Blockchain Hires Google Vet in Bid to Take on Coinbase

February 15, 2018, 6:59 PM UTC

Blockchain, a popular provider of digital Bitcoin wallets, recently launched a U.S. cryptocurrency exchange service that aims to compete with entrenched rivals such as Coinbase.

As part of that push, London-based Blockchain announced Thursday that it has hired Peter Wilson, a veteran of Facebook and Google, as its first vice president of engineering. The hire is meant to reinforce Blockchain’s efforts to position its new exchange as a more reliable alternative to peers, which have suffered debilitating hacks and website crashes.

In an interview with Fortune, CEO Peter Smith said Wilson’s experience buildings products for tech giants—such as map initiatives at Google—will help Blockchain reach its goal of adding 50 million consumer wallets this year, while also ensuring the site’s website stays stable as it grows.

Blockchain, which currently claims to have 22 million customers, launched its U.S. consumer exchange business in January.

We always choose to put our customers first and keep our platform up. There will be no flash crashes, halts in trading and so on,” added Smith in an apparent dig at Coinbase.

Coinbase, which is the most popular U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, experienced rocket-like growth in the past year, but also had some high-profile stumbles when trading volumes soared.

Currently, Blockchain is better known for its wallet service, which lets consumers manage their cryptocurrency holdings such as Bitcoin and Ethereum with their own private cryptographic keys. (Coinbase, by contrast, offers to store private keys—which are needed to access and transact in cryptocurrency—on behalf of its customers.)

Blockchain also has a secondary business, about which the company is tight-lipped, that provides cryptocurrency liquidity to institutional customers.

Wilson’s arrival at Blockchain follows the hiring earlier this month of attorney Marco Santori, a prominent figure in the bitcoin world, who will help the company navigate regulatory challenges.

Coinbase, meanwhile, has also made a number of notable hires in recent months, including customer service veteran Tina Bhatnager, as part of a plan to smooth out its growing pains.

The market for cryptocurrency exchanges is growing fast as both ordinary consumers and hedge funds pile into what many regard as a veritable new asset class. It is also lucrative: Coinbase recently revealed it pulled in more than $1 billion in revenue last year.

In speaking with Fortune, Smith did not disclose Blockchain’s revenue but claimed the firm’s transaction volume is higher than the popular money transfer service PayPal (PYPL).