This is a second in a series of posts about our 1 year anniversary. For the first post on building things from the ground up and fiat support on FTX, see here.
A lot of media put out by crypto news sites is obviously paid advertising. By now people know that articles titled “this new protocol could disrupt a $1T industry” is not, in fact, about the author’s belief in the importance of the new project, but rather hiding payment-for-shilling in the world ‘could’. As far as I know, no one really listens to those articles anyway.
The ultimate resting place of Satoshi’s vision.
But there’s another, less flagrant form of content-free promotion: “[insert project’s name] poaches Goldman Sachs boss and ex-SEC commissioner to accelerate their expansion”. The interesting thing about these articles is that, in some sense, they should be meaningful. It should be a good sign if you’re able to hire accomplished employees, and it should bode well for your regulatory status if your approach is spearheaded by someone from the SEC.
And because it should be meaningful, people care. People buy tokens because they hired someone from the SEC; people think an exchange is legit because it’s built by ex-bankers. And the articles don’t look like paid shills–they look like real reporting, containing a weak form of endorsement by the author.
The problem with those articles lies in Goodhart’s law. More often than not, when you see that some crypto firm just hired an ex-SEC commissioner, their search process wasn’t “let’s hire people who will do good work for the firm, oh cool looks like one of the people we hired used to work at the SEC!” Instead, the process was probably something like “man you know what’d pump our token? If we hired someone from the SEC!” And so they proceed to find all ex-SEC commissioners and tell them they’ll give them 0.5% equity in the company in return for being an ‘advisor’. A few candidates will ask what it means to be an advisor, but most already know: it means being listed on a webpage as an advisor, along with a photo and the words “SEC” written below. No advising necessary.
To be clear, he didn’t join Coinbase. He joined a law firm, and one of that law firm’s many clients is Coinbase.
Crypto media doesn’t seem to have caught on. Leading sites will still uncritically write articles about obviously meaningless hires, playing right into the narrative. And behind the scenes the same people will keep plugging away, making their companies work away from the limelight–because why bother highlighting the productive employees when you could highlight the decorated ones?
I guess we’re guilty of this sometimes too, when we talk about our engineers’ prior jobs. But I’d like to think that at least we don’t hire for those reasons. We don’t have any bullshit advisors sticking around for their resume, and we don’t periodically hire from Goldman just to do it.
So today, in honor of our anniversary, I’d like to talk about some of the things that our employees did that made us proud to hire them.
Gary was a college roommate of mine, although I first met him at a math camp in high school. In 2012 he turned off his BTC arbitrage bot because there wasn’t enough volume on Mt. Gox to justify it, and his botnet demolished the competition in prizes for liking the Facebook page of Avatar: The Last Airbender. What really sold me, though, was his personal website.
Nishad was one of my brother’s best friends in high school. He’s shown the fastest and most sustained professional growth I’ve ever witnessed. In addition to building out much of our technological infrastructure and managing most of our dev team, his treatment of employees has earned him sole membership in our Slack group ‘Kings of Kindness’. Despite that, for April Fool’s day one year he changed his Slack profile picture to that of our CFO, changed his nickname to their name (which it turns out you can do!), and posted this:
Before joining our team, Dan was our chief external counsel, and our legal advisor from the very beginning. In addition to being with us through thick and thin, Dan helped us build out legal and corporate infrastructure and a pace and scale that allowed us to grow as quickly as we wanted. Dan has deep knowledge of crypto regulation and will serve to ensure our compliance with regulations across many jurisdictions
When we interviewed Jen at the recommendation of a mutual friend, she walked into a tiny office in a coworking space in Hong Kong filled to the brim with boxes, monitors, and food that would have been edible a few weeks ago. It was as much her interviewing us as the other way around, and from the outside it was surprising that she left her corporate head of office job for two people who didn’t quite remember to put on shoes for the interview. Since then she’s managed a job as varied and shifting as the crypto industry, covering finances, immigration, HR, KYC, and import-export.
The first thing that struck me about Constance was that she seemed to be the only account rep more interested in helping us than in fighting internally to claim credit for our business. Like many of us she has taken way more responsibility at FTX than she had been given before, and over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her learn how to grow a project, a team, and a business. Early on in FTX’s history there were a number of judgement calls we had to make about what direction we were going to take the exchange in, and her opinions diverged from the median staff members. By and large, those opinions have weathered the test of time; Constance has advice that’s unusually good when it disagrees with others.
I met DW pretty much by accident, at a crypto house party in San Francisco. We didn’t really have any BD or marketing at the time, and decided to try out an expansion. He’ll probably never be better known than for the epic aquarium party he organized after a conference in Singapore, but the real highlight came late that night. We hosted an afterparty in a villa and the weirdest lettuce-based scammer I’ve ever seen showed up. For an hour we tried and failed to kick him out–he would just pretend to be too drunk to stand up. Finally, DW realized we were going about it wrong, and told him that CZ was getting hotpot at a restaurant nearby. He immediately perked up, and they got into a golf cart. After a few minutes of driving away, DW jumps off the (slowly) moving golf cart and sprints back to the villa, leaving Mr. Lettuce dazed and confused on a trip to a (completely empty) restaurant.
Burg was one of the earliest proponents of FTX, and a lifeline for customers in the early days of the FTX Telegram group. Eventually we brought him on-site and within a few weeks he had gone from a volunteer to managing Battle Royale, possibly the largest crypto trading competition we’ve seen. Since joining FTX Burg has been a key piece of our business development, holding up three countries, a team of employees, many projects, and a 150 kg barbell with his left hand.