The CoinGecko Business Model – How Does CoinGecko Make Money?

Executive Summary:

CoinGecko is a platform that allows users to track the price development of blockchain-related assets like cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens, futures, and more.

CoinGecko makes money via referral fees, advertising, premium subscriptions, its commercial API, donations, book sales, as well as profits from investing in other businesses.

Launched in 2014, CoinGecko has grown to become one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency resources. It has grown to become one of the world’s top 500 most visited websites.

What Is CoinGecko?

CoinGecko is a platform that allows users to track the price development of blockchain-related assets like cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), indices, and more.

The prices on its platform are calculated based on pairings collected from the dozens of exchanges CoinGecko taps into. It then uses a global volume-weighted average price formula to determine the price at any given time.

Apart from a crypto asset’s price development, CoinGecko also tracks additional data points such as its market capitalization, trading volume, 24h and 7-day lows and highs, and many more.

In order to have one’s project listed on the platform, it needs to be tradable on an exchange that is tracked by CoinGecko.

CoinGecko also offers a variety of other products, such as a portfolio tracker, a yield farming comparison tool, various widgets, and educational resources like its podcast or quarterly crypto reports.

Users can also engage in various communities that are hosted and moderated by CoinGecko, including on Discord, Facebook, Reddit, or Telegram.

CoinGecko itself can be accessed by visiting its website or by downloading any of its mobile apps (available on Android and iOS devices).

CoinGecko Company History

CoinGecko, which is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was launched in 2014 by Bobby Ong and TM Lee.

The duo initially got to know each other through mutual friends. In late 2013, they had a chance encounter in Singapore, which eventually led them to want to start a business together.

Around the same time, they had begun to explore blockchains and cryptocurrencies in greater depth and quickly became enamored with their vast potential.

They even purchased some coins themselves – admittedly with lackluster success. However, that lack of success prompted them to wonder whether there was more to be known about a cryptocurrency and its future prospects.

One of those examples was Dogecoin, the meme cryptocurrency mimicking the dog breed. While it appeared to not make any sense at first thought, they soon discovered that Dogecoin had managed to build a great community, prompting developers to work on the ecosystem.

This formed the basis for what would eventually become known as CoinGecko. The duo launched the website in April 2014 with a particular emphasis on developer and trading activities (see image below).

coingecko old website
Wayback Machine

However, both founders would remain employed for the next few years while continuing to work on CoinGecko next to their day jobs. Lee had been working as a software engineer at various tech startups while Ong held a job in digital marketing at a Malaysian property developer.

Unfortunately, just months before they launched, the then-biggest cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox went bankrupt as a result of a hack that led to the loss of approximately 850,000 bitcoins. This led to one of crypto’s longest bear markets ever while causing the price of Bitcoin to fall by more than 70 percent.

Nevertheless, Lee and Ong continued to plug away, making gradual improvements all while staying employed. In those early days, the website would often crash as a result of DDoS attacks and unexpected traffic spikes.

Fortunately, by 2017, the crypto market began to trend upwards again. More precisely, the price of Bitcoin began to skyrocket, reaching an all-time high of $20,000 by the year’s end. This not only prompted the team to add pricing data, which significantly furthered growth but allowed them to finally quit their jobs to focus on CoinGecko full-time.

In January 2018, they were able to make their first outside hire. Throughout the year, the team continued to add new features and products at unprecedented speed. In July, for instance, CoinGecko released v1 of its Android and iOS mobile apps.

During 2018, CoinGecko recorded as many as 100 million page views in a single month. It continued 2019 by making significant changes to its ranking algorithm. In May, the team introduced a new “trust score” that would give users more information about a given project.

Over the coming months, CoinGecko continued to refine that system, for instance adding web traffic data from Similarweb or a cybersecurity rating provided by Hacken. Unfortunately, due to overall negative market sentiment, CoinGecko growth ultimately stalled.

Luckily, the team had a very low-cost base due to only hiring locals within its Kuala Lumpur headquarters. On top of that, the founders refrained from raising venture capital, which often comes with the expectations of aggressively expanding the business, thus requiring to invest heavily into growth.

Instead, CoinGecko’s team remained creative when it comes to finding revenue-generating opportunities. In March 2020, for instance, it launched its first book dubbed ‘How to DeFi’. A month later, though, it would receive a highly unexpected boost from one of its main rivals.

CoinMarketCap, the world’s most popular tracking platform, had been acquired by Binance for a whopping $400 million. Many industry insiders called into whether CoinMarketCap would be able to remain neutral. Additionally, its dubious founder Brandon Chez and high-level executives departed from the company not long after.

CoinGecko was at the perfect spot to fill in that competitive vacuum. Over the coming months, fuelled by a rapidly growing crypto market (due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures), the team released new features on almost a monthly basis.

By year’s end, CoinGecko had managed substantially close the gap with CoinMarketCap. The business was flourishing to the point that the team was able to incorporate CoinGecko Ventures, a separate entity that would invest in other crypto-related businesses.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, CoinGecko made close to a dozen investments in companies such as DefiDollar, Dune Analytics, Sky Mavis (maker of Axie Infinity), ParaSwap, ZenLedger, and many others.

By March 2021, CoinGecko had managed to become one of the world’s top 500 most visited websites. In February alone, it recorded over 200 million page views. Unfortunately, not everyone was taking a liking to the platform’s ever-increasing relevance.

The Chinese government, in September, blocked access to CoinGecko. The crackdown also affected its rival CoinMarketCap as well as the charting platform TradingView.

How Does CoinGecko Make Money?

CoinGecko makes money via referral fees, advertising, premium subscriptions, its commercial API, donations, book sales, as well as profits from investing in other businesses.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the firm’s revenue streams in the section below.

Referral Fees

Users on CoinGecko can not only check a cryptocurrency’s price but are also able to purchase tokens through the platform.

CoinGecko works together with different exchanges, such as Bybit or crypto.com, to facilitate those transactions.

Whenever a user does end up purchasing a token through CoinGecko, a so-called referral fee (or affiliate commission) is paid by the exchange that the purchase was made on.

These commissions are likely dependent on the agreement struck between CoinGecko and the exchange.

Normally, CoinGecko would be compensated in the single-digit percentages. For users it helps to onboard, it likely also receives a commission for any future purchases made on that exchange.

Advertising

Another source of revenue for CoinGecko comes from ads that are displayed across its platform. More precisely, businesses can promote their products through banner ads.

These ads then appear on a variety of spots, for instance on top of a webpage (called header) or in the footer section.

CoinGecko gets compensated whenever a user sees such an advert, a term that is referred to as an impression.

Advertisers benefit from a dedicated audience that, in all likeliness, is not only interested in cryptocurrencies but also has the financial means to invest in them.

Premium Subscriptions

In April 2021, CoinGecko launched multiple premium subscription offerings dubbed Premium and Premium+, respectively.

These plans grant users a variety of benefits, including ad-free browsing, access to a CoinGecko Premium NFT as well as its books (more on that later), private chat with its research analysts, and many more.

Premium comes at a price tag of $5 per month (or $49.90/year) while Premium+ gets you down for $10 per month ($99.90 per year).

CoinGecko essentially relies on a freemium business model by providing most of its features at no cost. If users seek to have a more elevated experience, they can do so by opting in to any of the above-mentioned plans.

However, offering most of its features for free allows CoinGecko to continue growing. Over time, with more additions to its premium bundles, it should be able to convert more of its ‘free’ users into paying ones.

Commercial API

Another subscription product that CoinGecko offers is by granting other businesses access to its cryptocurrency API.

Businesses can call that API to display CoinGecko’s market data on their own platforms or use it to analyze price developments at scale.

Apart from a Free option, CoinGecko offers three additional plans: Analyst ($129 / month), Pro ($999), and Enterprise (pricing on request).

These plans then give customers varying access to how often they can call the API in a given time period.

CoinMarketCap, its main rival, has had a similar offering since August 2018. Both the pricing and available data points between the two companies are roughly on par.

Donations

Fans of CoinGecko also have the opportunity to donate to the company. Donations can be made in Bitcoin as well as Ethereum.

Users simply scan the respective wallet address and issue the transfer within their own wallet (Ethereum can, for instance, be transferred via MetaMask).

Book Sales

In March 2020, CoinGecko launched its first-ever book called ‘How to DeFi’. In the months thereafter, it released more titles such as ‘How to Bitcoin’ (pretty creative naming, right?).

The books are sold in digital format only (PDF, ePub, and Mobi versions). Titles retail between $14.99 and $19.99.

Not only do the books provide CoinGecko with an additional revenue stream, but they also solidify the platform as an expert in the field and potentially expand its reach.

On a similar note, this has also been the reason why CoinGecko has been releasing quarterly reports on the crypto industry.

These reports then get shared by various media outlets, which in turn increases exposure for the platform (in particular on platforms like Google).

Investments

As previously mentioned, CoinGecko has also begun to heavily invest in other crypto and blockchain-related startups.

When the value of its shares appreciates, it can eventually sell them off for a profit during a future liquidation event (such as a secondary sale or IPO).

For instance, Binance had invested $70 million into another exchange called FTX in December 2019. In July 2021, during the firm’s Series B, it was able to sell that stake back to FTX for a whopping $2.3 billion.

Investing in other crypto projects is a strategy that had initially been popularized by the likes of Coinbase.

Not only do you get to participate in an exponentially increasing market but investments also allow the business to gain access to private data. CoinGecko can then use that data to inform its own business decisions, for example, whether it wants to expand into a new product line.

CoinGecko essentially generates revenue whenever it is able to sell shares it acquired for at a higher price than they were initially purchased for.

A sale may either occur during a secondary sale, which might happen in subsequent funding rounds, or after a company it invested in goes public.

How Long Does It Take To Get Listed On CoinGecko?

There is no pre-determined time for when a project, such as a cryptocurrency, may get listed on CoinGecko.

Normally, if a project fulfills its listing criteria (meaning it is tradable on a cryptocurrency exchange tracked by CoinGecko), it can be listed within five working days.

In the past, however, some developers have stated that it took CoinGecko weeks or even months to get their projects approved (despite matching its criteria).  

Hi folks, my name is Viktor! By day, I lead a tech team of 10 for an e-commerce startup. At night, I work on expressing my weird thoughts through this blog. And if there's time, I cuddle my cat..