Unicorns are rare, but it feels like it’s even rarer to find one that’s profitable. In an era of cheap capital, startup companies are chasing growth while profit takes a backseat.
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Coinbase is one of the rare unicorns that makes money. CEO Brian Armstrong revealed at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit on Tuesday that Coinbase was profitable in 2017 and 2018, and has been profitable to date in 2019.
Coinbase was founded in 2012 and operates in a space that has yet to gain mainstream popularity. But according to Vanity Fair, “Coinbase has generated nearly $2 billion of transaction-fee revenue since its launch back in 2012, and has generated more operating profit than V.C. money raised.”
Coinbase has raised $547.3 million in known venture funding to date, according to Crunchbase. That’s a lot of money, but that means the company’s driven even more operating profit. No easy feat here.
Coinbase’s ascent has been marked by impressive revenue figures, and at times huge growth.
The company’s 2017 revenue famously crested the $1 billion mark according to some sources. Others placed the number closer to $920 million. Late-2017 was a heady period in the world of cryptocurrencies, with rising prices and rabid consumer interest fueling Coinbase and other companies operating in the space.
The furor was so intense as 2017 came to a close that some estimated that Coinbase generated over 40 percent of its full-year revenue in December of that year alone.
But as crypto prices sagged and some trading volume declined, Coinbase put up around a comparatively-modest, estimated $520 million in revenue in 2018. The company was targeting about $1.3 billion in top line for the year.
The company’s operating profit is, therefore, an impressive result; it’s difficult to see revenue fall and profitability persist, especially among growth-oriented companies. That said, we can see Coinbase working to shore up its revenue generation. The company recently announced a change to its trading fee structure, including some robust price increases. (Outcry on social media was quick, but it’s not immediately clear if the complaints led to customer defections.)
If Coinbase can maintain its prior trading volumes or something close, the company could juice its prior rate of income from trading, a key revenue plank at the company.
The waters that Coinbase swims in today are still warm. Crunchbase News recently took a quick heat check of the crypto world and found it mostly healthy. That said, in the last 24 hours the prices of bitcoin et all have fallen from 8 to 10 percent. It’s a reminder that even a general upward tilt in the crypto markets can hit turbulence at any time.
Illustration: Dom Guzman