Coinbase Becomes Bitcoin’s First “Unicorn”
A Bitcoin company has finally attained the “unicorn” title, an honorific bestowed upon startups valued at more than $1 billion.
Coinbase, a brokerage that established itself as one of the biggest brands in a now-booming cryptocurrency market, has raised $100 million at a private valuation of $1.6 billion that includes the capital raised, the company tells Fortune. The venture capital firm Institutional Venture Partners led the round with participation by Spark Capital, Greylock Partners, Battery Ventures, Section 32, and Draper Associates.
Coinbase had for months been rumored to be raising around $100 million at a valuation of $1 billion or more, as the Wall Street Journal reported in June. That deal, its fourth, is now final.
In previous rounds, Coinbase had raised a total of $117 million at a private valuation approaching $500 million, as Fortune reported. That sum already made it one of the most well financed Bitcoin ventures around, next to Circle and 21.
Coinbase has been riding a wave of interest in cryptocurrencies in recent months. Virtual currency prices exploded this year with the resurgence of Bitcoin—now trading at more than $3,400 per Bitcoin, well above its previous 2013 highs in the $900 range—as well as the ascent of Ethereum, a rival cryptocurrency network that, for one thing, allows people mint and sell their own digital tokens.
Overall, the total market value for cryptocurrencies and tokens combined has soared to more than $120 billion from just under $20 billion at the beginning of the year. This exuberance has led many industry watchers to warn of a possible bubble.
Founded in 2012, Coinbase started as a Bitcoin wallet service that helped customers stash their digital wealth. The company later moved into the brokerage space, opening online exchanges where traders can swap or sell crypto coins.
This year has been a banner year for Coinbase. According to the company, it has facilitated the exchange of more than $25 billion in digital currency to date, five times more than the total sum it processed from its founding through the end of last year.
On Wednesday, Fidelity Investments, the asset manager, added the ability for customers to view the cryptocurrency holdings in their Coinbase accounts on its own website.
During the recent Bitcoin blockchain fork in which a faction of the network broke off and created a new currency, Bitcoin Cash, some customers blasted Coinbase for saying it did not intend immediately to support the new money. Eventually, Coinbase reversed course and agreed to allow users to access their potential Bitcoin Cash holdings at the start of next year.