As crypto regains momentum, Coinbase Canada’s Lucas Matheson zeroes in on the next big goal: adoption

Coinbase - BetaKit Live
With crypto regulation in place, Matheson believes now is the time “for more Canadians to pay attention.”

The cryptocurrency sector has caught a tailwind in the last few months. From a rally in prices to recent regulatory nods towards bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the United States, this favourable breeze is boosting market confidence and paving the way for wider institutional acceptance of digital assets.

While the US has historically taken a more austere stance on crypto, Canada has approached the sector with greater curiosity. It’s one of the reasons that Coinbase has been so bullish on the Canadian market. This week, the firm obtained restricted dealer status from the Canadian Securities Administrators, making it the first international and largest cryptocurrency exchange to be registered in Canada.

“Now is the opportunity for us to shift and help evangelize the opportunity for Canadians to get access to the digital economy.”

To Lucas Matheson, CEO of Coinbase Canada, it’s now clear that crypto as an asset class is “here to stay,” and the industry is now shifting to a new focus: driving adoption.

“Now is the opportunity for us to shift and help evangelize the opportunity for Canadians to get access to the digital economy,” Matheson told BetaKit. 

In a recent fireside discussion with BetaKit interim CEO Satish Kanwar, Matheson explored how Coinbase is looking to catalyze crypto adoption in Canada, the role that the government will play, and Canada’s wider innovation opportunity.

Educating consumers about crypto has been a key focus for Coinbase in recent years. The company’s Coinbase Learn division provides anyone, from first-timers to experienced investors, with beginner guides, practical tips, and market updates. The company also has a learning rewards program, that allows customers to earn crypto as they learn about it through educational videos.

For Matheson, the focus on education has been a part of Coinbase’s broader effort to “tell a new story of money “that’s about equality. It’s about decentralization, it’s about a trustless permissionless system.”

Although Canada has advanced in embracing crypto, it’s clear that it hasn’t yet achieved the same widespread use as traditional cash. According to a 2022 Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) survey, only 13 percent of Canadians said they owned crypto assets or funds.

Data from Coinbase illustrates why this might be the case. Matheson highlighted that 86 percent of all Canadians don’t think the financial system is fair today, yet two-thirds of Canadians believe that the technology behind crypto is too complicated for them to understand. Matheson believes that this simply is not true anymore, quipping that ‘if you can play Angry Birds, you can use Coinbase.’”

In the US, regulators have been particularly active in asserting jurisdiction over cryptocurrencies, and enforcing existing securities and tax laws to regulate the crypto space, which has led to a regulatory environment that some stakeholders view as uncertain and fragmented.

Canada, on the other hand, has taken a more business-friendly approach to crypto regulation. It was one of the first countries to approve a bitcoin ETF, and Matheson has previously noted the country’s “regulatory clarity” was a major draw for Coinbase in entering the market last year.

“[Canadians are] curious about it. They’re learning about it, and they’re trying to figure out how to do this safely in a compliant way, and now that our system and industry is regulated in Canada, I think this is a good opportunity for more Canadians to pay attention,” Matheson added.

This isn’t to say it’s all smooth sailing. Matheson sees plenty of chances to team up with Canadian regulators to share the crypto narrative. But for that to happen, the federal government needs to get savvy about the space.

“It’s hard for the government to hire deep expertise in segments of the economy that are quite competitive,” he said. “That’s why I think in digital assets specifically, our government has been able to leverage a lot of the insights from … technology leaders in Canada.”

When Coinbase first revealed its plans to expand into Canada, Matheson made the case for partnering with a government known for regulating through engagement rather than rigid enforcement. Matheson said he believes Coinbase is well-positioned to work with the government in educating Canadians about crypto and paving the way for broader adoption.

“Part of the opportunity for us in Canada is to find champions inside of government, to find champions inside of business, and tech leaders who are willing to help storytell, help Canadians understand why this is important, why the world is moving digital, and how to learn more about it,” Matheson added.

In their conversation, Matheson and Kanwar delved deeper into how Coinbase is demystifying crypto, the value of public-private partnerships, and the company’s strategies for making digital assets more accessible across Canada.

Watch the full fireside discussion below.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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