When meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin skyrocketed in price early last year, vaulting from less than a penny to a high above $0.73, crypto and stock trading app was one of the biggest beneficiaries—DOGE alone represented 34% of Robinhood’s crypto revenue in Q1 2021.
But the Dogecoin boom eventually went bust, with the long-running coin now down 92% from its peak price set in May 2021. And Robinhood, which had warned of the risks associated with such a volatile asset, took some flak for being a key destination for trading the jokey, dog-themed crypto.
Christine Brown was Robinhood Crypto’s first COO from April 2021 until this past March, and previously VP of Product Operations at the fintech startup. During a recent appearance on Decrypt’s gm podcast, she discussed what she saw as the wider benefits of Dogecoin’s ascent.
“Dogecoin had a moment last year on Robinhood's platform,” Brown told Decrypt. “And a lot of people were like, ‘This is a meme coin. Why support it? Why trade it? This is a bad thing for crypto overall.’”
“I actually think it got a bad rap,” she continued, “and in a lot of ways does not get the credit it deserves for helping onboard people into the space.”
Brown, now COO of NFT startup Floor, pointed to three barriers of entry to crypto: economics, education, and emotion. Buying crypto requires money, of course, and there’s risk associated with any cryptocurrency—especially volatile meme coins.
In terms of education, onboarding remains one of the biggest challenges in the crypto space, especially when it comes to handling crypto assets in a self-custody wallet. Robinhood, much like exchanges Coinbase or FTX, is an accessible way to start trading without deep knowledge of the tech. Brown said that education will be an ongoing piece of crypto onboarding.
“Some of this is going to be informational, and some of this is going to be baked into products that evolve in this space over time,” she said, “where you actually lower the barrier of entry from an educational perspective because it's handled from a product perspective.”
Ultimately, Brown thinks that the “emotional barrier” is the “big one” of the three, as prospective investors may be held back by questions over whether they can really understand the space and should be handling crypto. Dogecoin, in her view, added layers of fun and accessibility to help ease those concerns for some buyers.
“Dogecoin, at the time, made it really easy for people to be like, 'Yeah, this is for me. It's a coin with a dog on it, and I can start with $1, and I can just try it out and see what happens and dip my toe in and go from there.'”
Brown’s new startup, Floor, is focused on NFT collectibles. Prospective members can purchase an NFT as an access pass to the platform, which lets users view all of their NFT holdings and see changes in valuation. Floor recently raised $8 million in seed funding, and plans to eventually offer features that are not token gated.
Much as Dogecoin helped introduce the crypto world to a new audience, Brown believes that NFTs can do the same. An NFT works like a proof of ownership to an item, and popular use cases include digital goods like artwork, collectibles, and video game items.
There’s rampant speculation around some tokenized collectibles, which has pushed the sale of some NFTs into the tens of millions of dollars, but they can also have utility—such as serving as an access pass to a community, an event ticket, or a deed to a physical item. The wide array of potential use cases could make them another accessible gateway into crypto, said Brown.
“I think in a lot of ways NFTs are that,” she said, “but on a much grander, bigger scheme, because it does have more use cases beyond just financial speculation.”