The Crypto.com Business Model – How Does Crypto.com Make Money?

Executive Summary:

Crypto.com is a FinTech company that provides a centralized exchange that allows users to purchase and sell dozens of cryptocurrencies, a debit card, as well as other financial products.

Crypto.com makes money from various trading fees, interest on loans, interchange, withdrawal, and currency conversion fees, sales fees from its NFT marketplace, and by selling stock in the firms it invests in.

Founded in 2016, Crypto.com has grown to become one of the world’s leading crypto-related platforms. It now boasts over 10 million users.

What Is Crypto.com?

Crypto.com is a FinTech company that provides a centralized exchange that allows users to purchase and sell dozens of cryptocurrencies.

The exchange is powered by its native coin dubbed CRO. Account holders can stake the coin, which grants them varying amounts of discounts and rewards (depending on the number of staked tokens).

Furthermore, you can apply for a debit card that can be used for payments in the physical world all while earning cashback rewards.

Apart from earning interest on your crypto holdings vis-a-vis staking, one can also apply for an instant loan using their existing holdings as collateral.

On the trading side, Crypto.com allows people to not only buy and sell cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) but trade a variety of derivates, such as futures, options, and more. The platform allows users to leverage trades by up to 50x.

The Crypto.com platform is powered by its own public blockchain called the Crypto.org EVM Chain. As such, developers can also release new products on its blockchain, which further expands the ecosystem around Crypto.com.

One prominent example is its own desktop wallet, which enables users to store their coins and access a variety of DeFi protocols.

Apart from developing products for retail investors, businesses can also make use of Crypto.com by tapping into its payment platform. This enables merchants to receive payments in over 30 different tokens.

The Crypto.com platform can either be accessed by visiting the firm’s website or by downloading any of its mobile applications (available on Android and iOS devices).

How Crypto.com Started: Company History

Crypto.com, which is headquartered in Singapore, was founded in 2016 by Kris Marszalek, Rafael Melo, Bobby Bao, and Gary Or.

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, Marszalek is certainly the most experienced of the quartet.

In 2004, he started Starline Polska, a consumer electronics design studio and manufacturer that he managed to grow to $81 million in annual revenue within three years.

Since the products he sold were manufactured and sold in Asia, Marszalek ended frequently traveling to Asia end even set up local subsidiaries in China as well as Hong Kong.

This eventually led him to launch BeeCrazy.hk in 2010, an eCommerce platform that primarily served customers in Hong Kong.

Yet again, he managed to grow the company to millions in revenue, which ultimately culminated in a $21 million exit to iBuy Group Limited in 2013.

Marszalek went on to join iBuy Group as its COO where oversaw the firm’s IPO on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in December of the same year. The company eventually rebranded into Ensogo, which Marszalek led as CEO from August 2014 onwards.

Unfortunately, his stint at Ensogo didn’t end as well as the previous business endeavors he was involved in. Two years after assuming the CEO role, in June 2016, Marszalek stepped down from his position.

Then, just days later, Ensogo abruptly shuttered its operations in Southeast Asia. Both buyers and sellers were blindsided by the immediate shutdown and left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in owed cash.

What made the whole situation worse – and possibly illegal – was that Ensogo, in April, had announced that it intended to expand its marketplace across the globe after experiencing strong growth in Southeast Asia.

Marszalek had since come out to defend himself, stating that the decision to shut down was against his wishes. But given that he did not hold a board seat and his ownership stake only amassed to three percent, his wishes were essentially overturned.

While Ensogo was struggling to keep its business afloat, Marszalek was already working on bigger and better things. He managed to convince Melo, Bao, and Or, who he knew from his Ensogo days, to join him.  

In May 2017, after over a year in stealth, Marszalek and the team unveiled their new company Monaco. Their plan was to offer a Visa debit card and settle transactions in Monaco’s native currency MCO.

In order to fund the development, the team issued an initial coin offering, which allowed them to raise $26.7 million. The single-largest investor contributed 5,005 ETH, which was equal to around $2 million at the time.

To further build up hype for its product, Monaco managed to close deals with various exchanges such as Bittrex, Binance, and others that went on to list its coin. Regardless, the rollout of its card wasn’t without issues.

In early October, Bloomberg ran a piece that debunked Monaco’s repeated claims of an existing partnership with Visa. Around the same time, the company removed one of its key roadmap features, smart asset contracts, from its roadmap, a move that caused the price of MCO to crash by more than 40 percent.

Given Marszalek’s troubled past, many began to lose faith in the project and speculated that Monaco was nothing but a scam. Luckily, the team was able to pull through and, in November, announced that it received the green light from regulators in Singapore.

However, the announcement just meant that the partnership with Visa had finally been confirmed but a functioning product was yet to be released. Over the coming months, Monaco continued to close more partnership deals, such as with Collinson Group airport lounge access for some of its card tiers.

In July 2018, after releasing the app and card to selected users in a closed beta, Monaco came out with some bombshell news. The company had just managed to acquire the Crypto.com domain, which Matt Blaze, a professor of computer and information science, had registered all the way back in 1993. It was later revealed that Monaco had paid a whopping $12 million to acquire the name.

As a result, Monaco officially rebranded into Crypto.com. And three months after the rebrand, in October, Crypto.com finally shipped out the first batches of cards to customers in Singapore. Just weeks later, the team was also able to receive regulatory approval to launch its card in the United States (it eventually launched in July 2019).

Around the same time, Crypto.com also introduced its own chain alongside the release of a native token dubbed CRO. The intention behind the chain was to allow merchants to receive payments at much lower costs and far greater transaction speeds. Throughout the coming months, CRO was also listed on all major exchanges.

The continuous expansion of its own platform, which entailed adding a borrowing and loan product in May amongst others, allowed Crypto.com to reach the inaugural mark of one million users in September 2019.

The company doubled down on its mission, which is to accelerate the world’s transition to cryptocurrency, by continuously expanding its product suite as well as the markets it serves.

In May 2020, Crypto.com announced that it would launch its MCO Visa cards in 31 countries across the European Union. A few weeks later, it also disclosed that it would launch in Canada. And in an effort to compete with platforms like FTX, Crypto.com revealed that it had expanded its exchange to cover derivates trading.

Despite the firm’s explosive growth, it continued to face both external and internal problems. In July, Crypto.com had to change its payment processor because its previous partner, Germany-based Wirecard, had been embroiled in a major accounting scandal which resulted in insolvency. In some instances, Crypto.com even had to refund 100 percent of customer balances.

Then, a month later, investors in the initial MCO token, which was issued during its ICO, had been revolting against a change in Crypto.com’s policies. Weeks prior, the platform had announced that it would focus its development efforts almost exclusively on CRO. As a result, it planned to conduct a token swap, which would go into effect by November 1st. Prior to that, users could swap early for a 20-percent bonus.

Naturally, the price of MCO dropped significantly while CRO’s accelerated. On top of that, Crypto.com stopped purchasing MCO coins in the open market, which further contributed to the decrease in price. Investors, therefore, had to endure significant losses while Crypto.com, which owned the majority of CRO tokens, was able to exchange them for significantly less.

Despite the backlash, Crypto.com continued to grow at an exponential rate. By October, on the backbone of launching localized versions in Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Portuguese, and more, the platform managed to pass the five-million user mark (a year after clearing one million).

Crypto.com capped the year off by making its first acquisition when it purchased The Card Group Pty Ltd, an Australian FinTech company that allowed it to secure an Australian Financial Service License (ASFL). It eventually unveiled its card in November 2021.

Meanwhile, on the backbone of an accelerating crypto market as well as partnership announcements with the likes of Booking.com and others, crpto.com continued to rally. In March 2021, it launched its very own NFT marketplace in an effort to capitalize on the trend and take market share away from players like OpenSea.

That same month, it also introduced a $200 million fund dedicated to investing in crypto startups. Much like Binance, Coinbase, or FTX, the fund is intended to accelerate the development of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, which could yield positive secondary effects for crpto.com itself.

Another interesting growth hack the company began to employ was to launch a free tax filing tool for users in Canada (and later the United States, Australia, as well as the United Kingdom). The tool not only collects returns from Crypto.com’s own platform but every other exchange a user is on. Not only will it help to further legitimize the space in the eyes of regulators but it may also introduce potentially new customers to the platform itself.

By the summer of 2021, it was finally time for the company to go on full attack. It announced a multitude of sponsorships, which included:

  • A $100 million deal to become the official cryptocurrency sponsor of Formula 1
  • A 10-year deal with the UFC, worth $175 million, to become its first official “fight kit” partner
  • Becoming the official sponsor of Italy’s Lega Serie A
  • A partnership with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) to become its Official Crypto Platform Partner
  • Spending $15 million to sponsor London-based esports brand Fnatic

… and plenty more. It even launched a worldwide advertising campaign worth $100 million, which encompassed more than 20 countries and features stars like Matt Damon, basketball star Carmelo Anthony, snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, and more.

However, these marketing campaigns would all be dwarfed by what became one of the biggest crypto-related news of the year. On November 16th, 2021, Crypto.com managed to acquire the naming rights to Los Angeles’ iconic Staples Center. The platform would pay a whopping $700 million to obtain the naming rights for a period of 20 years.

Its growth efforts have allowed the company, which now employs over 3,000 people, to grow to over 10 million users, making it one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency platforms.

How Does Crypto.com Make Money?

Crypto.com makes money from various trading fees, interest on loans, interchange, withdrawal, and currency conversion fees, sales fees from its NFT marketplace, and by selling stock in the firms it invests in.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these in the section below.

Interchange Fees

The core of Crypto.com’s offering is centered around the debit card it offers to its users. Depending on the amount of CRO that a user stakes, he or she can get access to different card tiers.

These cards each offer varying benefits, such as cashback rewards (between one to eight percent), reimbursements of Spotify, Netflix, or Amazon Prime subscriptions, discounts on Airbnb and Expedia, airport lounge access, and plenty more.

Crypto.com generates revenue from the card via so-called interchange fees. The fee, which is paid by the merchant, is normally around one percent. Visa, as the issuer of the card, then gets a portion of that revenue.

Additionally, the card also imposes ATM cash withdrawal as well as currency exchange fees. Yet again, the amount that can be withdrawn or exchanged is dependent on the card tier.

The debit card not only helps Crypto.com to accelerate its mission of worldwide crypto adoption but serves as a cross-selling mechanism into other, potentially more lucrative services.

For instance, users can also use their account balance to purchase NFTs on the platform or trade financial derivatives (more on that later).

In the future, once Crypto.com has gathered more data about its user’s financial situation and spending habits, it can offer ancillary services like insurances or tokenized stocks.

Trading Fees

Apart from its card-related fees, Crypto.com also generates a significant portion of its income from fees associated with its centralized trading exchange.

On the exchange, users can purchase dozens of different cryptocurrencies as well as other financial derivatives like options and futures.

Just like many other cryptocurrency exchanges, Crypto.com has adopted a maker-taker fee structure.

This essentially means the trader pays a different fee that is contingent on whether his/her order generates liquidity because there is no matching order (= you are a maker) or the order decreases liquidity since it matches with an order already on the books (= you are a taker).

As a result, traders normally pay higher fees when they are the taker. However, the more CRO a user stakes and the more trades one executes, the higher the discount they will obtain.

Apart from trading-related fees, Crypto.com also imposes withdrawal fees, which are dependent on the destination (you can either withdraw into another blockchain network) and the type of currency that is being cashed out.

Interest

Crypto.com also offers loans to both traders (to trade on margin, for example) as well as account holders using the debit card.

Users can use CRO, BTC, ETH, and other coins as collateral while loans can be issued in either PAX, TUSD, USDC, or USDT.

Crypto.com generates income from its loan product through the interest paid. The interest that a borrower pays is dependent on a number of factors, including collateral, amount of staked CRO, how much is being borrowed, and more.  

NFT Fees

In an effort to compete against platforms like OpenSea and bank in on the hype, Crypto.com has launched its very own marketplace that lists and sells NFTs.

The issuance and ownership records are stored on its very own Crypto.org Chain. The NFTs can be bought using CRO, the chain’s native token.

NFTs can either be purchased at a fixed price that is set by the seller or through an auction in which the highest bidder is awarded ownership.

Crypto.com charges the creator a 15-percent sales fee for every sold NFT on its marketplace. Traders, namely the ones who resell an NFT, are charged 5 percent on the secondary marketplace.

Investments

As previously mentioned, Crypto.com has launched a $200 million fund, dubbed Crypto.com Capital, in March 2021 through which it would invest in blockchain-related businesses.

The fund itself is mostly aimed at companies in the seed and Series A stage. For the seed stage, Crypto.com would write checks of between $100,000 and $3 million while a Series A contribution may be between $3 million and $10 million.

Investing in other crypto projects is a strategy that had initially been popularized by competing platforms like Binance and 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. Crypto.com can then use that data to inform its own business decisions, for example, whether it wants to expand into a new product line.

Additionally, a lot of use cases in crypto are still thesis- or story-driven. By uplifting the entire industry, Crypto.com will simply benefit from greater public acceptance and thus wider adoption, which ultimately leads to more customers.

Crypto.com 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.

Crypto.com Funding, Revenue & Valuation

Crypto.com, according to Crunchbase, has raised a total of $26.7 million during an initial coin offering in May 2017.

Given that Crypto.com remains in private ownership, it is not obligated to disclose revenue or valuation figures to the public. This may occur during a future liquidation event such as an IPO.  

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..