File Image: An illustration photo of Bitcoin.

INTERNATIONAL - Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, was signing up 50 000 new customers a day last year, chief executive Brian Armstrong said at the Bloomberg Players Technology Summit in San Francisco.

While plenty of speculators have been attracted to cryptocurrencies, particularly during the price run-up last year, many have not made money. Bitcoin’s price of about $6 120 (R89 000) price is now almost 70 percent off its December high, and most other coins are in steep decline as well.

“This technology is going through a series of bubbles and corrections, and each time it does that, it’s at a new plateau,” Armstrong said on Tuesday. 

“People’s expectations are all over the map, but real-world adoption has been going up.”

Coinbase helped customers trade $150 billion worth of cryptocurrency over the past year, he said. Armstrong did not say how the company’s current rate of new customers compared with a year ago. He estimated that about 10 percent of digital coins are used in real life, in games and other purchases online.

“I think it will be quite some time before you cross the street to Starbucks in the US and pay with crypto,” he said.

Still, San Francisco-based Coinbase continues to grow. The company has about 1 000 employees, and one-third of them -- and a third of the company’s leadership team -- are women, he said.

“Now it’s getting harder and harder to be a crypto skeptic,” Armstrong said.