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October 14, 2021

The auspiciously named Blockchain.com recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, which may as well be a century in crypto years. The U.K.-based private company has another reason to celebrate too: Its revenue just surpassed $1.5 billion year to date, according to vice chairman Nicolas Cary and chief executive Peter Smith, who shared the figure exclusively with Fortune.


When it came into existence in 2011, Blockchain consisted simply of a “block explorer,” a tool for, well, exploring the blockchain—that is, for tracking Bitcoin transactions. At the time, Bitcoin was the only blockchain around. In the spring of that year, the cryptocurrency passed the psychologically significant $1 threshold, and it would blow past $20 by summer. (Before collapsing down to near $2 in the first of many up-down cycles.)


Blockchain has seen—and weathered—a lot of tempests. Ben Reeves, a British programmer, built the business after undergoing the entrepreneurial version of a breakup with Brian Armstrong, now CEO and cofounder of Coinbase, America’s largest crypto exchange. Since those early days, Blockchain, now led by Smith, has expanded its services beyond the original block-surfer and, later, a popular, downloadable digital wallet feature, to include all sorts of offerings. Among them: a crypto brokerage, over-the-counter trading, credit and lending, and treasury management for crypto projects.


Blockchain is not as large as some rivals. Coinbase, that old flame, posted $2.23 billion in revenue in the second quarter alone, up from $1.8 billion in the first quarter, the company reported in August. Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, and FTX, a fast-growing competitor, aren’t (yet) public, but reports suggest their finances are similarly eye-watering. The industry has come a long way since the sub-dollar Bitcoin days.


Even if Blockchain isn’t the topmost crypto biz, it’s still big. The company is 300-people strong, Smith says, and it has 35 million verified customers while having dispensed 77 million digital wallets. Blockchain has done $1.1 trillion in transaction volume over the course of its lifetime—a sum Smith described as “mindboggling,” given how it “started as a small project.”


One reason for Blockchain’s staying power: Focus. The leadership team is hesitant to jump on fads. Bitcoin and Ethereum account for the vast majority of Blockchain’s revenue, upwards of 70%, Smith says. “Part of our long-term thinking is not to be the latest place to go trade a meme-coin,” Smith says. (The company’s digital wallets support 17 digital coins, including Litecoin, Stellar Lumens, USDCoin, and Tether, according to its website.)


Same goes for the latest craze of NFTs, or nonfungible tokens—blockchain-based digital collectibles that are trading online for billions of dollars in aggregate. While FTX.US, the American affiliate of FTX, just ginned up an NFT marketplace and Coinbase recently announced its intention to build one of its own, Blockchain is being a bit more circumspect. “We like to build things and then launch them rather than talk about things before we launch them,” Smith said, though he conceded that the company is “thinking a lot and working a lot on satisfying customer demand in NFTs.”


It’s not uncommon for companies to reveal internal financial numbers as they mature, especially when they’re seeking either late-stage capital raises or initial public offerings. Perhaps Blockchain has its sights set on such a stock market debut, following the lead of industry bellwether Coinbase in April. If so, Smith remains coy, saying only he “can’t comment on any public market plans.”


In March, Blockchain raised $300 million—for a total of $537 million raised to date—at a $5.2 billion private valuation. That’s roughly a tenth of Coinbase’s current market capitalization of $54.8 billion. But a lot can happen in short spans in cryptoland, where the years are decades, and the months are years.


Robert Hackett
@rhhackett
robert.hackett@fortune.com


Correction (10/15/21) 2:30 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story misstated Blockchain cofounder Nicolas Cary’s title. He is vice chairman, not president.


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DECENTRALIZED NEWS


Credits 🚀 


Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to using crypto as a form of payment... Coinbase wants Congress to create a digital assets regulator that is not the Securities and Exchange Commission... Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman says crypto isn't a "fad," while noting there hasn't been much client demand for it yet... The U.S. has overtaken China as the world’s home to Bitcoin mining…  Cathie Wood's Ark Invest is joining the race to create a Bitcoin futures-tracking ETF... Sam Bankman-Fried is handing over the steering wheel of quant trading firm Alameda Research to newly named co-CEOs Caroline Ellison and Sam Trabucco... U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang says stablecoins are "foundational to crypto"... Square CFO Amrita Ahuja says Bitcoin has the potential to be the Internet's native currency... Binance has named Mark McGinness its chief regulatory liaison officer... New research from Plaid shows that about 90% of Americans now use some form of a fintech app... JPMorgan thinks Bitcoin, not gold, is the new inflation hedge… Coinbase is wading into NFT trading... Fox Entertainment is launching an NFT collection based on its "The Masked Singer" show.


Debits 🐻 


JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon thinks Bitcoin is “worthless”… United Wholesale Mortgage is dropping crypto as a way for people to pay their mortgages... The White House is venturing on a "quite aggressive effort" to understand the risks of the cryptocurrency markets... Tether CEO Jean-Louis van Der Velde deleted his Twitter account following that big Bloomberg story on where Tether's money is held... Coinbase had the third-most complaints among digital wallet operators between 2017 and 2021... Also, Coinbase was on the receiving end of an "underperform" rating initiation from Autonomous Research this week... A Bank of England official sees the breakneck expansion of crypto in the same light as that of subprime mortgage-backed securities... President Joe Biden's pick to lead up the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Saule Omarova is punching back at critics... Mexico has no plans to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says... The SEC has subpoenaed Archegos Capital Management months after its dramatic implosion.


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Content From IBM

2019 Retail Forecast


Consumer spending will jump 4.07% this year between Black Friday and Christmas, according to IBM’s annual Holiday Retail Forecast. U.S. consumers are riding the positive tailwinds of low inflation and low unemployment.
Click here for more


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FOMO NO MO


What does it take to join one of the world's most famous stock indices: the S&P 500?


Sure, a company needs to be big enough, its stock should have enough liquidity, and so on. But does it help to pay another division of the company behind the index, S&P Global, to rate your debt? New academic research that has not yet been peer reviewed indicates that it doesn't hurt. The paper, authored by academics at the Australian National University and Columbia University and published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that there was often a higher likelihood of a company joining the 500 if it had paid for credit ratings from S&P Global Ratings, a separately run business from S&P Dow Jones Indices—a notion that would likely have widespread implications across Washington, D.C. and Wall Street. (S&P Global refuted the paper's findings in a statement to Bloomberg.)


From the article:


The study titled “Is Stock Index Membership For Sale?” threatens to fuel controversy over the far-reaching impact of the gauge tracked by more than $13 trillion in capital. With every adjustment moving billions of dollars around the world, inclusion is a game-changer for boardrooms across America.


“The S&P has likely exercised a nontrivial amount of discretion in deciding which firms to add to the index,” authors Kun Li and Xin Liu at ANU and Shang-Jin Wei at Columbia wrote in the study. “Data patterns suggest that the discretion is often exercised in a way that encourages firms to buy fee-based services from the S&P.”


BUBBLE-O-METER


$164 billion

North America is now the world's second-largest cryptocurrency market, with transaction volumes climbing more than 1,000% between July 2020 to May 2021 when it totaled $164 billion, according to a new report from Chainalysis. Behind the uptick? DeFi


THE LEDGER'S LATEST


Crypto, options, margin, REITs: How to tackle the market’s most complex areas by Jessica Mathews


Paris startup aims to become go-to broker for financial firms trading cryptocurrency by Jeremy Kahn


Meet the 26-year-old Instagram influencer who wants to ‘help you get your money sh*t together!’ by Robert Hackett


Will Coinbase’s new NFT efforts compete with OpenSea? by Lucinda Shen


Everyone should care about NFTs, says Andreessen Horowitz’s Katie Haun by Robert Hackett


As TSLA nears $800, the run-up makes it nearly impossible to reward shareholders in the future by Shawn Tully


Will around-the-clock trading be a good thing for U.S. stocks? by Declan Harty


Nasdaq’s CEO on crypto, valuations, and the ‘true digital transformation’ shaping the markets by Felicia Hou


The Carlyle Group is teaming up with the Milken Institute to make asset management more diverse by Anne Sraders


(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


.

Content From IBM

2019 Retail Forecast


Consumer spending will jump 4.07% this year between Black Friday and Christmas, according to IBM’s annual Holiday Retail Forecast. U.S. consumers are riding the positive tailwinds of low inflation and low unemployment.


Clink here for more


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MEMES AND MUMBLES


Mike Novogratz, the hedge-funder-turned-crypto-fanatic, wants to turn tattoos into NFTs. So, the head of Galaxy Digital is meeting with a tattoo artist Friday to talk ideas. And in the process, Novogratz may end up getting inked himself, and has taken to Twitter to get some ideas. Among those floated in the always-dangerous comment section (totaling at 700 as of 5:45 p.m. ET) are a "honey badger clutching bitcoin," a Pudgy Penguin, and a lot of Yakuza Cats. 


This issue of Fortune’s The Ledger was assembled by Declan Harty, who you can follow here.


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