Base is the Next Phase of Coinbase’s ‘Secret Master Plan’ to Create a Brighter Financial Future

Coinbase believes in an open, global crypto economy for all — Base is the first step toward that decentralized future. Here’s how Coinbase engineers built it.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Jun. 15, 2023
Base is the Next Phase of Coinbase’s ‘Secret Master Plan’ to Create a Brighter Financial Future
Coinbase
Brand Studio Logo

At 9:19 a.m. on February 22, 2023, Coinbase tweeted a single blue dot. 

The cryptic cobalt emoji, accompanied by a simple date — “2.23.23” — hung in the ether of Twitter’s timeline.

A few minutes later, another lone sphere cropped up, posted by Backed. CryptoAI, Bankless and Nansen posted their own azure dots. Inquisitive side-eye emojis and variations of “What is happening?” reactions flooded the comments. 

“TELL ME PLS,” one user pleaded. Crypto Twitter was abuzz.

The deluge of circles was Coinbase’s de facto version of a flash mob and a last-minute marketing play to get the world talking about its latest project: Base. 

The “TL;DR” version of Base is this: It is a low-cost, open-source blockchain network, designed to empower developers to build decentralized apps — called dapps — onchain. 

Incubated within Coinbase and powered by Optimism’s OP Stack, Base is meant to bring the next generation of users to Web3. Each dapp built on Base’s Ethereum L2 gives users more opportunity to leverage the faster, cheaper, more interoperable onchain experience.  

The blue dot campaign — a symbol akin to Base’s logo — started as a means of championing Base internally, but, in a stroke of inspiration, Head of Protocols Jess Pollack suggested making the movement external. 

Sarah Khogyani Wolf, head of marketing for Base, ran with the idea. “The thought was, ‘Can we get the entire ecosystem and community tweeting a blue dot before the launch?’” she said. “We took a chance on it.” 

The flash mob went viral on crypto Twitter, morphing into a flurry of multicolor dots and stoking thrilling levels of speculation, Khogyani Wolf noted. All told, the campaign would earn over 600 million impressions on Twitter.  

“The next day, we launched Base Testnet to a very positive reception,” she said. “It was such a cool moment for the industry.”  

For Senior Software Engineer Anika Raghuvanshi, the response from the crypto community has been heartwarming from the beginning. 

“Especially for people who didn’t know Base was coming, Coinbase still had the reputation of being a centralized entity,” Raghuvanshi said. “We were coming into events like Devcon and ETHDenver as outsiders, with Base being the first time we’re contributing to open-source code.”

 

WHAT IS DECENTRALIZATION? 

In the blockchain space, decentralization means transitioning control from a centralized entity, like a bank, to a distributed network. Decentralization mitigates power imbalances and reduces the level of trust needed from participants in the network.

 

Raghuvanshi credits Pollack as Coinbase’s ambassador to the decentralized community. 

“Jesse’s very impassioned speech at Devcon was a turning point — they understood then that Coinbase is fully bought into onboarding users into the Ethereum ecosystem,” she said. “I’ve been blown away by the reception.” 

Head of Web3 Business Development Rowan Stone recalls a similar turning point leading up to ETHDenver. 

“My team of six came together to map out how we could announce the entire ecosystem we’re building with the community,” Stone said. “Long story short, we managed to gain support from 100 of the biggest dapp builders in the space in under two months.

“It was a pretty monstrous task,” he added, laughing. “The way that we were able to go loud as a collective in a new space is something to be proud of.”

 

WHAT COINBASE DOES

Coinbase is building the cryptoeconomy — a more fair, accessible, efficient and transparent financial system enabled by crypto. The company started in 2012 with the idea that anyone, anywhere should be able to easily and securely send and receive Bitcoin. Today, Coinbase offers a trusted and easy-to-use platform for accessing the broader cryptoeconomy.

 

The Future Is Decentralized

Imagine you want to send $5 to pay a friend back for your afternoon iced coffee. You would likely use Venmo, Cash App or Zelle.

“Why would you use crypto if you had to pay extra fees?” asked Raghuvanshi.

Therein lies the barrier to a decentralized future. 

“Infrastructure and affordability are major gaps in getting crypto to the masses,” she said. “When we started partnering with different organizations to lower fees, we realized we were pulling from different parts of the crypto ecosystem — but we’re uniquely positioned to create our own infrastructure and integrate it natively with our existing products.”
 

“Infrastructure and affordability are major gaps in getting crypto to the masses — but we’re uniquely positioned to create our own infrastructure and integrate it natively with our existing products.”


Just like that, the idea for Base was born. 

Coinbase partnered with Optimism, an Ethereum L2 blockchain, building code on top of their existing strings. Optimism brought a deep understanding of the ecosystem and pristine code to the partnership — Coinbase brought scalability. 

Stone sees the partnership and project as a natural progression into Web3. 

“We know the future is onchain,” said Stone. “Coinbase is a bridge from the fiat world to crypto, and Base is the bridge from the off-chain world to onchain.” 

Innovation is brewing onchain, Stone noted, so the path forward is clear.

“The next step is to incentivize bringing users onchain so that they can drive the distribution of the utility that exists there,” he said. 

“Our vision is to bring the next 1 billion users onchain,” Khogyani Wolf chimed in. “I’ve always been excited about making Base a lighthouse example of how marketers can build stronger communities and engagement onchain with this new technology.”

 

PUBLIC SCALE WITH A STARTUP HEART

Those outside of Coinbase might be surprised to find out that the majority of the Base team volunteered their time to man the company’s foray into the decentralized space. “A large percentage of the team is not full-time on the project — they’re just so passionate about the vision,” Raghuvanshi said. The website, for example, didn’t have a single full-time web developer. “It’s incredible to see how amazingly it’s all come together,” she said, noting that she’s enjoyed the tight-knit startup culture that’s emerged from the project.

 

Base team members sit at a table meeting and working together
Coinbase

 

Base, Introduced

Throughout the process of crafting the Base campaign, Khogyani Wolf embraced nontraditional methods of marketing.  

“Onchain is interoperable, transparent and opt-in from a data privacy perspective,” she said. Most importantly, onchain nurtures active participation. This departure from more passive modes of marketing shaped the team’s core-action-driven efforts.

“We never send a marketing message on our channels,” she said. “Practically everything we do comes with an NFT people can mention.” 

With a “$0 marketing budget,” Base broke records with its minting-centered approach to marketing. 

“We had about 500,000 mints of the ‘Base, Introduced’ NFT in the first four days  — the most widely held NFT of its kind,” she said. “Base was also the top trending NFT collection on crypto-native social networks like Farcaster.” 

On the other side of this record-breaking eddy of NFT activity is a lasting connection with the community. 

“Every owner of these NFTs feels like they were there at the beginning of Base and will be part of it forever,” she said. 

 

GETTING ONCHAIN

Trying to break into crypto? “Jump in, get involved and make yourself useful — everything is open-source and permissionless,” said Stone. Raghuvanshi, who is a proud member of the she256 movement and network, echoes the importance of finding community. “There are so many organizations popping up to get underrepresented minorities into the space — find a safe space where you can all learn and figure out the chaos of the space together,” she said. 

Khogyani Wolf shared similar sentiments. “I won’t downplay how difficult it can be to break in as a woman, but I’ve found everyone to be incredibly brilliant, positive and open,” she said. “Embrace your unique perspective and use it: For example, my ability to empathize with users in a superpower in the space.” 

 

‘The Secret Master Plan’ 

Since long before crypto hit the mainstream zeitgeist, Stone has been a dedicated advocate. He had spent the better part of a decade trying to move the industry forward, but, until Base, he hasn’t felt sure of the outcome. 

“I’ve never had as much conviction that what I’m helping build has the potential to reach the big, lofty goals we talk about,” Stone said. “I feel like we’re getting right to the crux of the biggest blockers: access and affordability.”

But the path forward must be underpinned by collaboration, he noted, as the industry continues to experiment with scaling strategies. 

“We need to be thinking about this as a collective — the future is about solving the problems facing the industry as a whole,” Stone said. “Base is a step toward that ‘super chain’ vision, giving people a platform to build interoperable apps on a similar technology.”  

 

“We need to be thinking about this as a collective. Base is a step toward that ‘super chain’ vision.”

 

These days, Stone is encouraging the crypto-curious to take the first step in their onchain journey. 

“The next step is to find the right voice and message to bring this technology to the broader market in a meaningful way,” he said. 

Raghuvanshi holds fast to the same glowy optimism. 

“If we execute this vision, we’re helping build a new financial system,” she said, noting that decentralization is a salve for the abuse of power that runs rampant in some centralized institutions, locking people from essential resources — financial and informational. 

“There are more and more use cases for crypto and onchain applications — the time is ripe for change,” she added. 

“It’s all a part of ‘The Secret Master Plan,’” Khogyani Wolf chimed in, referencing CEO Brian Armstrong’s outline for an open financial system that will increase global economic freedom. 

“Phase one was developing Bitcoin protocol, phase two was building a digital currency exchange — that’s where Coinbase comes in,” she explained. “We’re currently in limbo between phases three and four, building the apps that create the open financial system.

“There’s so much innovation happening,” she continued, beaming. “I’m excited to get to those 1 billion users.” 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Coinbase.

Hiring Now
Citadel
Information Technology • Software • Financial Services • Big Data Analytics
SHARE