Brian Armstrong’s Net Worth: Becoming the King of Crypto

Everyone told him crypto was a scam

Admin Nas Academy

28 Jun · 3 minutes read

Brian Armstrong is the founder of Coinbase who started the company back when a single Bitcoin was worth only $6 – and cryptocurrency was widely considered a scam. Fast forward nine years, and cryptocurrency is now influencing the future of finance. Coinbase currently has around 89 million users that are trading $335 billion worth of cryptocurrency each quarter. And today, Brian Armstrong net worth has reached the billions. Here’s how he did it. 

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Brian Armstrong Net Worth: $2.6 billion (2022)


Growing up in California

Brian was born and raised in San Jose, California. His mother was a mathematics teacher, and after taking a computer science course with IBM, the tech corporation offered her a job. Brian’s mom became an early programmer at IBM – one of the best known computer companies in the world that makes and sells computer hardware, middleware and software. 

Through his mother, Brian grew up having very early exposure to computers. He grew up around them, and along the way, fell in love with their potential. A chronically bored kid had finally discovered something so interesting that he would never be bored again.


Failures that led to something greater

In middle school, Brian created a website for his school because he realized that they didn’t have one. Then in high school, Brian started to learn Java and CSS (programming languages for computers). This is also how he got his first job designing websites for small businesses. 

After creating a website that got 500 views overnight, Brian realized that if helping 500 people was fulfilling…what would it be like to help one million people? 

Throughout high school, he and his friends would sit in a circle and go through possible business ideas. They even tried realizing a few of these business ideas, making a lot of mistakes along the way. One of Brian’s businesses in high school was reselling computer hardware online as a very early e-commerce business. 

While none of these businesses worked out, he learned a lot along the way. In fact, Brian Armstrong’s net worth and the successful founding of Coinbase were all thanks to the mistakes he made in these early business ventures.

Moving For College 

In 2001, Brian moved to Houston, Texas to study Computer Science and Economics at Rice University. Throughout his post-secondary education, he also co-founded an edtech company called This edtech company was a website that helped connect parents and teachers with world-class tutors. The website was a fast and easy way to find local and online tutoring services. 

Throughout his entire life, Brian knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He knew that he wanted to create something that would make the world a better place – and change the course of history for the better. He didn’t exactly know what that would be at the time, but he knew he had to think of something new and innovative. 


A Series Of Many Jobs 

After college, Armstrong went through a series of jobs and career shifts. His first job was working as an Enterprise Management consultant at Deloitte –one of the top four biggest audit firms in the world. Brian also worked at IBM for a bit before leaving to work at Airbnb, an online marketplace where people can find homestay’s, vacation rentals and tourism activities anywhere in the world. 

Throughout his time at Airbnb, Brian was able to see first-hand how difficult it was to move money around the world – as Airbnb operates in 190 countries. There were issues with not knowing what the exchange rates were, and having miscommunication with transaction fees. Oftentimes the company faced political barriers and had issues with inflation. What Brian did not know at the time was that this information would serve him well in starting Coinbase. 

After graduating from college, Brian did a bunch of small scale jobs but there was nothing that truly challenged him. He was always left wanting to do more and impact more people than he was able to.

He wanted to achieve something big. Something that would truly create massive global impact.


The “Aha” Moment 

In 2010, Brian was coming home for Thanksgiving when he stumbled upon a very famous document called “The Bitcoin Whitepaper”. Brian saw the paper on the Hacker News, a website run by the YCombinator – one of the most prestigious tech accelerators in the world.

The Bitcoin Whitepaper was a nine-page document that introduced the world to the power of cryptocurrency and what was possible with it. It talked about the need for a decentralized financial system and the power in eliminating intermediaries. It highlighted the impact Bitcoin could have on the world, and its advantage over the traditional banking system. 

Having worked at Airbnb and seeing the trouble of the traditional banking system first-hand, Brian saw DeFi as a huge opportunity. He recognized how it was able to solve many of the problems traditional banking systems had. It didn’t take long before Brian was convinced – he wanted in.


The Birth Of Coinbase

The more Brian thought about the Bitcoin whitepaper, the more he believed in it. This is where his idea for Coinbase came from. Brian wanted to create a Bitcoin marketplace for the world – he wanted to create a place where people could easily purchase and sell cryptocurrencies. 

Coinbase’s purpose was to provide Bitcoin buying and selling services through bank transfers. The goal was to provide people with more freedom and create an open financial system. 

With that, everything changed. Brian coded for Airbnb during the day and developed his app on evenings and weekends. In March 2012, Brian submitted an application to the YCombinator. Companies like Airbnb, Stripe, Twitch, Dropbox and Instacart are some of the many successful examples of YCombinator startups. 

And soon enough, Brian’s application to the YCombinator was accepted. He received a $150,000 check to launch his company and left Airbnb to do it. Everyone around Brian said that Coinbase was a bad idea; they said that it looked like a scam. Despite the critics, Brian pushed to make Coinbase the company it is today.


Finding A Co-Founder On Reddit 

The next step for Brian was finding a co-founder. “It’s a lot like dating,” Brian said. He wanted someone that would balance out his strengths and weaknesses and someone that shared his love for crypto and economic freedom. He had 50 unsuccessful ‘dates’ but then Brian met Fred.

Fred Ehrsam did his Bachelors at Duke University where he studied Computer Science and Economics. Fred was working at Goldman Sachs doing foreign trading and was incredibly bored – he was looking for something new and exciting. And when Fred discovered Bitcoin, he loved it. Fred would spend a good portion of his day in the bathroom trading Bitcoin and engaging in a Bitcoin Forum on Reddit (a network of communities where people can dive into their interests, hobbies and passions). 

This Bitcoin forum is how Brian met Fred. Yes…the co-founders of Bitcoin met on Reddit.


The Early Days of Coinbase 

In the early days of Coinbase, Brian and Fred were sharing a two-bedroom apartment with another company. This is where all the magic happened, including where they launched their startup. The early days of Coinbase were rough, it was like riding a roller coaster for six years straight.

Back in the early days, it was common for Coinbase employees to eat and sleep in the office. Early employees would work in the laundry room between washing cycles, in the bathroom and hallways.

Some employees even camped out on the roof.

One of the biggest struggles in the early days was finding product-market fit. YCombinator always said that the best way to do this was by talking to customers. So, that’s what Coinbase did. Coinbase employees would invite people over, talk to them and see what their main pain points were. Then, they would fix the pain points and talk to customers again to find any new pain points to fix. They kept repeating this cycle until they finally found product market fit. 


The Crypto Rollercoaster 

For a long time crypto was dead, then it skyrocketed in value once again. Next, there was a three-year-long Bitcoin crash and everyone thought that crypto was done for real this time. They were so convinced, in fact, that over 30% of Coinbase employees left.

But there were also employees that were committed to sticking out the crash. At this time, Coinbase was able to expand to European markets and add new cryptocurrencies into the system.


Crypto finally exploded. The prices doubled, tripled and quadrupled. Traffic to Coinbase skyrocketed – and Coinbase became the first cryptocurrency exchange to attain Unicorn Status. 

But even though this sounds like a great success, it wasn’t all good for Coinbase. The company was not prepared for the huge increase in demand. The needs of the customer were not being met, the site was unable to handle the large volume of traffic – and the remaining employees were back to sleeping in the office and pulling 100 hour weeks. 


Coinbase was not ready for crypto to explode. 

But when the market peaked again in 2020 – Coinbase was ready for it. In less than five months, it smoothly welcomed over 13 million new users. 


Going Public 

Coinbase went public with shares beginning to trade at $381. This beginning share price fluctuated and finally settled at $328. This meant that after the first day of public listing…Coinbase was valued at $86 billion USD. 

Today, the company has grown to +200 employees strong, and has raised over $200 million in funding. 

To date, Coinbase has served over 89M customers across 32 countries, providing more than $10B in digital assets. 

It is estimated that Coinbase will surpass the dollar as a reserve currency in the next decade. 


An $86 Billion Company 

In the process of building a billion dollar company, Brian Armstrong’s net worth skyrocketed as well. Currently, Brian Armstrong’s net worth is $2.6 billion. He’s been named one of Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and currently owns 19% of Coinbase. Armstrong is also an angel investor who has invested in companies such as Starkbank, Orchid, Gameto, Ampleforth, dYdX, Openvote, binti and Aella.

So how did he do it? Brian saw an opportunity and he took it. He took a bet and stayed persistent. He stayed persistent for over ten years, and kept believing in his vision, even when everyone said that crypto was a scam.

In short: he saw something that no one else saw when looking at the Bitcoin Whitepaper – he saw potential.

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