Coinbase Is Out To Make the Big, Complicated World of Web3 More Welcoming

Web3 is often hailed as a democratizing technological development. Can Coinbase make it more welcoming to all?

Written by Adrienne Teeley
Published on May. 09, 2022
Coinbase Is Out To Make the Big, Complicated World of Web3 More Welcoming
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If you want to dabble in Web3 decentralized applications, or dapps, there’s plenty to choose from: cryptocurrencies, meme coins, DeFi, NFTs, gaming on the blockchain. And hey, just remember: not your keys, not your coins. 

If that didn’t make any sense to you, you’re certainly not alone. The world of Web3 brings with it a mountain of confusing lingo, acronyms and concepts that can quickly discourage users from participating in buying, selling and trading cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. For traditional developers, the jump to working on Web3 can be just as intimidating, as it’s not always clear how their existing skills would translate to building on the chain. 

At the same time, the Web3 space is full of passionate users and technologists who are excited about growing their community, interacting with others and watching the evolution of the cryptoeconomy.

“That’s the unique thing about Web3: It’s full of people who just want more folks to join,” Viktoriya Hying, a senior associate of business development at Coinbase, said. “The only way to do that is to make Web3 an inclusive place where nobody’s gatekeeping or making you feel dumb for not knowing how to participate.” 

This tension between the acceleration of decentralized technology and the high barrier to entering the community is a hurdle Coinbase is not only familiar with, but also intent on mitigating. Through two new offerings, Wallet and Coinbase NFT, the company is continuing its mission of growing the Web3 community. According to Hying, the easiest way to do so is to offer a less-intimidating access point for users that doesn’t require extensive knowledge or hours of self-education.

And while products like Coinbase NFT and Wallet can help more people navigate collecting NFTs and storing their crypto assets securely, Senior Software Engineer Kim Bui said her team’s work isn’t just about getting more users. It’s about building something bigger. 

“The backbone of Web3 is community,” Bui said. “We build based on that outlook and even use it as a success metric. Crypto and Web3 have broad reach around the world. It’s important to us to engage with this community, listen to what the latest trends and technologies are, and see how we can contribute.”

According to Business Development Associate Liz Bazurto, it’s that respect for the sprawling community that makes the digital currency platform such a rewarding place to work. Web3, after all, is borderless. With millions of users spanning the globe, there is no one user persona developers must model their tools after. That’s all the more reason to listen closely to every perspective both internally and externally — and not just the stereotypical white, male crypto traders many associate with the space.

“I am a Latina, a woman and an immigrant,” Bazurto said. “This is the first time I’ve felt like my voice is heard without me having to raise it. At Coinbase, I am welcomed for who I am.”

 

Demystifying Web3 

To understand Web3, let’s rewind for a minute and talk about Web2, which is what you're currently reading this article on. You are on one page on a platform owned by a company, which is, in this case, Built In. What makes Web3 different is that it’s decentralized, meaning what you interact with is not owned by a handful of companies, but rather by individuals collectively. And that’s where blockchain technology comes in. By providing a ledger of who exactly possesses, say, a newly minted NFT, users aren’t just users anymore — they are the owners of that NFT, regardless of what platform they’re displaying it on. If that owner wants to sell their NFT, they can do so in a way that’s peer-to-peer, without needing oversight from any corporate entity.

 

Liz and Kim, you both work on the Wallet team. Can you tell us about what the Wallet allows users to do?

Business Development Associate Liz Bazurto: The Wallet is a door for users to explore Web3 through a self-custodial app where they’re the owner of their own assets. That means they’re responsible for signing contracts, lending, selling and buying on NFT and decentralized finance, or DeFi, marketplaces. 

We have close to 90 million users in our exchange. It’s very important for us to offer them a really good product so they can navigate Web3 with security and ease. If people have to go out on their own to figure out crypto marketplaces and how to add different networks to their wallet, they’re going to lose enthusiasm. Our app is very user-friendly and can help people who are just starting out in crypto — they don’t need to know a lot of complicated terms. 

Senior Software Engineer Kim Bui: We’ve also provided users with the option to access their Wallet securely from an app. With browser extensions, users can access their hardware wallet ledger, where the keys never leave that hardware wallet. But we also have an option to use the key on a mobile app instead of only on an extension. Being able to save a key on a mobile app securely, and access, sign and perform transactions on an app is very unique, but that’s the level of security that the Wallet allows users to have.

 

“Our app is very user-friendly and can help people who are just starting out in crypto — they don’t need to know a lot of complicated terms.”

 

Two Coinbase team members in the office looking at a laptop
Coinbase

 

Viktoriya, you’re currently working on an NFT product. What does that entail?

Senior Associate, Business Development Viktoriya Hying: As a user, Coinbase NFT makes it easy to create a profile, buy and sell NFTs or potentially even mint your own NFT project. It’s not a marketplace, it’s a social experience that incorporates NFTs as a core offering. Without our platform, the current process involves people going to Twitter to understand what NFT projects they should buy and then going to a marketplace, like Open Sea. Coinbase NFT’s goal is to combine those social features with the utility of a marketplace so you don’t have to leave the platform.

On my profile, for example, I would be able to connect all of my wallets with every NFT I currently hold. The NFTs would all be showcased on my profile, where I can rearrange them. My friends can follow me and leave comments on my new NFTs as well as the ones I’m selling, and folks are able to “like” what I’m putting into the space. 

 

Engaging with content and the community

One hallmark trait of Coinbase NFT is the partnerships the company has formed with artists. “We’re working with creators to highlight them and their work, and are partnering with them to release exclusive content when we go live with the platform,” Hying said. On the horizon? Specially curated projects where the team will release never-before-been-seen NFTs for users on the platform to buy for primary sale.

 

 

Web3 has a passionate community built around it. How does this sense of community show up at Coinbase? 

Bazurto: We have multiple employee resource groups at Coinbase, and I’m a lead for the ERG for the Latino and Hispanic communities. In my opinion, the people who really need crypto and blockchain technology the most are minorities and those in underdeveloped countries. And Coinbase is working toward supporting these communities. 

With decentralized finance, users don’t have to go through so much bureaucracy, which means more economic freedom. Having a wallet with your own assets gives you some power: If at any point you need to leave your country because something happens, you have that digital wallet. You own what you have in your wallet, whether you’re here or on the moon. That’s why we want to amplify our presence in developing countries and are currently working toward expanding out from the United States. 

 

Not everyone has Web3 experience. How does Coinbase help those new to the field build their skills?

Bui: Coinbase is one of the best places for both crypto and non-crypto folks to collaborate. We have a lot of resources for developers to onboard, and we actively encourage non-crypto developers to join our team. In terms of resources, we have a smart-contract hackathon, lots of documentation, workshops and an internal program similar to Udemy. 

We also have a lot of cool projects to choose from, which has motivated a lot of developers and helped them onboard at Coinbase. For those coming in with a crypto background, it’s easy to propose new ideas or work on brand-new features and products and have the whole team get behind it. 

 

“Coinbase is one of the best places for both crypto and non-crypto folks to collaborate.”

 

Coinbase team members at a compnay presentation
Coinbase

 

What was your own experience like joining a Web3 company?

Hying: I came from Yelp, which was very much a Web2 company. To be honest, I never really thought that I could have a career in the crypto world or in Web3, because I didn’t think my skills in business development would be needed. But when Coinbase went public, my perspective changed. Since joining, I’ve felt how welcoming this community is.

From day one, I was included in social channels that don’t have anything to do with crypto or my role. I was also invited to channels that the crypto-native folks use to engage with the entire company. They host lunches where they show you what they’re doing and why, and explain things very simply. There are a lot of acronyms that get thrown around all of the time, but everyone makes sure to explain what certain terms mean. I didn’t feel like there was a huge barrier to entry because everyone at Coinbase was so excited to teach you what they know. 

Bazurto: You don’t have to be an expert in Web3 in order to join Coinbase because it’s such a welcoming environment. Everyone here is learning, so you never feel you’re asking stupid questions. We want everyone to know that they can find opportunity here, it’s not just for developers. Like any other company, we have different types of roles where you can advance your skills. I was a little intimidated when I first moved into my current developer partnership role, but everyone’s been so helpful. Whenever I have a question for an engineer, they help right away. 

Bui: I’ve actually been in crypto since 2014, which was right before the Ethereum ecosystem blew up. I worked at a company where I implemented and integrated all of their tokens and managed the tech side of the house. So, I had some experience in crypto, but to my surprise, there was no lack of challenges here because there are so many new features and learning opportunities. I work with amazingly smart people who are experts in the field, and who are knowledgeable and able to teach you. Since I’ve joined Coinbase, I’ve learned so much more about Web3 and have gotten to work on interesting projects and with the latest and greatest tech on the market. 

 

“We want everyone to know that they can find opportunity here.”

 

What has it been like as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated field of Web3? 

Bazurto: One of the biggest advantages of Web3 is that it doesn’t discriminate. It’s been really fun for me, because my experience working with developers in the community looks a little different. When you connect with them through Discord, you’re interacting with a bunch of unknown names and people you will never even see. They don’t know if I’m a man or a woman. That’s part of the excitement because gender doesn’t really matter when we’re talking about this space, which has an ocean of possibilities. 

Hying: When I first started, I was pleasantly surprised at how many powerful women work at Coinbase. That’s been really inspiring for my own career growth because I look to them as prime examples of what I could accomplish here. The Web3 space is so unique that, as a woman, you’re able to join the conversation if you’re curious and interested, and move your way up in your career much quicker than I’ve seen at other Web2 companies. That’s because we’re all learning together. 

We’re in this phase of trying to get as many people into the space as possible to unlock all of the opportunities crypto has to offer. Rather than looking at our differences, we look toward our similarities to push forward. 

 

 

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

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