. Various foreign jurisdictions may, in the future, adopt additional laws, regulations, or directives that affect the characterization of crypto assets as “securities,”
The classification of a crypto asset as a security under applicable law has wide-ranging implications for the regulatory obligations that flow from the offer, sale, trading, and clearing of such assets. For example, a crypto asset that is a security in the United States may generally only be offered or sold in the United States pursuant to a registration statement filed with the SEC or in an offering that qualifies for an exemption from registration. Persons that effect transactions in crypto assets that are securities in the United States may be subject to registration with the SEC as a “broker” or “dealer.” Platforms that bring together purchasers and sellers to trade crypto assets that are securities in the United States are generally subject to registration as national securities exchanges, or must qualify for an exemption, such as by being operated by a registered broker-dealer as an alternative trading system, or ATS, in compliance with rules for ATSs. Persons facilitating clearing and settlement of securities may be subject to registration with the SEC as a clearing agency. Foreign jurisdictions may have similar licensing, registration, and qualification requirements.
We have policies and procedures to analyze whether each crypto asset that we seek to facilitate trading on our platform could be deemed to be a “security” under applicable laws. Our policies and procedures do not constitute a legal standard, but rather represent our company-developed scoring model, which permits us to make a risk-based assessment regarding the likelihood that a particular crypto asset could be deemed a “security” under applicable laws. Regardless of our conclusions, we could be subject to legal or regulatory action in the event the SEC, a foreign regulatory authority, or a court were to determine that a supported crypto asset currently offered, sold, or traded on our platform is a “security” under applicable laws. Because our platform is not registered or licensed with the SEC or foreign authorities as a broker-dealer, national securities exchange, or ATS (or foreign equivalents), and we do not seek to register or rely on an exemption from such registration or license to facilitate the offer and sale of crypto assets on our platform, we only permit trading on our core platform of those crypto assets for
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which we determine there are reasonably strong arguments to conclude that the crypto asset is not a security. We believe that our process reflects a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis and is reasonably designed to facilitate consistent application of available legal guidance to crypto assets to facilitate informed risk-based business judgment. However, we recognize that the application of securities laws to the specific facts and circumstances of crypto assets may be complex and subject to change, and that a listing determination does not guarantee any conclusion under the U.S. federal securities laws. For example, in December 2020, we announced that we had made a decision to suspend all XRP trading pairs on our platform in light of the SEC’s lawsuit filed against Ripple Labs, Inc. and two of its executives, alleging that they have engaged in an unregistered, ongoing securities offering through the sale of XRP. We expect our risk assessment policies and procedures to continuously evolve to take into account case law, facts, and developments in technology.
Although we have applied to operate an ATS in the United States that would allow us to trade crypto assets that are deemed “securities” under U.S. federal securities laws, we have not yet received regulatory approval to, and do not currently, operate an ATS for trading of crypto assets deemed to be securities. Even though we have incurred substantial expenses and compliance costs, we may never receive regulatory approval to operate an ATS for the trading of crypto assets that constitute securities and, even if we were to receive such regulatory approval, the markets for trading crypto assets that constitute securities may lack the depth and liquidity of our platform. There can be no assurances that we will properly characterize any given crypto asset as a security or non-security for purposes of determining which of our platforms that crypto asset is allowed to trade on, or that the SEC, foreign regulatory authority, or a court, if the question was presented to it, would agree with our assessment. If the SEC, foreign regulatory authority, or a court were to determine that a supported crypto asset currently offered, sold, or traded on our platform is a security, we would not be able to offer such crypto asset for trading until we are able to do so in a compliant manner, such as through an ATS approved to trade crypto asset that constitute securities. A determination by the SEC, a foreign regulatory authority, or a court that an asset that we currently support for trading on our platform constitutes a security may also result in us determining that it is advisable to remove assets from our platform that have similar characteristics to the asset that was determined to be a security. In addition, we could be subject to judicial or administrative sanctions for failing to offer or sell the crypto asset in compliance with the registration requirements, or for acting as a broker, dealer, or national securities exchange without appropriate registration. Such an action could result in injunctions, cease and desist orders, as well as civil monetary penalties, fines, and disgorgement, criminal liability, and reputational harm. Customers that traded such supported crypto asset on our platform and suffered trading losses could also seek to rescind a transaction that we facilitated as the basis that it was conducted in violation of applicable law, which could subject us to significant liability. We may also be required to cease facilitating transactions in the supported crypto asset other than via our licensed subsidiaries, which could negatively impact our business, operating results, and financial condition. Furthermore, if we remove any assets from trading on our platform, our decision may be unpopular with users and may reduce our ability to attract and retain customers, especially if such assets remain traded on unregulated exchanges, which includes many of our competitors.
Further, if Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any other supported crypto asset is deemed to be a security under any U.S. federal, state, or foreign jurisdiction, or in a proceeding in a court of law or otherwise, it may have adverse consequences for such supported crypto asset. For instance, all transactions in such supported crypto asset would have to be registered with the SEC or other foreign authority, or conducted in accordance with an exemption from registration, which could severely limit its liquidity, usability and transactability. Moreover, the networks on which such supported crypto assets are utilized may be required to be regulated as securities intermediaries, and subject to applicable rules, which could effectively render the network impracticable for its existing purposes. Further, it could draw negative publicity and a decline in the general acceptance of the crypto asset. Also, it may make it difficult for such supported crypto asset to be traded, cleared, and custodied as compared to other crypto asset that are not considered to be securities.
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We currently rely on third-party service providers for certain aspects of our operations, and any interruptions in services provided by these third parties may impair our ability to support our customers.
We rely on third parties in connection with many aspects of our business, including payment processors, banks, and payment gateways to process transactions; cloud computing services and data centers that provide facilities, infrastructure, website functionality and access, components, and services, including databases and data center facilities and cloud computing; as well as third parties that provide outsourced customer service, compliance support and product development functions, which are critical to our operations. Because we rely on third parties to provide these services and to facilitate certain of our business activities, we face increased operational risks. We do not control the operation of any of these third parties, including the data center facilities we use. These third parties may be subject to financial, legal, regulatory, and labor issues, cybersecurity incidents, break-ins, computer viruses, denial-of-service attacks, sabotage, acts of vandalism, privacy breaches, service terminations, disruptions, interruptions, and other misconduct. They are also vulnerable to damage or interruption from human error, power loss, telecommunications failures, fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemics (including the COVID-19 pandemic) and similar events. For example, on February 24, 2021, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s payments network experienced an outage, which had the potential to result in reduced functionality for certain of our products. In addition, these third parties may breach their agreements with us, disagree with our interpretation of contract terms or applicable laws and regulations, refuse to continue or renew these agreements on commercially reasonable terms or at all, fail or refuse to process transactions or provide other services adequately, take actions that degrade the functionality of our services, impose additional costs or requirements on us or our customers, or give preferential treatment to competitors. There can be no assurance that third parties that provide services to us or to our customers on our behalf will continue to do so on acceptable terms, or at all. If any third parties do not adequately or appropriately provide their services or perform their responsibilities to us or our customers on our behalf, such as if third-party service providers to close their data center facilities without adequate notice, are unable to restore operations and data, fail to perform as expected, or experience other unanticipated problems, we may be unable to procure alternatives in a timely and efficient manner and on acceptable terms, or at all, and we may be subject to business disruptions, losses or costs to remediate any of the deficiencies, customer dissatisfaction, reputational damage, legal or regulatory proceedings, or other adverse consequences which could harm our business.
Loss of a critical banking or insurance relationship could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We rely on bank accounts to provide our platform and custodial services. In particular, customer cash holdings on our platform are held with one or more of our banking partners. As a registered money services business with FinCEN under the Bank Secrecy Act, as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, and its implementing regulations enforced by FinCEN, or collectively, the BSA, a licensed money transmitter in a number of U.S. states and territories, a licensee under NYDFS’s Virtual Currency Business Activity regime, commonly referred to as a BitLicense, a licensed electronic money institution under both the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and the Central Bank of Ireland, and a limited purpose trust company chartered by the NYDFS, our banking partners view us as a higher risk customer for purposes of their anti-money laundering programs. We may face difficulty establishing or maintaining banking relationships due to our banking partners’ policies and some prior bank partners have terminated their relationship with Coinbase or have limited access to bank services. The loss of these banking partners or the imposition of operational restrictions by these banking partners and the inability for us to utilize other redundant financial institutions may result in a disruption of business activity as well as regulatory risks. In addition, financial institutions in the United States and globally may, as a result of the myriad of regulations or the risks of crypto assets generally, decide to not provide account, custody, or other financial services to us or the cryptoeconomy generally. We also rely on insurance carriers to insure customer losses resulting from a breach of our physical security, cyber security, or by employee or service provider theft. Our ability to maintain crime and specie insurance is subject to the insurance carriers’
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ongoing underwriting criteria and our inability to obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage could cause a substantial business disruption, adverse reputational impact, inability to compete with our competitors, and regulatory scrutiny.
Any significant disruption in our products and services, in our information technology systems, or in any of the blockchain networks we support, could result in a loss of customers or funds and adversely impact our brand and reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our reputation and ability to attract and retain customers and grow our business depends on our ability to operate our service at high levels of reliability, scalability, and performance, including the ability to process and monitor, on a daily basis, a large number of transactions that occur at high volume and frequencies across multiple systems. Our platform, the ability of our customers to trade, and our ability to operate at a high level, are dependent on our ability to access the blockchain networks underlying the supported crypto assets, for which access is dependent on our systems’ ability to access the internet. Further, the successful and continued operations of such blockchain networks will depend on a network of computers, miners, or validators, and their continued operations, all of which may be impacted by service interruptions.
Our systems, the systems of our third-party service providers and partners, and certain crypto asset and blockchain networks have experienced from time to time, and may experience in the future service interruptions or degradation because of hardware and software defects or malfunctions, distributed denial-of-service and other cyberattacks, insider threats, break-ins, sabotage, human error, vandalism, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and other natural disasters, power losses, disruptions in telecommunications services, fraud, military or political conflicts, terrorist attacks, computer viruses or other malware, or other events. In addition, extraordinary Trading Volumes or site usage could cause our computer systems to operate at an unacceptably slow speed or even fail. Some of our systems, including systems of companies we have acquired, or the systems of our third-party service providers and partners are not fully redundant, and our or their disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient for all possible outcomes or events.
If any of our systems, or those of our third-party service providers, are disrupted for any reason, our products and services may fail, resulting in unanticipated disruptions, slower response times and delays in our customers’ trade execution and processing, failed settlement of trades, incomplete or inaccurate accounting, recording or processing of trades, unauthorized trades, loss of customer information, increased demand on limited customer support resources, customer claims, complaints with regulatory organizations, lawsuits, or enforcement actions. A prolonged interruption in the availability or reduction in the availability, speed, or functionality of our products and services could harm our business. Frequent or persistent interruptions in our services could cause current or potential customers or partners to believe that our systems are unreliable, leading them to switch to our competitors or to avoid or reduce the use of our products and services, and could permanently harm our reputation and brands. Moreover, to the extent that any system failure or similar event results in damages to our customers or their business partners, these customers or partners could seek significant compensation or contractual penalties from us for their losses, and those claims, even if unsuccessful, would likely be time-consuming and costly for us to address. Problems with the reliability or security of our systems would harm our reputation, and damage to our reputation and the cost of remedying these problems could negatively affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Because we are a regulated financial institution in certain jurisdictions, frequent or persistent interruptions could also lead to regulatory scrutiny, significant fines and penalties, and mandatory and costly changes to our business practices, and ultimately could cause us to lose existing licenses or banking relationships that we need to operate or prevent or delay us from obtaining additional licenses that may be required for our business.
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In addition, we are continually improving and upgrading our information systems and technologies. Implementation of new systems and technologies is complex, expensive, time-consuming, and may not be successful. If we fail to timely and successfully implement new information systems and technologies, or improvements or upgrades to existing information systems and technologies, or if such systems and technologies do not operate as intended, it could have an adverse impact on our business, internal controls (including internal controls over financial reporting), operating results, and financial condition.
Our failure to safeguard and manage our customers’ fiat currencies and crypto assets could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
As of December 31, 2020, we held $90 billion in custodial fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies on behalf of customers. Supported crypto assets are not insured or guaranteed by any government or government agency. We have also entered into partnerships with third parties, such as with the Centre Consortium, as the chief reseller of USD Coin, where we or our partners receive and hold funds for the benefit of our customers. Our and our partners’ abilities to manage and accurately safeguard these customer assets requires a high level of internal controls. As our business continues to grow and we expand our product and service offerings, we must continue to strengthen our associated internal controls and ensure that our partners do the same. Our success and the success of our offerings requires significant public confidence in our and our partners’ ability to properly manage customers’ balances and handle large and growing transaction volumes and amounts of customer funds. In addition, we are dependent on our partners’ operations, liquidity, and financial condition for the proper maintenance, use, and safekeeping of these customer assets. Any failure by us or our partners to maintain the necessary controls or to manage customer crypto assets and funds appropriately and in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements could result in reputational harm, significant financial losses, lead customers to discontinue or reduce their use of our and our partners’ products, and result in significant penalties and fines and additional restrictions, which could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We deposit, transfer, and custody customer cash and crypto assets in multiple jurisdictions. In each instance, we are required to safeguard customers’ assets using bank-level security standards applicable to our hot and cold wallet and storage systems, as well as our financial management systems related to such custodial functions. Our security technology is designed to prevent, detect, and mitigate inappropriate access to our systems, by internal or external threats. We believe we have developed and maintained administrative, technical, and physical safeguards designed to comply with applicable legal requirements and industry standards. However, it is nevertheless possible that hackers, employees or service providers acting contrary to our policies, or others could circumvent these safeguards to improperly access our systems or documents, or the systems or documents of our business partners, agents, or service providers, and improperly access, obtain, misuse customer crypto assets and funds. The methods used to obtain unauthorized access, disable, or degrade service or sabotage systems are also constantly changing and evolving and may be difficult to anticipate or detect for long periods of time. Our fidelity insurance coverage for such impropriety is limited and may not cover the extent of loss nor the nature of such loss, in which case we may be liable for the full amount of losses suffered, which could be greater than all of our assets. Our ability to maintain fidelity insurance is also subject to the insurance carriers’ ongoing underwriting criteria. Any loss of customer cash or crypto assets could result in a subsequent lapse in insurance coverage, which could cause a substantial business disruption, adverse reputational impact, inability to compete with our competitors, and regulatory investigations, inquiries, or actions. Additionally, transactions undertaken through our websites or other electronic channels may create risks of fraud, hacking, unauthorized access or acquisition, and other deceptive practices. Any security incident resulting in a compromise of customer assets could result in substantial costs to us and require us to notify impacted individuals, and in some cases regulators, of a possible or actual incident, expose us to regulatory enforcement actions, including substantial fines, limit our ability to provide services, subject us to litigation, significant financial losses, damage our reputation, and adversely affect our business, operating results, financial condition, and cash flows.
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The loss or destruction of private keys required to access any crypto assets held in custody for our own account or for our customers may be irreversible. If we are unable to access our private keys or if we experience a hack or other data loss relating to our ability to access any crypto assets, it could cause regulatory scrutiny, reputational harm, and other losses.
Crypto assets are generally controllable only by the possessor of the unique private key relating to the digital wallet in which the crypto assets are held. While blockchain protocols typically require public addresses to be published when used in a transaction, private keys must be safeguarded and kept private in order to prevent a third party from accessing the crypto assets held in such a wallet. To the extent that any of the private keys relating to our hot or cold wallets containing crypto assets held for our own account or for our customers is lost, destroyed, or otherwise compromised or unavailable, and no backup of the private key is accessible, we will be unable to access the crypto assets held in the related wallet. Further, we cannot provide assurance that our wallet will not be hacked or compromised. Crypto assets and blockchain technologies have been, and may in the future be, subject to security breaches, hacking, or other malicious activities. Any loss of private keys relating to, or hack or other compromise of, digital wallets used to store our customers’ crypto assets could adversely affect our customers’ ability to access or sell their crypto assets, require us to reimburse our customers for their losses, and subject us to significant financial losses in addition to losing customer trust in us and our products. As such, any loss of private keys due to a hack, employee or service provider misconduct or error, or other compromise by third parties could hurt our brand and reputation, result in significant losses, and adversely impact our business. The total value of crypto assets in our possession and control is significantly greater than the total value of insurance coverage that would compensate Coinbase in the event of theft or other loss of funds.
Other Risks Related to Our Business and Financial Position
If we fail to retain existing customers or add new customers, or if our customers decrease their level of engagement with our products, services and platform, our business, operating results, and financial condition may be significantly harmed.
Our success depends on our ability to retain existing customers and attract new customers, including ecosystem partners, to increase engagement with our products, services, and platform. To do so, we must continue to offer leading technologies and ensure that our products and services are secure, reliable, and engaging. We must also expand our products and services, and offer competitive prices in an increasingly crowded and price-sensitive market. There is no assurance that we will be able to continue to do so, that we will be able to retain our current customers or attract new customers, or keep our customers engaged. Any number of factors can negatively affect customer retention, growth, and engagement, including if:
customers increasingly engage with competing products and services, including products and services that we are unable to offer due to regulatory reasons;
we fail to introduce new and improved products and services, or if we introduce new products or services that are not favorably received;
we fail to support new and in-demand crypto assets or if we elect to support crypto assets with negative reputations;
there are changes in sentiment about the quality or usefulness of our products and services or concerns related to privacy, security, or other factors;
there are adverse changes in our products and services that are mandated by legislation, regulatory authorities, or litigation;
customers perceiving the crypto assets on our platform to be bad investments, or experiencing significant losses in investments made on our platform;
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technical or other problems prevent us from delivering our products and services with the speed, functionality, security, and reliability that our customers expect;
cybersecurity incidents, employee or service provider misconduct, or other unforeseen activities that causes losses to us or our customers, including losses to assets held by us on behalf of our customers;
modifications to our pricing model or modifications by competitors to their pricing;
we fail to provide adequate customer service to customers; or
we or other companies in our industry are the subject of adverse media reports or other negative publicity.
From time to time, certain of these factors have negatively affected customer retention, growth, and engagement to varying degrees. If we are unable to maintain or increase our customer base and customer engagement, our revenue and financial results may be adversely affected. Any decrease in user retention, growth, or engagement could render our products and services less attractive to customers, which may have an adverse impact on our revenue, business, operating results, and financial condition. If our customer growth rate slows or declines, we will become increasingly dependent on our ability to maintain or increase levels of user engagement and monetization in order to drive growth of revenue.
We expect our operating expenses to increase significantly in the foreseeable future and may not be able to achieve profitability or achieve positive cash flow from operations on a consistent basis, which may cause our business, operating results, and financial condition to be adversely impacted.
We anticipate that our operating expenses will increase substantially in the foreseeable future as we continue to hire additional employees, expand our sales and marketing efforts, develop additional products and services, and expand our international business. Moreover, we expect to incur significant legal, accounting, and other expenses, including substantially higher costs to obtain and maintain director and officer liability insurance, as a result of becoming a public company. This may prove more expensive than we currently anticipate, and we may not succeed in increasing our net revenue sufficiently to offset these higher expenses. Our revenue growth may slow, or our net revenue may decline for a number of other reasons, including reduced demand for our offerings, increased competition, a decrease in the growth or size of the cryptoeconomy, or any failure to capitalize on growth opportunities. Any failure to increase our revenue could prevent us from achieving profitability. We cannot be certain that we will be able to achieve profitability or achieve positive operating cash flow on any quarterly or annual basis. If we are unable to effectively manage these risks and difficulties as we encounter them, our business, operating results, and financial condition may suffer.
Our business and operations have experienced significant growth, and if we do not effectively manage our growth, or are unable to improve our systems and processes, our operating results will be negatively affected.
We have significantly expanded our operations in recent years, both in terms of employee headcount as well as the number of customers. For example, we have grown from 199 employees as of December 31, 2017 to 1,249 employees as of December 31, 2020. We expect such growth to continue for the foreseeable future. As we grow, our business becomes increasingly complex. To effectively manage and capitalize on our growth, we must continue to expand our information technology and financial, operating, and administrative systems and controls, and continue to manage headcount, capital, and processes efficiently. Our continued growth could strain our existing resources, and we could experience ongoing operating difficulties in managing our business as it expands across numerous jurisdictions, including difficulties in hiring, training, and managing a diffuse and growing employee base. Failure to scale and preserve our company culture with growth could harm our future success, including our ability to retain and recruit personnel and to effectively focus on and pursue our corporate objectives. If we do not adapt
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to meet these evolving challenges, or if our management team does not effectively scale with our growth, we may experience erosion to our brand, the quality of our products and services may suffer, and our company culture may be harmed. Moreover, the failure of our systems and processes could undermine our ability to provide accurate, timely, and reliable reports on our financial and operating results, including the financial statements provided herein, and could impact the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting. In addition, our systems and processes may not prevent or detect all errors, omissions, or fraud. Any of the foregoing operational failures could lead to noncompliance with laws, loss of operating licenses or other authorizations, or loss of bank relationships that could substantially impair or even suspend company operations.
Successful implementation of our growth strategy will also require significant expenditures before any substantial associated revenue is generated and we cannot guarantee that these increased investments will result in corresponding and offsetting revenue growth. Because we have a limited history operating our business at its current scale, it is difficult to evaluate our current business and future prospects, including our ability to plan for and model future growth. Our limited operating experience at this scale, combined with the rapidly evolving nature of the crypto asset market in which we operate, substantial uncertainty concerning how these markets may develop, and other economic factors beyond our control, reduces our ability to accurately forecast quarterly or annual revenue. Failure to manage our future growth effectively could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our strategy and focus on delivering high-quality, compliant, easy-to-use, and secure crypto-related financial services may not maximize short-term or medium-term financial results.
We have taken, and expect to continue to take, actions that we believe are in the best interests of our customers and the long-term interests of our business, even if those actions do not necessarily maximize short-term or medium-term results. These include expending significant managerial, technical, and legal efforts on complying with laws and regulations that are applicable to our products and services and ensuring that our products are secure. We also focus on driving long-term engagement with our customers through innovation and developing new industry-leading products and technologies. These decisions may not be consistent with the short-term and medium-term expectations of our stockholders and may not produce the long-term benefits that we expect, which could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
A significant amount of the Trading Volume on our platform is derived from a relatively small number of customers, and the loss of these customers, or a reduction in their Trading Volume, could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
A relatively small number of institutional market makers and high-transaction volume retail customers account for a significant amount of the Trading Volume on our platform and our net revenue. We expect significant Trading Volume and net revenue attributable to these customers for the foreseeable future. As a result, a loss of these customers, or a reduction in their Trading Volume, and our inability to replace these customers with other customers, could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Due to our limited operating history, it may be difficult to evaluate our business and future prospects, and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in any given period.
We began our operations in 2012 and since then our business model has continued to evolve. Our net revenue has significantly grown since our formation, but there is no assurance that this growth rate will continue in future periods and you should not rely on the revenue growth of any given prior quarterly or annual period as an indication of our future performance. We may not always generate sufficient total revenue to achieve positive cash flow from operations or profitability in any given period, and our limited operating history and the volatile nature of our business make it difficult to evaluate our current business and our future prospects. For instance, although we generated net income of $322.3 million in 2020, we incurred a net loss of $30.4 million in 2019. We have encountered and will continue to encounter risks
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and difficulties as described in this section. If we do not manage these risks successfully, our business may be adversely impacted. If our growth rate were to decline significantly or become negative, it could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition. If we are not able to achieve or maintain positive cash flow from operations, our business may be adversely impacted and we may require additional financing, which may not be available on favorable terms or at all, or which would be dilutive to our stockholders.
Because our long-term success depends, in part, on our ability to expand our sales to customers outside the United States, our business is susceptible to risks associated with international operations.
We currently have subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Brazil, Germany, the Cayman Islands, the Philippines, and Ireland, as well as the United States. We plan to enter into or increase our presence in additional markets around the world. We have a limited operating history outside the United States, and our ability to manage our business and conduct our operations internationally requires considerable management attention and resources and is subject to particular challenges of supporting a rapidly growing business in an environment of diverse cultures, languages, customs, tax laws, legal systems, alternate dispute systems and regulatory systems. As we continue to expand our business and customer base outside the United States, we will be increasingly susceptible to risks associated with international operations. These risks and challenges include:
difficulty establishing and managing international operations and the increased operations, travel, infrastructure, including establishment of local customer service operations, and legal and regulatory compliance costs associated with different jurisdictions;
the need to vary pricing and margins to effectively compete in international markets;
the need to adapt and localize our products and services for specific countries, including offering services and support in local languages;
compliance with multiple, potentially conflicting and changing governmental laws and regulations across different jurisdictions;
compliance with U.S. and foreign laws designed to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities, as well as economic and trade sanctions;
difficulties obtaining required licensing from regulators in foreign jurisdictions;
competition with companies that have greater experience in the local markets, pre-existing relationships with customers in these markets or are subject to less regulatory requirements in local jurisdictions;
varying levels of payments and blockchain technology adoption and infrastructure, and increased network, payment processing, banking, and other costs;
compliance with anti-bribery laws, including compliance with the FCPA, the U.K. Bribery Act 2010, and other local anticorruption laws;
difficulties in collecting in foreign currencies and associated foreign currency exposure;
difficulties holding, repatriating, and transferring funds held in offshore bank accounts;
difficulties in enforcing contracts and collecting accounts receivable, longer payment cycles and other collection difficulties;
restrictions on crypto asset trading;
stringent local labor laws and regulations;
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potentially adverse tax developments and consequences;
antitrust and competition regulations; and
regional economic and political conditions.
We have limited experience with international regulatory environments and market practices and may not be able to penetrate or successfully operate in the markets we choose to enter. In addition, we may incur significant expenses as a result of our international expansion, and we may not be successful. We may face limited brand recognition in certain parts of the world that could lead to non-acceptance or delayed acceptance of our products and services by customers in new markets. We may also face challenges in complying with local laws and regulations. Our failure to successfully manage these risks could harm our international operations and have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Disputes with our customers could adversely impact our brand and reputation and our business, operating results, and financial condition.
From time to time we have been, and may in the future be, subject to claims and disputes with our customers with respect to our products and services, such as regarding the execution and settlement of crypto asset trades, fraudulent or unauthorized transactions, account takeovers, deposits and withdrawals of crypto assets, failures or malfunctions of our systems and services, or other issues relating to our products services. For example, during periods of heavy Trading Volumes, we have received increased customer complaints. Additionally, the ingenuity of criminal fraudsters, combined with many consumers’ susceptibility to fraud, may cause our customers to be subject to ongoing account takeovers and identity fraud issues. While we have taken measures to detect and reduce the risk of fraud, there is no guarantee that they will be successful and, in any case, require continuous improvement and optimization for continually evolving forms of fraud to be effective. There can be no guarantee that we will be successful in detecting and resolving these disputes or defending ourselves in any of these matters, and any failure may result in impaired relationships with our customers, damage to our brand and reputation, and substantial fines and damages. In some cases, the measures we have implemented to detect and deter fraud have led to poor customer experiences, including indefinite account inaccessibility for some of our customers, which increases our customer support costs and can compound damages. We could incur significant costs in compensating our customers, such as if a transaction was unauthorized, erroneous, or fraudulent. We could also incur significant legal expenses resolving and defending claims, even those without merit. To the extent we are found to have failed to fulfill our regulatory obligations, we could also lose our authorizations or licenses or become subject to conditions that could make future operations more costly, impair our ability to grow, and adversely impact our operating results. We currently are, and may in the future become, subject to investigation and enforcement action by state, federal, and international consumer protection agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general in the United States, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, the U.K. Financial Ombudsman Service, and the U.K. Office of Fair Trading, each of which monitor customer complaints against us and, from time to time, escalate matters for investigation and potential enforcement against us.
While certain of our customer agreements contain arbitration provisions with class action waiver provisions that may limit our exposure to consumer class action litigation, some federal, state, and foreign courts have refused to enforce one or more of these provisions, and there can be no assurance that we will be successful in enforcing these arbitration provisions, including the class action waiver provisions, in the future or in any given case. Legislative, administrative, or regulatory developments may directly or indirectly prohibit or limit the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class action waiver provisions. Any such prohibitions or limitations on or discontinuation of the use of, such arbitration or class action waiver provisions could subject us to additional lawsuits, including additional consumer class action litigation, and significantly limit our ability to avoid exposure from consumer class action litigation.
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We may suffer losses due to staking, delegating, and other related services we provide to our customers.
Certain supported crypto assets enable holders to earn rewards by participating in decentralized governance, bookkeeping and transaction confirmation activities on their underlying blockchain networks, such as through staking, delegating, baking, and voting the crypto assets. We currently provide and expect to continue to provide such services for certain supported crypto assets to our customers in order to enable them to earn rewards based on crypto assets that we hold on their behalf. For instance, as a service to customers, we operate staking nodes on certain blockchain networks utilizing customers’ crypto assets and pass through the rewards received to those customers, less a service fee. In other cases, upon customers’ instructions, we may delegate or transfer our customers’ assets to third party service providers that are unaffiliated with us. Some networks further require customer assets to be transferred into smart contracts on the underlying blockchain networks not under our or anyone’s control. If our validator, any third-party service providers, or smart contracts fail to behave as expected, suffer cybersecurity attacks, experience security issues, or encounter other problems, our customers’ assets may be irretrievably lost. In addition, certain blockchain networks dictate requirements for participation in the relevant decentralized governance activity, and may impose penalties, or “slashing,” if the relevant activities are not performed correctly, such as if the staker, delegator, or baker acts maliciously on the network, “double signs” any transactions, or experience extended downtimes. If we or any of our service providers are slashed by the underlying blockchain network, our customers’ assets may be confiscated, withdrawn, or burnt by the network, resulting in losses for which we are responsible. Furthermore, certain types of staking require the payment of transaction fees on the underlying blockchain network and such fees can become significant as the amount and complexity of the transaction grows, depending on the degree of network congestion and the price of Ethereum. If we experience a high volume of such staking requests from our customers on an ongoing basis, we could incur significant costs. Any penalties or slashing events could damage our brand and reputation, cause us to suffer financial losses, discourage existing and future customers from utilizing our products and services, and adversely impact our business.
We provide secured loans to our customers, which exposes us to credit risks and may cause us to incur financial or reputational harm.
We provide consumer and commercial loans to qualified customers secured by their crypto asset holdings on our platform, which exposes us to the risk of our borrowers’ inability to repay such loans. In addition, such activity results in us being subject to lending laws and regulations in the applicable jurisdiction and as a result we may be subject to additional regulatory scrutiny. In the future we may enter into credit arrangements with financial institutions to obtain the capital we provide under this offering. Any termination or interruption in the financial institutions’ ability to lend to us could interrupt our ability to provide capital to qualified customers to the extent we rely on such credit lines to continue to offer or to grow such products. Further, our credit decision process and underwriting, pricing, loss forecasting, and scoring models used to evaluate loan applications may contain errors or may not adequately assess creditworthiness of our borrowers, or may be otherwise ineffective, resulting in incorrect approvals or denials of loans. It is also possible that loan applicants could provide false or incorrect information.
Borrower loan loss rates may be significantly affected by economic downturns or general economic conditions beyond our control and beyond the control of individual borrowers. In particular, loss rates on loans may increase due to factors such as prevailing market conditions in the cryptoeconomy, the price of Bitcoin and other crypto assets, the amount of liquidity in the markets, and other factors. Borrowers may seek protection under federal bankruptcy law or similar laws. If a borrower files for bankruptcy (or becomes the subject of an involuntary petition), a stay will go into effect that will automatically put any pending collection actions on the loan on hold and prevent further collection action absent bankruptcy court approval. The efficacy of our security interest in customer collateral is not guaranteed under Delaware law or the Uniform Commercial Code and therefore we may be exposed to loss in the event of a customer default, even if we appear to be secured against such default. While we have not incurred any material losses to date, if any of the foregoing events were to occur, our reputation and relationships with
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borrowers, and our financial results, could be harmed. We intend to continue to explore other products, models, and structures for offering consumer and commercial financing, and other forms of credit and loan products. Some of those models or structures may require, or be deemed to require, additional data, procedures, partnerships, licenses, regulatory approvals, or capabilities that we have not yet obtained or developed.
We are exposed to transaction losses due to chargebacks as a result of fraud or uncollectibility that may adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Certain of our products and services are paid for by credit and debit cards through payment processors which exposes us to risks associated with chargebacks and refunds. These claims could arise from fraud, misuse, unintentional use, settlement delay, or other activities. Also, criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to engage in illegal activities, such as counterfeiting and fraud. If we are unable to collect such amounts from the customer, or if the customer refuses or is unable, due to bankruptcy or other reasons, to reimburse us, we bear the loss for the amount of the chargeback or refund.
While we have policies to manage and mitigate chargeback and fraud risks, there is no assurance that such policies will be effective. Our failure to limit chargebacks and fraudulent transactions could increase the number of refunds and chargebacks that we have to process. In addition, if the number of refunds and chargebacks increase, our payment processors could require us to increase reserves, impose penalties on us, charge additional fees, or terminate their relationships with us. Failure to effectively manage risk and prevent fraud could increase our chargeback and refund losses or cause us to incur other liabilities. Increases in chargebacks, refunds or other liabilities could have an adverse effect on our operating results, financial condition, and cash flows.
We plan to continue to make acquisitions and investments, which could require significant management attention, disrupt our business, result in dilution to our stockholders, and adversely affect our financial results.
As part of our business strategy, we have made and intend to continue making acquisitions to add specialized employees, complementary companies, products, services, licenses, or technologies. We also invest in companies and technologies, many of which are private companies and technologies that are highly speculative in nature. In the future, we may not be able to find other suitable acquisition and investment candidates, and we may not be able to complete acquisitions or make investments on favorable terms, if at all. In some cases, the costs of such acquisitions may be substantial, and there is no assurance that we will receive a favorable return on investment for our acquisitions. We may in the future be required to write off acquisitions or investment. Moreover, our previous and future acquisitions may not achieve our goals, and any future acquisitions we complete could be viewed negatively by customers, developers, advertisers, or investors. For example, in February 2019, we announced the acquisition of Neutrino S.r.l., a blockchain intelligence platform, whose founders were directly affiliated with the software firm the Hacking Team, which purportedly sold software with surveillance capabilities to governments with authoritarian regimes, resulting in reputational harm to our business, a loss of customers, and increased cost. In addition, if we fail to successfully close or integrate any acquisitions, or integrate the products or technologies associated with such acquisitions into our company, our net revenue and operating results could be adversely affected. Our ability to acquire and integrate companies, products, services, licenses, or technologies in a successful manner is unproven. Any integration process may require significant time and resources, and we may not be able to manage the process successfully, including successfully securing regulatory approvals which may be required to close the transaction and/or to continue to operate the target firm’s business or products in a manner that is useful to Coinbase. We may not successfully evaluate or utilize the acquired products, services, technology, or personnel, or accurately forecast the financial impact of an acquisition transaction, including accounting charges. We may have to pay cash, incur debt, or issue equity securities to pay for any such acquisition, any of which could adversely affect our financial results. The sale of equity or issuance of debt to finance any such acquisitions could result in dilution to our stockholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in
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increased fixed obligations and could also include covenants or other restrictions that would impede our ability to manage our operations.
If we fail to develop, maintain, and enhance our brand and reputation, our business, operating results, and financial condition may be adversely affected.
Our brand and reputation are key assets and a competitive advantage. Maintaining, protecting, and enhancing our brand depends largely on the success of our marketing efforts, ability to provide consistent, high-quality, and secure products, services, features, and support, and our ability to successfully secure, maintain, and defend our rights to use the “Coinbase” mark and other trademarks important to our brand. We believe that the importance of our brand will increase as competition further intensifies. Our brand and reputation could be harmed if we fail to achieve these objectives or if our public image were to be tarnished by negative publicity, unexpected events, or actions by third parties. Unfavorable publicity about us, including our products, services, technology, customer service, personnel, and crypto asset or crypto asset platforms generally could diminish confidence in, and the use of, our products and services. In addition, because we are a founder-led company, actions by, or unfavorable publicity about, Brian Armstrong, our co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, may adversely impact our brand and reputation. Such negative publicity also could have an adverse effect on the size and engagement of our customers and could result in decreased revenue, which could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Key business metrics and other estimates are subject to inherent challenges in measurement, and our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely affected by real or perceived inaccuracies in those metrics.
We regularly review key business metrics, including the number of our Verified Users and MTUs, our Trading Volume and other measures to evaluate growth trends, measure our performance, and make strategic decisions. These key metrics are calculated using internal company data and have not been validated by an independent third party. While these numbers are based on what we currently believe to be reasonable estimates for the applicable period of measurement, there are inherent challenges in such measurements. If we fail to maintain an effective analytics platform, our key metrics calculations may be inaccurate, and we may not be able to identify those inaccuracies.
Our key business metrics may also be impacted by compliance or fraud-related bans, technical incidents, or false or spam accounts in existence on our platform. We regularly deactivate fraudulent and spam accounts that violate our terms of service, and exclude these users from the calculation of our key business metrics; however, we may not succeed in identifying and removing all such accounts from our platform. Additionally, users are not prohibited from having more than one account and our Verified Users metric may overstate the number of unique customers who have registered an account on our platform as one customer may register for, and use, multiple accounts with different email addresses, phone numbers, or usernames. If our metrics provide us with incorrect or incomplete information about users and their behavior, we may make inaccurate conclusions about our business.
Unfavorable media coverage could negatively affect our business.
We receive a high degree of media coverage in the cryptoeconomy and around the world. Unfavorable publicity regarding, for example, our product changes, product quality, litigation or regulatory activity, privacy practices, terms of service, employment matters, the use of our products, services, or supported crypto assets for illicit or objectionable ends, the actions of our customers, or the actions of other companies that provide similar services to ours, has in the past, and could in the future, adversely affect our reputation. Further, we have in the past, and may in the future, be the target of social media campaigns criticizing actual or perceived actions or inactions that are disfavored by our customers, employees, or society at-large, which campaigns could materially impact our customers’ decisions to trade on our platform. Any such negative publicity could have an adverse effect on the size, activity, and
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loyalty of our customers and result in a decrease in net revenue, which could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our platform may be exploited to facilitate illegal activity such as fraud, money laundering, gambling, tax evasion, and scams. If any of our customers use our platform to further such illegal activities, our business could be adversely affected.
Our platform may be exploited to facilitate illegal activity including fraud, money laundering, gambling, tax evasion, and scams. We or our partners may be specifically targeted by individuals seeking to conduct fraudulent transfers, and it may be difficult or impossible for us to detect and avoid such transactions in certain circumstances. The use of our platform for illegal or improper purposes could subject us to claims, individual and class action lawsuits, and government and regulatory investigations, prosecutions, enforcement actions, inquiries, or requests that could result in liability and reputational harm for us. Moreover, certain activity that may be legal in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another jurisdiction, and certain activities that are at one time legal may in the future be deemed illegal in the same jurisdiction. As a result, there is significant uncertainty and cost associated with detecting and monitoring transactions for compliance with local laws. In the event that a customer is found responsible for intentionally or inadvertently violating the laws in any jurisdiction, we may be subject to governmental inquiries, enforcement actions, prosecuted, or otherwise held secondarily liable for aiding or facilitating such activities. Changes in law have also increased the penalties for money transmitters for certain illegal activities, and government authorities may consider increased or additional penalties from time to time. Owners of intellectual property rights or government authorities may seek to bring legal action against money transmitters, including us, for involvement in the sale of infringing or allegedly infringing items. Any threatened or resulting claims could result in reputational harm, and any resulting liabilities, loss of transaction volume, or increased costs could harm our business.
Moreover, while fiat currencies can be used to facilitate illegal activities, crypto assets are relatively new and, in many jurisdictions, may be lightly regulated or largely unregulated. Many types of crypto assets have characteristics, such as the speed with which digital currency transactions can be conducted, the ability to conduct transactions without the involvement of regulated intermediaries, the ability to engage in transactions across multiple jurisdictions, the irreversible nature of certain crypto asset transactions, and encryption technology that anonymizes these transactions, that make crypto assets susceptible to use in illegal activity. U.S. federal and state and foreign regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies, such as the Department of Justice, SEC, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, and various state securities and financial regulators have taken and continue to take legal action against persons and entities alleged to be engaged in fraudulent schemes or other illicit activity involving crypto assets. We also support crypto assets that incorporate privacy-enhancing features, and may from time to time support additional crypto assets with similar functionalities. These privacy-enhancing crypto assets obscure the identities of sender and receiver, and may prevent law enforcement officials from tracing the source of funds on the blockchain. Facilitating transactions in these crypto assets may cause us to be at increased risk of liability arising out of anti-money laundering and economic sanctions laws and regulations.
While we believe that our risk management and compliance framework is designed to detect significant illicit activities conducted by our potential or existing customers, we cannot ensure that we will be able to detect all illegal activity on our platform. If any of our customers use our platform to further such illegal activities, our business could be adversely affected.
Our compliance and risk management methods might not be effective and may result in outcomes that could adversely affect our reputation, operating results, and financial condition.
Our ability to comply with applicable complex and evolving laws, regulations, and rules is largely dependent on the establishment and maintenance of our compliance, audit, and reporting systems, as well as our ability to attract and retain qualified compliance and other risk management personnel. While we have devoted significant resources to develop policies and procedures to identify, monitor, and
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manage our risks, and expect to continue to do so in the future, we cannot assure you that our policies and procedures will always be effective or that we will always be successful in monitoring or evaluating the risks to which we are or may be exposed in all market environments or against all types of risks, including unidentified or unanticipated risks. Our risk management policies and procedures rely on a combination of technical and human controls and supervision that are subject to error and failure. Some of our methods for managing risk are discretionary by nature and are based on internally developed controls and observed historical market behavior, and also involve reliance on standard industry practices. These methods may not adequately prevent losses, particularly as they relate to extreme market movements, which may be significantly greater than historical fluctuations in the market. Our risk management policies and procedures also may not adequately prevent losses due to technical errors if our testing and quality control practices are not effective in preventing failures. In addition, we may elect to adjust our risk management policies and procedures to allow for an increase in risk tolerance, which could expose us to the risk of greater losses.
Regulators periodically review our compliance with our own policies and procedures and with a variety of laws and regulations. We have received in the past and may from time to time receive additional examination reports citing violations of rules and regulations and inadequacies in existing compliance programs, and requiring us to enhance certain practices with respect to our compliance program, including due diligence, training, monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping. If we fail to comply with these, or do not adequately remediate certain findings, regulators could take a variety of actions that could impair our ability to conduct our business, including delaying, denying, withdrawing, or conditioning approval of certain products and services. In addition, regulators have broad enforcement powers to censure, fine, issue cease-and-desist orders or prohibit us from engaging in some of our business activities. We face the risk of significant intervention by regulatory authorities, including extensive examination and surveillance activities. In the case of non-compliance or alleged non-compliance, we could be subject to investigations and proceedings that may result in substantial penalties or civil lawsuits, including by customers, for damages which can be significant. Any of these outcomes would adversely affect our reputation and brand and our business, operating results, and financial condition. Some of these outcomes could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business.
Low short-term interest rates negatively impact us.
The level of prevailing short-term interest rates affects our profitability because we derive a portion of our revenue from interest earned from funds deposited with us by our customers which we hold on their behalf in custodial accounts at banks. Higher interest rates increase the amount of interest income earned from these customer deposits. If short-term interest rates remain low or start to decline further, our revenue derived from interest will correspondingly decline which would negatively impact our profitability.
We hold certain investments in DeFi protocols and may suffer losses if they do not function as expected.
We hold investments in various DeFi protocols. These protocols achieve their investment purposes through self-executing smart contracts that allow users to invest crypto assets in a pool from which other users can borrow without requiring an intermediate party to facilitate these transactions. These investments earn interest to the investor based on the rates at which borrowers repay the loan, and can generally be withdrawn with no restrictions. However, these DeFi protocols are subject to various risks, including the risk that the underlying smart contract is insecure, the risk that borrowers may default and the investor will not be able to recover its investment, the risk that any underlying collateral may experience significant volatility, and the risk of certain core developers with protocol administration rights can make unauthorized or harmful changes to the underlying smart contract. If any of these risks materialize, our investments in these DeFi protocols may be adversely impacted.
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We may suffer losses due to abrupt and erratic market movements.
The crypto asset market has been characterized by significant volatility and unexpected price movements. Certain crypto assets may become more volatile and less liquid in a very short period of time, resulting in market prices being subject to erratic and abrupt market movement, which could harm our business. For instance, abrupt changes in volatility or market movement can lead to extreme pressures on our platform and infrastructure that can lead to inadvertent suspension of services across parts of the platform or the entire platform. For example, in 2020, we experienced approximately 30 outages, with an average outage duration of 64.6 minutes. These outages lead to increased customer service expense, can cause customer loss and reputational damage, and can lead to other damages for which we may be responsible.
Risks Related to Crypto Assets
Due to unfamiliarity and some negative publicity associated with crypto asset platforms, existing and potential customers may lose confidence in crypto asset platforms.
Crypto asset platforms are relatively new. Many of our competitors are unlicensed, unregulated, operate without supervision by any governmental authorities, and do not provide the public with significant information regarding their ownership structure, management team, corporate practices, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance. As a result, customers and the general public may lose confidence in crypto asset platforms, including regulated platforms like ours.
Since the inception of the cryptoeconomy, numerous crypto asset platforms have been sued, investigated, or shut down due to fraud, manipulative practices, business failure, and security breaches. In many of these instances, customers of these platforms were not compensated or made whole for their losses. Larger platforms like us are more appealing targets for hackers and malware, and may also be more likely to be targets of regulatory enforcement actions. For example, in February 2014, Mt. Gox, the then largest crypto asset platform worldwide, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan after an estimated 700,000 Bitcoins were stolen from its wallets. In May 2019, Binance, one of the world’s largest platforms, was hacked, resulting in losses of approximately $40 million, and in February 2021, Bitfinex settled a long-running legal dispute with the State of New York related to Bitfinex’s alleged misuse of over $800 million of customer assets.
In addition, there have been reports that a significant amount of crypto asset trading volume on crypto asset platforms is fabricated and false in nature, with a specific focus on unregulated platforms located outside the United States. Such reports may indicate that the market for crypto asset platform activities is significantly smaller than otherwise understood.
Negative perception, a lack of stability and standardized regulation in the cryptoeconomy, and the closure or temporary shutdown of crypto asset platforms due to fraud, business failure, hackers or malware, or government mandated regulation, and associated losses suffered by customers may reduce confidence in the cryptoeconomy and result in greater volatility of the prices of assets, including significant depreciation in value. Any of these events could harm an adverse impact on our business.
Depositing and withdrawing crypto assets into and from our platform involve risks, which could result in loss of customer assets, customer disputes and other liabilities, which could adversely impact our business.
In order to own, transfer and use a crypto asset on its underlying blockchain network, a person must have a private and public key pair associated with a network address, commonly referred to as a “wallet”. Each wallet is associated with a unique “public key” and “private key” pair, each of which is a string of alphanumerical characters. To deposit crypto assets held by a customer onto our platform or custody platform, a customer must “sign” a transaction that consists of the private key of the wallet from where the customer is transferring crypto assets, the public key of a wallet that we control which we provide to the customer, and broadcast the deposit transaction onto the underlying blockchain network. Similarly, to
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withdraw crypto assets from our platform or custody platform, the customer must provide us with the public key of the wallet that the crypto assets are to be transferred to, and we would be required to “sign” a transaction authorizing the transfer. In addition, some crypto networks require additional information to be provided in connection with any transfer of crypto assets to or from our platforms. A number of errors can occur in the process of depositing or withdrawing crypto assets into or from our platform, such as typos, mistakes, or the failure to include the information required by the blockchain network. For instance, a user may incorrectly enter our wallet’s public key or the desired recipient’s public key when depositing and withdrawing from our platforms, respectively. Alternatively, a user may transfer crypto assets to a wallet address that he does not own, control or hold the private keys to. In addition, each wallet address is only compatible with the underlying blockchain network on which it is created. For instance, a Bitcoin wallet address can only be used to send and receive Bitcoins. If any Ethereum or other crypto assets is sent to a Bitcoin wallet address, or if any of the foregoing errors occur, all of the customer’s crypto assets will be permanently and irretrievably lost with no means of recovery. We have encountered and expect to continue to encounter similar incidents with our customers. Such incidents could result in customer disputes, damage to our brand and reputation, legal claims against us, and financial liabilities, any of which could adversely affect our business.
A temporary or permanent blockchain “fork” to any supported crypto asset could adversely affect our business.
Blockchain protocols, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, are open source. Any user can download the software, modify it, and then propose that Bitcoin, Ethereum or other blockchain protocols users and miners adopt the modification. When a modification is introduced and a substantial majority of users and miners consent to the modification, the change is implemented and the Bitcoin, Ethereum or other blockchain protocol networks, as applicable, remain uninterrupted. However, if less than a substantial majority of users and miners consent to the proposed modification, and the modification is not compatible with the software prior to its modification, the consequence would be what is known as a “fork” (i.e., “split”) of the impacted blockchain protocol network and respective blockchain, with one prong running the pre-modified software and the other running the modified software. The effect of such a fork would be the existence of two parallel versions of the Bitcoin, Ethereum or other blockchain protocol network, as applicable, running simultaneously, but with each split network’s crypto asset lacking interchangeability.
Both Bitcoin and Ethereum protocols have been subject to “forks” that resulted in the creation of new networks, including Bitcoin Cash ABC, Bitcoin Cash SV, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Gold, Ethereum Classic, and others. Some of these forks have caused fragmentation among platforms as to the correct naming convention for forked crypto assets. Due to the lack of a central registry or rulemaking body, no single entity has the ability to dictate the nomenclature of forked crypto assets, causing disagreements and a lack of uniformity among platforms on the nomenclature of forked crypto assets, and which results in further confusion to customers as to the nature of assets they hold on platforms. In addition, several of these forks were contentious and as a result, participants in certain communities may harbor ill will towards other communities. As a result, certain community members may take actions that adversely impact the use, adoption, and price of Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any of their forked alternatives.
Furthermore, hard forks can lead to new security concerns. For instance, when the Ethereum and Ethereum Classic networks split in July 2016, replay attacks, in which transactions from one network were rebroadcast on the other network to achieve “double-spending”, plagued platforms that traded Ethereum through at least October 2016, resulting in significant losses to some crypto asset platforms. Similar replay attacks occurred in connection with the Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Cash SV network split in November 2018. Another possible result of a hard fork is an inherent decrease in the level of security due to the splitting of some mining power across networks, making it easier for a malicious actor to exceed 50% of the mining power of that network, thereby making crypto assets that rely on proof-of-work more susceptible to attack, as has occurred with Ethereum Classic.
We do not believe that we are required to support any fork or provide the benefit of any forked crypto asset to our customers. However, we have in the past and may in the future continue to be subject to
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claims by customers arguing that they are entitled to receive certain forked or airdropped crypto assets by virtue of crypto assets that they hold with us. If any customers succeed on a claim that they are entitled to receive the benefits of a forked or airdropped crypto asset that we do not or are unable to support, we may be required to pay significant damages, fines or other fees to compensate customers for their losses.
Future forks may occur at any time. A fork can lead to a disruption of networks and our information technology systems, cybersecurity attacks, replay attacks, or security weaknesses, any of which can further lead to temporary or even permanent loss of our and our customers’ assets. Such disruption and loss could cause us to be exposed to liability, even in circumstances where we have no intention of supporting an asset compromised by a fork.
We currently support, and expect to continue to support, certain smart contract-based crypto assets. If the underlying smart contracts for these crypto assets do not operate as expected, they could lose value and our business could be adversely affected.
We currently support, and expect to continue to support, various crypto assets that represent units of value on smart contracts deployed on a third party blockchain. Smart contracts are programs that store and transfer value and execute automatically when certain conditions are met. Since smart contracts typically cannot be stopped or reversed, vulnerabilities in their programming and design can have damaging effects. For instance, in April 2018, a batch overflow bug was found in many Ethereum-based ERC20-compatible smart contract tokens that allows hackers to create a large number of smart contract tokens, causing multiple crypto asset platforms worldwide to shut down ERC20-compatible token trading. Similarly, in March 2020, a design flaw in the MakerDAO smart contract caused forced liquidations of crypto assets at significantly discounted prices, resulting in millions of dollars of losses to users who had deposited crypto assets into the smart contract. If any such vulnerabilities or flaws come to fruition, smart contract-based crypto assets, including those held by our customers on our platforms, may suffer negative publicity, be exposed to security vulnerabilities, decline significantly in value, and lose liquidity over a short period of time.
In some cases, smart contracts can be controlled by one or more “admin keys” or users with special privileges, or “super users”. These users have the ability to unilaterally make changes to the smart contract, enable or disable features on the smart contract, change how the smart contract receives external inputs and data, and make other changes to the smart contract. For smart contracts that hold a pool of reserves, these users may also be able to extract funds from the pool, liquidate assets held in the pool, or take other actions that decrease the value of the assets held by the smart contract in reserves. Even for crypto assets that have adopted a decentralized governance mechanism, such as smart contracts that are governed by the holders of a governance token, such governance tokens can be concentrated in the hands of a small group of core community members, who would be able to make similar changes unilaterally to the smart contract. If any such super user or group of core members unilaterally make adverse changes to a smart contract, the design, functionality, features and value of the smart contract, its related crypto assets may be harmed. In addition, assets held by the smart contract in reserves may be stolen, misused, burnt, locked up or otherwise become unusable and irrecoverable. These super users can also become targets of hackers and malicious attackers. If an attacker is able to access or obtain the super user privileges of a smart contract, or if a smart contract’s super-users or core community members take actions that adversely affects the smart contract, Coinbase customers who hold and transact in the affected crypto assets may experience decreased functionality and value of the applicable crypto assets, up to and including a total loss of the value of such crypto assets. Although we do not control these smart contracts, any such events could cause customers to seek damages against us for their losses, result in reputational damage to us, or in other ways adversely impact our business.
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From time to time, we may encounter technical issues in connection with the integration of supported crypto assets and changes and upgrades to their underlying networks, which could adversely affect our business.
In order to support any supported crypto asset, a variety of front and back-end technical and development work is required to implement our wallet, custody, trading, staking and other solutions for our customers, and to integrate such supported crypto asset with our existing technical infrastructure. For certain crypto assets, a significant amount of development work is required and there is no guarantee that we will be able to integrate successfully with any existing or future crypto asset. In addition, such integration may introduce software errors or weaknesses into our platform, including our existing infrastructure. Even if such integration is initially successful, any number of technical changes, software upgrades, soft or hard forks, cybersecurity incidents, or other changes to the underlying blockchain network may occur from time to time, causing incompatibility, technical issues, disruptions, or security weaknesses to our platform. If we are unable to identify, troubleshoot and resolve any such issues successfully, we may no longer be able to support such crypto asset, our customers’ assets may be frozen or lost, the security of our hot, warm, or cold wallets may be compromised, and our platform and technical infrastructure may be affected, all of which could adversely impact our business.
If miners or validators of any supported crypto asset demand high transaction fees, our operating results may be adversely affected.
We charge miner fees when a customer sends certain crypto assets from their Coinbase account to a non-Coinbase account. We estimate the miner fee based on the cost that we will incur to process the withdrawal transaction on the underlying blockchain network. In addition, we also pay miner fees when we move crypto assets for various operational purposes, such as when we transfer crypto assets between our hot and cold wallets, for which we do not charge our customers. However, miner fees can be unpredictable. For instance, in 2017, Bitcoin miner fees increased from approximately $0.35 per transaction in January 2017 to over $50 per transaction in December 2017. Even though Bitcoin’s miner fees have since decreased, if the block rewards for miners on any blockchain network are not sufficiently high to incentivize miners, miners may demand higher transaction fees, or collude to reject low transaction fees and force users to pay higher fees. Although we generally attempt to pass miner fees relating to customer withdrawals through to our customers, we have in the past incurred, and expect to incur from time to time, losses associated with the payment of miner fees in excess of what we charge our customers, resulting in adverse impacts on our operating results.
Future developments regarding the treatment of crypto assets for U.S. federal income and foreign tax purposes could adversely impact our business.
Due to the new and evolving nature of crypto assets and the absence of comprehensive legal guidance with respect to crypto asset products and transactions, many significant aspects of the U.S. federal income and foreign tax treatment of transactions involving crypto assets, such as the purchase and sale of Bitcoin and other crypto assets on our platform, as well as the provision of staking rewards and other crypto asset incentives and rewards products, are uncertain, and it is unclear what guidance may be issued in the future on the treatment of crypto asset transactions for U.S. federal income and foreign tax purposes.
In 2014, the IRS released a notice, or IRS Notice, discussing certain aspects of “convertible virtual currency” (that is, digital currency that has an equivalent value in fiat currency or that acts as a substitute for fiat currency) for U.S. federal income tax purposes and, in particular, stating that such digital currency (i) is “property” (ii) is not “currency” for purposes of the rules relating to foreign currency gain or loss and (iii) may be held as a capital asset. In 2019, the IRS released a revenue ruling and a set of “Frequently Asked Questions”, or the Ruling & FAQs, that provide some additional guidance, including guidance to the effect that, under certain circumstances, hard forks of digital currencies are taxable events giving rise to ordinary income and guidance with respect to the determination of the tax basis of digital currency. However, the IRS Notice and the Ruling & FAQs do not address other significant aspects of the U.S.
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federal income tax treatment of crypto assets and related transactions. Moreover, although the Ruling & FAQs address the treatment of forks, there continues to be uncertainty with respect to the timing and amount of income inclusions for various crypto asset transactions including, but not limited to staking rewards and other crypto asset incentives and rewards products that we offer. Although we believe our treatment of crypto asset transactions is consistent with existing guidance provided by the IRS, because of the rapidly evolving nature of crypto asset innovations and the increasing variety and complexity of crypto asset products, it is possible the IRS may disagree with our treatment of certain of our crypto asset offerings for U.S. federal income tax purposes, which could adversely affect our customers and the vitality of our business. Similar uncertainties exist in the foreign markets in which we operate, affecting our non-U.S. customer base, and these uncertainties and potential adverse interpretations of tax law could affect our non-U.S. customers and the vitality of our platforms outside of the United States.
There can be no assurance that the IRS or other foreign tax authority will not alter its existing position with respect to crypto assets in the future or that a court would uphold the treatment set forth in the IRS Notice and the Ruling & FAQs. It is also unclear what additional guidance may be issued in the future on the treatment of existing crypto asset transactions and future crypto asset innovations for purposes of U.S. federal income tax or other foreign tax regulations. Any such alteration of existing IRS and foreign tax authority positions or additional guidance regarding crypto asset products and transactions could result in adverse tax consequences for holders of crypto assets and could have an adverse effect on the value of crypto assets and the broader crypto assets markets. Future technological and operational developments that may arise with respect to digital currencies may increase the uncertainty with respect to the treatment of digital currencies for U.S. federal income and foreign tax purposes. The uncertainty regarding tax treatment of crypto asset transactions impacts our customers, and could impact our business, both domestically and abroad.
Although we believe we are compliant with U.S. federal income tax reporting and withholding requirements with respect to customer cryptocurrency transactions, the exact scope and application of such requirements, including but not limited to U.S. onboarding requirements through Form W, backup withholding, and Form 1099 reporting obligations, is not entirely clear for all of the crypto asset transactions that we facilitate. It is likely that the IRS will introduce new rules related to our tax reporting and withholding obligations on our customer transactions in the future, possibly in ways that differ from our existing compliance protocols and where there is risk that we do not have proper records to ensure compliance for certain legacy customers. If the IRS determines that we are not in compliance with our tax reporting or withholding requirements with respect to customer crypto asset transactions, we may be exposed to significant penalties, which could adversely affect our financial position. We anticipate additional guidance from the IRS regarding tax reporting and withholding obligations with respect to customer crypto asset transactions that will likely require us to invest substantially in new compliance measures and may require significant retroactive compliance efforts, which could adversely affect our financial position.
Similarly, it is likely that new rules for reporting crypto assets under the “common reporting standard” will be implemented on our international operations, creating new obligations and a need to invest in new onboarding and reporting infrastructure. Such rules are under discussion today by the member and observer states of the “Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development” and may give rise to potential liabilities or disclosure requirements for prior customer arrangements and new rules that affect how we onboard our customers and report their transactions to taxing authorities.
The nature of our business requires the application of complex financial accounting rules, and there is limited guidance from accounting standard setting bodies. If financial accounting standards undergo significant changes, our operating results could be adversely affected.
The accounting rules and regulations that we must comply with are complex and subject to interpretation by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or the FASB, the SEC, and various bodies formed to promulgate and interpret appropriate accounting principles. A change in these principles or interpretations could have a significant effect on our reported financial results, and may even affect the
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reporting of transactions completed before the announcement or effectiveness of a change. Recent actions and public comments from the FASB and the SEC have focused on the integrity of financial reporting and internal controls. In addition, many companies’ accounting policies are being subject to heightened scrutiny by regulators and the public. Further, there has been limited precedents for the financial accounting of crypto assets and related valuation and revenue recognition, and no official guidance has been provided by the FASB or the SEC. As such, there remains significant uncertainty on how companies can account for crypto assets transactions, crypto assets, and related revenue. Uncertainties in or changes to in regulatory or financial accounting standards could result in the need to changing our accounting methods and restate our financial statements and impair our ability to provide timely and accurate financial information, which could adversely affect our financial statements, result in a loss of investor confidence, and more generally impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Risks Related to Government Regulation and Privacy Matters
The cryptoeconomy is novel and has little to no access to policymakers or lobbying organizations, which may harm our ability to effectively react to proposed legislation and regulation of crypto assets or crypto asset platforms adverse to our business.
As crypto assets have grown in both popularity and market size, various U.S. federal, state, and local and foreign governmental organizations, consumer agencies and public advocacy groups have been examining the operations of crypto networks, users and platforms, with a focus on how crypto assets can be used to launder the proceeds of illegal activities, fund criminal or terrorist enterprises, and the safety and soundness of platforms and other service providers that hold crypto assets for users. Many of these entities have called for heightened regulatory oversight, and have issued consumer advisories describing the risks posed by crypto assets to users and investors. For instance, in July 2019, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that he had “very serious concerns” about crypto assets, and indicated that FinCEN is planning to release new requirements relating to crypto asset activities in 2020. Outside the United States, several jurisdictions have banned so-called initial coin offerings, such as China and South Korea, while Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, have opined that token offerings may constitute securities offerings subject to local securities regulations. In July 2019, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority proposed rules to address harm to retail customers arising from the sale of derivatives and exchange-traded notes that reference certain types of cryptocurrencies, contending that they are “ill-suited” to retail investors due to extreme volatility, valuation challenges and association with financial crimes.
The cryptoeconomy is novel and has little to no access to policymakers and lobbying organizations in many jurisdictions. Competitors from other, more established industries, including traditional financial services, may have greater access to lobbyists or governmental officials, and regulators that are concerned about the potential for crypto assets for illicit usage may effect statutory and regulatory changes with minimal or discounted inputs from the cryptoeconomy. As a result, new laws and regulations may be proposed and adopted in the United States and internationally, or existing laws and regulations may be interpreted in new ways, that harm the cryptoeconomy or crypto asset platforms, which could adversely impact our business.
Our consolidated balance sheets may not contain sufficient amounts or types of regulatory capital to meet the changing requirements of our various regulators worldwide, which could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We are required to possess sufficient financial soundness and strength to adequately support our regulated subsidiaries. We may from time to time incur indebtedness and other obligations which could make it more difficult to meet these capitalization requirements or any additional regulatory requirements. In addition, although we are not a bank holding company for purposes of United States law or the law of any other jurisdiction, as a global provider of financial services and in light of the changing regulatory environment in various jurisdictions, we could become subject to new capital requirements introduced or
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imposed by U.S. and international regulators. Any change or increase in these regulatory requirements could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
As a financial institution licensed to engage in money transmission in the United States, to conduct virtual currency business activity in New York, and issue electronic money in Europe, we are subject to strict rules governing how we manage and hold customer fiat currency and crypto asset. We maintain complex treasury operations to manage and move customer fiat currency and crypto asset across our platforms and to comply with regulatory requirements. However, it is possible we may experience errors in fiat currency and crypto asset handling, accounting, and regulatory reporting that lead us to be out of compliance with these requirements. In addition, regulators may increase the amount of fiat currency reserves that we are required to maintain for our operations, as has happened in the past. For instance, in 2017, the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions imposed a new policy whereby digital currency businesses are required to maintain cash reserves in an amount equal to the aggregate face value of digital currency funds held on behalf of customers, making our operations in Hawaii impracticable and forcing us to shut down operations in the state. Any similar events, can lead to sanctions, penalties, changes to our business operations, or the revocation of licenses. Frequent launch of new products and services, including Earn campaigns, margin trading, lending functions, and the addition of new payment rails increase these risks.
Many of the crypto assets in which we facilitate trading are subject to regulatory authority by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC. Any fraudulent or manipulative activity in a crypto asset occurring on our platform could subject us to increased regulatory scrutiny, regulatory enforcement, and litigation.
The CFTC has stated and judicial decisions involving CFTC enforcement actions have confirmed that at least some crypto assets, including Bitcoin, fall within the definition of a “commodity” under the U.S. Commodities Exchange Act of 1936, or CEA. As a result, the CFTC has general enforcement authority to police against manipulation and fraud in at least some spot crypto asset markets. From time to time, manipulation, fraud, and other forms of improper trading by market participants have resulted in, and may in the future result in, CFTC investigations, inquiries, enforcement action, and similar actions by other regulators, government agencies, and civil litigation. Such investigations, inquiries, enforcement actions, and litigation may cause us to incur substantial costs and could result in negative publicity. For additional information, see the section titled “Business—Legal Proceedings.”
Certain transactions in crypto asset may constitute “retail leveraged commodity transactions” subject to regulation by the CFTC as futures contracts. If crypto asset transactions we facilitate are deemed to be such retail commodity transactions, we would be subject to additional regulatory requirements, licenses and approvals, and potentially face regulatory enforcement, civil liability, and significant increased compliance and operational costs.
Any transaction in a commodity, including a crypto asset, entered into with or offered to retail investors using leverage, margin, or other financing arrangements (a “retail leveraged commodity transaction”) is subject to CFTC regulation as a futures contract unless such transaction results in actual delivery within 28 days. The meaning of “actual delivery” has been the subject of commentary and litigation, and the CFTC has recently adopted interpretive guidance addressing the “actual delivery” of a crypto asset. To the extent that crypto asset transactions that we facilitate or facilitated are deemed retail leveraged commodity transactions, including pursuant to current or subsequent rulemaking or guidance by the CFTC, we may be subject to additional regulatory requirements and oversight, and we could be subject to judicial or administrative sanctions if we do not or did not at a relevant time possess appropriate registrations. The CFTC has previously brought enforcement actions against entities engaged in retail leveraged commodity transactions without appropriate registrations.
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Particular crypto assets or transactions therein could be deemed “commodity interests” (e.g., futures, options, swaps) or security-based swaps subject to regulation by the CFTC or SEC, respectively. If a crypto asset that we facilitate trading in is deemed a commodity interest or a security-based swap, we would be subject to additional regulatory requirements, licenses and approvals, and potentially face regulatory enforcement, civil liability, and significant increased compliance and operational costs.
Commodity interests, as such term is defined by the CEA and CFTC rules and regulations, are subject to more extensive supervisory oversight by the CFTC, including licensing of entities engaged in, and platforms offering, commodity interest transactions. This CFTC authority extends to crypto asset futures contracts and swaps, including transactions that are based on current and future prices of crypto assets and indices of crypto assets. To the extent that a crypto asset in which we facilitate or facilitated trading or transactions in a crypto asset which we facilitate or facilitated are deemed to fall within the definition of a commodity interest, whether as a swap or otherwise and including pursuant to subsequent rulemaking or guidance by the CFTC, we may be subject to additional regulatory requirements and oversight and could be subject to judicial or administrative sanctions if we do not or did not at a relevant time possess appropriate registrations as an exchange (for example, as a designated contract market for trading futures or options on futures, or as a swaps execution facility for trading swaps) or as a registered intermediary (for example, as a futures commission merchant or introducing broker). Such actions could result in injunctions, cease and desist orders, as well as civil monetary penalties, fines, and disgorgement, as well as reputational harm. The CFTC has previously brought enforcement actions against entities engaged in crypto asset activities for failure to obtain appropriate exchange, execution facility and intermediary registrations.
Furthermore, the CFTC and the SEC have jointly adopted regulations defining “security-based swaps,” which include swaps based on single securities and narrow-based indices of securities. If a crypto asset is deemed to be a security, certain transactions referencing that crypto asset could constitute a security-based swap. A crypto asset or transaction therein that is based on or references a security or index of securities, whether or not such securities are themselves crypto assets, could also constitute a security-based swap. To the extent that a crypto asset in which we facilitate or have facilitated trading or transactions in a crypto asset which we facilitate or have facilitated are deemed to fall within the definition of a security-based swap, including pursuant to subsequent rulemaking or guidance by the CFTC or SEC, we may be subject to additional regulatory requirements and oversight by the SEC and could be subject to judicial or administrative sanctions if we do not or did not a relevant time possess appropriate registrations as an exchange (for example, as a security-based swaps execution facility) or as a registered intermediary (for example, as a security-based swap dealer or broker-dealer). This could result in injunctions, cease and desist orders, as well as civil monetary penalties, fines, and disgorgement, as well as reputational harm.
We obtain and process a large amount of sensitive customer data. Any real or perceived improper use of, disclosure of, or access to such data could harm our reputation, as well as have an adverse effect on our business.
We obtain and process large amounts of sensitive data, including personal data related to our customers and their transactions, such as their names, addresses, social security numbers, visa information, copies of government-issued identification, trading data, tax identification, and bank account information. We face risks, including to our reputation, in the handling and protection of this data, and these risks will increase as our business continues to expand. Federal, state, and international laws and regulations governing privacy, data protection, and e-commerce transactions require us to safeguard our customers’, employees’, and service providers’ personal data.
We have administrative, technical, and physical security measures and controls in place and maintain a robust information security program. However, our security measures may be inadequate or breached as a result of third-party action, employee or service provider error, malfeasance, malware, phishing, hacking attacks, system error, trickery, advances in computer capabilities, new discoveries in the field of
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cryptography, inadequate facility security or otherwise, and, as a result, someone may be able to obtain unauthorized access to sensitive information, including personal data, on our systems. Additionally, privacy and data protection laws are evolving, and it is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data handling safeguards and practices that could result in fines, lawsuits, and other penalties, and significant changes to our or our third-party partners business practices and products and service offerings.
Our future success depends on the reliability and security of our platform. To the extent that the measures we or our third-party business partners have taken prove to be insufficient or inadequate, we may become subject to litigation, breach notification obligations, or regulatory or administrative sanctions, which could result in significant fines, penalties, damages, harm to our reputation, or loss of customers. If our own confidential business information or sensitive customer information were improperly disclosed, our business could be adversely affected. Additionally, a party who circumvents our security measures could, among other effects, appropriate customer information or other proprietary data, cause interruptions in our operations, or expose customers to hacks, viruses, and other disruptions.
Depending on the nature of the information compromised, in the event of a data breach or other unauthorized access to our customer data, we may also have obligations to notify customers and regulators about the incident, and we may need to provide some form of remedy, such as a subscription to credit monitoring services, pay significant fines to one or more regulators, or pay compensation in connection with a class-action settlement (including under the new private right of action under the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, or the CCPA, which is expected to increase security breach litigation). Such breach notification laws continue to evolve and may be inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. Complying with these obligations could cause us to incur substantial costs and could increase negative publicity surrounding any incident that compromises customer data. Additionally, the financial exposure from the events referenced above could either not be insured against or not be fully covered through any insurance that we may maintain, and there can be no assurance that the limitations of liability in any of our contracts would be enforceable or adequate or would otherwise protect us from liabilities or damages as a result of the events referenced above. Any of the foregoing could have an adverse effect on our business, reputation, operating results, and financial condition.
Furthermore, we may be required to disclose personal data pursuant to demands from individuals, regulators, government agencies, and law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions with conflicting privacy and security laws, which could result in a breach of privacy and data protection policies, notices, laws, rules, court orders, and regulations. Additionally, changes in the laws and regulations that govern our collection, use, and disclosure of customer data could impose additional requirements with respect to the retention and security of customer data, could limit our marketing activities, and have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We are subject to laws, regulations, and industry requirements related to data privacy, data protection and information security, and consumer protection across different markets where we conduct our business, including in the United States and EEA and industry requirements and such laws, regulations, and industry requirements are constantly evolving and changing. Our actual or perceived failure to comply with such laws, regulations, and industry requirements, or our privacy policies could harm our business.
Various local, state, federal, and international laws, directives, and regulations apply to our collection, use, retention, protection, disclosure, transfer, and processing of personal data. These data protection and privacy laws and regulations are subject to uncertainty and continue to evolve in ways that could adversely impact our business. These laws have a substantial impact on our operations both outside and in the United States, either directly or as a data processor and handler for various offshore entities.
In the United States, state and federal lawmakers and regulatory authorities have increased their attention on the collection and use of consumer data. In the United States, non-sensitive consumer data generally may be used under current rules and regulations, subject to certain restrictions, so long as the
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person does not affirmatively “opt-out” of the collection or use of such data. If an “opt-in” model or additional required “opt-outs”, were to be adopted in the United States, less data would be available, and the cost of data would be higher. For example, California recently enacted the CCPA, which became operative on January 1, 2020 and became enforceable by California Attorney General on July 1, 2020, along with related regulations which came into force on August 14, 2020. Additionally, although not effective until January 1, 2023, the California Privacy Rights Act, or the CPRA, which expands upon the CCPA, was passed in the recent election on November 3, 2020.
The CCPA gives California residents new rights to access and require deletion of their personal data, opt out of certain personal data sharing, and receive detailed information about how their personal data is processed. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that result in the loss of personal data, as discussed above. This private right of action may increase the likelihood of, and risks associated with, data breach litigation. The CPRA significantly modifies the CCPA, including by expanding consumers’ rights with respect to certain personal data and creating a new state agency to oversee implementation and enforcement efforts. The CCPA and CPRA may increase our compliance costs and potential liability, particularly in the event of a data breach, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, including how we use personal data, our financial condition, and our operating results. Additionally, the CCPA has prompted a number of proposals for new federal and state-level privacy legislation, such as in Nevada, Virginia, New Hampshire, and others. If passed, these new laws could add additional complexity, impact our business strategies, increase our potential liability, increase our compliance costs, and adversely affect our business.
In Europe, the European General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, took effect on May 25, 2018. As a result of our presence in Europe and our service offering in the European Union, or the E.U., we are subject to the GDPR, which imposes stringent E.U. data protection requirements, and could increase the risk of non-compliance and the costs of providing our products and services in a compliant manner. A breach of the GDPR could result in regulatory investigations, reputational damage, fines and sanctions, orders to cease or change our processing of our data, enforcement notices, or assessment notices (for a compulsory audit). We may also face civil claims including representative actions and other class action type litigation (where individuals have suffered harm), potentially amounting to significant compensation or damages liabilities, as well as associated costs, diversion of internal resources, and reputational harm.
Additionally, the United Kingdom, or the U.K., implemented the Data Protection Act, effective in May 2018 and statutorily amended in 2019, that contains provisions, including its own derogations, for how GDPR is applied in the U.K. From the beginning of 2021 (when the transitional period following Brexit expired), we have to continue to comply with the GDPR and also the U.K.’s Data Protection Act, with each regime having the ability to fine up to the greater of €20 million (£17 million) or 4% of global turnover. The relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. remains uncertain, for example how data transfers between the U.K. and the E.U. and other jurisdictions will be treated and the role of the U.K.’s supervisory authority. In February 2021, the European Commission proposed to issue the U.K. with an “adequacy” decision to facilitate the continued free flow of personal data from E.U. member states to the U.K.; however, this decision is subject to the review and/or approval of the European Data Protection Board and a Committee composed of the representatives of the E.U. Member States. In the meantime, the U.K. remains a "third country" for the purposes of data transfers from the E.U. to the U.K. following the expiration of the four to six-month personal data transfer grace period (from 1 January 2021) set out in the E.U. and U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement, unless the adequacy decision is adopted in favor of the U.K. These changes will lead to additional costs as we try to ensure compliance with new privacy legislation, and will increase our overall risk exposure.
In addition, the GDPR imposes strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the E.U. to a “third country” including the United States. These obligations may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another and may conflict with other requirements or our practices.
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On July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union, or CJEU, invalidated the European Union-United States, or E.U.-U.S., Privacy Shield (under which personal data could be transferred from the E.U. to U.S. entities that had self-certified under the Privacy Shield scheme) on the grounds that the Privacy Shield failed to offer adequate protections to E.U. personal data transferred to the United States. In addition, while the CJEU upheld the adequacy of the standard contractual clauses (a standard form of contract approved by the European Commission as an adequate personal data transfer mechanism, and potential alternative to the Privacy Shield), it made clear that reliance on them alone may not necessarily be sufficient in all circumstances. Use of the standard contractual clauses must now be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account the legal regime applicable in the destination country, in particular applicable surveillance laws and rights of individuals. The use of standard contractual clauses for the transfer of personal data specifically to the United States remains under review by a number of European data protection supervisory authorities, along with those of some other E.U. member states. German and Irish supervisory authorities have indicated, and enforced in recent rulings, that the standard contractual clauses alone provide inadequate protection for E.U.-U.S. data transfers. On August 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission announced new discussions to evaluate the potential for an enhanced E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield framework to comply with the July 16 judgment of the CJEU. Further, the European Commission published new versions of the standard contractual clauses for comment. While the comment period ended in December 2020, the European Commission is expected to finalize and implement the new standard contractual clauses in early 2021. The CJEU’s decision, along with the subsequent guidance issued by the European Data Protection Board on November 11, 2020, and recent statements by E.U. supervisory authorities, and the new versions of the standard contractual clauses, have led to uncertainty regarding the legality of E.U.-U.S. data flows in general and those conducted under the Privacy Shield in particular.
While we maintain a Privacy Shield certification, we rely on the standard contractual clauses for intercompany data transfers from the E.U. to the United States and have reviewed and amended any existing vendor agreements that rely only on Privacy Shield as the data transfer mechanism. As supervisory authorities continue to issue further guidance on personal data, we could suffer additional costs, complaints, or regulatory investigations or fines, and if we are otherwise unable to transfer personal data between and among countries and regions in which we operate, it could affect the manner in which we provide our services, the geographical location or segregation of our relevant systems and operations, and could adversely affect our financial results.
We are also subject to evolving E.U. privacy laws on cookies and e-marketing. In the E.U., regulators are increasingly focusing on compliance with requirements in the online behavioral advertising ecosystem, and a E.U. regulation known as the ePrivacy Regulation will significantly increase fines for non-compliance once in effect. In the E.U., informed consent, including a prohibition on pre-checked consents and a requirement to ensure separate consents for each cookie, is required for the placement of a cookie or similar technologies on a user’s device and for direct electronic marketing. As regulators start to enforce the strict approach in recent guidance, this could lead to substantial costs, require significant systems changes, limit the effectiveness of our marketing activities, divert the attention of our technology personnel, negatively impact our efforts to understand users, adversely affect our margins, increase costs, and subject us to additional liabilities.
There is a risk that as we expand, we may assume liabilities for breaches experienced by the companies we acquire. Despite our efforts to comply with applicable laws, regulations and other obligations relating to privacy, data protection, and information security, it is possible that our practices, offerings, or platform could fail, or be alleged to fail to meet applicable requirements. For instance, the overall regulatory framework governing the application of privacy laws to blockchain technology is still highly undeveloped and likely to evolve. Our failure, or the failure by our third-party providers or partners, to comply with applicable laws or regulations and to prevent unauthorized access to, or use or release of personal data, or the perception that any of the foregoing types of failure has occurred, could damage our reputation or result in fines or proceedings by governmental agencies and private claims and litigation, any of which could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
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Risks Related to Third Parties
Our current and future services are dependent on payment networks and acquiring processors, and any changes to their rules or practices could adversely impact our business.
We rely on banks and other payment processors to process customers’ payments in connection with the purchase of crypto assets on our platform and we pay these providers fees for their services. From time to time, payment networks have increased, and may increase in the future, the interchange fees and assessments that they charge for transactions that use their networks. Payment networks have imposed, and may impose in the future, special fees on the purchase of crypto assets, including on our platform, which could negatively impact us and significantly increase our costs. Our payment card processors may have the right to pass any increases in interchange fees and assessments on to us, and may impose additional use charges which would increase our operating costs and reduce our operating income. We could attempt to pass these increases along to our customers, but this strategy might result in the loss of customers to our competitors that may not pass along the increases, thereby reducing our revenue and earnings. If competitive practices prevent us from passing along the higher fees to our customers in the future, we may have to absorb all or a portion of such increases, thereby increasing our operating costs and reducing our earnings.
We may also be directly or indirectly liable to the payment networks for rule violations. Payment networks set and interpret their network operating rules and have alleged from time to time that various aspects of our business model violate these operating rules. If such allegations are not resolved favorably, they may result in significant fines and penalties or require changes in our business practices that may be costly and adversely affect our business. The payment networks could adopt new operating rules or interpret or reinterpret existing rules that we or our processors might find difficult or even impossible to follow, or costly to implement. As a result, we could lose our ability to give customers the option of using cards to fund their purchases or the choice of currency in which they would like their card to be charged. If we are unable to accept cards or are limited in our ability to do so, our business would be adversely affected.
We depend on major mobile operating systems and third-party platforms for the distribution of certain products. If Google Play, the Apple App Store, or other platforms prevent customers from downloading our apps, our ability to grow may be adversely affected.
We rely upon third-party platforms for the distribution of certain products and services. Our Coinbase, Coinbase Pro, and Coinbase Wallet apps are provided as free applications through both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and are also accessible via mobile and traditional websites. The Google Play Store and Apple App Store are global application distribution platforms and the main distribution channels for our apps. As such, the promotion, distribution, and operation of our apps are subject to the respective platforms’ terms and policies for application developers, which are very broad and subject to frequent changes and re-interpretation. Further, these distribution platforms often contain restrictions related to crypto assets that are uncertain, broadly construed, and can limit the nature and scope of services that can be offered. For example, Apple App Store’s restrictions related to crypto assets have disrupted the proposed launch of many features within the Coinbase and Coinbase Wallet apps, including our Earn services and access to decentralized applications. If our products are found to be in violation of any such terms and conditions, we may no longer be able to offer our products through such third-party platforms. There can be no guarantee that third-party platforms will continue to support our product offerings, or that customers will be able to continue to use our products. For example, in November 2013, our iOS app was temporarily removed by Apple from the Apple App Store. In December 2019, we were similarly instructed by Apple to remove certain features relating to decentralized applications from our application to comply with the Apple App Store’s policies. Any changes, bugs, technical or regulatory issues with third-party platforms, our relationships with mobile manufacturers and carriers, or changes to their terms of service or policies could degrade our products’ functionalities, reduce or eliminate our ability to distribute our products, give preferential treatment to competitive products, limit our ability to deliver
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high quality offerings, or impose fees or other charges, any of which could affect our product usage and harm our business.
Risks Related to Intellectual Property
Our intellectual property rights are valuable, and any inability to protect them could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our business depends in large part on our proprietary technology and our brand. We rely on, and expect to continue to rely on, a combination of trademark, trade dress, domain name, copyright, and trade secret and laws, as well as confidentiality and license agreements with our employees, contractors, consultants, and third parties with whom we have relationships, to establish and protect our brand and other intellectual property rights. However, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights may not be sufficient or effective. Our proprietary technology and trade secrets could be lost through misappropriation or breach of our confidentiality and license agreements, and any of our intellectual property rights may be challenged, which could result in them being narrowed in scope or declared invalid or unenforceable. There can be no assurance that our intellectual property rights will be sufficient to protect against others offering products, services, or technologies that are substantially similar to ours and that compete with our business.
We do not intend to monetize our patents or attempt to block third parties from competing with us by asserting our patents offensively against third parties, but our ability to successfully defend intellectual property challenges from competitors and other parties may depend, in part, on our ability to counter-assert our patents defensively. Effective protection of patents, trademarks, and domain names is expensive and difficult to maintain, both in terms of application and registration costs as well as the costs of defending and enforcing those rights, and in some countries our rights to protect our core domain (coinbase.com) are currently subject to dispute. As we have grown, we have sought to obtain and protect our intellectual property rights in an increasing number of countries, a process that can be expensive and may not always be successful. For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural requirements to complete the patent application process and to maintain issued patents, and noncompliance or non-payment could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in a relevant jurisdiction. Further, intellectual property protection may not be available to us in every country in which our products and services are available. For example, some foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many countries limit the enforceability of patents against certain third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit. We may also agree to license our patents to third parties as part of various patent pools and open patent projects. Those licenses may diminish our ability, though, to counter-assert our patents against certain parties that may bring claims against us.
We have been, and in the future may be, sued by third parties for alleged infringement of their proprietary rights.
In recent years, there has been considerable patent, copyright, trademark, domain name, trade secret and other intellectual property development activity in the cryptoeconomy, as well as litigation, based on allegations of infringement or other violations of intellectual property, including by large financial institutions. Furthermore, individuals and groups can purchase patents and other intellectual property assets for the purpose of making claims of infringement to extract settlements from companies like ours. Our use of third-party intellectual property rights also may be subject to claims of infringement or misappropriation. We cannot guarantee that our internally developed or acquired technologies and content do not or will not infringe the intellectual property rights of others. From time to time, our competitors or other third parties may claim that we are infringing upon or misappropriating their intellectual property rights, and we may be found to be infringing upon such rights. Any claims or litigation could cause us to incur significant expenses and, if successfully asserted against us, could require that
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we pay substantial damages or ongoing royalty payments, prevent us from offering our products or services or using certain technologies, force us to implement expensive work-arounds, or impose other unfavorable terms. We expect that the occurrence of infringement claims is likely to grow as the crypto assets market grows and matures. Accordingly, our exposure to damages resulting from infringement claims could increase and this could further exhaust our financial and management resources. Further, during the course of any litigation, we may make announcements regarding the results of hearings and motions, and other interim developments. If securities analysts and investors regard these announcements as negative, the market price of our Class A common stock may decline. Even if intellectual property claims do not result in litigation or are resolved in our favor, these claims, and the time and resources necessary to resolve them, could divert the resources of our management and require significant expenditures. Any of the foregoing could prevent us from competing effectively and could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Our platform contains third-party open source software components, and failure to comply with the terms of the underlying open source software licenses could harm our business.
Our platform contains software modules licensed to us by third-party authors under “open source” licenses. We also make certain of our own software available to users for free under various open source licenses. Use and distribution of open source software may entail greater risks than use of third-party commercial software, as open source licensors generally do not provide support, warranties, indemnification or other contractual protections regarding infringement claims or the quality of the code. In addition, the public availability of such software may make it easier for others to compromise our platform.
Some open source licenses contain requirements that we make available source code for modifications or derivative works we create based upon the type of open source software we use, or grant other licenses to our intellectual property. If we combine our proprietary software with open source software in a certain manner, we could, under certain open source licenses, be required to release the source code of our proprietary software to the public. This would allow our competitors to create similar offerings with lower development effort and time and ultimately could result in a loss of our competitive advantages. Alternatively, to avoid the public release of the affected portions of our source code, we could be required to expend substantial time and resources to re-engineer some or all of our software.
Although we monitor our use of open source software to avoid subjecting our platform to conditions we do not intend, we have not recently conducted an extensive audit of our use of open source software and, as a result, we cannot assure you that our processes for controlling our use of open source software in our platform are, or will be, effective. If we are held to have breached or failed to fully comply with all the terms and conditions of an open source software license, we could face litigation, infringement or other liability, or be required to seek costly licenses from third parties to continue providing our offerings on terms that are not economically feasible, to re-engineer our platform, to discontinue or delay the provision of our offerings if re-engineering could not be accomplished on a timely basis or to make generally available, in source code form, our proprietary code, any of which could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition. Moreover, the terms of many open source licenses have not been interpreted by U.S. or foreign courts. As a result, there is a risk that these licenses could be construed in a way that could impose unanticipated conditions or restrictions on our ability to provide or distribute our platform. From time to time, there have been claims challenging the ownership of open source software against companies that incorporate open source software into their solutions. As a result, we could be subject to lawsuits by parties claiming ownership of what we believe to be open source software.
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Risks Related to Our Employees and Other Service Providers
The loss of one or more of our key personnel, or our failure to attract and retain other highly qualified personnel in the future, could adversely impact our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We operate in a relatively new industry that is not widely understood and requires highly skilled and technical personnel. We believe that our future success is highly dependent on the talents and contributions of our senior management team, including Brian Armstrong, our co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, members of our executive team, and other key employees across product, engineering, risk management, finance, compliance and legal, and marketing. Our future success depends on our ability to attract, develop, motivate, and retain highly qualified and skilled employees. Due to the nascent nature of the cryptoeconomy, the pool of qualified talent is extremely limited, particularly with respect to executive talent, engineering, risk management, and financial regulatory expertise. We face intense competition for qualified individuals from numerous software and other technology companies. To attract and retain key personnel, we incur significant costs, including salaries and benefits and equity incentives. Even so, these measures may not be enough to attract and retain the personnel we require to operate our business effectively. The loss of even a few qualified employees, or an inability to attract, retain and motivate additional highly skilled employees required for the planned expansion of our business could adversely impact our operating results and impair our ability to grow.
Our culture emphasizes innovation, and if we cannot maintain this culture as we grow, our business and operating results could be adversely impacted.
We believe that our entrepreneurial and innovative corporate culture has been a key contributor to our success. We encourage and empower our employees to develop and launch new and innovative products and services, which we believe is essential to attracting high quality talent, partners, and developers, as well as serving the best, long-term interests of our company. If we cannot maintain this culture as we grow, we could lose the innovation, creativity and teamwork that has been integral to our business, in which case our products and services may suffer and our business, operating results, and financial condition could be adversely impacted.
In the event of employee or service provider misconduct or error, our business may be adversely impacted.
Employee or service provider misconduct or error could subject us to legal liability, financial losses, and regulatory sanctions and could seriously harm our reputation and negatively affect our business. Such misconduct could include engaging in improper or unauthorized transactions or activities, misappropriation of customer funds, insider trading and misappropriation of information, failing to supervise other employees or service providers, improperly using confidential information, as well as improper trading activity such as spoofing, layering, wash trading, manipulation and front-running. Employee or service provider errors, including mistakes in executing, recording, or processing transactions for customers, could expose us to the risk of material losses even if the errors are detected. Although we have implemented processes and procedures and provide trainings to our employees and service providers to reduce the likelihood of misconduct and error, these efforts may not be successful. Moreover, the risk of employee or service provider error or misconduct may be even greater for novel products and services and is compounded by the fact that many of our employees and service providers are accustomed to working at tech companies which generally do not maintain the same compliance customs and rules as financial services firms. This can lead to high risk of confusion among employees and service providers, particularly in a fast growth company like ours, with respect to compliance obligations, particularly including confidentiality, data access, trading, and conflicts. It is not always possible to deter misconduct, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in all cases. If we were found to have not met our regulatory oversight and compliance and other obligations, we could be subject to regulatory sanctions, financial penalties, restrictions on our activities for failure to properly identify, monitor and respond to potentially problematic activity and seriously
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damage our reputation. Our employees, contractors, and agents could also commit errors that subject us to financial claims for negligence, as well as regulatory actions, or result in financial liability. Further, allegations by regulatory or criminal authorities of improper trading activities could affect our brand and reputation.
Our officers, directors, employees, and large stockholders may encounter potential conflicts of interests with respect to their positions or interests in certain crypto assets, entities, and other initiatives, which could adversely affect our business and reputation.
We frequently engage in a wide variety of transactions and maintain relationships with a significant number of crypto projects, their developers, members of their ecosystem, and investors. These transactions and relationships could create potential conflicts of interests in management decisions that we make. For instance, certain of our officers, directors, and employees are active investors in crypto projects themselves, and may make investment decisions that favor projects that they have personally invested in. Many of our large stockholders also make investments in these crypto projects. For more information, see the section titled “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions.” In addition, our co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Armstrong, is involved in a number of initiatives related to the cryptoeconomy and more broadly. For example, Mr. Armstrong currently serves as the chief executive officer of ResearchHub Technologies, Inc., a scientific research development platform. This and other initiatives he is involved in could divert Mr. Armstrong's time and attention from overseeing our business operations which could have a negative impact on our business. Moreover, we may in the future be subject to litigation as a result of his involvement with these other initiatives.
Similarly, certain of our directors, officers, employees, and large stockholders may hold crypto assets that we are considering supporting for trading on our platform, and may be more supportive of such listing notwithstanding legal, regulatory, and other issues associated with such crypto assets. While we have instituted policies and procedures to limit and mitigate such risks, there is no assurance that such policies and procedures will be effective, or that we will be able to manage such conflicts of interests adequately. If we fail to manage these conflicts of interests, our business may be harmed and the brand, reputation and credibility of our company may be adversely affected.
General Risk Factors
Adverse economic conditions may adversely affect our business.
Our performance is subject to general economic conditions, and their impact on the crypto asset markets and our customers. The United States and other key international economies have experienced cyclical downturns from time to time in which economic activity declined resulting in lower consumption rates, restricted credit, reduced profitability, weaknesses in financial markets, bankruptcies, and overall uncertainty with respect to the economy. The impact of general economic conditions on the cryptoeconomy is highly uncertain and dependent on a variety of factors, including market adoption of crypto assets, global trends in the cryptoeconomy, central bank monetary policies, and other events beyond our control. Geopolitical developments, such as trade wars and foreign exchange limitations can also increase the severity and levels of unpredictability globally and increase the volatility of global financial and crypto asset markets. To the extent that conditions in the general economic and crypto assets markets materially deteriorate, our ability to attract and retain customers may suffer.
The COVID-19 pandemic could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
We are responding to the global outbreak of COVID-19 by taking steps to mitigate the potential risks to us posed by its spread and the impact of the restrictions put in place by governments to protect the population. Our employees and service providers have transitioned to work-from-home and we are now a remote-first company. This subjects us to heightened operational risks. For example, technologies in our employees’ and service providers’ homes may not be as robust as in our offices and could cause the networks, information systems, applications, and other tools available to employees and service providers
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to be more limited or less reliable than in our offices. Further, the security systems in place at our employees’ and service providers’ homes may be less secure than those used in our offices, and while we have implemented technical and administrative safeguards to help protect our systems as our employees and service providers work from home, we may be subject to increased cybersecurity risk, which could expose us to risks of data or financial loss, and could disrupt our business operations. There is no guarantee that the data security and privacy safeguards we have put in place will be completely effective or that we will not encounter risks associated with employees and service providers accessing company data and systems remotely. We also face challenges due to the need to operate with the remote workforce and are addressing those challenges to minimize the impact on our ability to operate.
The transition to a remote-first company may make it more difficult for us to preserve our corporate culture and our employees may have decreased opportunities to collaborate in meaningful ways. Further, we cannot guarantee that our transition to becoming a remote-first company will not have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity. Any failure to preserve our corporate culture and foster collaboration could harm our future success, including our ability to retain and recruit personnel, innovate and operate effectively, and execute on our business strategy.
In addition, the continued spread of COVID-19 and the imposition of related public health measures have resulted in, and is expected to continue to result in, increased volatility and uncertainty in the cryptoeconomy. We also rely on third party service providers to perform certain functions. Any disruptions to a service providers’ business operations resulting from business restrictions, quarantines, or restrictions on the ability of personnel to perform their jobs could have an adverse impact on our service providers’ ability to provide services to us. The continued spread of COVID-19 and efforts to contain the virus could adversely impact our strategic business plans and growth strategy, reduce demand for our products and services, reduce the availability and productivity of our employees, service providers, and third-party resources, cause us to experience an increase in costs due to emergency measures, and otherwise adversely impact our business.
Our management team has limited experience managing a public company.
Our management team has limited experience managing a publicly traded company, interacting with public company investors, and complying with the increasingly complex laws pertaining to public companies. Our management team may not successfully or efficiently manage our transition to being a public company subject to significant regulatory oversight and reporting obligations under the federal securities laws and the continuous scrutiny of securities analysts and investors. These new obligations and constituents will require significant attention from our senior management and could divert their attention away from the day-to-day management of our business, which could adversely affect our business, operating results, and financial condition.
Changes in U.S. and foreign tax laws, as well as the application of such laws, could adversely impact our financial position and operating results.
We are subject to complex tax laws and regulations in the United States and a variety of foreign jurisdictions. All of these jurisdictions have in the past and may in the future make changes to their corporate income tax rates and other income tax laws which could increase our future income tax provision. For example, our future income tax obligations could be adversely affected by earnings that are lower than anticipated in jurisdictions where we have lower statutory rates and by earnings that are higher than anticipated in jurisdictions where we have higher statutory rates, by changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities, by changes in the amount of unrecognized tax benefits, or by changes in tax laws, regulations, accounting principles, or interpretations thereof, including changes with possible retroactive application or effect.
Our determination of our tax liability is subject to review and may be challenged by applicable U.S. and foreign tax authorities. Any adverse outcome of such challenge could harm our operating results and financial condition. The determination of our worldwide provision for income taxes and other tax liabilities
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requires significant judgment and, in the ordinary course of business, there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is complex and uncertain. Moreover, as a multinational business, we have subsidiaries that engage in many intercompany transactions in a variety of tax jurisdictions where the ultimate tax determination is complex and uncertain. Our existing corporate structure and intercompany arrangements have been implemented in a manner we believe is in compliance with current prevailing tax laws. Furthermore, as we operate in multiple taxing jurisdictions, the application of tax laws can be subject to diverging and sometimes conflicting interpretations by tax authorities of these jurisdictions. It is not uncommon for taxing authorities in different countries to have conflicting views with respect to, among other things, the characterization and source of income or other tax items, the manner in which the arm’s-length standard is applied for transfer pricing purposes, or with respect to the valuation of intellectual property. The taxing authorities of the jurisdictions in which we operate may challenge our tax treatment of certain items or the methodologies we use for valuing developed technology or intercompany arrangements, which could impact our worldwide effective tax rate and harm our financial position and operating results.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, enacted on December 22, 2017, significantly affected U.S. tax law, including by changing how the U.S. imposes tax on certain types of income of corporations and by reducing the U.S. federal corporate income tax rate to 21%. It also imposed new limitations on a number of tax benefits, including deductions for business interest, use of net operating loss carry forwards, taxation of foreign income, and the foreign tax credit, among others. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, further amended the U.S. federal tax code, including in respect of certain changes that were made by the TCJA, generally on a temporary basis. There can be no assurance that future tax law changes will not increase the rate of the corporate income tax significantly, impose new limitations on deductions, credits or other tax benefits, or make other changes that may adversely affect our business, cash flows or financial performance. In addition, the IRS has yet to issue guidance on a number of important issues regarding the changes made by the TCJA and the CARES Act. In the absence of such guidance, we will take positions with respect to any such unsettled issues. There is no assurance that the IRS or a court will agree with the positions taken by us, in which case tax penalties and interest may be imposed that could adversely affect our business, cash flows or financial performance.
We are also subject to non-income taxes, such as payroll, sales, use, value-added, net worth, property, and goods and services taxes in the United States and various foreign jurisdictions. Specifically, we may be subject to “digital service taxes” or new allocations of tax as a result of increasing efforts by certain jurisdictions to tax cross border activities that may not have been subject to tax under existing international tax principles. Technology companies such as ours may be subject to such taxes. Tax authorities may disagree with certain positions we have taken. As a result, we may have exposure to additional tax liabilities that could have an adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.
In addition, our future effective tax rates could be favorably or unfavorably affected by changes in tax rates, changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets or liabilities, the effectiveness of our tax planning strategies, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation. Such changes could have an adverse impact on our financial condition.
As a result of these and other factors, the ultimate amount of tax obligations owed may differ from the amounts recorded in our financial statements and any such difference may harm our operating results in future periods in which we change our estimates of our tax obligations or in which the ultimate tax outcome is determined.
Our ability to use any current or future net operating loss to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations under U.S. or foreign law.
As of December 31, 2020, we had Japanese net operating loss carryforwards, or NOLs, of approximately $3.8 million, due to prior period losses which if not utilized will begin to expire beginning in 2027. Additionally, as of December 31, 2020, we had $24.5 million of U.S. Federal NOLs with an indefinite
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carryforward and $13.0 million of U.S. State NOLs, primarily with a twenty-year carryforward. Realization of these NOLs, and any future domestic or foreign NOLs that we may generate will depend on future income, and there is a risk that some or all of such NOLs could be subject to limitation or otherwise unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities, which could adversely affect our operating results.
Under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, a corporation that undergoes an “ownership change” is subject to limitations on its ability to utilize its NOLs to offset future taxable income. Future changes in our stock ownership, the causes of which may be outside of our control, could result in an ownership change under Section 382 of the Code. Any future NOLs we generate may also be impaired under state laws. In addition, under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or Tax Act, future tax losses may be utilized to offset no more than 80% of taxable income annually. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, the limitation on the deduction of NOLs to 80% of current year taxable income is eliminated for taxable years beginning before January 1, 2021. Notwithstanding the CARES Act, we may be required to pay federal income taxes in future years despite generating a loss for federal income tax purposes. There is also a risk that due to statutory or regulatory changes, such as suspensions on the use of NOLs, or other unforeseen reasons, our future NOLs could expire or otherwise be unavailable to offset future income tax liabilities. It is uncertain if and to what extent various states will conform to the Tax Act, as modified by the CARES Act. For these reasons, we may not be able to realize a tax benefit from the use of any future NOLs we generate, whether or not we attain profitability.
Fluctuations in currency exchange rates could harm our operating results and financial condition.
Revenue generated and expenses incurred from our international operations are often denominated in the currencies of the local countries. Accordingly, changes in the value of foreign currencies relative to the U.S. dollar can affect our revenue and operating results reflected in our U.S. dollar-denominated financial statements. Our financial results are also subject to changes in exchange rates that impact the settlement of transactions in non-local currencies. As a result, it could be more difficult to detect underlying trends in our business and operating results. To the extent that fluctuations in currency exchange rates cause our operating results to differ from expectations of investors, the market price of our Class A common stock could be adversely impacted. To date, we have not engaged in currency hedging activities to limit the risk of exchange fluctuations. Even if we use derivative instruments to hedge exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, the use of such hedging activities may not offset any or more than a portion of the adverse financial effects of unfavorable movements in foreign exchange rates over the limited time the hedges are in place, and may introduce additional risks if we are unable to structure effective hedges with such instruments.
If our estimates or judgment relating to our critical accounting policies prove to be incorrect, our operating results could be adversely affected.
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the amounts reported in the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances, as provided in the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates.” The results of these estimates form the basis for making judgments about the carrying values of assets, liabilities, and equity, and the amount of revenue and expenses that are not readily apparent from other sources. Significant estimates and judgments involve the identification of performance obligations in revenue recognition, evaluation of tax positions, inter-company transactions, and the valuation of stock-based awards and crypto assets we hold, among others. Our operating results may be adversely affected if our assumptions change or if actual circumstances differ from those in our assumptions, which could cause our operating results to fall below the expectations of analysts and investors, resulting in a decline in the trading price of our Class A common stock.
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We may be adversely affected by natural disasters, pandemics, and other catastrophic events, and by man-made problems such as terrorism, that could disrupt our business operations, and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster.
Natural disasters or other catastrophic events may also cause damage or disruption to our operations, international commerce, and the global economy, and could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition. Our business operations are subject to interruption by natural disasters, fire, power shortages, and other events beyond our control. In addition, our global operations expose us to risks associated with public health crises, such as pandemics and epidemics, which could harm our business and cause our operating results to suffer. For example, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or the precautionary measures that we have adopted have resulted, and could continue to result, in difficulties or changes to our customer support, or create operational or other challenges, any of which could adversely impact our business and operating results. Further, acts of terrorism, labor activism or unrest, and other geo-political unrest could cause disruptions in our business or the businesses of our partners or the economy as a whole. In the event of a natural disaster, including a major earthquake, blizzard, or hurricane, or a catastrophic event such as a fire, power loss, or telecommunications failure, we may be unable to continue our operations and may endure system interruptions, reputational harm, delays in development of our platform, lengthy interruptions in service, breaches of data security, and loss of critical data, all of which could have an adverse effect on our future operating results. For example, certain of our corporate offices are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region known for seismic activity. We do not maintain insurance sufficient to compensate us for the potentially significant losses that could result from disruptions to our services. Additionally, all the aforementioned risks may be further increased if we do not implement a disaster recovery plan or our partners’ disaster recovery plans prove to be inadequate. To the extent natural disasters or other catastrophic events concurrently impact data centers we rely on in connection with private key restoration, customers will experience significant delays in withdrawing funds, or in the extreme we may suffer loss of customer funds.
The requirements of being a public company, including maintaining adequate internal control over our financial and management systems, may strain our resources, divert management’s attention, and affect our ability to attract and retain executive management and qualified board members.
As a public company we will incur significant legal, accounting, and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. We will be subject to reporting requirements of the Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the rules subsequently implemented by the SEC, the rules and regulations of the listing standards of The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, or Nasdaq, and other applicable securities rules and regulations. Stockholder activism, the current political and social environment and the current high level of government intervention and regulatory reform may lead to substantial new regulations and disclosure obligations, which will likely result in additional compliance costs and could impact the manner in which we operate our business in ways we cannot currently anticipate. Compliance with these rules and regulations may strain our financial and management systems, internal controls, and employees. The Exchange Act requires, among other things, that we file annual, quarterly, and current reports with respect to our business and operating results. Moreover, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures, and internal control, over financial reporting. In order to maintain and, if required, improve our disclosure controls and procedures, and internal control over, financial reporting to meet this standard, significant resources and management oversight may be required. If we encounter material weaknesses or deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting, we may not detect errors on a timely basis and our consolidated financial statements may be materially misstated. Effective internal control is necessary for us to produce reliable financial reports and is important to prevent fraud.
We expect our independent registered public accounting firm will be required to formally attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting commencing with our second annual report on Form 10-K. We expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward
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ensuring compliance with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. As a result of the complexity involved in complying with the rules and regulations applicable to public companies, our management’s attention may be diverted from other business concerns, which could harm our business, operating results, and financial condition. Although we have already hired additional employees to assist us in complying with these requirements, our finance team is small and we may need to hire more employees in the future, or engage outside consultants, which will increase our operating expenses.
We also expect that being a public company and complying with applicable rules and regulations will make it more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance, and we may be required to incur substantially higher costs to obtain and maintain the same or similar coverage. These factors could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified members of our board of directors and qualified executive officers.
We might require additional capital to support business growth, and this capital might not be available.
We have funded our operations since inception primarily through equity financings and revenue generated by our products and services. We cannot be certain when or if our operations will generate sufficient cash to fully fund our ongoing operations or the growth of our business. We intend to continue to make investments in our business to respond to business challenges, including developing new products and services, enhancing our operating infrastructure, expanding our international operations, and acquiring complementary businesses and technologies, all of which may require us to secure additional funds. Additional financing may not be available on terms favorable to us, if at all. If we incur additional debt, the debt holders would have rights senior to holders of our common stock to make claims on our assets, and the terms of any debt could restrict our operations, including our ability to pay dividends on our common stock. Furthermore, we have authorized the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock and common stock that our board of directors could use to, among other things, issue shares of our capital stock in the form of blockchain tokens, implement a stockholder rights plan, or issue other shares of preferred stock or common stock. We may issue shares of capital stock, including in the form of blockchain tokens, to our customers in connection with customer reward or loyalty programs. If we issue additional equity securities, including in the form of blockchain tokens, stockholders will experience dilution, and the new equity securities could have rights senior to those of our currently authorized and issued common stock. The trading prices for our common stock may be highly volatile, which may reduce our ability to access capital on favorable terms or at all. In addition, a slowdown or other sustained adverse downturn in the general economic or crypto asset markets could adversely affect our business and the value of our Class A common stock. Because our decision to raise capital in the future will depend on numerous considerations, including factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing, or nature of any future issuances of securities. As a result, our stockholders bear the risk of future issuances of debt or equity securities reducing the value of our Class A common stock and diluting their interests. Our inability to obtain adequate financing or financing on terms satisfactory to us, when we require it, could significantly limit our ability to continue supporting our business growth and responding to business challenges.
Although we ceased to be an emerging growth company, we have continued to take advantage of certain reduced disclosure requirements in the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, which may make our Class A common stock less attractive to investors.
We ceased to be an emerging growth company, as defined in the JOBS Act, on December 31, 2020. However, because we ceased to be an emerging growth company after we confidentially submitted our draft registration statement related to this offering to the SEC, we will continue to be treated as an emerging growth company for certain purposes until the earlier of the date on which we complete this listing or December 31, 2021. As such, we have continued to take advantage of certain exemptions that allow us to comply with reduced disclosure obligations regarding selected financial data and executive compensation arrangements in the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part that are
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not available to non-emerging growth companies. We cannot predict if investors will find our Class A common stock less attractive because we have relied on these exemptions. If some investors find our Class A common stock less attractive as a result, there may be less demand for our Class A common stock and the market price of our Class A common stock may fall.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Class A Common Stock
The registration and listing of our Class A common stock differs significantly from an underwritten initial public offering.
This listing is not an underwritten initial public offering of our Class A common stock. The registration and listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market differs from an underwritten initial public offering in several significant ways, which include the following:
There are no underwriters. Consequently, prior to the opening of trading of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, there will be no book building process and no price at which underwriters initially sold shares to the public to help inform efficient and sufficient price discovery with respect to the opening trades on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Therefore, buy and sell orders submitted prior to and at the opening of trading of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market will not have the benefit of being informed by a published price range or a price at which the underwriters initially sold shares to the public, as would be the case in an underwritten initial public offering. Moreover, there will be no underwriters assuming risk in connection with resales of shares of our Class A common stock. Additionally, because there are no underwriters, there is no underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares of our Class A common stock. In an underwritten initial public offering, the underwriters may engage in “covered” short sales in an amount of shares representing the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares. To close a covered short position, the underwriters purchase shares in the open market or exercise the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares. In determining the source of shares to close the covered short position, the underwriters typically consider, among other things, the price of shares available for purchase in the open market as compared to the price at which they may purchase shares through the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares. Purchases in the open market to cover short positions, as well as other purchases underwriters may undertake for their own accounts, may have the effect of preventing a decline in the market price of shares. Given that there will be no underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares and no underwriters engaging in stabilizing transactions, there could be greater volatility in the public price of our Class A common stock during the period immediately following the listing. See also “—The price of our Class A common stock may be volatile, and could, upon listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, decline significantly and rapidly. Market volatility may affect the value of an investment in our Class A common stock and could subject us to litigation.”
There is not a fixed or determined number of shares of Class A common stock available for sale in connection with the registration and listing of the Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Therefore, there can be no assurance that any registered stockholders or other existing stockholders will sell any of their shares of Class A common stock and there may initially be a lack of supply of, or demand for, shares of Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Alternatively, we may have a large number of registered stockholders or other existing stockholders who choose to sell their shares of Class A common stock in the near term, resulting in potential oversupply of our Class A common stock, which could adversely impact the price of our Class A common stock.
None of our registered stockholders or other existing stockholders have entered into contractual lock-up agreements or other contractual restrictions on transfer. In an underwritten initial public offering, it is customary for an issuer’s officers, directors, and most or all of its other stockholders to enter into a 180-day contractual lock-up arrangement with the underwriters to help promote orderly trading immediately after such initial public offering. Consequently, any of our
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stockholders, including our directors and officers who own our common stock and other significant stockholders, may sell any or all of their shares of Class A common stock, including shares of Class B common stock convertible into Class A common stock at the time of sale (subject to any restrictions under applicable law), including immediately upon listing. If such sales were to occur in a significant volume in a short period of time, it may result in an oversupply of our Class A common stock in the market, which could adversely impact the price of our Class A common stock. See also “—None of our stockholders are party to any contractual lock-up agreement or other contractual restrictions on transfer. Following our listing, the sales or distribution of substantial amounts of our Class A common stock, or the perception that such sales or distributions might occur, could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.”
We will not conduct a traditional “roadshow” with underwriters prior to the opening of trading of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Instead, we may host one or more investor day presentations and/or post presentations regarding our company, our management team, and the listing through our website or other broadly-available means and intend to engage in additional investor education meetings. In advance of any investor day presentations and/or the posting of presentations regarding our company, our management team, and the listing through our website or other broadly-available means, we intend to announce the date for such day over financial news outlets in a manner consistent with typical corporate outreach to investors. We intend to prepare electronic presentations for any such investor days or other presentations regarding our company, our management team, and the listing, which will have content similar to a traditional roadshow presentation, and to make a version of any such presentation publicly available, without restrictions, on our website. There can be no guarantee that any investor day presentations, other investor education presentations, and other investor education meetings will have the same impact on investor education as a traditional “roadshow” conducted in connection with an underwritten initial public offering. As a result, there may not be efficient or sufficient price discovery with respect to our Class A common stock or sufficient demand among potential investors immediately after our listing, which could result in a more volatile price of our Class A common stock.
Since we are not conducting an underwritten initial public offering for our Class A common stock, the market price for our Class A common stock may be volatile and trading volume may be uncertain, which may adversely affect your ability to sell any shares of Class A common stock that you may purchase.
The price of our Class A common stock may be volatile, and could, upon listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, decline significantly and rapidly. Market volatility may affect the value of an investment in our Class A common stock and could subject us to litigation.
The listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and the registration of the registered stockholders’ shares of Class A common stock is a relatively novel process that is not an underwritten initial public offering. We have engaged Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Co., and Citigroup as our financial advisors. There will be no book building process and no price at which underwriters initially will sell shares of Class A common stock to the public to help inform efficient and sufficient price discovery with respect to the opening trades of the Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.
Pursuant to Nasdaq’s rules, once Goldman Sachs, in its capacity as our designated financial advisor to perform the functions under Nasdaq Rule 4120(c)(8), has notified Nasdaq that our shares of Class A common stock are ready to trade, Nasdaq will calculate the Current Reference Price for our shares of Class A common stock, in accordance with Nasdaq’s rules. If Goldman Sachs then approves proceeding at the Current Reference Price, Nasdaq will conduct price validation checks in accordance with Nasdaq rules. As part of conducting its price validation checks, Nasdaq may consult with Goldman Sachs and other market participants (including the other financial advisors). Upon completion of such price validation
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checks, the applicable orders that have been entered will then be executed at such price and regular trading of our shares of Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market will commence. Under Nasdaq’s rules, the “Current Reference Price” means: (i) the single price at which the maximum number of orders to buy or sell our shares of Class A common stock can be matched; (ii) if more than one price exists under clause (i), then the price that minimizes the number of our shares of Class A common stock for which orders cannot be matched; (iii) if more than one price exists under clause (ii), then the entered price (i.e. the specified price entered in an order by a customer to buy or sell) at which our shares of Class A common stock will remain unmatched (i.e. will not be bought or sold); and (iv) if more than one price exists under clause (iii), a price determined by Nasdaq after consultation with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Co., and Citigroup in their capacity as financial advisors, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Co., and Citigroup will exercise any consultation rights only to the extent that they may do so consistent with the anti-manipulation provisions of the federal securities laws, including Regulation M (to the extent applicable), or applicable relief granted thereunder. Goldman Sachs will determine when our shares of Class A common stock are ready to trade and approve proceeding at the Current Reference Price primarily based on consideration of volume, timing, and price. In particular, Goldman Sachs will determine, based primarily on pre-opening buy and sell orders, when a reasonable amount of volume will cross on the opening trade such that sufficient price discovery has been made to open trading at the Current Reference Price. If Goldman Sachs does not approve proceeding at the Current Reference Price (for example, due to the absence of adequate pre-opening buy and sell interest), Goldman Sachs will request that Nasdaq delay the open until such a time that sufficient price discovery has been made to ensure a reasonable amount of volume crosses on the opening trade. The length of such delay could vary greatly, from a short period of time such as one day, to a decision to not list our shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market at all. As a result, the absence of sufficient price discovery may result in delays in the opening of trading and, volatile prices and supply once trading commences. The opening public price may bear no relationship to the market price for our Class A common stock after our listing, and thus may decline below the opening public price.
Moreover, prior to the opening trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, there will not be a price at which underwriters initially sold shares of Class A common stock to the public as there would be in an underwritten initial public offering. The absence of a predetermined initial public offering price could impact the range of buy and sell orders collected by Nasdaq from various broker-dealers. Consequently, upon listing on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, the public price of our Class A common stock may be more volatile than in an underwritten initial public offering and could decline significantly and rapidly.
Moreover, because of the relatively novel listing process and the broad consumer awareness and brand recognition of our company, individual investors, retail, or otherwise, may have greater influence in setting the opening public price and subsequent public prices of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and may participate more in our initial trading than is typical for an underwritten initial public offering. These factors could result in a public price of our Class A common stock that is higher than other investors (such as institutional investors) are willing to pay, which could cause volatility in the trading price of our Class A common stock and an unsustainable trading price if the price of our Class A common stock significantly rises upon listing and institutional investors believe our Class A common stock is worth less than retail investors, in which case the price of our Class A common stock may decline over time. Further, if the public price of our Class A common stock is above the level that investors determine is reasonable for our Class A common stock, some investors may attempt to short our Class A common stock after trading begins, which would create additional downward pressure on the public price of our Class A common stock. Moreover, to the extent that there is a lack of consumer awareness among retail investors, such lack of consumer awareness could reduce the value of our Class A common stock and cause volatility in the trading price of our Class A common stock.
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Technology stocks have historically experienced high levels of volatility. The price of our Class A common stock also could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to the risk factors described in this prospectus and others beyond our control, including:
the number of shares of our Class A common stock publicly owned and available for trading;
overall performance of the equity markets or publicly-listed financial services and technology companies;
our actual or anticipated operating performance and the operating performance of our competitors;
changes in the projected operational and financial results we provide to the public or our failure to meet those projections;
failure of securities analysts to initiate or maintain coverage of us, changes in financial estimates by any securities analysts who follow our company, or our failure to meet the estimates or the expectations of investors;
any major change in our board of directors, management, or key personnel;
if we issue additional shares of capital stock, including in the form of blockchain tokens, in connection with customer reward or loyalty programs;
rumors and market speculation involving us or other companies in our industry;
announcements by us or our competitors of significant innovations, new products, services, features, integrations or capabilities, acquisitions, strategic investments, partnerships, joint ventures, or capital commitments; and
other events or factors, including those resulting from COVID-19, war, incidents of terrorism, or responses to these events.
Furthermore, the stock market has recently experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many companies and financial services and technology companies in particular. These fluctuations often have been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of those companies. These broad market and industry fluctuations, as well as general economic, political and market conditions such as recessions, interest rate changes, or international currency fluctuations, may negatively impact the market price of our Class A common stock. These fluctuations may be even more pronounced in the trading market for our Class A common stock shortly following the listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market as a result of the supply and demand forces described above. If the market price of our Class A common stock after our listing does not exceed the opening public price, you may not realize any return on your investment in us and may lose some or all of your investment. In the past, companies that have experienced volatility in the market price of their stock have been subject to securities class action litigation. We may be the target of this type of litigation in the future. Securities litigation against us could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention from other business concerns, which could harm our business.
The price of our Class A common stock may have little or no relationship to the historical sales prices of our capital stock in private transactions.
Prior to the registration and listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market there has been no public market for our capital stock. The historical sales prices of our capital stock are primarily from sales of shares of our capital stock in private transactions. In the section titled “Sale Price History of our Capital Stock,” we have provided the historical sales prices of our capital stock in private transactions. However, given the limited history of sales, among other factors, this information may have
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little or no relation to broader market demand for our Class A common stock and thus the price of our Class A common stock. As a result, you should not place undue reliance on these historical sales prices as they may differ materially from the opening price of the Class A common stock and subsequent prices of our Class A common stock. For more information about how the initial listing price of the Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market will be determined, see the section titled “Plan of Distribution.”
An active, liquid, and orderly market for our Class A common stock may not develop or be sustained. You may be unable to sell your shares of Class A common stock at or above the price you bought them for.
We currently expect our Class A common stock to be listed and traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Prior to the listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, there has been no public market for our Class A common stock. Moreover, consistent with Regulation M and other federal securities laws applicable to our listing, we have not consulted with registered stockholders or other existing stockholders regarding their desire or plans to sell shares in the public market following the listing or discussed with potential investors their intentions to buy our Class A common stock in the open market. While our Class A common stock may be sold after our listing of the Class A common stock on Nasdaq Global Select Market by the registered stockholders pursuant to this prospectus or by our other existing stockholders in accordance with Rule 144 of the Securities Act, unlike an underwritten initial public offering, there can be no assurance that any registered stockholders or other existing stockholders will sell any of their shares of Class A common stock. As a result, there may initially be a lack of supply of, or demand for, Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. In the case of a lack of supply of our Class A common stock, the trading price of our Class A common stock may rise to an unsustainable level. Further, institutional investors may be discouraged from purchasing our Class A common stock if they are unable to purchase a block of our Class A common stock in the open market due to a potential unwillingness of our existing stockholders to sell a sufficient amount of Class A common stock at the price offered by such institutional investors and the greater influence individual investors have in setting the trading price. If institutional investors are unable to purchase our Class A common stock, the market for our Class A common stock may be more volatile without the influence of long-term institutional investors holding significant amounts of our Class A common stock. Conversely, there can be no assurance that the registered stockholders and other existing stockholders will not sell all of their shares of Class A common stock, resulting in an oversupply of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. In the case of a lack of demand for our Class A common stock, the trading price of our Class A common stock could decline significantly and rapidly after the listing of our Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Therefore, an active, liquid, and orderly trading market for our Class A common stock may not initially develop or be sustained, which could significantly depress and result in significant volatility in the price of our Class A common stock. This could affect your ability to sell your shares of Class A common stock.
The dual class structure of our common stock will have the effect of concentrating voting control with those stockholders, including our directors, executive officers, and 5% stockholders, and their respective affiliates, who held in the aggregate 60.5% of the voting power of our capital stock upon the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part. This ownership will limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters, including the election of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, and any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets, or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval.
Our Class B common stock has twenty votes per share, and our Class A common stock has one vote per share. Upon the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, our directors, executive officers, and 5% stockholders, and their affiliates held in the aggregate 60.5% of the voting power of our capital stock. Because of the twenty-to-one voting ratio between our Class B common stock and our Class A common stock, the holders of our Class B common stock collectively could continue to control a significant percentage of the combined voting power of our common stock and
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therefore be able to control all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval until the earliest to occur of (i) the date fixed by the board of directors that is no less than 61 days and no more than 180 days following the first time after the date of effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part that the aggregate number of shares of Class B common stock held by Brian Armstrong and his affiliates is less than 25% of the aggregate number of shares of Class B common stock held by Mr. Armstrong and his affiliates on the date of effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part; (ii) the date and time specified by affirmative vote of the holders of at least 66-2/3% of the outstanding shares of Class B common stock, voting as a single class, and the affirmative vote of at least 66-2/3% of the then serving members of our board of directors, which must include the affirmative vote of Mr. Armstrong, if either (A) Mr. Armstrong is serving on our board of directors and has not been terminated for cause or resigned except for good reason (as each term is defined in our restated certificate of incorporation) from his position as our Chief Executive Officer or (B) Mr. Armstrong has not been removed for cause or resigned from the position of Chairman of the board of directors; and (iii) the death or disability (as defined in our and restated certificate of incorporation) of Mr. Armstrong, when all outstanding shares of Class B common stock will convert automatically into shares of Class A common stock. Holders of our Class A common stock will not be entitled to vote separately as a single class except under certain limited circumstances as described in the section titled “Description of Capital Stock—Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock—Voting Rights”. This concentrated control may limit or preclude your ability to influence corporate matters for the foreseeable future, including the election of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, and any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets, or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval. In addition, this may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our capital stock that you may believe are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.
Future transfers by holders of Class B common stock will generally result in those shares converting to Class A common stock, subject to limited exceptions, such as certain transfers effected for estate planning purposes. The conversion of Class B common stock to Class A common stock will have the effect, over time, of increasing the relative voting power of those holders of Class B common stock who retain their shares in the long term. As a result, it is possible that one or more of the persons or entities holding our Class B common stock could gain significant voting control as other holders of Class B common stock sell or otherwise convert their shares into Class A common stock. See the section titled “Description of Capital Stock—Anti-Takeover Provisions” for additional information.
The dual class structure of our common stock may adversely affect the trading market for our Class A common stock.
Certain stock index providers, such as S&P Dow Jones, exclude companies with multiple classes of shares of common stock from being added to certain stock indices, including the S&P 500. In addition, several stockholder advisory firms and large institutional investors oppose the use of multiple class structures. As a result, the dual class structure of our common stock may prevent the inclusion of our Class A common stock in such indices, may cause stockholder advisory firms to publish negative commentary about our corporate governance practices or otherwise seek to cause us to change our capital structure, and may result in large institutional investors not purchasing shares of our Class A common stock. Any exclusion from stock indices could result in a less active trading market for our Class A common stock. Any actions or publications by stockholder advisory firms or institutional investors critical of our corporate governance practices or capital structure could also adversely affect the value of our Class A common stock.
None of our stockholders are party to any contractual lock-up agreement or other contractual restrictions on transfer. Following our listing, the sales or distribution of substantial amounts of our Class A common stock, or the perception that such sales or distributions might occur, could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
In addition to the supply and demand and volatility factors discussed above, the sale or distribution of a substantial number of shares of our Class A common stock, particularly sales by us or our directors,
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executive officers, and principal stockholders, or the perception that these sales or distributions might occur in large quantities, could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
As of December 31, 2020, giving effect to the conversion and reclassification of our Series FF, Series A, Series B, Series C, and Series D convertible preferred stock into 104,046,301 shares of our Class B common stock, and our Series E convertible preferred stock into 8,831,952 shares of our Class A common stock, which will occur in connection with the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, we had 185,986,111 shares of common stock outstanding, all of which are “restricted securities” (as defined in Rule 144 under the Securities Act).
Approximately 170,258,748 shares of Class B common stock may be converted to Class A common stock and then immediately sold either by the registered stockholders pursuant to this prospectus or by our other existing stockholders under Rule 144 since such shares held by such other stockholders will have been beneficially owned by non-affiliates for at least one year. Moreover, once we have been a reporting company subject to the reporting requirements of Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act for 90 days and assuming the availability of certain public information about us, (i) non-affiliates who have beneficially owned our common stock for at least six months may rely on Rule 144 to sell their shares of Class A common stock, and (ii) our directors, executive officers, and other affiliates who have beneficially owned our common stock for at least six months, including certain of the shares of Class A common stock covered by this prospectus to the extent not sold hereunder, will be entitled to sell their shares of our Class A common stock subject to volume limitations under Rule 144 under the Securities Act and various vesting agreements.
Further, as of December 31, 2020, we had 63,255,357 options outstanding that, if fully exercised, would result in the issuance of 22,442,017 shares of Class B common stock and the issuance of 40,813,340 shares of Class A common stock and 3,765,760 shares of Class A common stock outstanding subject to RSUs. All of the shares of Class A common stock and Class B common stock issuable upon the exercise of stock options or vesting and settlement of RSUs, and reserved for future issuance under our equity incentive plans, will be registered for public resale under the Securities Act. Accordingly, these shares will be able to be freely sold in the public market upon issuance, subject to applicable vesting requirements and compliance by affiliates with Rule 144.
None of our stockholders are subject to any contractual lock-up or other contractual restriction on the transfer or sale of their shares.
Following the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, the holders of up to 109,385,725 shares of our common stock will have rights, subject to some conditions, to require us to file registration statements for the public resale of the Class A common stock issuable upon conversion of such shares or to include such shares in registration statements that we may file for us or other stockholders. Any registration statement we file to register additional shares, whether as a result of registration rights or otherwise, could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline or be volatile.
We also may issue our capital stock or securities convertible into our capital stock, including in the form of blockchain tokens, from time to time in connection with a financing, an acquisition, investments, pursuant to customer rewards, loyalty programs, and other incentive plans, or otherwise. Any such issuance could result in substantial dilution to our existing stockholders and cause the public price of our Class A common stock to decline.
If securities or industry analysts do not publish research, or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research, about our business, the price of our Class A common stock and its liquidity could decline.
The trading market for our Class A common stock will depend in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business, our market, and our competitors. We do not have any control over these analysts. If few securities analysts commence coverage of us, if industry
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analysts do not cover our Class A common stock, or if industry analysts cease coverage of us altogether, the trading price for our Class A common stock would be negatively affected. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our Class A common stock, or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the price of our Class A common stock may decline. If one or more of these analysts cease coverage of us or fail to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our Class A common stock could decrease, which might cause our Class A common stock price and trading volume to decline.
We are not obligated to, and do not intend to pay dividends on any class of our common stock for the foreseeable future.
We have never declared or paid any cash dividends on any class of our common stock, are not obligated to pay, and do not intend to pay any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. We anticipate that for the foreseeable future we will retain all of our future earnings for use in the development of our business and for general corporate purposes. Any determination to pay dividends in the future will be at the discretion of our board of directors.
Our payment of any dividends will be subject to contractual and legal restrictions and other factors that our board of directors deems relevant. Moreover, agreements governing any future indebtedness of ours may further limit our ability to pay dividends. In addition, our ability to pay dividends is limited by law. There is no assurance that we will be able or that our board of directors will decide to declare any dividends on any class of our common stock.
Accordingly, investors may have to rely on sales of their Class A common stock after price appreciation, which may never occur, as the only way to realize any future gains on their investment.
Provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law, and certain rules imposed by regulatory authorities, could make an acquisition of us, which may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult, limit attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management, limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees, and limit the price of our Class A common stock.
Provisions in our restated certificate of incorporation and restated bylaws that will become effective shortly following the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part may have the effect of delaying or preventing a merger, acquisition, or other change of control of our company that the stockholders may consider favorable. In addition, because our board of directors is responsible for appointing the members of our management team, these provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors. Among other things, our restated certificate of incorporation and restated bylaws include provisions that:
provide that our board of directors will be classified into three classes of directors with staggered three-year terms, subject to staggered board end dates as defined and further described in the section titled “Description of Capital Stock”;
permit our board of directors to establish the number of directors and fill any vacancies and newly-created directorships;
require unanimous approval of our board of directors for the nomination of directors for election, or to fill vacancies, on our board of directors, subject to staggered board end dates as defined and further described in the section titled “Description of Capital Stock”;
require super-majority voting to amend some provisions in our restated certificate of incorporation and restated bylaws;
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authorize the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock and common stock that our board of directors could use to implement a stockholder rights plan or issue other shares of preferred stock or common stock, including blockchain tokens;
provide that only our Chief Executive Officer or a majority of our board of directors will be authorized to call a special meeting of stockholders;
eliminate the ability of our stockholders to call special meetings of stockholders;
prohibit cumulative voting;
provide that directors may only be removed “for cause” and only with the approval of two-thirds of our stockholders, subject to staggered board end dates as defined and further described in the section titled “Description of Capital Stock”;
provide for a dual class common stock structure in which holders of our Class B common stock have the ability to control the outcome of matters requiring stockholder approval, even if they own significantly less than a majority of the outstanding shares of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock, including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets;
prohibit stockholder action by written consent, which requires all stockholder actions to be taken at a meeting of our stockholders, subject to staggered board end dates as defined and further described in the section titled “Description of Capital Stock”;
provide that the board of directors is expressly authorized to make, alter, or repeal our restated bylaws; and
advance notice requirements for nominations for election to our board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at annual stockholder meetings.
Moreover, Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law may discourage, delay, or prevent a change of control of our company. Section 203 imposes certain restrictions on mergers, business combinations, and other transactions between us and holders of 15% or more of our common stock. See the section titled “Description of Capital Stock” for additional information.
In addition, a third party attempting to acquire us or a substantial position in our common stock may be delayed or ultimately prevented from doing so by change in ownership or control regulations to which our regulated broker-dealer subsidiaries are subject. FINRA Rule 1017 generally provides that FINRA approval must be obtained in connection with any transaction resulting in a single person or entity owning, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of a member firm’s equity and would include a change of control of a parent company.
Our restated certificate of incorporation will contain an exclusive forum provision for certain claims, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees.
Our restated certificate of incorporation, to the fullest extent permitted by law, will provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the exclusive forum for any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf; any action asserting a claim that is based upon a breach of fiduciary duty; any action asserting a claim against us or any current or former director, officer, stockholder, employee or agent of ours, arising pursuant to the DGCL, our restated certificate of incorporation, or our restated bylaws; any action asserting a claim against us that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine; or any action asserting an “internal corporate claim” as defined in Section 115 of the DGCL.
Moreover, Section 22 of the Securities Act creates concurrent jurisdiction for federal and state courts over all claims brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act or the rules and
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regulations thereunder and our restated certificate of incorporation will provide that the federal district courts of the United States of America will, to the fullest extent permitted by law, be the exclusive forum for resolving any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act, or a Federal Forum Provision, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum. Our decision to adopt a Federal Forum Provision followed a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware holding that such provisions are facially valid under Delaware law. While there can be no assurance that federal or state courts will follow the holding of the Delaware Supreme Court or determine that the Federal Forum Provision should be enforced in a particular case, application of the Federal Forum Provision means that suits brought by our stockholders to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act must be brought in federal court and cannot be brought in state court. Section 27 of the Exchange Act creates exclusive federal jurisdiction over all claims brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act or the rules and regulations thereunder. The Federal Forum Provision will apply to suits brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act to the fullest extent permitted by law. Accordingly, actions by our stockholders to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act or the rules and regulations thereunder must be brought in federal court. Our stockholders will not be deemed to have waived our compliance with the federal securities laws and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring or holding any interest in any of our securities will be deemed to have notice of and consented to our exclusive forum provisions, including the Federal Forum Provision. These provisions may limit our stockholders’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum they find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers, and other employees. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in our restated certificate of incorporation to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could harm our business, operating results, and financial condition.
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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This prospectus contains forward-looking statements. All statements contained in this prospectus other than statements of historical fact, including statements regarding our future operating results and financial position, our business strategy and plans, market growth, and our objectives for future operations, are forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “potential,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “could,” “would,” “project,” “plan,” “target,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.
Forward-looking statements contained in this prospectus include, but are not limited to, statements about:
our future financial performance, including our expectations regarding our net revenue, operating expenses, and our ability to achieve and maintain future profitability;
our business plan and our ability to effectively manage our growth;
anticipated trends, growth rates, and challenges in our business, the cryptoeconomy, and in the markets in which we operate;
market acceptance of our products and services;
beliefs and objectives for future operations;
our ability to further penetrate our existing customer base and maintain and expand our customer base;
our ability to develop new products and services and grow our business in response to changing technologies, customer demand, and competitive pressures;
our expectations concerning relationships with third parties;
our ability to maintain, protect, and enhance our intellectual property;
our ability to continue to expand internationally;
the effects of increased competition in our markets and our ability to compete effectively;
future acquisitions of or investments in complementary companies, products, services, or technologies and our ability to successfully integrate such companies or assets;
our ability to stay in compliance with laws and regulations that currently apply or become applicable to our business both in the United States and internationally;
economic and industry trends, projected growth, or trend analysis;
trends in revenue, cost of revenue, and gross margin;
trends in operating expenses, including technology and development expenses, sales and marketing expenses, and general and administrative expenses, and expectations regarding these expenses as a percentage of revenue;
increased expenses associated with being a public company; and
other statements regarding our future operations, financial condition, and prospects and business strategies.
We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and trends that we believe may affect our operating results, financial condition,
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business strategy, short-term and long-term business operations and objectives, and financial needs. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, including those described in the section titled “Risk Factors.” Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risks emerge from time to time. It is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements we may make. In light of these risks, uncertainties, and assumptions, the future events and trends discussed in this prospectus may not occur and actual results could differ materially and adversely from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.
You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements may not be achieved or occur. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, performance, or achievements. We undertake no obligation to update any of these forward-looking statements for any reason after the date of this prospectus or to conform these statements to actual results or revised expectations, except as required by law.
You should read this prospectus and the documents that we reference in this prospectus and have filed with the SEC as exhibits to the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part with the understanding that our actual future results, performance, and events and circumstances may be materially different from what we expect.
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MARKET AND INDUSTRY DATA
Unless otherwise indicated, information contained in this prospectus concerning our industry and the markets in which we operate, including our general expectations, market position, market opportunity, and market size, is based on information from various third-party industry and research sources, as well as assumptions that we have made that are based on those data and other similar sources, and on our knowledge of the markets for our products and services. This information involves a number of assumptions and limitations, and you are cautioned not to give undue weight to such estimates. While we believe the market position, market opportunity, and market size information included in this prospectus is generally reliable, information of this sort is inherently imprecise. In addition, projections, assumptions, and estimates of our future performance and the future performance of the industry in which we operate is necessarily subject to a high degree of uncertainty and risk due to a variety of factors, including those described in the section titled “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this prospectus. These and other factors could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in the estimates made by the independent parties and by us.
This prospectus contains statistical data, estimates, and forecasts that are based on industry publications or reports generated by third-party providers, or other publicly available information, as well as other information based on internal estimates.
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USE OF PROCEEDS
Registered stockholders may elect to sell shares of our Class A common stock covered by this prospectus. To the extent any registered stockholder chooses to sell shares of our Class A common stock covered by this prospectus, we will not receive any proceeds from any such sales of our Class A common stock. See the section titled “Principal and Registered Stockholders.”
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DIVIDEND POLICY
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. We are not obligated to pay any dividends on the Class A common stock or Class B common stock and we currently intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings for use in the operation of our business and do not anticipate paying any dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future. Any future determination to declare dividends will be made at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on our financial condition, operating results, capital requirements, general business conditions, and other factors that our board of directors may deem relevant.
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CAPITALIZATION
The following table sets forth cash and cash equivalents, as well as our capitalization, as of December 31, 2020 on:
an actual basis; and
a pro forma basis, giving effect to (i) the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our Series FF, Series A, Series B, Series C, and Series D convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 104,046,301 shares of our Class B common stock, as if such conversion had occurred on December 31, 2020, (ii) the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our Series E convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 8,831,952 shares of our Class A common stock, as if such conversion had occurred on December 31, 2020, and (iii) the filing and effectiveness of our restated certificate of incorporation.
You should read this table together with our consolidated financial statements and related notes, and the sections titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” each included elsewhere in this prospectus.
As of December 31, 2020
ActualPro Forma
(in thousands, except share and per share data)
Cash and cash equivalents$1,061,850 $1,061,850 
Convertible preferred stock, $0.00001 par value; 126,605,028 shares authorized, 112,878,253 shares issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued and outstanding, pro forma
$562,467 $— 
Stockholders’ equity
Preferred stock, $0.00001 par value; no shares authorized, issued, and outstanding, actual; 500,000,000 shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma— — 
Class A common stock, $0.00001 par value; 267,640,000 shares authorized, 12,203,539 shares issued and outstanding, actual; 10,000,000,000 shares authorized, 21,035,491 shares issued and outstanding, pro forma
— — 
Class B common stock, $0.00001 par value; 208,413,936 shares authorized, 60,904,319 shares issued and outstanding, actual; 500,000,000 shares authorized, 164,950,620 shares issued and outstanding, pro forma
— 
Common stock, $0.00001 par value; no shares authorized, issued, and outstanding, actual; 500,000,000 shares authorized, no shares issued and outstanding, pro forma— — 
Additional paid-in capital231,024 793,490 
Accumulated other comprehensive income6,256 6,256 
Retained earnings726,304 726,304 
Total stockholders’ equity963,584 1,526,051 
Total capitalization$1,526,051 $1,526,051 
The number of shares of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock to be outstanding following the effectiveness of this registration statement is based upon 21,035,491 shares of our Class A
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common stock outstanding and 164,950,620 shares of our Class B common stock outstanding, in each case, as of December 31, 2020 and does not include:
3,550,279 shares of our Class A common stock and 22,442,017 shares of our Class B common stock issuable upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of our common stock as of December 31, 2020 under our Amended and Restated 2013 Stock Plan, or 2013 Plan, with a weighted-average exercise price of $5.26 per share;
37,230,658 shares of our Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of our Class A common stock as of December 31, 2020 under our 2019 Equity Incentive Plan, or 2019 Plan, with a weighted-average exercise price of $21.54 per share;
3,765,760 restricted stock units, or RSUs, covering shares of our Class A common stock that are issuable upon satisfaction of a service-based vesting condition outstanding as of December 31, 2020, for which the service-based vesting condition was not yet satisfied as of December 31, 2020, pursuant to our 2019 Plan;
1,607,982 RSUs covering shares of our Class A common stock that are issuable upon satisfaction of a service-based vesting condition that were granted after December 31, 2020, pursuant to our 2019 Plan;
32,403 shares of our Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of our Class A common stock that were assumed and converted from options to purchase shares of Tagomi Holdings Inc. common stock upon completion of our acquisition of Tagomi Holdings Inc. in July 2020, with a weighted-average exercise price of $5.31 per share;
470,128 shares of our Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of options to purchase shares of our Class A common stock that were assumed and converted from options to purchase shares of Bison Trails Co. common stock upon completion of our acquisition of Bison Trails Co. in February 2021, with a weighted average exercise price of $3.45 per share;
407,928 shares of our Class B common stock issuable upon the exercise of a warrant to purchase Class B common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2020, with an exercise price of $1.01 per share;
2,295,766 shares of Class A common stock reserved for the potential issuance pursuant to warrants to purchase shares of our Class A common stock that may be approved by our board of directors from time to time, of which, as of December 31, 2020, our board of directors had approved the issuance of a warrant exercisable for an aggregate of 229,577 shares of our Class A common stock at an exercise price of $0.00001 per share;
4,201 shares of our Class A common stock issuable upon the exercise of a warrant to purchase Class A common stock which we assumed in July 2020 in connection with the acquisition of Tagomi Holdings Inc., with an exercise price of $5.26 per share;
3,584,228 shares of our Class A common stock that we issued in connection with our acquisition of Bison Trails Co. in February 2021, 647,692 shares of which are subject to holdback; and
38,416,002 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our equity compensation plans, consisting of (i) 2,193,489 shares of our Class A common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2019 Plan as of December 31, 2020 (which reserve does not reflect (1) the options to purchase shares of our Class A common stock granted after December 31, 2020 and (2) an increase by 6,000,000 shares of our Class A common stock to the reserve under our 2019 Plan approved in February 2021), (ii) 31,047,869 shares of our Class A common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2021 Equity Incentive Plan, or 2021 Plan, which will become effective on the date immediately prior to the date of the effectiveness of this registration
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statement of which this prospectus forms a part, and (iii) 5,174,644 shares of our Class A common stock reserved for issuance under our 2021 ESPP, which will become effective on the date of the effectiveness of this registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part.
On the date immediately prior to the date of the effectiveness of this registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, any remaining shares available for issuance under our 2019 Plan will be added to the shares of our Class A common stock reserved for issuance under our 2021 Plan, and we will cease granting awards under our 2019 Plan. Our 2021 Plan and 2021 ESPP also provide for automatic annual increases in the number of shares reserved thereunder. See the section titled “Executive Compensation—Employee Benefit Plans” for additional information.
Except as otherwise indicated, all information in this prospectus assumes:
the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our Series FF, Series A, Series B, Series C, and Series D convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 104,046,301 shares of our Class B common stock;
the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our Class E convertible preferred stock as of December 31, 2020 into 8,831,952 shares of our Class A common stock;
no exercise, forfeitures, or expirations of outstanding stock options or warrants after December 31, 2020; and
the filing and effectiveness of our restated certificate of incorporation and the effectiveness of our restated bylaws, each of which will occur shortly following the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part.
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SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OTHER DATA
The following section presents our selected consolidated financial and other data. We derived our selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019 (except for the pro forma share and pro forma net income per share information) and our consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019 from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected for any other period in the future. The following summary consolidated financial and other data should be read in conjunction with the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this prospectus.
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Consolidated Statement of Operations Data
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands, except per share data)
Revenue:
Net revenue$1,141,167 $482,949 
Other revenue136,314 50,786 
Total revenue1,277,481 533,735 
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense135,514 82,055 
Technology and development271,732 185,044 
Sales and marketing56,782 24,150 
General and administrative279,880 231,929 
Restructuring— 10,140 
Other operating expense124,622 46,200 
Total operating expenses868,530 579,518 
Operating income (loss)408,951 (45,783)
Other income, net(248)(367)
Income (loss) before provision for (benefit from) income taxes409,199 (45,416)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes86,882 (15,029)
Net income (loss)$322,317 $(30,387)
Net income (loss) attributable to common stockholders:
Basic$108,256 $(30,387)
Diluted$127,471 $(30,387)
Net income (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Basic$1.58 $(0.50)
Diluted$1.40 $(0.50)
Weighted-average shares of common stock used to compute net income (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Basic68,671 61,317 
Diluted91,209 61,317 
Pro forma net income per share attributable to common stockholders (unaudited):
Basic$1.76 
Diluted$1.57 
Pro forma weighted-average shares of common stock used to compute pro forma net income per share attributable to common stockholders (unaudited):
Basic182,945 
Diluted205,575 
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Consolidated Balance Sheet Data
As of December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Cash and cash equivalents$1,061,850 $548,945 
Customer custodial funds3,763,392 1,201,350 
Total assets5,855,414 2,391,769 
Custodial funds due to customers3,849,468 1,106,815 
Total liabilities4,329,363 1,329,986 
Convertible preferred stock562,467 564,697 
Total stockholders’ equity963,584 497,086 
Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure
As of or for the Year Ended December 31,%
Change
20202019
(in millions, except percentages)
Verified Users43 32 34.4 %
Monthly Transacting Users2.81.0180.0 %
Assets on Platform$90,307 $16,969 432.2 %
Trading Volume$193,097 $79,906 141.7 %
Net income (loss)$322 $(30)NM
Adjusted EBITDA(1)
$527 $24 2,095.8 %
___________________
(1)Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure. For more information regarding our use of this measure and a reconciliation of net income to Adjusted EBITDA, see “—Non-GAAP Financial Measure” included within this section.
*NM—Not meaningful
Key business metrics
In addition to our financial results, we use the following business metrics to evaluate our business, measure our performance, identify trends affecting our business, and make strategic decisions:
Verified Users
We define Verified Users as all retail users, institutions, and ecosystem partners that have registered an account on our platform and confirmed either their email address or phone number, or that have established an account with a username on our non-custodial wallet application, as of the date of measurement. Verified Users are an indication of our scale and represent a potential revenue opportunity for us. These customers have demonstrated an interest in our platform or direct intent to transact with crypto assets. Verified Users represent the top level of our customer acquisition funnel. We believe we have an opportunity to engage Verified Users and convert them to MTUs by marketing our growing suite of products and services. Verified Users may overstate the number of unique customers who have registered an account on our platform as one customer may register for, and use, multiple accounts with different email addresses, phone numbers, or usernames.
Monthly Transacting Users (MTU)
We define a Monthly Transacting User, or MTU, as a retail user who actively or passively transacts in one or more products on our platform at least once during the rolling 28-day period ending on the date of measurement. MTUs presented for the end of a quarter are the average of each month’s MTUs in each respective quarter. MTUs represent our transacting base of retail users who drive potential revenue generating transactions on our platform. Revenue generating transactions include active transactions,
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such as buying or selling crypto assets through our Invest product and spending on the Coinbase Card, or passive transactions such as earning a staking or savings reward. MTUs also engage in transactions that are non-revenue generating such as Send and Receive. MTUs engage in transactions that drive both transaction revenue and subscription and services revenue.
Assets on Platform
We define Assets on Platform as the total U.S. dollar equivalent value of both fiat currency and crypto assets held or managed in digital wallets on our platform, including our custody services, calculated based on the market price on the date of measurement. Assets on Platform demonstrates the scale of balances held across our suite of products and services, the trust customers place in us to securely store their assets, and the underlying growth of the cryptoeconomy. Assets on Platform also represent our monetization opportunity for subscription products and services, including current products such as Store, Stake, Save, Borrow, and Lend. Assets on Platform generate fees that are recorded as subscription and services revenue when customers engage with these products.
Trading Volume
We define Trading Volume as the total U.S. dollar equivalent value of matched trades transacted between a buyer and seller through our platform during the period of measurement. Trading Volume represents the product of the quantity of asset transacted and the trade price at the time the transaction was executed. As trading activity directly impacts transaction revenue, we believe this measure is a reflection of liquidity on our order books, trading health, and the underlying growth of the cryptoeconomy. Trading Volume on our platform is influenced by the price of Bitcoin and Crypto Asset Volatility. In periods of high Bitcoin price and/or Crypto Asset Volatility, we have experienced correspondingly high levels of Trading Volume on our platform.
Non-GAAP financial measure
In addition to our results determined in accordance with GAAP, we believe Adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP measure, is useful in evaluating our operating performance. We use Adjusted EBITDA to evaluate our ongoing operations and for internal planning and forecasting purposes. We believe that Adjusted EBITDA may be helpful to investors because it provides consistency and comparability with past financial performance. However, Adjusted EBITDA is presented for supplemental informational purposes only, has limitations as an analytical tool, and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for financial information presented in accordance with GAAP. Among other non-cash and non-recurring items, Adjusted EBITDA excludes stock-based compensation expense, which has recently been, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, a significant recurring expense for our business and an important part of our compensation strategy. In addition, other companies, including companies in our industry, may calculate similarly titled non-GAAP measures differently or may use other measures to evaluate their performance, all of which could reduce the usefulness of our non-GAAP financial measures as tools for comparison. A reconciliation is provided below for each non-GAAP financial measure to the most directly comparable financial measure stated in accordance with GAAP. Investors are encouraged to review the related GAAP financial measures and the reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to their most directly comparable GAAP financial measures, and not to rely on any single financial measure to evaluate our business.
We calculate Adjusted EBITDA as net income (loss), adjusted to exclude interest expense, provision for (benefit from) income taxes, depreciation and amortization, interest expense, stock-based compensation expense, impairment of goodwill, acquired intangibles and crypto assets, restructuring expenses, non-recurring acquisition-related compensation expenses, unrealized gain or loss on foreign exchange, fair value adjustments on derivatives, and non-recurring legal reserves and related costs. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019, we did not have any significant interest expense.
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The following table provides a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA:
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Net income (loss)$322,317 $(30,387)
Adjusted to exclude the following:
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes86,882 (15,029)
Depreciation and amortization30,962 16,878 
Interest expense2,634 — 
Stock-based compensation69,889 31,147 
Impairment8,355 2,252 
Restructuring— 10,140 
Non-recurring acquisition-related compensation expenses(1)
— 7,370 
Unrealized loss (gain) on foreign exchange1,057 (3,106)
Fair value adjustments on derivatives5,254 — 
Legal reserves and related costs— 5,000 
Adjusted EBITDA$527,350 $24,265 
__________________
(1)For more information, see the section titled "Neutrino" in note 4 to our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus.
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MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations together with the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data” and our consolidated financial statements and the related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus. Some of the information contained in this discussion and analysis or set forth elsewhere in this prospectus, including information with respect to our plans and strategy for our business, includes forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. You should read the sections titled “Risk Factors” and “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” for a discussion of important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in the following discussion and analysis.
Overview
Coinbase powers the cryptoeconomy.
Our mission is to create an open financial system for the world. Today, the way that we invest, spend, save, and generally manage our money remains cumbersome, inaccessible, expensive, and regionally isolated. In contrast, the internet has transformed our society by connecting the world and enabling the seamless exchange of information. The legacy financial system is struggling to keep pace with the speed of technological advancements in a global and digitally interconnected society, resulting in the need for a new, natively digital financial system.
We are building the cryptoeconomy – a more fair, accessible, efficient, and transparent financial system for the internet age that leverages crypto assets: digital assets built using blockchain technology.
We started in 2012 with the radical idea that anyone, anywhere, should be able to easily and securely send and receive Bitcoin, the first crypto asset. We built a trusted platform for accessing Bitcoin and the broader cryptoeconomy by reducing the complexity of the industry through a simple and intuitive user experience.
Today, we are a leading provider of end-to-end financial infrastructure and technology for the cryptoeconomy. Customers around the world discover and begin their journeys with crypto through Coinbase. In the early days of the internet, Google democratized access to information through its user-friendly search engine, enabling virtually any user with an internet connection to discover the world’s information. Similarly, Coinbase is democratizing access to the cryptoeconomy by enabling anyone with an internet connection to easily and securely invest in and use crypto assets.
Customers that start with us, grow with us as they experience the benefits of the open financial system by using crypto-based products for staking, spending, saving, and borrowing. Today, our platform enables approximately 43 million retail users, 7,000 institutions, and 115,000 ecosystem partners in over 100 countries to participate in the cryptoeconomy:
Retail users: We offer the primary financial account for the cryptoeconomy – a safe, trusted, and easy-to-use platform to invest, store, spend, earn, and use crypto assets.
Institutions: We provide hedge funds, money managers, and corporations a one-stop shop for accessing crypto markets through advanced trading and custody technology, built on top of a robust security infrastructure. We also offer a state of the art marketplace with a deep pool of liquidity for transacting in crypto assets.
Ecosystem partners: We provide developers, merchants, and asset issuers a platform with technology and services that enables them to build applications that leverage crypto protocols, actively participate in crypto networks, and securely accept cryptocurrencies as payment.
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Our unique approach draws retail users, institutions, and ecosystem partners to our platform, creating a powerful flywheel: retail users and institutions store assets and drive liquidity, enabling us to expand the depth and breadth of crypto assets that we offer, and launch new, innovative products and services that attract new customers. Our scale and leadership position draws ecosystem partners to connect with our millions of customers around the world, further enhancing the value of our platform.
This self-reinforcing dynamic is enabled by our culture of repeatable innovation and continuous investment in our proprietary technology platform that is purpose built to address the unique engineering, cybersecurity, compliance, and usability challenges of directly interacting with blockchain protocols. With every turn of our flywheel, we develop a deeper understanding of our customers’ needs and leverage our scalable platform to intelligently design, develop, launch, and market new, innovative products and services to our customers. This allows us to build a more tailored suite of products and services and enhances the value of our platform over time. By providing the necessary infrastructure and distribution for our current and future ecosystem partners to build and extend their reach, we also foster the growth of the ecosystem.
We have grown quickly and in a capital-efficient manner since our founding. However, similar to the evolution of the internet, e-commerce, and prior paradigm shifts in technology, our journey has not been linear. Due to the highly volatile nature of crypto asset prices and trading activity, historically our operating results have, and we expect will, continue to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter in line with market sentiment and trading activity. Transaction revenue is our primary source of revenue today and is derived directly from Trading Volume. Historically, we have observed a correlation between Trading Volume and both Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility. These correlations have generally been more pronounced with retail than institutional Trading Volume, and over the course of 2020, we saw an increase in institutional trading activity. Between June 30, 2020 and December 31, 2020, we saw the correlation between Crypto Asset Volatility and Trading Volume begin to weaken, while the correlation between Bitcoin price and Trading Volume remained.
While we experience high variance in Trading Volume and transaction revenue between quarters, we evaluate our business and key metrics over longer periods of time, and have seen clear growth with median quarterly Trading Volume increasing from $17 billion to $21 billion to $38 billion in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. Over the long term, we expect further diversification of market participants, to add support for more crypto assets, and for crypto asset use cases to expand. We believe these factors will contribute to diversification in the composition of our Trading Volume and reduce the correlation to both Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility, subsequently leading to lower volatility in transaction revenues. Further, we expect that diversifying our sources of revenue towards subscription and services revenue will contribute to less fluctuation in our results from operations.
For the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019, we generated total revenue of $1.3 billion and $533.7 million, respectively, net income (loss) of $322.3 million and $(30.4) million, respectively, and Adjusted EBITDA of $527.4 million and $24.3 million, respectively. See the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure—Non-GAAP Financial Measure” for information regarding our use of Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA.
Our Business Model
We believe that we are in the early stages in the development of the cryptoeconomy. While we have grown rapidly, our growth has not been linear. Instead, it has come in waves aligned with crypto asset price cycles which tend to be volatile and draw new customers, investment, and developers into the ecosystem, and typically lead to higher Trading Volume and Monthly Transacting Users, or MTUs, on our platform. For example, in 2020, as the price of Bitcoin increased from approximately $7,000 to $29,000, we experienced a correspondingly high increase in Trading Volume, which grew from nearly $80 billion in 2019 to $193 billion in 2020.
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We have observed four major crypto asset price cycles since 2010. Each cycle has had a variable duration ranging from approximately two to four years, and has increased the overall crypto market capitalization significantly from the prior cycle. In the three price cycles prior to the current one, which we believe we entered in late 2020, crypto prices have subsequently declined from each peak and settled at a trough higher than the prior peak. These cycles are visible when viewing the price of Bitcoin, the first and largest crypto asset, over time on a logarithmic scale.
Bitcoin Price (Log Scale)

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In the past, crypto markets have not appeared correlated with the broader U.S. equity markets. This trend held true until February 2020, when the U.S. stock market and crypto markets experienced a significant downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through December 31, 2020, these markets subsequently appeared more correlated as each market recovered.
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Crypto Market Capitalization vs. S&P 500

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At this stage in the development of the cryptoeconomy, we choose to prioritize growth because we believe that global scale is central to achieving our mission and the potential of our business model. We intend to continue to invest to drive growth in our business and the ecosystem. While our financial performance has and will fluctuate significantly between periods, our expenses are largely independent of our net revenue. Historically, we have benefited from profits during periods of higher Bitcoin prices or Crypto Asset Volatility and experienced a loss during periods of lower Bitcoin prices or Crypto Asset Volatility. While we have benefited overall from past profitability, going forward, we may see periods of profit or loss. For the foreseeable future, our intent is to reinvest profits to drive growth in both our business and the ecosystem.
Since inception through December 31, 2020, we generated over $3.4 billion in total revenue, largely from transaction fees that we earn from volume-based trades on our platform by retail users and institutions. For the year ended December 31, 2020, transaction revenue represented over 96% of our net revenue. Due to the volatile nature of crypto asset prices and trading activity, our operating results fluctuate significantly between periods. To better understand our performance, we evaluate our business, including our key metrics, over longer periods of time and across crypto asset price cycles. Due to the nature of our business and the early stage of the industry, we believe evaluating our business over longer time horizons is more informative than evaluating quarter-over-quarter fluctuations in operating results and metrics.
Since late 2018, we have focused on launching a suite of subscription products and services, such as Store, Stake, and Borrow & Lend, with the goal of providing a full service, diversified platform for the broader cryptoeconomy. These products and services reduce dependence on transaction revenue, which is highly volatile. For most of these products and services, such as Store, Save, Stake, and Borrow & Lend, we generate revenue based on a percentage of the assets on our platform participating in the product or service. As a result, we believe growing Assets on Platform will drive growth in subscription
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and services revenue. In the future, we also expect to grow revenue from our ecosystem partner products – Distribute, Build, and Pay – based on a fixed fee and/or usage of the product or service. We believe we have demonstrated the ability to repeatedly innovate, and since inception have launched the following products and services:
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Today, we directly integrate with over 15 blockchain protocols, support over 90 crypto assets for trading or custody, and offer a suite of subscription products and services that have enhanced the customer value proposition and power of our platform.
Supported Assets
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Retail users are now engaging with multiple products — across the four quarters ended December 31, 2020, on average, 21% of retail users who invested also engaged with at least one non-investing
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product4 per quarter. When retail users invested and engaged with at least one non-investing product, we saw average net revenue per retail user increase by approximately 90%. Although subscription products and services do not currently contribute a significant portion of net revenue relative to our trading business, we experienced 126% annual growth in revenue from these products and services from 2019 to 2020. We are committed to growing more stable revenue from subscription products and services, and expect that they will contribute a larger portion of our total revenue over time as our customers connect with the broader cryptoeconomy.
Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure and Trends
Key business metrics
In addition to our financial results, we use the following business metrics to evaluate our business, measure our performance, identify trends affecting our business, and make strategic decisions. For a definition of these key business metrics, see the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure—Key Business Metrics.”
Verified Users
Verified Users represent users who have demonstrated an interest in our platform. Our Verified Users increased sequentially for all quarters in the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019, and 2020, primarily due to growth in our products and services and the overall increase in interest in the cryptoeconomy. Our retail Wallet application, which launched in mid-2018, had grown to over 2 million users through the year ended December 31, 2020.
Verified Users
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Monthly Transacting Users
MTUs represent our active and passive transacting base of retail users and reflect revenue opportunities on our platform. MTUs drive retail Trading Volume, and include retail users who engage with
4 Non-investing products include our Distribute, Stake, Save, Spend, and Borrow & Lend products.
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transaction-based products such as Invest, Spend, Send and Receive, Stake, and Distribute. MTUs have historically been correlated with both the price of Bitcoin and Crypto Asset Volatility.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, we began launching subscription products and services, which have driven broader engagement across our platform. MTUs have begun to appear less correlated to Crypto Asset Volatility, but have remained correlated with the price of Bitcoin. Over time, as we add additional products and services, and expand the assets supported on our platform, we expect these correlations to decrease.
Monthly Transacting Users and Crypto Asset Volatility
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Assets on Platform
Assets on Platform is a measure of the scale of total value held on our platform. We believe Assets on Platform reflects the trusted nature of our platform and a monetization opportunity. Assets on Platform generate fees that are recorded as subscription and services revenue when customers engage with these products. The value of Assets on Platform is driven by three factors – the price, quantity, and type of crypto assets held by customers on our platform.
Changes in the price and quantity, particularly for Bitcoin and Ethereum, or type of crypto asset held on our platform can result in the growth or decline in Assets on Platform in a particular period. For example, we could see an increase in the quantity of assets held on our platform – measured in units of crypto assets or fiat currencies – but the value of Assets on Platform could decline if the corresponding price of a crypto asset declines. Conversely, Assets on Platform can increase in a particular period despite a decline in the quantity of assets held on our platform if the decline is offset by rising crypto asset prices.
Because Assets on Platform is driven by multiple factors, some of which are market-dependent, this metric has fluctuated in the short term. For example, Assets on Platform decreased in 2018 as crypto asset prices, in particular those of Bitcoin and Ethereum, fell from their highs in 2017. Between December 31, 2017 and December 31, 2018, Bitcoin and Ethereum prices fell approximately 74% and 82%, respectively, and total crypto asset market capitalization decreased by 80%. During the same period, our
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Assets on Platform decreased by 73%. Despite short term fluctuations, Assets on Platform has grown over the longer term from $7 billion to $17 billion to $90 billion as of December 31, 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively, driven by growth in the price, quantity, and types of crypto assets we support.
Assets on Platform and Crypto Market Capitalization
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In 2019, the quantity of assets we stored increased significantly driven by both organic growth and our acquisition of Xapo’s institutional custody business. To normalize for fluctuations in price, we evaluate our share of the total market capitalization of crypto assets. We measure this by comparing the total value of crypto assets on our platform, a subset of Assets on Platform, to the total market capitalization of crypto assets.
As of December 31, 2020, the total value of crypto assets on our platform represented 11.1% of the total market capitalization of crypto assets, increasing from 8.3% and 4.5% as of December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018, respectively. In 2020, our Assets on Platform initially decreased before subsequently increasing driven by growth in the quantity, price, and breadth of crypto assets we support. We expect that the quantity of crypto assets held on our platform will steadily increase as we expand our suite of products and services and the number and types of supported crypto assets.
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Share of Crypto Market Capitalization
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Historically, we have derived a material portion of our Assets on Platform from the storage of Bitcoin and Ethereum. For the year ended December 31, 2019, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto assets represented 70%, 9%, and 15% of Assets on Platform, respectively, and for the year ended December 31, 2020, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto assets represented 70%, 13%, and 13% of Assets on Platform,respectively. For each period, the remaining balance consisted of fiat currencies held on behalf of our customers.
Assets on Platform Concentration
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Trading Volume
Trading Volume is directly correlated with transaction revenue and is influenced by both Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility. We have experienced periods of low and high Trading Volume, and therefore transaction revenue, driven by periods of rising or declining Bitcoin prices and/or lower or higher Crypto Asset Volatility. During periods of rising Bitcoin prices and higher Crypto Asset Volatility, we have generally observed higher Trading Volume on our platform and across the broader cryptoeconomy.
There are a number of factors that contribute to changes in Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility, including, but not limited to, changes in the supply and demand for a particular crypto asset, crypto market sentiment, macroeconomic factors, utility of a particular crypto asset, and idiosyncratic events such as exchange outages or social media. For example, over the course of 2020 we observed institutions invest in Bitcoin as a hedge against inflation at an accelerated rate. Further, we saw growth in the use of crypto assets to participate in decentralized finance, or DeFi, applications such as peer-to-peer borrowing and lending, with the total value allocated towards decentralized finance globally growing from under $1 billion to over $15 billion from December 31, 2019 to December 31, 2020.
Occasionally, planned network events such as an airdrop, where the network provides holders of a particular crypto asset with a reward, or a “halving”, when the reward for validating transactions for a crypto network is reduced by half, can lead to shifts in customer interest for a specific crypto asset. Event-driven changes in customer interest tend to be temporary, and as a result, our financial performance following such events may not be indicative of future operating performance or financial condition.
Retail Trading Volume is more influenced by Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility than institutional Trading Volume, and we have experienced lower period over period fluctuations in volume from institutions. As institutional trading increases, we expand the number and types of crypto assets we support, and the utility of crypto assets expands, and we expect the correlation between Bitcoin price, Crypto Asset Volatility and Trading Volume to decrease.
Trading Volume and Crypto Asset Volatility
image1a.jpg
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Historically, a significant portion of Trading Volume and transaction fee revenue has been driven by the purchase, sale, and trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum, and in 2019, Litecoin. For example, for the year ended December 31, 2019, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and other crypto assets represented approximately 58%, 14%, 10%, and 18% of Trading Volume and 60%, 11%, 8%, and 21% of our transaction revenue, respectively, and for the year ended December 31, 2020, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto assets represented approximately 41%, 15%, and 44% of Trading Volume and 44%, 12%, and 44% of our transaction revenue, respectively.
Trading Volume Concentration
tradingvolumeconcentration1a.jpg
Concentration in Trading Volume can vary widely between periods. In 2020, other crypto assets contributed a greater share of Trading Volume. This growth was driven by the addition of over 20 crypto assets, including multiple DeFi crypto assets, which diversified Trading Volume away from Bitcoin and Ethereum. During the year ended December 31, 2019, no asset other than Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin individually represented more than 10% of our Trading Volume or transaction revenue, respectively. During the year ended December 31, 2020, no asset other than Bitcoin and Ethereum individually represented more than 10% of our Trading Volume or transaction revenue, respectively. Going forward, we expect greater diversification of Trading Volume and transaction revenue by crypto asset as we continue to expand the breadth of assets available through our platform and as other crypto assets gain broader adoption. However, should the availability of one or more crypto assets on our platform change, it may have an adverse effect on our operating performance.
Non-GAAP financial measure
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Adjusted EBITDA$527,350 $24,265 
We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income (loss), adjusted to exclude interest expense, provision for (benefit from) income taxes, depreciation and amortization, stock-based compensation expense, impairment of goodwill, acquired intangibles and crypto assets, restructuring expenses, non-recurring acquisition-related compensation expenses, unrealized gain or loss on foreign exchange, fair value adjustments on derivatives, and non-recurring legal reserves and related costs.
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Adjusted EBITDA increased in the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 primarily due to increased transaction revenue.
See the section titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data—Key Business Metrics and Non-GAAP Financial Measure—Non-GAAP Financial Measure” for information regarding our use of Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA.
Key Factors Affecting Our Performance
The growth and success of our business as well as our financial condition and operating results have been, and will continue to be affected by a number of factors, including:
Price and volatility of crypto assets
Transaction revenue is our primary source of revenue today and is derived directly from Trading Volume. As a result, transaction revenue is correlated with Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility. There are a number of factors that contribute to changes in Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility, including, but not limited to, changes in the supply and demand for a particular crypto asset, crypto market sentiment, macroeconomic factors, utility of a particular crypto asset, and idiosyncratic events such as exchange outages or social media. While we have experienced periods of low and high Trading Volume driven by periods of rising or declining Bitcoin prices and/or higher or lower Crypto Asset Volatility, we evaluate our business over longer periods of time and have seen clear growth with median quarterly Trading Volume increasing in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively.
We also have other products, including Store, which are priced based on the value of the underlying crypto assets. As such, the price of crypto assets in any given period may have a significant impact on our revenue. Our continued growth is in part dependent upon the long term continued growth in the overall market capitalization of crypto assets.
We are also exposed to price volatility with respect to the corporate crypto assets we hold, including crypto assets received from airdrops or forks. A decline in price may require us to take an impairment charge on our crypto assets and a decline in the value of the crypto assets we hold in higher concentrations may have a larger impact on our operating results in any given period.
Our future earnings and cash flows will be impacted when we choose to monetize our crypto assets and the variability of our earnings will be dependent on the future fair value of such crypto assets. We have limited ability to predict whether the sale of crypto assets received from airdrops or forks will be material to our future earnings, which is dependent on the future market viability and fair value of such crypto assets. Our current policy is not to monetize unsupported forks or airdrops held on our platform. Crypto assets received through airdrops and forks, at the time of the airdrop or fork and at the end of the periods presented, are not material to our financial statements.
As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the cost basis and fair value of our crypto assets held, excluding crypto asset borrowings at cost of $6.1 million and $0, respectively, was as follows:
20202019
CostFair valueCostFair value
(in millions)
Bitcoin$39.4 $130.1 $15.0 $27.0 
Ethereum5.1 23.8 4.1 4.5 
Other17.8 34.0 14.8 15.1 
Total$62.3 $187.9 $33.9 $46.6 
The fair value is primarily based on the closing quoted market prices on our platform as of the end of the period.
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Adoption of crypto assets
We have and remain solely focused on building technology to power the cryptoeconomy. As such, our financial performance is dependent on the continued growth in interest and adoption of crypto. Moreover, our growth strategy depends on our continued ability to add customers, expand the breadth of crypto assets on our platform, and launch innovative products. Over time, we have observed a positive trend in the total market capitalization of crypto assets which indicates increased adoption. The compounded annual growth rate, or CAGR, of crypto assets was over 150% between December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2020. However, historical trends are not indicative of future adoption, and it is possible that the adoption of crypto assets and blockchain technology may slow, take longer to develop, or never be broadly adopted, which would negatively impact our business and operating results.
Offering additional products and services
Our Verified User base represents a sizable opportunity to offer our expanding suite of products and services with minimal incremental sales and marketing expense. Products or services we launch generally have the potential to be sold to each of our three customer segments: retail users, institutions, and ecosystem partners. We plan to continue to invest in the development of new subscription products and services and increase sales and marketing efforts to drive adoption across our customer base. To the extent we are able to successfully sell new products and services to our customers, our revenue will be positively affected. For example, when retail users invested and engaged with at least one non-investing product, the average net revenue per retail user increased by approximately 90% across the four quarters ended December 31, 2020. Conversely, if we are unable to sell additional products and services to new and existing customers, our operating results may be negatively impacted.
Investments in growth
Our investments in growth include new products and services, sales and marketing, and global expansion.
We will continue to invest in the development of products and services to enhance the value proposition of our platform for our customers. In the near term, we are focused on becoming the primary financial account for retail users to access the cryptoeconomy, touching every crypto transaction and building a one-stop shop for institutions, and solving our ecosystem partners’ diverse problems, including a lack of distribution, trust and usability, and the availability of easy-to-use and scalable infrastructure. We expect to meaningfully increase headcount to drive and support our anticipated growth. Although we expect these investments to benefit our business over the long term, we expect our total operating expenses will increase on an absolute basis for the foreseeable future. In the short term, these investments may have negative effects on our operating results as a large portion of our operating expenses are not correlated with transaction revenue which fluctuates with market conditions.
We also plan to invest in sales and marketing channels such as digital advertising and referral and affiliate programs, which we believe will drive further growth. Given the volatility of our transaction revenue, investments in sales and marketing may not result in returns in the same period in which they are made but over subsequent periods, which could adversely affect near-term operating results.
We intend to continue to develop products and services for our global customer base and to expand our reach internationally through investments in local offices, marketing, strategic acquisitions, and partnerships. Our ability to expand into new markets depends on many factors including, but not limited to, compliance with local rules and regulations, demand for crypto assets, competition, and infrastructure. We believe our brand and reputation as a trusted, compliant, and easy-to-use provider of services to the cryptoeconomy will position us well to increase our global presence. Our ability to successfully navigate the aforementioned factors and continue to grow internationally will impact our future operating results.
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Ability to competitively price our products and services
Our operating results depend on our ability to competitively price our products and services. Similar to other financial products, as the industry matures we anticipate fee pressure to emerge over time. Our strategy is to maintain our position as a trusted brand in the crypto space and develop new products to enhance our customer value proposition and offset the effects of any future fee pressure. If we are unable to capture value through the development of new and existing products and services or if fee pressure emerges more rapidly than we anticipate, our operating results may be adversely affected.
Control of transaction expense
Our transaction expense primarily consists of account verification fees, payment processing fees, and fraud loss expenses. We have made, and will continue to make, significant investments in our bank, payment processor, and vendor partnerships in order to manage our overall transaction expense. Maintaining these relationships has always been and will continue to be a top priority for us.
Our strategy to manage fraud is to continue investing in advanced technology for identity verification and fraud detection. Managing fraud is essential to operating profitably and maintaining the trust of our customers and our transaction processing vendors. We believe our current efforts and our forward strategy put us in a strong position to reduce our fraud rate as a percentage of total volume and capture savings as we continue to scale our platform. If we are unsuccessful at managing these expenses, our operating results may be adversely affected.
Strategic acquisitions, investments, and partnerships
We intend to continue growing our platform through strategic acquisitions, investments, and partnerships. We plan to acquire and invest in companies with complementary products and technologies. Our strategic acquisitions may affect our future financial results. We will also continue to enter into strategic partnerships with various companies to scale our business, including, but not limited to, partnerships to increase traffic to our platform, banking and payment processor partnerships, such as our partnership with PayPal, that enable us to bridge traditional finance with crypto assets, and partnerships to expand our product and service offerings such as our partnerships with Visa for the Coinbase Card or with the Centre Consortium and Circle Internet Financial for USDC. We believe these partnerships benefit our users by expanding the opportunities for users to engage with the cryptoeconomy. Over the long term, we expect these partnerships will drive an increase in our MTUs, which we believe, in turn, will drive an increase in both transaction and subscription and services revenue.
Regulation in U.S. and international markets
Our financial prospects and continued growth depend in part on our ability to continue to operate in a compliant manner. Our business is subject to the oversight of numerous regulatory agencies in the United States and other jurisdictions, including, but not limited to, FinCEN, the SEC, the CFTC, and NYDFS. Our strategy is to continue to invest significantly in our finance, legal, compliance, and security functions in order to remain at the forefront of crypto policy initiatives and regulatory trends. As the industry matures, we may experience fluctuations in our operating results as a result of changes in the law and regulations that are applicable to our business, which may limit our ability to support new blockchains and crypto assets, onboard customers, and offer our products and services across jurisdictions. Further, should the availability of one or more crypto assets on our platform change, it may have a material adverse effect on our operating results. For example, in December 2020, the SEC announced that it had filed an action against Ripple Labs, Inc., alleging that XRP, an asset supported on our platform, was an unregistered security.
As a result of the SEC’s action against Ripple, we made the decision in December 2020 to suspend all XRP trading pairs on our platform effective as of January 19, 2021, while maintaining deposit and withdrawal functionality. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, XRP represented $17.0 billion and $3.4 billion of Trading Volume and $108.6 million and $27.1 million of total revenue,
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respectively. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, XRP represented $1.2 billion and $485.9 million of our Assets on Platform, respectively. Going forward we expect no Trading Volume or total revenue related to XRP trading, and expect a decrease in Assets on Platform attributable to XRP.
Impact of COVID-19 to our Business
The 2020 outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease that it causes has evolved into a global pandemic. In response to the pandemic and for the protection of our employees, in March 2020, we implemented remote work arrangements for nearly all of our employees and restricted business travel. Our products and services are all accessible through our technology platform and do not require physical customer interaction, thus, our ability to meet our customers’ needs has not been materially affected. While the broader economic implications remain uncertain, the COVID-19 pandemic has, to date, not had any measurable material impact on our operating results.
Components of Results of Operations
Net revenue
Transaction revenue
We generate substantially all of our net revenue from transaction fees from trades that occur on our platform. The transaction fee earned is based on the price and quantity of the crypto asset that is bought, sold, or withdrawn. Transaction revenue is recognized at the time the transaction is processed and is directly correlated with Trading Volume on our platform, which has historically been influenced by the price of Bitcoin and Crypto Asset Volatility. We have experienced periods of low and high Trading Volume, and therefore transaction revenue, driven by periods of rising or declining Bitcoin prices and/or lower or higher Crypto Asset Volatility. During periods of rising Bitcoin prices and higher Crypto Asset Volatility, we have generally observed higher Trading Volume on our platform and across the broader cryptoeconomy.
Over the long term, we expect further diversification of market participants, to add support for more crypto assets, and for crypto asset use cases to expand. We believe these factors will contribute to diversification in the composition of our Trading Volume and reduce the correlation to Bitcoin price and Crypto Asset Volatility, subsequently leading to lower volatility in transaction revenue.
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Subscription and services revenue
Subscription and services revenue primarily consists of:
image5a.jpg
We also earn interest income on customer custodial fiat funds held at certain third-party banks, which is calculated using the interest method. Our interest income is dependent on the balance of custodial fiat funds and the prevailing interest rate environment.
Other revenue
Other revenue includes the sale of crypto assets when we are the principal in the transaction. Periodically, as an accommodation to customers, we may fulfill customer transactions using our own crypto assets. We fulfill customer accommodation transactions using our own assets for orders that do not meet the minimum trade size for execution on our platform or to maintain customers’ trade execution and processing times during unanticipated system disruptions. We have custody and control of these crypto assets prior to the sale to the customer and record revenue at the point in time when the sale is processed. Accordingly, we record the total value of the sale as revenue and the cost of the crypto asset in other operating expense. Transactions involving our sale of crypto assets represented less than 11% of our total revenue for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
Other revenue also includes interest income earned primarily on our cash and cash equivalents. Interest income is calculated using the interest method and depends on the balance of cash and cash equivalents as well as the prevailing interest rate environment.
Operating expenses
Operating expenses consist of transaction, technology and development, sales and marketing, general and administrative, restructuring expenses, and other operating expense.
Transaction expense
Transaction expense includes costs incurred to operate our platform, process crypto asset trades, and perform wallet services. These costs include account verification fees, fees to process transactions on blockchain network, fees paid to payment processors and other financial institutions for customer transaction activity, and crypto asset losses due to transaction reversals. Fixed-fee costs are expensed over the term of the contract and transaction-level costs are expensed as incurred.
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We plan to continue to drive customer account activity and expand the reach of our platform. Transaction expense will fluctuate in absolute dollars in future periods and vary from period-to-period as a percentage of transaction revenue.
Technology and development
Technology and development expenses include costs incurred in operating, maintaining, and enhancing our platform, including network, website hosting, and infrastructure costs. Technology and development expenses also include costs incurred in developing new products and services, personnel-related expenses, and the amortization of acquired developed technology. Personnel-related expenses include salaries, bonuses, benefits, and stock-based compensation.
We plan to continue to invest in developing new products and services and increasing the functionality of our platform. As a result, we expect that our technology and development expenses will increase in absolute dollars in future periods and vary from period-to-period as a percentage of net revenue.
Sales and marketing
Sales and marketing expenses primarily include costs related to customer acquisition, advertising and marketing programs, and personnel-related expenses. Sales and marketing costs are expensed as incurred.
We plan to continue to invest in sales and marketing efforts to drive additional customers to our platform and capitalize on cross-sell opportunities from our Verified User base, and to increase our brand awareness. As a result, we expect sales and marketing costs to increase in absolute dollars in future periods and vary from period-to-period as a percentage of net revenue.
General and administrative
General and administrative expenses include costs incurred to support our business, including legal, finance, compliance, human resources, executive, and other support operations. General and administrative expenses also include personnel related expenses, software subscriptions for support services, facilities and equipment costs, depreciation, amortization of acquired customer relationship intangible assets, sales and property taxes, gains and losses on disposal of fixed assets, legal reserves and settlements, and other general overhead. General and administrative costs are expensed as incurred.
We expect general and administrative expenses to grow as we continue to invest to support the overall growth of our business. In addition, following the completion of this offering, we expect to incur additional general and administrative expenses as a result of operating as a public company, including expenses related to compliance and reporting obligations of a public company, and increased insurance, investor relations expenses, and legal, audit, and consulting fees. As a result, we expect that our general and administrative expenses will increase in absolute dollars in future periods and vary from period-to-period as a percentage of net revenue. We expect general and administrative expenses to generally grow in relation to technology and development costs.
Restructuring
Restructuring expenses primarily consist of non-recurring costs related to the closing of a Chicago office and related severance for employees in the year ended December 31, 2019. For more information, see note 3 to our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus.
Other operating expense
Other operating expense includes cost of our crypto assets used to fulfill customer accommodation transactions. Periodically, as an accommodation to customers, we may fulfill customer transactions using
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our own crypto assets. We have custody and control of the crypto assets prior to the sale to the customer. Accordingly, we record the total value of the sale in other revenue and the cost of the crypto asset in other operating expense.
Other operating expense also includes impairment and realized gains on the sale of crypto assets, realized gains and losses resulting from the settlement of derivative instruments, and fair value gains and losses related to derivatives and derivatives designated in qualifying fair value hedge accounting relationships.
Other (income) expense, net
Other (income) expense, net includes the following items:
gain and losses on investments, net, which consists primarily of unrealized gains and losses from investment fair value adjustments; and
realized impacts on foreign exchange resulting from the settlement of our foreign currency assets and liabilities as well unrealized impacts on foreign exchange resulting from remeasurement of transactions and monetary assets and liabilities denominated in non-functional currencies.
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes includes income taxes related to foreign jurisdictions and U.S. Federal and state income taxes.
As we expand our international business activities, any changes in the U.S. and foreign taxation of such activities may increase our overall provision for income taxes in the future.
Results of Operations
The following table summarizes our historical consolidated statements of operations data:
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Revenue:
Net revenue$1,141,167 $482,949 
Other revenue136,314 50,786 
Total revenue1,277,481 533,735 
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense135,514 82,055 
Technology and development271,732 185,044 
Sales and marketing56,782 24,150 
General and administrative279,880 231,929 
Restructuring— 10,140 
Other operating expense124,622 46,200 
Total operating expenses868,530 579,518 
Operating income (loss)408,951 (45,783)
Other income, net(248)(367)
Income (loss) before provision for (benefit from) income taxes409,199 (45,416)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes86,882 (15,029)
Net income (loss)$322,317 $(30,387)
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The following table presents the components of our consolidated statements of operations data as a percentage of total revenue:
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(as a percentage of total revenue)
Total revenue100 %100 %
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense11 15 
Technology and development21 35 
Sales and marketing
General and administrative22 43 
Restructuring— 
Other operating expense10 
Total operating expenses68 109 
Operating income (loss)32 (9)
Other income, net— — 
Income (loss) before provision for (benefit from) income taxes32 (9)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes(3)
Net income (loss)25 %(6)%
Comparison of the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019
Revenue
Year Ended December 31,
20202019% Change
(in thousands)
Transaction revenue$1,096,174 $463,005 137 %
Subscription and services revenue44,993 19,944 126 
Other revenue136,314 50,786 168 
Total revenue$1,277,481 $533,735 139 
Transaction revenue increased $633.2 million, or 137%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 primarily due to a 142% year over year increase in Trading Volume.
Subscription and services revenue increased $25.0 million, or 126%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was primarily due to a $15.6 million increase in custodial fee revenue driven by an increase in the number of customers and the value of crypto assets held under custody within our Store product, a $10.2 million increase in staking revenues driven by an increase in value of customer crypto assets in staking protocols, and a $7.6 million increase as we started to monetize our crypto asset earn campaigns. The increase was partially offset by a decrease of $8.0 million in interest income related to customer custodial funds driven by lower interest rates.
Other revenue increased $85.5 million, or 168%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 as a result of a $93.8 million increase in crypto asset sales where the transactions were fulfilled with our crypto assets to accommodate customers as a result of unanticipated system disruptions where we continue to fill customer orders from corporate crypto assets held. The cost
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of crypto assets to fulfill customer accommodations are recorded in other operating expense in our consolidated statements of operations.
In 2020, we experienced 12 unanticipated system disruptions which resulted in $94.8 million, or 71%, of crypto asset sales to customers, compared to six unanticipated system disruptions that resulted in $26.3 million, or 66%, of crypto asset sales to customers in 2019. Unanticipated system disruptions typically last from minutes up to a few hours and are caused by periods of significant unexpected trading activity that cause delays in our trading service. Unanticipated system disruptions are different from system outages, which are a suspension of services where no crypto asset sales can be processed. The number of such incidents have increased since 2019 primarily due to greater trading activity on Coinbase. For example, average trading volumes more than doubled year over year from 2019 to 2020. Additionally, 40% of crypto asset sales recorded in 2020 related to a widespread outage from a vendor providing critical infrastructure. We are making significant investments in database and network infrastructure to support heightened trading volumes, and expect the impact and frequency of these incidents to decrease materially moving forward.
The overall increase was partially offset by an $8.3 million decrease in corporate interest income driven by lower interest rates.
Operating expenses
Year Ended December 31,
20202019% Change
(in thousands)
Transaction expense$135,514 $82,055 65 %
Technology and development271,732 185,044 47 
Sales and marketing56,782 24,150 135 
General and administrative279,880 231,929 21 
Restructuring— 10,140 (100)
Other operating expense124,622 46,200 170 
Total operating expenses$868,530 $579,518 50 
Transaction expense increased $53.5 million, or 65%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was primarily due to a $18.6 million increase in transaction reversal losses driven by an increase in Trading Volume, a $15.0 million increase in miner fees driven by increased blockchain network fees, a $7.5 million increase in staking expenses driven by an increase in value of customer crypto assets in staking protocols, and a $7.1 million increase in account verification fees due to an increase in new accounts.
Technology and development expenses increased $86.7 million, or 47%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was primarily driven by a $53.5 million increase in personnel-related costs due to a 59% increase in overall headcount, a $13.6 million increase in software licenses, and a $13.1 million increase in website hosting costs to support the growth of our platform.
Sales and marketing expenses increased $32.6 million, or 135%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was primarily due to a $23.3 million increase in digital advertising spend, a $5.0 million increase in personnel-related costs, and a $3.9 million increase in customer referral and promotion fees.
General and administrative expense increased $48.0 million, or 21%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was driven by a $22.4 million increase in personnel-related costs due to an increase in headcount, an $12.0 million increase in professional services costs, a $10.3 million increase in charitable contributions, and a $6.7 million
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increase in intangible amortization expense which primarily related to 2020 being the first full year of amortization expense for the acquisition of Xapo’s institutional custody business in 2019. The increase was partially offset by a $12.6 million decrease in costs related to facilities, meals, and entertainment which was primarily due to a reduction in an estimated meals and entertainment tax loss reserve and a shift to a remote working environment.
In April 2019, management approved a plan to cease development of a new trading engine, resulting in the closure of a Chicago office and incurring restructuring expenses of $10.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. There were no restructuring expenses incurred in the year ended December 31, 2020.
Other operating expense increased $78.4 million, or 170%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. The increase was primarily driven by a $93.3 million increase in costs associated with crypto assets sold in order to fulfill customer accommodation transactions, a $8.4 million increase in crypto asset impairments, and a $5.3 million fair value loss related to derivatives and derivatives designated in qualifying fair value hedge accounting relationships. The increase was partially offset by $34.6 million increase in realized gains on crypto asset sales.
Other income, net
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Other income, net$(248)(367)
Other income was relatively unchanged for the year ended December 31, 2020 when compared to the year ended December 31, 2019.
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes
Year Ended December 31,
20202019
(in thousands)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes$86,882 (15,029)
The provision for income tax increased by $101.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 due to an increase in our pre-tax net income.
Quarterly Results of Operations
The following table sets forth our unaudited quarterly consolidated results of operations for each of the quarterly periods for the years ended December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019. These unaudited quarterly results of operations have been prepared on the same basis as our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. In the opinion of management, the financial information set forth in the table below reflects all normal recurring adjustments necessary for the fair statement of results of operations for these periods. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected in any other period in the future, and the results of a particular quarter or other interim period are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected for the full year or any other period. You should read the following unaudited quarterly consolidated results of operations together with our consolidated financial statements and related notes, and the sections titled “Selected Consolidated Financial and Other Data” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” each included elsewhere in this prospectus.
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Quarterly Consolidated Statements of Operations
Three Months Ended
Dec. 31,
2020
Sep. 30,
2020
Jun. 30,
2020
Mar. 31,
2020
Dec. 31,
2019
Sep. 30
2019
Jun. 30,
2019
Mar. 31,
2019
(in thousands)
Net revenue:$497,091 $286,663 $178,331 $179,082 $94,309 $143,417 $183,907 $61,316 
Other revenue88,021 28,694 8,051 11,548 3,962 15,100 26,928 4,796 
Total revenue585,112 315,357 186,382 190,630 98,271 158,517 210,835 66,112 
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense49,946 36,766 23,395 25,407 14,227 23,051 29,159 15,618 
Technology and development90,498 73,319 60,777 47,138 43,474 44,751 43,887 52,932 
Sales and marketing23,501 11,977 11,383 9,921 9,659 5,716 4,213 4,562 
General and administrative97,501 71,433 51,988 58,958 70,227 53,408 46,648 61,646 
Restructuring— — — — — — 10,140 — 
Other operating expense97,081 20,357 (3,247)10,431 4,379 16,705 20,761 4,355 
Total operating expenses358,527 213,852 144,296 151,855 141,966 143,631 154,808 139,113 
Operating income (loss)226,585 101,505 42,086 38,775 (43,695)14,886 56,027 (73,001)
Other expense (income), net(6,183)(1,211)3,280 3,866 (2,036)2,929 (764)(496)
Income (loss) before provision for (benefit from) income taxes232,768 102,716 38,806 34,909 (41,659)11,957 56,791 (72,505)
Provision for (benefit from) income taxes55,983 21,417 6,546 2,936 (13,786)3,956 18,793 (23,992)
Net income (loss)$176,785 $81,299 $32,260 $31,973 $(27,873)$8,001 $37,998 $(48,513)
Three Months Ended
Dec. 31,
2020
Sep. 30,
2020
Jun. 30,
2020
Mar. 31,
2020
Dec. 31,
2019
Sep. 30
2019
Jun. 30,
2019
Mar. 31,
2019
(as a percentage of revenue)
Total revenue100 %100 %100 %100 %100 %100 %100 %100 %
Operating expenses:
Transaction expense12 13 13 14 15 14 24 
Technology and development15 23 33 25 44 28 21 80 
Sales and marketing10 
General and administrative17 23 28 31 71 34 22 93 
Restructuring— — — — — — — 
Other operating expense16 (3)10 
Total operating expenses61 68 77 80 144 91 73 210 
Operating income (loss)39 32 23 20 (44)27 (110)
Other expense (income), net(1)