Wharton School, London School of Economics, a driving force at Warner Bros. and Yahoo!, and, most notably, eight years as LinkedIn’s mergers-and-acquisitions power maven, a career at the giant social networking website that included 40 newsworthy transactions.
Emilie Choi would have been a good fit in the C-suite of a number of expansion-minded, technology companies. But her hiring by Coinbase as vice president of corporate affairs offers the latest evidence of cryptocurrency’s growing strength and ability to compete with more established technology firms for top talent.
The cryptocurrency exchange and brokerage giant Coinbase operates in an increasingly competitive market against companies including Bittrex and Circle.
The space will see likely newcomers, as well. In a January filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the well-known hedge fund manager and entrepreneur James Altucher said he would seek to raise $10 million for his new company, Bitzumi. Bitzumi will provide exchange services and a newsletter for potential cryptocurrency investors. Altucher set a valuation of $280 million for the company.
For Choi, there’s a sense of déjà vu about the move. She had landed at LinkedIn, her most recent employer, in 2009, when the company was six years old and M&A had barely gotten underway, Choi told Bloomberg.
“It’s time to do this at another company, and part of the appeal of this job was going back to a startup,” she said. “I think it has the potential to be the Google of our time.”
Coinbase’s Strong Growth
Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange and brokerage colossus, has, in its six years, already acquired 10 million clients and a reputation as the go-to place to for investing in digital currencies. The company’s revenue hit a reported $1 billion last year, and its valuation is about $1.6 billion.
First thing on the agenda, though, is to stock up Coinbase’s talent pool.
It has been observed that Coinbase is straining at the seams. Those 10 million clients have learned to trust the integrity of their Coinbase transactions in a field that resounds with hacking and pyramid-scheme horror stories.
But a lot of customers were beginning to wonder: Can they do the deals a little quicker? Can they move a little faster?
Consumer demand for instant gratification is, if anything, more pressing in the feverish digital currency field than elsewhere. But Coinbase has had to shut down trading for hours at a time, particularly when there were hot products on the table. And with long waits for agents to address their needs (to say nothing of the offputting monster metal soundtrack on their dial-up number), customers often give the company low marks for service.
Not surprisingly then, Coinbase in January brought in former Twitter executive Tina Bhatnagar to raise the customer support team to the next level.
The company also has reportedly been on the hunt for a CFO to take the company public and a vice president of communications.
Choi is on board with that approach, telling Recode that her initial emphasis will be on “acqhires,” or deals with companies that are more desirable for the specialized talents who run them than for the companies themselves.
“Some of the really great talent may have not come up through traditional paths,” she said to Recode.
“It definitely seems as the No. 1 priority right now is getting in as much talent as possible,” she said.
According to Asiff Hirji, the company’s president and COO, Choi will oversee corporate development, business development and business operations from an office in San Francisco.
Choi will be “scaling Coinbase globally, seeking out world-class acquisition and partnership opportunities, and managing our strategic projects,” says a post published on the company blog.
“If you ask anyone in [Silicon] Valley, she is absolutely top of her field in business development,” Hirji said in an interview with Fortune. “Given how rapidly the [cryptocurrency] space is unfolding, given the breadth of opportunities in front of Coinbase, we feel very fortunate having someone like Emilie with us and helping us figure out how to get those deals done.”