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„Kings of Crypto“ by Jeff John Roberts – A Harvard Business Review Press Book Essentials

Kings of Crypto Book Essentials

a book review

The title is deceiving, the content – much better. “Kings of Crypto”  narrates Coinbases’ story. In a new Harvard Business Review Press books style, one (insider) journalist embarks on a journey of telling the full story of how one of the largest crypto Trading companies started and grew.

As you can imagine, “Kings of Crypto” leans more towards Coinbases’  development then to the classical business insights. As such, journalistical narrating is more engaging. Imagine a business book structured on thematic chapters, which have at the end two pages of real stories with real people. “Oh God” you could say, “not another dry and thick MBA book full of how-to-do business lessons. Will leave it for the next year, when I will have more time.”

Luckily for us readers, “Kings of Crypto” leans towards the historical narrative.The reader can literally see the characters (mostly Brian Armstrong, founder – plus later associates) growing together with Coinbase in an uncharted market. The reader can also spot upfront the conflicts and how they shaped Coinbase into a global player on the cryptocurrencies market.

Make no mistake, “Kings of Crypto” is NOT a book about bitcoin trading. And of the cryptos would not have exploded in the recent years, Coinbase would have probably not exploded.  Instead, it started with the Bitcoin, with Brian Armstrong‘s obsession about the countless possibilities of the blockchain. However, with one cryptocurrency, the monopoly was always lurking in the shadows. And there was not much room for diversification or creativity.

As the story unfolds, Bitcoin was joined by Ethereum – and there Coinbases’ ascension started. Ethereum, as a contract-execution cryptocurrency, created immense possibilities. Ethereum also spurred hundreds of new cryptocurrencies for various contract executions. All these new cryptos are of course raw materials for Coinbase. However, they have a full merit in this – by envisioning the incoming explosion of cryptos diversity and by preparing the platform to cope with it.

„Kings of Crypto“ narrates in an alert style, showing its journalistic roots. If I would be to put story on a graph, it would show up as a Bell curve (see below the table of contents). Indeed, one of the chapters is called „From Boom to Bubble to Bust“. As usually, the bust comes not from the known factors, but from something unexpected – the IRS (internal revenue service) realized the criminal potential of the cryptocurrencies, so it started to crack down hard on its‘ most obvious target – Coinbase, already the biggest player in the crypto trading market. Thus, the initial moral dilemma of Coinbase, who initially wanted to be „the white knight of crypto“ and had to disclose the complete customer profiles to IRS, thus infringing somehow on the customers‘ privacy.

As a journalistic narration, „Kings of Crypto“ does a pretty good job in keeping a light style. The reader‘s interest is constantly piqued by various details (from the fight with Wall Street to the constant problems of the website). 

Thus, if you are interested in the cryptocurrencies‘ trading story, „Kings of Crypto“ is one of the essential books for your shelves.


Title: „Kings of Crypto – One Startup‘s Quest to Take Cryptocurrency out of Silicon Valley and onto Wall Street“

Author: Jeff John Roberts

Published by: Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Massachusetts

Publishing date: December 15, 2020

Table of Contents for „Kings of Crypto“:


From Open Secret to Civil War

1. Brian Has a Secret 

2. The Outlaw Currency 

3. Running through Brick Walls 

4. Bust 

5. Hard Times 

6. Civil War


From Boom to Bubble to Bust

7. Enter Ethereum

8. Wall Street Comes Calling

9. Brian Has a Master Plan

10. Uncle Sam Comes Calling

11. Initial Coin Insanity

12. Coinbase Crackup


From Crypto Winter to the Crypto Future

13. Hangover

14. “Getting Our Asses Kicked”

15. Power Struggle

16. Bitcoin Triumphant

17. The Future of Finance


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