COINFred WilsonDavid Orrell | CNBC
By 2013, venture capitalist Fred Wilson had established himself as a preeminent investor in consumer tech, having made early and highly lucrative bets on Twitter, Zynga, Etsy and Tumblr. In May of that year, he took a slight sideways turn.
“We have been thinking about and looking to make an investment in the Bitcoin ecosystem for several years,” Wilson wrote on the site for his firm, Union Square Ventures. “Today, we are happy to be able to talk about our first investment in the sector.”
The deal was Coinbase. The round was Series A. The price tag was $5 million at 20 cents a share for a valuation of around $20 million.
Coinbase had recently graduated from the Y Combinator incubator program and only raised seed funding to that point. With Coinbase’s Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, Union Square’s wager on a web service that at the time had just over 100,000 members buying and storing bitcoin is now worth about $4.6 billion. His New York-based firm invested out of a $200 million fund.
An avid user of nascent tech products, Wilson indicated he was a happy customer before becoming an investor. “Coinbase is where I have purchased my Bitcoin and keep it,” he wrote.
Coinbase opened at $381 a share, giving the cryptocurrency exchange a market cap of around $100 billion, based on a fully-diluted share count. By the close, the stock had traded down to $328.28 for a valuation of $85.8 billion. That’s up more than 10-fold from the company’s last private fundraising in 2018 and over 4,000-fold from the Union Square-led round eight years ago.
Coinbase becomes the latest tech company to generate outsized returns for venture investors, thanks to mammoth valuations from the public markets and the accelerating growth of the digital economy. Following Roblox’s direct listing in March, Altos Ventures owns a stake in the gaming company worth over $9 billion. Snowflake’s IPO in September generated initial gains of over