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Brian Armstrong in “Coin: A Founder’s Story.”  Screenshot via YouTube.
Brian Armstrong in “Coin: A Founder’s Story.” Screenshot via YouTube.

The Coinbase Story Is Worthy of Cinema. The Film It Made for Itself Isn’t

Brian Armstrong might be a star in crypto, but he’s an empty vessel in “Coin: A Founder’s Story.”

Oct. 8, 2022 6:00 AM PDT

“No one’s a villain here,” said executive coach Matt Mochary to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong in “Coin: A Founder’s Story.” And he’s right, at least for the 88-minute duration of the new Coinbase-produced documentary, which premiered Friday on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and elsewhere.

“Coin” is a story told entirely through Armstrong’s Kool-Aid-tinted glasses. Intended as a peek inside mission control at one of crypto’s most powerful rocket ships, the movie depicts a world where there are no existential threats to the cryptocurrency exchange’s dominance. It’s a world with no Sam Bankman-Fried, whose FTX has gobbled up Coinbase’s market share; no disgruntled or laid-off employees; no Three Arrows Capital combustion, plunging the whole sector into a deeper crypto winter.

Much of the Pollyanna outlook is a product of timing; the movie began filming in 2019, when Coinbase was emerging as the preeminent cryptocurrency trading platform, and it wrapped after the company went public on the Nasdaq in early 2021. The span of time it covers is now a bygone era, when crypto’s vision extended only up and to the right. Watching it today feels like stumbling into an alternate reality.

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