In the fourth quarter of 2021, shares of Coinbase were trading around record highs, worth more than $340 before starting to fall as technology stocks corrected into the new year. Those declines persisted into 2022, causing Coinbase to continue losing altitude as the year began.
Coinbase’s Q4 earnings released in February were strong, but the company warned of a slowdown in its trading business. That deceleration in trading activity continued, leading to the U.S. crypto exchange’s first-quarter earnings pushing the value of its shares to new lows.
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Despite rebounding to around $67 as of this morning, Coinbase’s worth fell to as little as $40.83 during its selloff.
From a high-flying direct listing with a massive market cap proving to the world that crypto-forward companies could generate metrics that made traditional investors take note, Coinbase’s fall from triple-digit share prices has been dramatic. Its share-price drop has also been painful; its declines were not simply due to changing market sentiment about technology companies — though that didn’t help. The company’s rising cost structure and falling revenues made it clear that ripping cash out of the crypto market was more expensive and variable than perhaps some public-market investors anticipated.
As much as Coinbase likely helped boost investor interest in crypto startups last year, it may now have the opposite impact. Coinbase was proof that crypto companies could post huge profits, but its success was built on top of rising demand for crypto assets and services. A strong Coinbase meant a strong web3 market.
What is the value of those same startups now that Coinbase has been repriced and its underlying market in the crypto-equivalent of a recession?
The public-private valuation gap
Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that little in our work today is unique to crypto. Most investors, both private and public, overvalued technology companies last year. Those erroneous valuation marks, set during one of the hottest periods for investment ever, landed all around the technology market — and are still being dealt with today.
But the crypto market does have a special issue in that its venture capital totals did not peak in Q4 2021, but in Q1 2022, meaning that the crypto startup investment cycle stayed hot longer and that the pain among crypto startups (when it comes to managing too-rich private valuations) will be delayed somewhat.
And yet it’s probably coming.