In brief

  • The surprise giveaway was a "thank you" according to Coinbase
  • Only Coinbase's 1700 full-time employees are eligible

When Coinbase goes public on Wednesday, the list of people eligible to cash in will be longer than expected. That's thanks to a recent decision by the company to hand out 100 shares to its approximately 1700 employees around the world.

The giveaway means that every full-time employee at the company is poised to become $25,000 richer based on a $250 reference price set by the NASDAQ stock exchange on Tuesday. The actual price at which the stock begins to trade, however, could be significantly higher—or lower.

The surprise gift was actually announced during a Coinbase all-hands meeting on March 25 . The Irish publication Business Post first reported the 100 share distribution upon learning of it from employees at Coinbase's Dublin office. A Coinbase spokesperson confirmed the giveaway to Decrypt today, describing it as a "thank you" to the company's staff.


In recent years, Coinbase has replaced equity grants to new employees with so-called Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) that permit recipients to acquire shares over time. By contrast, the March 25 distribution amounts to a no-strings-attached grant.

Like other tech and fintech companies, Coinbase relies on contractors to perform many lower-level jobs, so people who provide the company with tasks like cafeteria and janitorial services will not receive any of the largesse.

Meanwhile, former and current senior executives at the company are already awash in Coinbase shares. These include CEO Brian Armstrong, but also Coinbase's head of product and chief legal officer, who are sitting on hundreds of thousands or millions of shares, according to regulatory filings.

Coinbase is making its shares available to the public via a direct listing, which differs from a traditional initial public offering in that the company in question does not rely on underwriters, and does not issue a new batch of shares. Coinbase stock is expected to begin trading Wednesday morning San Francisco time, where the company is headquartered. The listing marks a major milestone for the crypto industry as a whole, and is expected to inform the price of other crypto companies and have broader implications for Bitcoin.

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