With the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum and almost every other cryptocurrency falling dramatically, major crypto firms such as Coinbase and Crypto.com have laid off hundreds of employees in the past few days alone. But one company is looking for employees — just not for those who label racism, transphobia, or other types of workplace behavior as toxic.
The cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, ranked in the top five globally by trading volume, announced in a blog post Wednesday that it took on more than 500 new employees, as long as they fit the company’s vision of a “crypto-first culture.” Another document linked in the post outlines the foundations of that culture divided into subsections that summarize a particular view of cryptolibertarianism associated with controversial CEO Jesse Powell.
One pillar is that “crypto is for everyone”, and another is that “believe in” The mission is a must” — the mission is to accelerate cryptocurrency adoption worldwide. Another section, called “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sound Money,” explains that Kraken is based on belief in the constitutional basis for free speech, free markets, and armed self-defense.
But apparently the right to free speech at Kraken isn’t absolute, because the next section – “Someone has to be offended sometimes” – explains that employees “don’t call someone’s words toxic, hateful, racist, x-phobic” and should instead of those “challenging ideas calmly with logic, reason, and better ideas.”
If there was confusion about the kind of work environment Kraken promotes, Powell gave his own summary of the culture in a tweet thread published early Wednesday morning and claimed there were only “20 people out of 3200” [employees] who are not on board at all.”
The things that made these 20 people a bad fit included concerns about “DEI” (diversity, equality and inclusion), “pronouns” and “whether someone can identify as a different race and use the N – word.” Powell debated these topics for a while, but in his words, “people are triggered by everything and cannot abide by the ground rules of fair debate.”
5/ What are they mad about?
* DEI (Silicon Valley version)
* pronouns, whether one can identify as a different race and use the N-word
* whether there are any differences in human gender at all
* being respected and unoffended
* being “harmed” by “violent” words
— Jesse Powell (@jespow) June 15, 2022
Kraken’s public culture briefing was probably an attempt to anticipate report from The New York Times who referred to chat logs, videos and other internal documents showing that Powell was waging a “culture war” within the company. The documents now published by Kraken are reportedly a shortened version of a longer culture document sent to employees earlier in June, instructing them to quit if they disagree with the values it contains.
According to the Time, Powell posted comments in a company Slack channel calling American women “brainwashed” in a discussion of female intelligence. He has also reportedly started another channel specifically to debate whether people should be able to choose gender pronouns that were not assigned to them at birth. Many employees would have pushed strongly against Powell, but were told that the company culture would not change substantially.
Kraken didn’t respond to The Verges request for comment at time of publication.
The Kraken story bears strong parallels to a previous controversy on the Coinbase exchange. In June 2020, after George Floyd’s death, a group of employees ran away after CEO Brian Armstrong declined to make a public statement in support of Black Lives Matter† Armstrong later stated that Coinbase was a “mission-focused company” that would not deal with issues unrelated to its core mission, and offered a generous exit package to employees who disagreed with his position.