Coinbase’s Product Principles
By Surojit Chatterjee, Chief Product Officer
At Coinbase, we are creating a company of builders. We hire the most passionate and mission-oriented people to build amazing products that help fulfill our mission of creating more economic freedom for the world. While the only way to unleash innovation at scale is to provide teams with autonomy, it is challenging to ensure that your products function as a coherent experience for users. So how do we build products at scale and empower everyone to make the ‘right’ decision without always looking over their shoulder? At Coinbase, we have five key principles for product development that act as beacons for building products in a uniquely Coinbase way.
1. Build for Everyone
From the beginning, Coinbase was founded to make crypto easy and accessible to everyone. We take great pride in being the easiest to use onramp to the cryptoeconomy. But, crypto is still a nascent space: fewer than 1 out of every 7 Americans currently hold crypto assets in their portfolio. To bring in the next billion users, we need to ensure that crypto is easily understood and accessible for the average user. We need to build for everyone, from crypto beginners to experts Because crypto is an inherently global phenomenon, we need to be cognizant of how user preferences change, sometimes dramatically, in different countries: a customer in Mexico who is receiving USDC remittances has entirely different needs than someone day-trading Dogecoin in France. This means doing extensive user research to understand the needs of our different user bases and building products in a way that adapts to the user’s level of expertise.
2. Trusted and Safe
Trust and security are foundational for financial applications. We have a responsibility to ensure that our users’ personal finances are secure.
We’ve all heard horror stories over the years about hacks or scams that have robbed crypto users of their hard-earned money. We’ve been fortunate: Coinbase has, to this day, never lost user funds as a result of a hack of our platform. But that result isn’t just a consequence of luck. We invest an enormous amount of resources maximizing the safety of our products.
Our goal is to help our customers avoid critical security errors like creating simple passwords or forgetting to set up two-factor authentication. Every feature we build goes through a rigorous test for every common, and not so common, user security error. Next step — automatically correct those mistakes in the background or gently nudge the user back on to the right path.
The other aspect of trust is how we operate globally. We take pride in being the most compliant crypto company in the world. Unlike many others in this industry, compliance is in our DNA. We get the necessary licenses around the world, we follow KYC/AML processes and we are constantly vigilant against fraud on our platform.
3. Think Scale
No other industry has embraced decentralization and globalization the way crypto has. Building for a global audience also means building for scale. On top of this, crypto has huge peaks and valleys in adoption. We always think about how every one of our products could scale to hundreds of millions, even billions, of users in the future and are ready to handle the next bull run.
Scale is often a journey. We may not need to build for mega scale on day one of every product launch, but we have to keep coming back to it and continue to improve scalability and reliability of our products. We invested a ton of effort in reliability and scalability in the year leading up to the most recent crypto bull run. While we still had a few issues, we learned from those issues and we continue to invest heavily in scaling our products so we are ready for the next bull run, whenever it occurs.
4. Crypto First
We believe in the power of crypto to increase economic freedom. That doesn’t mean just enabling the existing centralized financial system to work with crypto assets, it means embracing decentralization into everything we do. Earlier this year Brian talked about how we are leaning into decentralization and working on allowing access to more assets and more decentralized innovation right from within the main Coinbase app. We are actively encouraging our employees to contribute to decentralized protocols, making community grants and building open source software to help move the ecosystem forward.
Product leaders at Coinbase are expected to go deep into understanding and participating in the crypto ecosystem and build products in a crypto first way.
5. Lead with Innovation
We’re witnessing an unprecedented acceleration in the pace of innovation in crypto. Today, one or two engineers can build a new DeFi protocol that can challenge offerings from massive businesses built over decades with hundreds of thousands of people. The rise of DeFi yield generation products are perfect examples of this.
To deliver on our promise to customers, we must keep up with the pace of the industry. This means placing a lot of small bets, failing fast, and seeing what gains traction. We recently launched Project 10% as a way to incubate new, innovative ideas that are generated by our own team members. The idea is to put 10% of our resources into these moonshot projects. We expect our product leaders to not just think about innovative ways to solve customer problems, but to create a culture of bottom up innovation and risk taking in their teams.
Coinbase’s Product Principles was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.