Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase — The Art of Relentless Focus, Preparing for Full-Contact Entrepreneurship, Critical Forks in the Path, Handling Haters, The Wisdom of Paul Graham, Epigenetic Reprogramming, and Much More (#627)

Illustration via 99desings

“The greatest risk is not taking one.”

— Brian Armstrong

Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong) is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Coinbase. Founded in 2012, Coinbase is building the crypto economy—a more fair, accessible, efficient, and transparent financial system enabled by crypto. Coinbase serves over 103 million verified users, 14,500 institutions, and 245,000 ecosystem partners in over 100 countries. In April 2021, Coinbase listed publicly on NASDAQ as COIN. 

Before founding Coinbase, Brian served as a software engineer at Airbnb, where he focused on fraud prevention. Before Airbnb, Brian founded and was CEO of UniversityTutor.com, an online tutoring directory and a subsidiary of Johnson Educational Technologies LLC. Brian also previously served as a consultant for the enterprise risk management division at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Brian has a BA in computer science and economics and an MS in computer science from Rice University.

Over the last three years, Coinbase has worked with ten-time Emmy®-winning filmmaker Greg Kohs on a documentary about cryptocurrency and Coinbase. COIN is now available on AmazoniTunesYouTubeVimeo on Demand, and other platforms.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by ShipStation shipping softwareAthletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and Helix Sleep premium mattresses.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#627: Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase — The Art of Relentless Focus, Preparing for Full-Contact Entrepreneurship, Critical Forks in the Path, Handling Haters, The Wisdom of Paul Graham, Epigenetic Reprogramming, and Much More

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Want to learn more about Web3 and crypto? Listen to my podcast episode with Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant, in which we discuss what the smartest people do on the weekend, solving proof-of-work problems, the real promise of Web3, why NFTs are more than the sum of their JPGs, how skeuomorphic design can be applied to Web3, why it’s still the early days of decentralization, the pros and cons of crypto regulation, how DAOs work and what they can offer to society at large, and much more.

#542: Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant — The Wonders of Web3, How to Pick the Right Hill to Climb, Finding the Right Amount of Crypto Regulation, Friends with Benefits, and the Untapped Potential of NFTs

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Brian Armstrong:

Twitter

Watch COIN: Amazon | iTunes | Vimeo on Demand

SHOW NOTES

  • [05:46] How Brian’s first book idea became a blog.
  • [07:21] Brian’s time in Buenos Aires.
  • [13:39] Present-day economic warning signs.
  • [16:13] Coinbase beginnings: from genesis to the Buy Bitcoin button.
  • [20:35] Influential human beings, books, and documentaries.
  • [23:15] Core principles learned from early startup days.
  • [26:39] Favorite Paul Graham essays.
  • [28:12] Controversy: Coinbase becomes an apolitical, mission-focused company.
  • [37:11] Cultivating resilience to resistance as a leader.
  • [44:57] Competition.
  • [46:51] What crypto skeptics and crypto bulls each get wrong often.
  • [49:30] Main use cases for crypto.
  • [50:18] Making the case that crypto is still in early days.
  • [54:55] Novel crypto ideas Brian thinks will prove worthwhile.
  • [59:57] Lessons learned from the launch of Coinbase’s NFT marketplace.
  • [1:03:44] How Coinbase is addressing NFT security.
  • [1:05:34] “Not your keys, not your crypto.”
  • [1:10:56] Self-improvement.
  • [1:14:14] Learning biology basics from a tutor as an adult.
  • [1:20:03] The goals of NewLimit.
  • [1:27:32] What is ResearchHub?
  • [1:31:41] How open bounties work.
  • [1:33:25] What excites Brian most about science today?
  • [1:36:52] Brian’s billboard.
  • [1:38:24] Parting thoughts.

MORE BRIAN ARMSTRONG QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW

“Talk to the customer, iterate, talk to the customer, iterate.”
— Brian Armstrong

“We weren’t even trying to make a company. We were just kind of trying to learn this stuff in the evenings in our free time.”
— Brian Armstrong

“If I have to come in every day and be put in front of the hot mic and have to answer all these crazy things that I don’t have an answer to, that’s not what I signed up for. I want to build cool stuff with technology that changes the world. That’s what I’m good at.”
— Brian Armstrong

“Honestly, if you don’t have a competitor—people are naturally tribalistic—you’ll sometimes see tribes start to form inside the company and people start fighting each other, so it’s actually better to have something outside the company that you’re struggling against.”
— Brian Armstrong

“It’s never as good as it seems, never as bad as it seems, in crypto.”
— Brian Armstrong

“They teach you in PR training to pivot the question to the one you wish was asked.”
— Brian Armstrong

“If I just think about all the biggest challenges that we have in the world today, I think science and technology are pretty good hammers to swing at those nails.”
— Brian Armstrong

“The most valuable companies in the world are when we cross-pollinate a true scientific innovation with someone who can go commercialize it.”
— Brian Armstrong

“The greatest risk is not taking one.”
— Brian Armstrong

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5 Replies to “Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase — The Art of Relentless Focus, Preparing for Full-Contact Entrepreneurship, Critical Forks in the Path, Handling Haters, The Wisdom of Paul Graham, Epigenetic Reprogramming, and Much More (#627)”

  1. Glad to know about Brian Armstrong. I really like his quote what he said in his interview about crypto. will definitely see his podcast.

  2. Hi, Tim!
    After listening to your interview with Brian Armstrong, I thought I’d send you the link to Bob Reselman’s easy to understand article about the Diffie-Hellman security key.
    https://thenewstack.io/the-essentials-of-using-an-ephemeral-key-under-tls-1-3/
    And also want to mention a book called “Green Think” by Rick Fedrizzi, “How profit can save the planet”.
    Thank you for your work, Tim!
    My life is better with you in it.
    Sincerely,
    Summer LaWarre

  3. So, OK, I’m ready to admit that I’m an ignoramus when it comes to cryptocurrencies, but where were the questions about money laundering and the generally massive boon to criminals that cryptocurrency has become? And how about some explanations about how cryptocurrency is going to help anyone else, other than speculators? How does cryptocurrency do anything other than increase the already gigantic chasm between the haves and the have-nots? This interview just felt like hype, hype, hype, suck-up, suck-up, suck-up.

    1. Unfortunately you’re absolutely right. I fear that a lot of this stuff has just become rich people blowing smoke up each other’s rear ends. Cryptocurrency does a LOT of harm that needs to be directly addressed by people like this and I’d have expected Tim to at least somewhat probe on that. Not to mention the idea that all the problems of crypto have been largely ignored by popular proponents of blockchain technology, usually citing the “greater good” of decentralisation as a big enough reason to do so… but then they use centralised platforms like Coinbase and advocate for a merge in Ethereum for example that fixes some things, does not to other things and completely messes up the decentralisation part. It’s almost as if their views are more profit or hype driven than anything.

  4. Hi Tim, Thank you for creating the brilliant content and helping me, people all around the globe to gain more knowledge. As a regular consumer of your podcasts, I have realized that most of the questions you ask applies to your own ongoing subjects & concerns in your various ventures and personal life which is good. However I would appreciate if you could broaden the spectrum a bit more. Just a recommendation to make the already brilliant content, even more helpful. Thank you.