Coinbase is now “much more aligned” and has even increased the number of its employees a year after the company announced it would focus on creating an open financial system for the world and disengage from social activism and political issues, prompting some workers to walk out.
In series of Twitter posts published on Oct. 1, Co-Founder and CEO Brian Armstrong said the company’s headcount has increased by 110 percent since Sept. 27, 2020, when he made the initial announcement, while some of its diversity numbers have improved on some metrics.
“It’s been about a year since my mission-focused blog post. It wasn’t easy to go through at the time, but looking back, it turned out to be one of the most positive changes I’ve made at Coinbase, and I’d recommend it to others,” Armstrong wrote.
“We have a much more aligned company now, where we can focus on getting work done toward our mission. And it has allowed us to hire some of the best talent from organizations where employees are fed up with politics, infighting, and distraction,” he said.
The CEO noted that one of the biggest concerns for the company has been how its stance on societal and political issues would impact diversity numbers at the company.
In last years’ blog post titled “Coinbase is a mission focused company,” Armstrong suggested that it had become common practice for companies to engage in a variety of social issues—including those unrelated to what the company does—which could create internal division and prove to be detrimental to said company.
“It would go against our principles of inclusion and belonging to be more of an activist company on issues outside of our core mission,” he said at the time.
“We have people with many different backgrounds and viewpoints at Coinbase, and even if we all agree that something is a problem, we may not agree on how to actually go solve it. This is where there is a blurry line between moral statements and politics. We could use our work day debating what to do about various unrelated challenges in the world, but that would not be in service of the company or our own interests as employees and shareholders,” the CEO wrote.
While Armstrong acknowledged that some employees cared deeply that the company they work for values such such social issues, Coinbase was taking a different stance and would not be engaging in any political debates or social activism unrelated to the company.
He noted that this stance may prompt some employees to leave the company, which he said is “never easy” but that ultimately, it would allow Coinbase to be more aligned.
The post faced backlash from critics, including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who said that bitcoin is “direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society.”
“Important to at *least* acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily,” Dorsey added.
Twitter’s former CEO Dick Costolo also pushed back at Armstrong’s decision, writing, “This isn’t great leadership. It’s the abdication of leadership. It’s the equivalent of telling your employees to “shut up and dribble.”
But after weathering the backlash, Coinbase is now thriving one year on, and has maintained a diverse team, while diversity has improved on some metrics, according to its CEO.
“You will get lots of attacks online, and not everyone will agree, but ultimately people want clarity and authenticity from leaders, not platitudes. It will come back to you tenfold,” he wrote in October’s update.
Armstrong also noted that there was a huge disparity between the negative reaction his initial post received online and in the media, and the “overwhelmingly positive” reaction it got from his employees.
“It turns out that there are people from every background who want to work at a mission focused company,” Armstrong wrote, adding “the only sense I can make of it, is that there is a huge mismatch between peoples [sic] stated and revealed preferences right now, and we’re operating in an environment of virtue signaling and fear of speaking up.”
In his updated announcement, Armstrong also thanked those employees who stepped in to fill in for workers who left the company following his initial announcement.
“This was heroic and awesome to see,” he added