The company, which added the New York Stock Exchange and USAA to its list of investors last week, told the Wall Street Journal that it has “regulatory approval” in half of all states, including significant areas like New York and California. (The New York Department of Financial Services has been very vocal in its call for regulation via a proposed ‘BitLicense’.)
Coinbase already offers exchange services in 19 countries overseas, and it said that its work accruing necessary licenses and approvals in the U.S. took five months. The company will only be able to offer services to customers that sign up in states were it is approved, but there are plans to gain approval in further states.
Exchanges made via the Coinbase service will include a 0.25 percent commission fee that goes to Coinbase, although the company is giving customers two months of free trades to get things going.
The exact legality of bitcoin in the U.S. has been unclear for some time, so Coinbase’s news — and regulatory backing — is a significant mark in the sand.
The busting of Silk Road, an underground market for illicit goods where bitcoin’s anonymity made it a popular payment option, has doubtless eased some early opinions that bitcoin’s modus operandi was financing nefarious activity, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty about it as a digital currency. The price of a single bitcoin dropped as low as $185 this month — it is currently $263, but crossed $1,000 in 2013 — and it is unclear whether it has reached relative stability.
As for the Coinbase business itself, CEO Brian Armstrong is keen to explore the potential of bitcoin in emerging markets, and wants the company to expand its reach to at least 30 countries overall by the end of 2015.
Coinbase had a huge year in 2014, and its achievements included landing several big name retail partners — who began accepting bitcoin for the first time — including Overstock, Dell, Square, Mozilla and Wikipedia.
PS: Did you know we just started a TechCrunch bitcoin podcast? Check it out here — the latest episode is actually about Coinbase and its monster $70 million round.