Brian Armstrong (born January 25, 1983) is a billionaire American business executive & investor who is CEO of cryptocurrency trading company Coinbase. He received media coverage for his policy of keeping the workplace free of political activism.
Armstrong was born on January 25, 1983, near San Jose, California, to engineer parents. He attended Rice University in Texas, & earned a dual Bachelor's degree in economics & computer science in 2005, followed by a Masters in Computer Science in 2006. While at Rice, he started a business matching tutors to students, & after graduating, spent a year in Buenos Aires while working on the education company. While in Buenos Aires, he saw the effects of hyperinflation that were affecting Argentina at the time.
In 2012, Armstrong & Fred Ehrsam co-founded Coinbase, as a way for cryptocurrency enthusiasts to trade bitcoins & other digital currencies. Armstrong was its first CEO. A 2018 funding round valued the company at $8.1 billion, & in December 2020, the company filed with the SEC to go public through a direct listing. Following a direct listing in April 2021, Coinbase’s market cap rose to $85B, & Armstrong's total net worth passed $10B.
Armstrong self-funded & founded the scientific research site ResearchHub, modeled on the GitHub code repository, as a way of making research papers available to the public.
Armstrong wrote a blog post in September 2020 calling Coinbase a “Mission Focused Company”, discouraging employee activism & discussion of political & social issues at work. He offered severance packages for anyone at Coinbase who wasn't comfortable with this policy. 60 employees left Coinbase. Prior to this, Armstrong supported the Black Lives Matter movement & tweeted when George Floyd was killed: "I’ve decided to speak up. It’s a shame that this even needs to be said in this day & age, but racism, police brutality, & unequal justice are unequivocally wrong, & we need to all work to eliminate them from society.”
In 2018, Armstrong was the first cryptocurrency executive to sign The Giving Pledge, when he pledged to give away the bulk of his wealth to philanthropic causes. He also set up a philanthropic effort called GiveCrypto.org, to allow people to make public or anonymous donations to help others living in poverty.