Coinbase was founded in June 2012 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Blockchain.info co-founder Ben Reeves was part of the original founding team but later parted ways with Armstrong due to a difference in how the Coinbase wallet should operate. The remaining founding team enrolled in the Summer 2012 Y Combinator startup incubator program. In October 2012, the company launched the services to buy and sell bitcoin through bank transfers. In May 2013, the company received a US$5 million Series A investment led by Fred Wilson from the venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. In December 2013, the company received a US$25 million investment, from the venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures (USV), and Ribbit Capital.
Bitcoin is the world’s first virtual digital currency underpinned by a completely decentralized blockchain technology also known as the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). Bitcoin was first created in 2009 by an anonymous identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin allows for peer-to-peer transactions and is completely free of any third-party involvement like financial institutions or central banks. The Bitcoin’s blockchain network maintains a history of all the transactions made and facilitates instant funds transfer with minimal transaction fees required to cover the cost of network operation. The total supply of Bitcoin is fixed at 21 million coins and its smallest fractional unit is called as Satoshi. Each Satoshi is a hundred millionth of a Bitcoin which means 100,000,000 Santoshi = 1 BTC. Bitcoins are generated by a process known as ‘mining’ which involves solving of complex mathematical algorithms. The miners involved in the mining process look after the Bitcoin network security and validate each transactions taking place on the network. Bitcoin can be exchanged with other digital currencies or fiat currencies. Bitcoin is used as a means of payment by over 100,000 vendors and merchants.
Coinbase has two core products: a Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX) for trading a variety of digital assets on its professional asset trading platform, and a user-facing retail broker of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin for fiat currency. It also offers an API for developers and merchants to build applications and accept payments in both digital currencies. As of 2018, the company offered buy/sell trading functionality in 32 countries, while the cryptocurrency wallet was available in 190 countries worldwide. On March 26, 2018, Coinbase announced their intention to add support for ERC-20 tokens.
In the case of Bitcoin, miners run computer programs to verify the data that creates a complete transaction history of all Bitcoin. A technology known as the blockchain, which is used to create irreversible and traceable transactions, makes the process of verification possible. Once a miner has verified the data (which comes in a block, hence, blockchain), they are rewarded with some amount of digital currency, the same currency for which they were verifying the transaction history. So mining Bitcoin, for example, would earn you Bitcoin.