Coinbase goes public in 'watershed event' for cryptocurrency

The crypto platform went public via direct listing on the Nasdaq Wednesday.

April 14, 2021, 1:05 PM

The popular cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase has officially become a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq Wednesday.

The direct listing marks the first time a major digital currency platform has gone public in the U.S.

Nasdaq set an initial reference price of $250 per share, though trading opened Wednesday afternoon at $381 per share. It is being traded under the ticker symbol "COIN."

Coinbase was founded in 2012 and is currently the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S. by trading volume. The platform has some 56 million verified users.

People watch as the logo for Coinbase Global Inc, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange, is displayed on the Nasdaq MarketSite jumbotron at Times Square in New York, April 14, 2021.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

"We've had a number of ups and downs on our way here. Through luck and skill, Coinbase succeeded where many predicted it would fail," CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong said in a company blog post Wednesday. "We weathered the ups and downs through innovation and keeping our eye on the long term. Today’s listing is a milestone, but it’s not as important as every new day in front of us."

He added that the company's mission is to "increase economic freedom in the world."

Coinbase users primarily trade Bitcoin and Ethereum. Both cryptocurrencies were trading at new all-time highs ahead of Coinbase's public debut.

Analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities called the listing "potentially a watershed event for the crypto industry" and something Wall Street "will be laser focused on to gauge investor appetite."

"Coinbase is a foundational piece of the crypto ecosystem and is a barometer for the growing mainstream adoption of Bitcoin and crypto for the coming years in our opinion," Ives wrote in a note Tuesday.

As cryptocurrency goes mainstream, more companies are jumping on the bandwagon.

PayPal said late last month that it was giving its users the option to pay with cryptocurrency at the millions of online retailers that accept its payment service. Just a week before PayPal's announcement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his electric vehicle company was now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment.

Bitcoin has skyrocketed in value over the past year. It went from trading at less than $10,000 in April 2020 to over $63,000 in April 2021.