As an engineer at Airbnb several years ago, Brian Armstrong watched as the company suddenly turned off listings from Cuba to comply with U.S. government policy, and Cuban hosts lost a link to the global economy. What if there were a way, he wondered, for people to exchange goods and services with less government interference?
Eight years later, Armstrong is the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, which enables some 30 million customers to buy and trade digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ether, which aren’t directly linked to the monetary policy of any one country.
While the long-term impact of cryptocurrency is still uncertain, Armstrong says an economy with widespread cryptocurrency adoption offers more opportunity than the current system. It’s one reason that last year he unveiled GiveCrypto.org, which seeks to distribute digital currency to people in poverty. —Alana Semuels