Bloomberg Línea — US-based crypto exchange Coinbase is launching a new platform for Brazilian customers with specific Portuguese-customer support and payments in reais through a partnership with Brazilian unicorn Ebanx.
Under the arrangement, Brazilian Coinbase users can transfer Brazilian reais to the cryptocurrency exchange via Brazil’s instant payments system Pix, Nana Murugesan, VP of international and business development at Coinbase, said in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.
Brazil’s launch follows the eight-week international expansion program Coinbase launched last week when it announced a partnership with Standard Chartered for a localized platform in Singapore.
Murugesan says Coinbase’s strategies for global expansion have a “go deep” and a “go broad” initiative.
The “go-deep” gathers no more than 10 markets, including Brazil. Coinbase expanded to the United Kingdom, a handful of European countries, Australia, Singapore, and now Brazil.
While the strategy is country-specific, the ‘go-broad’ approach is ‘borderless’.
“We can’t be making investments in every country at the same time, so we go deep in a few countries as we go broad,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that we have been doing as part of go broad, one thing that I can publicly talk about is the Coinbase wallet. It is borderless. Similarly, we have some things that are in the works as part of our go-broad strategy. And our objective there is how can we bring Coinbase to the world at large and how can we maximize our global coverage,” Murugesan added.
Bloomberg News reported on Monday that institutional clients of Coinbase have been contacted by the firm about plans to potentially set up a new crypto-trading platform overseas, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Regarding that, Murugesan there is nothing specific to announce, but that there are “several things in the works”.
While in 2022 Coinbase was reportedly in talks to acquire SoftBank-backed unicorn MercadoBitcoin, which has made 190 layoffs in the past year in an attempt to cut costs due to the macroeconomic environment, the company decided to expand “on its own”.
“We are always thinking about both organic and inorganic strategies for expansion,” Murugesan said. “The Coinbase brand especially today is associated with trust and compliance, and also being a public-traded company with quarterly audits from one of the ‘Big Four’ like Deloitte, these are things that actually people care about a lot right now,” he said.
“Before, maybe they didn’t care, but right now for sure, I think Coinbase delivers that promise. I’m not sure about, can’t comment about other companies, but this brand actually is a big asset for us, so we are bringing this brand and the promise of this brand to markets like Brazil, because Brazilians also want trust and safety.”
While it opted for an organic launch in Brazil, the company says it is open for venture investments through its VC arm, Coinbase Ventures, besides acquisitions.
Coinbase Ventures has already invested in Brazil’s Hashdex, a crypto asset management firm; Bitso, a crypto exchange unicorn that operates in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, and Ledn, a crypto-based financial services platform.
“Just a few weeks back we acquired a company for asset management. We are always looking for acquisitions that we feel make sense, but we feel at this point the Coinbase brand is what Brazilians are looking for,” he said.
“Partnerships are going to be very important though, it helps us bring more localized experiences.”
Besides Ebanx, Murugesan says Coinbase is also in discussions toward partnerships with banks in Brazil. “it takes time obviously,” he said, adding that the crypto exchange has a portfolio approach with several banks “rather than just a few”.
With stints in Uber and PicPay, Fabio Plein took the role of country manager for Brazil in mid-2022 and now is the regional director of the Americas for Coinbase.
“Now Coinbase is 110 million users and we aim to reach at least 1 billion people. To reach that goal Brazil is a key market for us because it is a market that we have a large population, and Brazil is one of the best countries in the crypto adoption index so that illustrates the opportunity that we see here,” Plein said.
In Brazil, Coinbase will make available its exchange, an NFT marketplace, and a wallet, at first, but intends to launch other products later.
It also doesn’t rule out bringing a debit card as it has in the US under the Visa brand.
According to Coinbase, it didn’t have funds in the US crypto-friendly banks Silvergate and Signature, which were shuttered by the FDIC in recent weeks. The crypto exchange says it doesn’t leverage crypto investments with other products.
“All our customer assets are backed up on a one-to-one ratio in deposits. Because of all these measures that we took, that is why you are seeing Coinbase is doing pretty well in heavy weather, mainly because of that portfolio approach that we took. This is an area where all the metrics that we have internally and how we managed our business in several years is helping us right now.”
While it’s a bear market with headwinds for crypto, Murugesan says the timing for the global expansion is good, and the financial turmoil amid the US financial sector could trigger people to diversify looking at crypto with open eyes. “It’s an area where I believe there is going to be a tremendous amount of trust.”
“Brazil is in a very interesting position because it is going to be in G-20 later this year, and crypto is a big part of the innovation agenda in the G-20, so with us being in Brazil right now having a local team, engaging with local associations, engaging with local policymakers, engaging with the government, it’s not just from a Brazil point of view but it’s a big bet, while also working with Brazil to shape global agenda,” said the exec.
The US-based crypto exchange says it is also actively talking to Brazilian regulators, Brazil’s central bank chief, and following closely Brazil’s agenda regarding innovation and crypto, with recent visits to Brasilia.
Coinbase entered Brazil in late 2021, hiring engineers to develop crypto and web3 technologies for Brazil and other countries. Those engineers are spread across Brazil as Coinbase has a remote-first work policy. It is only hiring for key positions, as the company is also reducing headcount expenses.
-- Ana Carolina Siedschlag also contributed to this story