Warning: speculative futurology alert.
An IPO today is more of a branding event run by the CMO than a funding event run by the CFO.
If your venture has a lot of market traction and you want $100m, get your CFO to call a couple of funds. If you want to be on the front page and on TV for exposure that no amount of marketing budget can buy, do an IPO.
The first Bitcoin venture to do an IPO could ignite the public’s imagination and that could move Bitcoin into the mainstream.
Or it could be the signal of a crazy market top, like AOL buying Time Warner in January 2000.
In short – there is a lot at stake!
Of course Coinbase would have to be ready to IPO. I am not privy to Coinbase Financials (if I was I would be under NDA and not writing about it). The fact that they raised $75m may indicate healthy financials or may indicate that those investors were willing to suspend disbelief and got a nice convertible preference rate.
It is possible that some other Bitcoin venture such as Bitpay or Xapo has enough traction to IPO first.
The metric that matters in Bitcoin is transaction volume via merchants. The price, which gets the headlines, only matters to speculators. If Bitcoin gets used a lot to buy goods and services it will change the world. If Bitcoin does NOT get used a lot to buy goods and services it will become a footnote in the history of money.
Bitcoin transaction volume can only be estimated. Blockchain.info tracks this. (If you know a better source please tell me). The chart looks like a trending sideways and slightly up but this is no “up and to the right” bull market kind of chart, let alone a hockey stick network effects growth chart.
Bitcoin transaction volume could be a reasonable proxy for a service like Coinbase that manages transactions for Merchants.
If Coinbase does an IPO, investors will have to believe that there will be greater merchant adoption. A Coinbase IPO could trigger the observer effect. Lots of merchants would hear about the service and decide to give it a try and that would improve Coinbase financials. If that happened during the transition to chip and pin cards, then the long-awaited Bitcoin move to the mainstream could happen.