If you are interested in dipping a toe in the waters of the digital currency bitcoin, the easiest way is to buy some bitcoin, and arguably the best-known service for that is Coinbase.
The company launched four years ago today, and was one of the earliest bitcoin wallets—that is, simply, a place to buy and hold bitcoin. By being early to the craze, Coinbase became one of the most recognizable and respected brands in the bitcoin industry, it raised nearly $107 million in venture capital (by far the most raised by any bitcoin startup until 21 Inc. came along), and its co-founders, Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam, became influential names in the business.
Lately, the narrative about the bitcoin world has shifted to blockchain, the decentralized, peer-to-peer, open-source technology that powers bitcoin. (For an explainer, check out this video.) The idea of blockchain came about side-by-side with bitcoin in 2009, but now major banks and financial institutions are gaga over the idea of using blockchains to speed up their transaction processing—closed, private blockchains without bitcoin.
Now some of the hottest startups that started out as