- Christine Brown is Robinhood Crypto's new COO.
- Brown tells Decrypt she plans to add crypto transfers to external wallets.
- She is also considering services such as staking and lending.
It’s been exactly a month since Christine Brown became COO of Robinhood Crypto and already, everything is on fire.
The crash last week was enough to choke Binance, , , and Gemini, each of which went offline amid the fire sale. Only Robinhood Crypto, the app known for its outages during Dogecoin trading surges, managed to stay online throughout.
“It's not like there's a switch that flipped, like: ‘increase capacity,’” Brown tells Decrypt. “It’s very, very complicated in terms of making sure that optimization is happening.” Brown says the engineering team increased fivefold since January and mans the desk at all hours. “So far, Robinhood has seen the dividends of the investment that we've been making.”
Before becoming COO of Robinhood Crypto, Brown, 32, spent four years building the stock clearing system that has made Robinhood the hottest commission-free trading app in America. In 2020, the company brought in $682 million in order flow revenue from 13 million users.
The app’s popularity has frequently strained its tech. Last March, the platform built buckled during the S&P 500’s best day ever, then again in January when legions of Reddit traders pumped Gamestop shares so hard that Robinhood cut traders off from the stock.
Now Brown is leading one of Robinhood’s most demanded products. 9.5 million people traded crypto on Robinhood in the first quarter of this year, up from 1.7 million in the last quarter of 2020.
But Robinhood’s crypto offering is still far more limited than crypto trading services on other apps. Robinhood customers can only buy and sell something akin to an I-O-U note showing them the amount of crypto Robinhood holds on their behalf. Unlike Coinbase or Binance, Robinhood doesn’t allow its customers to transfer crypto to wallets outside of its platform.
It’s good enough for now; Robinhood Crypto onboarded six million new users in the first two months of 2021 alone. But soon, Robinhood users may learn that there is far more they can do with their crypto. Brown’s next task as COO is to prevent customers’ wandering eyes. To keep them loyal, she plans to add crypto transfers off Robinhood to external wallets.
That's a feature that has been widely requested, including from Mark Cuban, who has said Robinhood's growth is being hampered by not letting people send their Dogecoin off the app. At the Ethereal Virtual Summit powered by Decrypt on May 6, Cuban said, "If Robinhood—and Vlad [Tenev] probably doesn't like to hear me say this—if Robinhood makes DOGE easy to spend via Robinhood, Robinhood will crush it and Dogecoin will have a spectacular future."
Brown has not set a deadline for that feature, and it’s a difficult tool to implement, she says. Traders need to be coddled into learning that crypto transactions are irreversible, how the broader market they can now access carries a lot of risks, and how gas fees can eat up all their money.
“We want to make sure that we build an experience—not just the technical foundation of sending and receiving coins, but the user experience around it—that is intuitive, that makes sense, and that reduces risk for our users,” she says.
Brown says the most recent crypto crash won’t delay the rollout of any new features. Once crypto transfers are implemented, Brown hopes to turn Robinhood Crypto into a kind of financial super app—like Coinbase, but with stock trading. Staking and lending are all being considered.
Competition in that area is fierce: is planning the same thing, and CEO Dan Schulman is even calling it a “super app.”