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Earn founder and CEO Balaji Srinivasan. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Digital currency exchange Coinbase is still in talks to acquire Earn.com, a paid inbox service formerly known as 21 inc., Axios has learned from multiple sources.

  • No done deal yet (or maybe ever), but current discussions are at a purchase price north of $100 million (plus management earn-outs) with Coinbase insisting that Earn founder and CEO Balaji Srinivasan come over as CTO.

Why it matters: As 21, the company helped raise the early profile of Bitcoin among Silicon Valley investors.

  • Andreessen Horowitz has stakes in both companies, and is said to have recused itself from board-level negotiations (although former A16Z partner Srinivasan remains a "board partner" with the firm).
  • Earn originally originally was developing chips and hardware for cryptocurrency mining. It has since pivoted to crypto-based messaging technology, which some believe could someday be used to accept/decline online advertising.
  • If the equity value ended at around $120 million it would basically be break-even for Earn's Series C investors, given stock preferences, but earlier backers will be easily in the black because of Earn's early cryptocurrency activities.
  • Keep that last point in mind when you think about valuations of other crypto-related companies like Ripple. Traditional equity is only part of the capital equation.

Coindesk last month reported early talks between the two companies.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
37 mins ago - Economy & Business

SoftBank and StubHub vets form new SPAC

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Jeffrey Housenbold, who recently stepped down as a managing partner of SoftBank Vision Fund, has formed a new SPAC with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, who was president of ticket resale firm StubHub until it was acquired last year by Viagogo.

Why it matters: The death of SPACs has been greatly exaggerated.

54 mins ago - World

U.K. government sets out agenda in first COVID-era Queen's Speech

Queen Elizabeth II walks behind the Imperial State Crown in the Royal Gallery of Parliament. Photo: Richard Pohle/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II laid out the U.K. government's agenda at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday, marking the first Queen's Speech since the pandemic began and her first major public appearance since the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

Why it matters: In a pared-back ceremony, the queen set out Prime Minister Boris Johnson's vision for recovering from a pandemic that inflicted the worst death toll in Europe and worst recession in 300 years.

The ransomware pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

"We are on the cusp of a global pandemic," said Christopher Krebs, the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told Congress last week. The virus causing the pandemic isn't biological, however. It's software.

Why it matters: Crippling a major U.S. oil pipeline this weekend initially looked like an act of war — but it's now looking like an increasingly normal crime, bought off-the-shelf from a "ransomware as a service" provider known as DarkSide.