How CoinGecko Grew from a Side Project to Serving 10 Million Users

How CoinGecko Grew from a Side Project to Serving 10 Million Users

by May 31, 2021

Malaysian startup CoinGecko started out as a side project back in 2014 but has since grown into one of the biggest crypto data providers in the world, boasting 10 million users and 200 million page views monthly.

The startup is now striving to become the go-to crypto data platform for a future where its founders believe tokenization will the norm.

“On CoinGecko right now, you only see like 7,000 coins or tokens, … [but] given the current trajectory and where the market is going, we see a future where there’s millions of tokens in the market,” CoinGecko’s co-founder and CEO TM Lee said during a recent Fintech Fireside Asia virtual session.

“These tokens will represent anything: a non-fungible token (NFT) that represents real estate, artwork, or a game item; or fungible tokens that represent shareholding in a network, a company, or whatever.”

“Because of that future, we want to build CoinGecko as an aggregator for all these millions of tokens in a way that users would be able to understand and get the information that they need, the prices, market data, etc.”

CoinGecko is still at a very early stage and far from its goal, Lee said, but the team is building up the product and infrastructure to accommodate this new environment and “prepare for perhaps a decentralized or hybrid financial world where people would use tokens to represent all kinds of assets.”

CoinGecko’s early beginnings

CoinGecko emerged seven years ago at a time when crypto was still a niche market with a very small community of users. At the time, Lee and co-founder and COO Bobby Ong, identified a need for a platform that would gather all the key metrics of the crypto industry.

“We saw a gap where there were many … people building exchanges and getting into mining … but no one was paying attention to the developer community building the projects, the social media community discussing the projects,” Lee recalled. “The first product for CoinGecko we launched in 2014 was really an aggregator for all these metrics.”

Back then, the market was fairly non-competitive, meaning that pretty much anyone could set up a website, do some search engine optimization (SEO) work, get highly ranked, and then generate clicks and traffic, Lee said.

Bootstrapping the World’s Best Crypto Aggregator ft. TM Lee, Co-Founder, CoinGecko

“That’s how we got our early usage of organic SEO. And then throughout the months, we learnt that people into crypto were global… from Asia, the US. So from the very beginning, we translated our website to ten different languages, and provided crypto prices in all major currencies,” he said. “Because the market wasn’t so competitive, it allowed us to bootstrap our startup and grow from that foundation.”

To bootstrap or to raise funds?

To date, CoinGecko is still entirely bootstrapped, Lee said, a position that resulted from a combination of factors. First, the founders do admire the “Basecamp model” which showcases that it is possible to start and build a successful company without external funding.

“We wanted to see how far we could push the company without fundraising,” he said.

Then, since CoinGecko was just meant to be a side project, the duo didn’t really pitch to any investor. The ones they did talk to didn’t seem really interested in either the crypto industry or the business they were in, Lee said.

Finally, later on, they realized that external funding had both favorable and unfavorable consequences.

“In 2017-18, we saw a lot of crypto companies that were heavily funded back in 2014 that ended up closing their business right before the boom market, just because they raised a lot of money and then the bear market continued to advance for two years, and they ran out of cash to continue their business,” Lee said. “Sometimes, fundraising can work as a double-edged sword: you have this huge amount of money and then you try to deploy it while the market is bearish for a long time. Then it’s going to be a big problem for you as a startup.”

But the landscape has changed dramatically over the past six to seven years, and become very competitive, he said, noting that the startup is now considering fundraising.

“All options are on the table,” Lee said. “We’ve talked to some parties but nothing is set in stone and it is not urgent for us to fundraise. But it’s something we are thinking about, see if it makes sense.”

The state of cryptocurrency in 2021

Commenting on the recent price swings, Lee said, the correction we’ve seen since early May was much needed, noting that “the market had been overheated in the past months.”

The year also saw the listing of Coinbase on the Nasdaq, a major milestone for the crypto industry that showcased that digital assets are steadily entering the mainstream.

“When we started CoinGecko, we never thought we would see a crypto company going public,” Lee said. “It will probably set the tone that crypto is becoming more acceptable and understandable by the masses. People were very scared of crypto, they didn’t understand it, but when you have a public company that deals with bitcoin, it means that the comfort level is there.

“We will see a trickling down effect, which could be more crypto companies going public,” he said. “We have also started seeing more banks coming in and offering these kinds of services, with DBS in Singapore, for example.”

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