Coinbase acquires crypto builder Bison Trails, deal reported to be above $80M

January 19, 2021, 8:00 PM UTC

Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase on Tuesday announced it has acquired Bison Trails, a firm that specializes in building blockchain infrastructure for banks and other companies.

The deal is the latest in a spate of acquisitions for Coinbase, which is slated to go public in the coming weeks. The company is trying to position itself as the go-to firm for a variety of crypto-related services beyond buying and selling digital assets like Bitcoin.

“[The deal] will help drive one of the greatest transformations in finance in the last hundred years and will drive us closer to achieving our mission of creating an open financial system,” said Coinbase in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Coinbase did not provide a dollar figure for the transaction, but a person familiar with the deal said it was the company’s biggest acquisition to date. Prior to Bison Trails, Coinbase’s largest purchase came last May when it bought a brokerage firm called Tagomi. That all-stock deal was reported to be worth around $80 million.

Founded in 2018, Brooklyn-based Bison Trails had raised $31 million for various investors, including Coinbase Ventures. The company has not disclosed revenue figures.

In the cryptocurrency world, Bison Trails touts itself as an infrastructure provider, helping other firms stand up features like nodes, which are intrinsic to the blockchain networks on which a variety of crypto protocols, including Bitcoin, operate. Blockchain is a type of software that creates a tamper-proof record of transactions across multiple, far-flung computers.

In an interview with Fortune, Joe Lallouz, the CEO and cofounder of Bison Trails, declined to identify the company’s clients. But he said the firm has “around 200” customers in fields ranging from banking to fintech to currency exchanges.

Lallouz says he will stay on at Coinbase for now, though his precise role is still being determined.

For Coinbase, the Bison Trails acquisition is a bet that the current crypto industry boom—which has attracted newfound interest from banks and payment companies like Square—will continue, and that its more esoteric elements will gain traction.

Such elements include node-hosting, and services like staking, which describes a feature in some newer cryptocurrencies that lets owners vote on how their blockchains are governed. Other recent innovations to the world of cryptocurrency include services that enable people to lend out their crypto, as well as blockchain-based art and sports collectibles.

Surojit Chatterjee, the chief product officer at Coinbase, told Fortune that he expects the crypto industry to develop along the lines of the video game industry, which lets anyone—including his 8-year-old son—learn how to build or modify games just by watching YouTube. Chatterjee says this is possible because many of the technical elements of building games are now tucked away in the background, letting users tinker with easy-to-use dashboards.

If Chatterjee’s prediction comes to pass, it will mean a wide variety of companies and consumers will be able to take advantage of blockchain tools that are currently the province of programmers and crypto diehards.

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