Take Cryptocurrency out of Silicon Valley

Review of Kings of Crypto: One Startup Quest to Take Cryptocurrency out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street, available from Harvard Business Review Press here.

Brian Armstrong stepped on stage with quiet confidence. He turned to the audience and shared his idea with the simple slogan: “Coinbase, the easiest way to get started with bitcoin.” For a moment in late 2018, one bitcoin, which is physically small for electrons blowing on a tiny amount of silicon, was worth $ 20,000 – the same as a pound of gold. Liberal technologists who believed bitcoin would be the foundation of a new world order saw the moment as apotheosis.

Everyone else saw a bubble. Everyone else was fine, and the bubble burst. But bitcoin survived, and the battle for its soul rushes on. “Kings of Crypto” drops us into the developing drama, tracing the rise, fall, and rebirth of cryptocurrency through the experiences of major players around the world. We follow Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brian Armstrong and his troubled rocket startup, Coinbase, as he attempts to take bitcoin mainstream in the fight against hackers, thieves, and hackers.

Author Jeff John Roberts is a keen observer of the world of virtual money and what happens when start-ups try to disrupt the world of high finance. Clear explanations of crypto technology are woven into an incredible landscape full of hime startup hijacking, hack fuel (so much hacking!), Shadow investors, government investigations, billionaire bros and their Lambos, and door meetings closed with Jamie Dimon. This is the fascinating story of the origins of cryptocurrency and how it changes money forever.

Kings of Crypto: Startup Quest One to Take Cryptocurrency out of Silicon Valley and Onto Wall Street, reviewed

We liked a lot about this book except maybe the title. Throughout the book, which is a charming and entertaining read, the narrative captures Brian Armstrong’s misconceptions, and how they stumbled, fought, and fell into the future. Yes, he, and his early partners and hirers, have become extremely wealthy, but, much like the price of bitcoin itself, it has not been a smooth ride.

Roberts conveys the story well, with all the major players accurately described, in all their idiosyncratic glory. This was a book we both enjoyed and wondered what would happen next, as this was not a compulsory path to glory. The rise of Binance and CZ is a big example that this is a fast-moving dynamic space. Stop by Snooze, or in Coinbase’s case, to worry about how to spend the money you’re making, and have someone else eat your lunch in front of you.

In a turbulent and fluid space, this book is a good addition to the literature of trying to capture what on earth has happened over this crazy roller-coaster decade of crypto. Since the text of this book is primarily Coinbase, the implication is that they were the Crypto Kings, but as the book outlines they are hardly almighty. Asia is still the place to watch, and it is likely where the new kings of crypto will emerge. A good Christmas book for the crypto holder in your life.

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