Coinbase Product Principles

By Surojit Chatterjee, Product Manager

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 to create more economic freedom for the world. While the only way to unleash innovation at scale is to empower teams, ensuring your products function as a consistent user experience is challenging. So how do we create products at scale and empower everyone to make the “right” decision without always looking over their shoulders? At Coinbase, we have five key principles for product development that act as beacons for building products in a unique way from Coinbase.

1. Build for everyone

From the very beginning, Coinbase was founded to make cryptocurrencies easy and accessible to everyone. We pride ourselves on being the most user-friendly gateway to the crypto economy. But, cryptocurrencies are still a nascent space: fewer than 1 in 7 Americans currently have crypto assets in their portfolio. To attract the next billion users, we must ensure that cryptocurrencies are easily understandable and accessible to 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 aware of how user preferences change, sometimes dramatically, in different countries: a customer in Mexico receiving USDC remittances have a completely different needs than someone who trades with Dogecoin in France. This means conducting extensive user research to understand the needs of our different user bases and creating products in a way that is tailored to the user’s level of experience.

2. Reliable and safe

Trust and security are essential for financial applications. We have a responsibility to ensure that our users’ personal finances are safe.

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 lucky: Coinbase, to this day, has never lost user funds as a result of a hack on our platform. But that result is not just a consequence of luck. We invest a tremendous amount of resources maximizing the safety of our products.

Our goal is to help our customers avoid critical security errors, such as creating simple passwords or forgetting to set up two-factor authentication. Every feature we create goes through rigorous testing for every common, and not so common, user security bug. Next Step: Automatically fix those errors in the background or gently push the user on the right path.

The other aspect of trust is how we operate globally. We pride ourselves on being the most compliant encryption company in the world. Unlike many others in this industry, compliance is in our DNA. We obtain the necessary licenses around the world, we follow the KYC / AML processes and we are constantly on the lookout for 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 at scale. In addition to this, cryptocurrencies have huge peaks and valleys in adoption. We always think about how each of our products could scale to hundreds of millions, even billions, of users in the future and we are ready to handle the next bull run.

The stopover is often a journey. We may not need to build to mega-scale on the first day of every product launch, but we have to keep coming back to that and continue to improve the scalability and reliability of our products. We invested a lot of effort in reliability and scalability in the year leading up to the most recent crypto bull run. While we still had some issues, we learned from those issues and continue to invest heavily in scaling our products to be ready for the next bull run, whenever it occurs.

4. Crypto first

We believe in the power of cryptocurrencies to increase economic freedom. That doesn’t just mean allowing the existing centralized financial system to run on crypto assets, it means embracing decentralization in everything we do. Earlier this year, Brian talked about how we lean towards decentralization and work to enable access to more assets and more decentralized innovation directly from the main Coinbase app. We actively encourage our employees to contribute to decentralized protocols, making community grants and building open source software to help advance the ecosystem.

Product leaders at Coinbase are expected to deepen their understanding and participation in the crypto ecosystem and create products in a crypto first form.

5. Lead with innovation

We are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration in the pace of innovation in crypto. Today, one or two engineers can create a new DeFi protocol that can challenge the offerings of large companies built over decades with hundreds of thousands of people. The rise of DeFi performance generation products are perfect examples of this.

To deliver on our promise to customers, we must keep pace with the industry. This means placing a lot of small bets, failing fast, and seeing what gains ground. We recently launched Project 10% as a way to incubate new and innovative ideas that are generated by the members of our own team. The idea is to put 10% of our resources into these moon launch projects. We expect our product leaders to not only think of innovative ways to solve customer problems, but to create a culture of bottom-up innovation and risk-taking in their teams.


Coinbase Product Principles was originally published in The Coinbase blog on Medium, where people continue the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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