Cryptocurrency made Brian Armstrong rich, but the stock market made him even richer.
The Coinbase co-founder and CEO climbed the ranks of the world’s wealthiest people this week thanks to his crypto exchange’s blockbuster market debut.
Armstrong’s fortune ballooned to $12.6 billion as Coinbase shares surged 31 percent on their first day of trading Wednesday, giving the company a fully diluted market value of roughly $86 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
That’s nearly double the $6.5 billion net worth that Forbes estimated he had in February, two months after Coinbase filed to go public.
The success of Coinbase’s watershed offering put a feather in the cap for Armstrong, who has kept a low profile compared to other tech executives as he built a booming cryptocurrency empire.
The listing “feels like a shift in legitimacy not just for Coinbase but the whole industry,” Armstrong said on the Clubhouse app, according to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a shot at being a major force in the financial world.”
Born near the Silicon Valley city of San Jose and raised by engineer parents, Armstrong studied computer science at Rice University in Texas, where he dipped his toe into business by starting Universitytutor.com, which today calls itself the world’s largest tutoring directory.
Armstrong, 38, discovered bitcoin — the world’s oldest and largest cryptocurrency — in 2010 while working as a coder at Airbnb, the vacation-rental giant that went public last year, according to a Forbes profile. He reportedly bought his first $1,000 batch at bitcoin when it was trading for $9.
Armstrong spent his spare time writing code to buy and store digital coins before snagging $150,000 in seed money for his nascent business in 2012, when Coinbase was officially founded, Forbes reported.
“Beginnings were not glamorous,” Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam wrote on Twitter Wednesday, adding that the startup “launched out of a two bedroom apartment we shared with another company.”
In the years since, Coinbase has become a profitable business with estimated revenues of about $1.8 billion for the first quarter of this year.
As Coinbase’s largest individual stockholder, Armstrong owns nearly 40 million shares that give him control of roughly 21 percent of the tech giant’s equity, according to its offering prospectus.
Forbes first dubbed Armstrong a billionaire in 2018, when Coinbase was valued at $8 billion. That year, he signed the Giving Pledge to put most of his wealth toward philanthropy. “Once a certain level of wealth is reached, there is little additional utility from spending more on yourself,” he said at the time.
Armstrong has led Coinbase to success relatively quietly — he typically avoids the press and goes to few conferences, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But he sparked controversy in September with a blog post directing Coinbase staffers not to discuss politics at work at a time when companies were responding to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 election.
“We could use our work day debating what to do about various unrelated challenges in the world, but that would not be in service of the company or our own interests as employees and shareholders,” Armstrong wrote in the post.