Coinbase makes history as the first crypto company on the Fortune 500—just in time for the crypto winter
Crypto has finally arrived on the Fortune 500. It just happened to get there during the crypto winter.
Coinbase Global made history Monday when it became the first cryptocurrency company to break into the Fortune 500.
Although the company has recently struggled to meet analyst expectations amid a widespread crypto crash, the San Francisco–based cryptocurrency exchange had a significant 2021 that propelled it to No. 437 on Fortune’s list of the biggest U.S. companies.
Coinbase jumped into the spotlight when it went public through a direct listing in April 2021, less than a decade after it was founded.
Just before its direct listing, analysts were predicting that the company could debut with a $100 billion valuation. But it closed its first day of trading with a $61 billion valuation, just edging out DoorDash for the seventh-highest market cap among U.S. companies after their first day of trading.
Coinbase’s 2021 revenue was $7.8 billion, just over the minimum of $6.4 billion that companies needed to be considered for the Fortune 500. The 2022 list takes into account only a company’s 2021 financial performance. The threshold was $5.4 billion for the 2021 list.
It’s been a rough start to 2022, though, as crypto prices have crashed and trading volumes have decreased. Although the company has tried to diversify its revenue streams by officially launching its own NFT marketplace in early May, its marketplace has only about 2,900 unique active users, according to Bloomberg.
Coinbase’s business still hinges heavily on crypto trading, and the down market has hurt its earnings. Bitcoin, which makes up about 44% of the entire crypto market, is trading below $30,000, its lowest level since December 2020, while the overall crypto market has lost nearly $1 trillion year to date in what has been among the worst crashes for the asset class ever.
These tumultuous market conditions heavily affected Coinbase as traders slowed their activity. Trading volume on its platform in the first quarter was $309 billion, short of the $331.2 billion analysts expected. The volume of trades was down about 39% from the $547 billion in trade volume the company recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021 when crypto prices reached all-time highs.
Coinbase missed analyst expectations for the first quarter, reporting a net revenue of $1.16 billion for the first three months ending March 31 and a net loss of $430 million. Its revenue declined 53% from the $2.5 billion it recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021. If the company maintains the same revenue or lower for the next three quarters of 2021, it would fall short of the $6.4 billion revenue required to make it on the Fortune 500 this year.
Coinbase’s stock price has also taken a hit. Trading at about $60 as of Tuesday, its shares have declined about 82% from the $328.38 closing price on the company’s first day of trading last April.
While Coinbase had planned to triple the size of the company going into 2022, its chief operations officer, Emilie Choi, said in a note to employees last week that the company would be scaling back hiring, partly because of market conditions. Coinbase hired 1,200 people in the first quarter of the year, according to its first-quarter earnings report. The company currently has more than 4,900 employees, according to its website.
After the pandemic put a dent in corporate earnings in 2020, the 500 companies on the 2022 list came roaring back, reaching a record $16.1 trillion in cumulative revenue and $1.8 trillion in profits. Fortune has been ranking the 500 largest U.S.-based companies since 1955.
Read our profile of Coinbase from the June/July 2022 issue of Fortune: Coinbase made crypto history on the Fortune 500. Then disaster struck