|Power Score: 50.56||Momentum Score: 56.47 (7)||HQ: Nassau, Bahamas||CEO: Sam Bankman-Fried|
Valuation: $8 billion
Amt. Raised: $400 million
Lobbying Spend: $50,000
Industry Orgs: No
Headcount: 237 (+98% YoY)
Engineering Headcount: 15 (+200% YoY)
Big Tech Experience: 1.7%
Open Roles: 11
R&D Spending: n/a
Patents Applied For: 0
Patents Owned: 0
Acquisitions: Liquid Global (February 2022); LedgerX (August 2021)
If you think of the crypto exchange landscape through the lens of video games, Coinbase may have found success by serving as the base game and converting a wide group of casuals into fans, but FTX has found its own success mirroring the microtransactions market and turning the die-hards into whales. FTX has
5 million users, compared to Coinbase’s 89 million (or 11.4 million monthly transacting) users, but the exchanges’ trading volumes are shockingly similar thanks to FTX’s 2,400% year-over-year volume growth. FTX’s U.S.-specific operation is smaller — trading volume “only” grew seven-fold in 2021 — but that didn’t stop the company from making a big splash on Sand Hill Road, raising $400 million at an $8 billion valuation earlier this year. The global exchange, meanwhile, has hit a $32 billion valuation. Since the company split out its U.S. arm in 2020, CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX have beefed up their status as leading voices on policy, in the form of both Congressional testimony and ex-government hires.
But FTX hasn’t added new people to its staff just for the sake of getting bigger; in fact, Bankman-Fried lamented the “ fetishization” of large headcounts earlier this year. Part of FTX’s massive valuation could be based on how much it is doing with so few people: The company has fewer than 300 employees and a valuation that has eight more zeros than that. To put it in perspective, if Meta had the same ratio of employees to valuation with its current workforce, it would be worth $16 quadrillion.
FTX has set itself apart from its competitors through its array of offerings, most notably its derivatives trading capabilities, which it augmented in the U.S. at the end of 2021 through
the acquisition of LedgerX. It was a move that came on the heels of the company also setting up an NFT minting marketplace which competes directly with OpenSea. And the company has leveraged its war chest to undercut OpenSea’s fee structure in an effort to lure users away. FTX has even gone one step further, setting up a gaming unit that can bring cryptocurrency and NFTs into mainstream gaming as an as-a-service offering, further diversifying the exchange’s revenue streams.
FTX has already dipped into its deep pockets since the calendar year turned, obtaining an Australian Financial Services License that will allow the company to begin operations down under as soon as this quarter, and it set up a European operation in March as well. The company could also be looking to follow Coinbase to the public markets, even as the Coinbase stock has been hammered through the spring. Following the company’s latest funding round announcement, Bankman-Fried said that an IPO was something the company has been talking about, though the timeline for such a move remains vague.
They Said It
“Congress has done a really good job of starting to get up to speed on digital assets. And I think that they showed a lot of eagerness to continue learning.” – CEO Sam Bankman-Fried in a December 2021 interview
Return to the Crypto Exchanges Power Index here.