Coinbase exec: 'Adding more assets is a very big priority for us'

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

Coinbase announced last week its intention to add the cryptocurrency ethereum classic to its exchange. It will be the fifth cryptocurrency added to the site. And based on comments by two Coinbase executives at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit: Crypto in San Francisco last week, Coinbase customers can expect more assets very soon.

When the biggest crypto brokerage in America adds another coin to its platform, it’s a big deal. Coinbase, with its 20 million users, is seen as the friendliest option for newbies to buy crypto, and it currently offers buying and selling of bitcoin, ether, litecoin, and bitcoin cash.

But when Coinbase added bitcoin cash (BCH) at the end of 2017, it did not go well. The price of the asset skyrocketed in the hours leading up to Coinbase’s announcement, so when the announcement came out, critics suggested that some people—whether it was Coinbase employees or friends of Coinbase employees—knew Coinbase would be adding bitcoin cash, and bought it up before the news dropped, akin to insider trading.

This time, Coinbase went about it differently: It announced on June 11 “our intention to add support for ethereum classic (ETC) to Coinbase in the coming months,” rather than announcing the addition of an asset at the same time it is available for trading on the site. “When we reach the final testing phase of the technical integration,” the blog post reads, “we will publicly announce a launch date for trading via our blog and Twitter.”

That strategy is what Coinbase will use for the addition of all new assets in the future. “Our new policy basically pre-announces assets to avoid exactly that kind of issue,” said Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan at Yahoo Finance’s summit. “We announce the intent, then we go and list it. We’re really just trying to be extremely above-board with everything that we’re doing.”

Coinbase M&A chief Emilie Choi (L) and Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit: Crypto in San Francisco on June 14, 2018. (Jeremy Waldorph/Oath)

Coinbase launched in 2012, and did not add its second cryptocurrency, ether, until 2016. After that, it added two more coins in one year: litecoin and bitcoin cash in 2017.

When asked if Coinbase is likely to ramp up the pace of adding assets, Srinivasan would only say, “Stay tuned.”

But his colleague, Coinbase VP of business development Emilie Choi (who was brought on to oversee M&A activity), was willing to say more: “Obviously, adding more assets to the platform is a very big priority for us… it’s top of mind for all of us.”

Click here for video of the full Coinbase panel at our All Markets Summits: Crypto.

Srinivasan elaborated by pointing out that in March, Coinbase announced it will soon add support for ERC20 tokens, which are tokens created through ICOs (initial coin offerings) built on the Ethereum protocol, such as EOS, Tron (TRX) and Binance Coin (BNB). So “at some point,” he said, Coinbase might “add asset classes like that vs. individual assets.”

Daniel Roberts covers bitcoin and blockchain at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite

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