From corporate finance to crypto CFO

September 2018

Tim Laehy at the Coinbase offices in San Francisco.

Tim Laehy, BS ’84, MBA ’85, at the Coinbase offices in San Francisco.

In Silicon Valley, the typical term of a CFO is two to four years.

Over the course of his career, Tim Laehy, BS ’84, MBA ’85, has served in that role at eight different companies, raising more than $3 billion in capital through three IPOs and three mergers and acquisitions.

Today, Laehy is interim CFO at Coinbase, a digital currency wallet and platform where merchants and consumers can transact with digital currencies like bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin. Laehy says Coinbase is like six different companies in one, providing a comprehensive suite of cryptocurrency services, including brokerage, exchange, custodial, index funds, merchant and wallet services.

“There’s no financial service company on the planet that has a reach that wide,” he says. “And we’re still growing.”

Since the company was founded in 2012, Coinbase has raised more than $225 million in funding, with revenues widely rumored to be more than $1 billion, driven by the bitcoin run-up in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“One of our investors told me he’s never seen anything like it, and he’s invested in Google, Apple and Microsoft,” says Laehy. “The pace of growth was measured in the thousands of percent year over year.”

When Laehy was a student at the School of Management, cryptocurrencies and blockchain didn’t exist. He was interested in corporate finance and used the business foundation he built at the school to launch his career — and he’s kept learning along the way.

“You can’t stop for a minute or you’ll be left behind,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about crypto before coming to Coinbase, but I dove deep into it and was just a sponge for knowledge. Every day I learn more, and every time you open a door and you think you learn something, there’s 10 new doors in front of you.”

Looking ahead, Laehy says that while cryptocurrencies are currently being used mostly in the developed world as investment, he sees it as a powerful tool for the underdeveloped world.

“If you have a bank account, it’s easy to make a transaction to pay, for instance, a Visa bill,” says Laehy. “For people who don’t have a bank account, now they’ll have access to a global currency. This technology is here to stay.”

Written by Kevin Manne, this story first appeared in the autumn 2018 issue of Buffalo Business.