- Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a blog post over the weekend that corporate activism was a “distraction” from his company’s mission of increasing global access to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
- Mentioning charged topics like the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the upcoming presidential election, Armstrong implied that employees who wanted their company to be focused on social issues should find work elsewhere.
- Some in the startup and venture capital world were outraged, pointing out that Armstrong tweeted “Black Lives Matter” in June.
- Others cheered Armstrong, like investor Paul Graham.
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The CEO of cryptocurrency broker Coinbase Brian Armstrong stirred outrage and praise from Silicon Valley over the weekend by coming out with a hard line against employee activism at work in a Medium post Sunday.
Mentioning hot-button issues like the police shooting of Breonna Taylor and the upcoming U.S. election, Armstrong said he wanted Coinbase to be “laser focused on achieving its mission.” Coinbase facilitates financial transactions in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, with an aim of spreading access to them across the globe. Armstrong characterized anything else besides that core mission as “a distraction.”
“We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to productivity,” Armstrong wrote, “and there are many smaller companies who have had their own challenges here. I believe most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments.”
Armstrong strongly implied that Coinbase employees unhappy with his anti-activism stance would be better off not working there.
“But for some employees, working at an activism focused company may be core to what they want, and we want to prompt that conversation with their manager to help them get to a better place. Life is too short to work somewhere that you aren’t excited about, and we’re happy to make that a win-win conversation,” Armstrong wrote.
His stance prompted anger and plaudits from powerful Silicon Valley tech figures on social media. Some pointed out that Armstrong tweeted in June “I want to unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter.”
—Nick Caldwell 👨🏾💻⚡️ (@nickcald) September 28, 2020
“that coinbase thing is trash,” tweeted angel investor and Twitter Vice President of Engineering Nick Caldwell.
“While there are some good arguments here, this Coinbase post is the tech equivalent of Colin Kaepernick’s coach telling him he can’t kneel during the national anthem,” tweeted Notion Head of Platform & Partnerships Cristina Cordova.
Others applauded the move. Venture capitalist Paul Graham said Armstrong was “leading the way.”
—Paul Graham (@paulg) September 28, 2020
“I predict most successful companies will follow Coinbase’s lead,” Graham tweeted, “If only because those who don’t are less likely to succeed.”
“Coinbase appears to be taking the unpopular position of allowing (even encouraging) diversity of thought in the workplace,” tweeted TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. “Good for them.”
“This makes me very bullish on Coinbase!” tweeted angel investor Cyan Banister. “It’s about damn time a company took a stance like this.”
Others found the controversy overblown.
“Concerning the Coinbase ‘at work we expect principally a focus on work’ drama, some of you have only ever had a job talking about your feelings on the internet and it shows,” tweeted Founders Fund Vice President Michael Solana.