Coinbase may need to slow its global roll
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Coinbase may need to slow its global roll

Protocol Fintech

Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Fintech. This Tuesday: Coinbase’s rocky passage to India, the Bored Ape movies, and Binance gets clearance to operate in Abu Dhabi.

Off the chain

Meta is moving on after the failure of its big cryptocurrency project. Its metaverse projects were supposed to use cryptocurrency, but Diem never launched and its Novi wallet remains in a limited pilot. So Horizon Worlds will take dollars for in-world item purchases, a recently released screenshot shows. Meta, as Facebook, built a big infrastructure for in-game purchases back in the days of FarmVille. Why not just use that for its VR payments? That seems easier.

— Owen Thomas (email | twitter)

Coinbase’s passage to India

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong described India recently as “a magical place.” But the crypto company has found it may not know all the tricks to doing business there. The company’s surprising fumble in a key market exposed the limits of the just-do-it approach to crypto.

India pulled a Mariah Carey on Coinbase. Remember when the singer pretended not to know her pop rival? It was kind of like that.

  • India’s Unified Payments Interface was crucial to Coinbase’s launch in the country, providing a smooth fiat-to-crypto onramp. But just a few days after launch, Coinbase suspended the service. “We are not aware of any crypto exchange using UPI,” India’s National Payments Corporation, which operates the network, said in a tweet.
  • Coinbase said it was “committed to working” with the umbrella organization for retail payments and settlements in India “to ensure we are aligned with local expectations and industry norms.” The company’s website now says only crypto-to-crypto transactions are offered in India.

More countries, more rules, more problems. The misstep underscored the challenges faced by crypto companies as they look to expand their reach globally.

  • There are “different levels of maturity and perspectives around digital assets from country to country,” Logan Allin, managing partner of Fin Venture Capital, said. But fintech companies — and crypto firms in particular — have been known to expand to new jurisdictions without making sure they are complying with regulations.
  • “Digital asset exchanges like Coinbase have continued to take the approach of asking for forgiveness versus permission, which is not a sustainable model for global scale,” Allin told Protocol.
  • In many cases, crypto companies find themselves dealing with countries that “have taken a cautious and conservative tone with very little prescription and regulatory clarity, which is causing further confusion and foot faults at the company level.”

India is important for Coinbase. The company has been expanding aggressively in the country known to be a major tech hub.

  • Coinbase’s India operations, which launched last year, have more than 300 employees. The company said it expects to hire over 1,000 more this year.
  • Armstrong said its venture arm, Coinbase Ventures, has invested $150 million in Indian tech companies focused on crypto and Web3.
  • He also noted how India “has built a robust identity and digital payments infrastructure and implemented it at rapid scale and speed … I believe crypto has a big future here. We’re excited to help build that future.”

The answer may be to slow down. Coinbase’s international hiring spree isn’t limited to India; it’s in the process of hiring country leads and regional managing directors around the world. “Relationships and proximity” could help the company navigate India’s system, Moor Strategy & Insights analyst Melody Brue told Protocol, and the same applies elsewhere. It’s not magic.

— Benjamin Pimentel (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on Read it here.


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On the money

Ireland may crack down on crypto ads. Mirroring an earlier move by its British counterparts, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is reviewing crypto-related ads, allegedly due to multiple complaints.

Shopify announced a 10-for-one stock split and proposed special shares for CEO Tobi Lütke. The ecommerce giant is splitting its stock into class A and B shares, and proposed issuing a new class of “Founder” shares to its CEO, which would preserve Lütke’s voting power.

Virgil Griffith, an Ethereum developer, could face years in prison. Griffith pleaded guilty in a New York court to one count of conspiracy to violate international sanctions against North Korea, and was accused of teaching North Koreans how to evade sanctions. He’s due to be sentenced today.

Binance can now operate in Abu Dhabi. The crypto exchange obtained in-principle approval to offer its digital asset services in the Gulf emirate. Abu Dhabi is the third jurisdiction in the region to permit Binance to operate, following Dubai and Bahrain.

Planet of the Bored Apes?

Coinbase and Bored Ape Yacht Club are teaming up to produce a trilogy of animated short films featuring Bored Apes as characters. The films will reportedly tie into the crypto exchange’s long-anticipated NFT marketplace launch.

The movies will be helmed by Coinbase’s new entertainment team, and Bored Ape owners can submit their apes for consideration to be cast in the films. The first installment, titled “The Degen Trilogy,” will premiere at NFT.NYC in June. However, after the initial release, users will need a Coinbase wallet and to connect it with the exchange’s site before they can watch the movies, CoinDesk reported.

Read more here.

— Lindsey Choo (email | twitter)

Deal flow

Jaja Finance secured $157 million in funding. A consortium of investors committed to the funding, led by KKR and TDR Capital, and will take majority control of the company.

White Star Capital launched a $120 million fund. The Digital Asset Fund will reportedly back crypto networks and Web3 businesses in their “seed, series A, and token rounds,” the firm said.

Camino Financial closed a $150 million debt facility. The small-business lender obtained the debt facility from Community Investment Management, with a goal of $1 billion in lifetime loans by the end of 2023.

Lightning Labs raised $70 million. The company’s series B round was led by Valor Equity Partners, with participation from Baillie Gifford, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, Goldcrest Capital and others.

Stenn raised $50 million. The data analytics firm’s funding round was from a single investor, private equity firm Centerbridge, which valued the company at $900 million.

Former Blockstream Chief Strategy Officer Samson Mow raised $21 million for his new venture. Mow’s Jan3 got an initial funding round with participation from Alistair Milne, Chun Wang and El Zonte Capital.

Uniswap Labs formed a crypto venture arm. The newly created fund, Uniswap Lab Ventures, will invest across different stages and levels of Web3 projects.


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