Will Coinbase lead a wave of M&A in cryptocurrency with former LinkedIn dealmaker Emilie Choi?
Emilie Choi (pictured, center) is joining Coinbase as vice president, after an eight-year tenure at LinkedIn Corp., where she oversaw 40 transactions in her role as vice president of corporate development. In her new role at Coinbase, Choi will lead corporate development, business development and business operations for the venture capital-backed startup, which provides an online exchange for digital currencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. The cryptocurrency sector may soon be ripe for M&A, and Coinbase may be in a good position to do some consolidating.
“Coinbase is moving fast into a new phase of the company’s journey,” said Asiff Hirji (pictured, left), president and COO of Coinbase, in a March 5 blog post announcing the appointment. “Emilie’s deep experience leading world-class corporate development teams will help move Coinbase into new markets and opportunities globally by leveraging acquisitions, strategic investments and partnerships.”
At LinkedIn, Choi led dozens of acquisitions, including: Lynda, Bright, Newsle, Connectifier, Slideshare and Fliptop, as well as LinkedIn’s joint venture in China and strategic investments in Cornerstone On Demand and G2 Crowd. Prior to LinkedIn, Choi worked at Warner Bros., where she developed long-term strategies for the WBTVG digital businesses, including TMZ, Kids WB, Essence and The WB, and at Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), where she advised the senior management team and executed high-profile transactions, including Flickr and Yahoo’s original investment in Alibaba.
“In addition to her deep experience building and scaling at high-growth companies, Emilie’s reputation as an advocate for founders through every step of the M&A process makes her the perfect fit for Coinbase,” said Hirji. “As part of our vision to create an open financial system, we want to connect with entrepreneurs and teams around the world who are passionate about building innovation in the crypto space. Emilie has an outstanding record of building strong relationships with founders and in creating environments where entrepreneurs can continue to execute on their vision within larger companies.”
Coinbase may be well poised to consolidate the emerging crypto currency sector. Founded in June of 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, Coinbase has raised $217 million from venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital, SV Angel and Funders Club.
To date, the investments in blockchain technology companies are in the early stages. In addition to VC firms, big tech companies and some financial services companies have been investing. Partnerships identified in a recent roundup by CNBC included: Citi, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are backing Axoni, which is working on applying blockchain technology to banking; Visa, Nasdaq, Citi and Capital One have made direct investments in Chain, which lets financial institutions create and store digital assets on private networks; and Google is backing Ripple, which provides financial institutions with money-transfer technology, and LedgerX, a cryptocurrency deriviatives platform.
Choi’s appointment came during a busy time for Coinbase and for the cryptocurrency industry in general. The startup unveiled the Coinbase Index Fund, which is designed to give investors exposure to all digital assets listed on Coinbase’s exchange, GDAX, weighted by market capitalization. “Index funds have changed the way that many people think about investing,” said product manager Reuben Bramanathan. “By providing diversified exposure to a broad range of assets, index funds enable investors to track the performance of an entire asset class, rather than having to select individual assets. We’re excited to give our customers the ability to invest in the potential of blockchain-based digital assets as a whole.”
Coinbase also announced the appointment of Eric Scro (pictured, right) as vice president of finance. Scro most recently held the position of head of finance at the New York Stock Exchange, an investor in Coinbase.
Meanwhile, the cryptocurrency industry still has the feel of the wild west. But there may be a new sherrif in town. On March 7, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that many online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies should be registered and subject to additional rules, suggesting the digital currency sector will be under scrutiny for some time to come.