Crypto exchange startup Coinbase is a hot place to work – and undoubtedly a coveted resume destination for technologists looking to advance their careers in Silicon Valley.
One of the cryptocurrency industry’s few unicorns – or companies with a valuation over $1 billion (Coinbase was valued at $8 billion in its last $300 million funding round in October 2018) – the San Francisco-based exchange has nearly 800 staff members and is adding “dozens of employees each week,” spokesperson Rachael Horwitz told CoinDesk.
This aggressive expansion has included opening an office in New York with plans to hire 100 there, bidding for talent with a new egg-freezing benefit, and launching an over-the-counter (OTC) trading desk in November.
Recently, however, the company saw some exits, too, as at least nine senior or mid-level employees left in the last three months to join firms both inside and outside the crypto space.
Some of them cited the exciting opportunities at their new employers when explaining their moves, while others expressed frustration with changes in direction at a fast-growing company in a rapidly evolving space.
What follows is a roundup of notable departures and hirings at Coinbase — plus one recruitment that didn’t work out in the end.
The departures during this period included some of the early members of the team.
In October, vice president and general manager of Coinbase Institutional Adam White, the fifth-ever employee of the crypto unicorn, left his job. He soon became the chief operating officer at Bakkt, the crypto derivatives exchange founded by the Intercontinental Exchange (parent of the New York Stock Exchange), which is awaiting regulatory approval before launching.
Hunter Merghart, the head of trading at Coinbase, resigned at the end of October, after just six months on the job. Merghart, who was hired by White, was reportedly frustrated with a lack of resources and clarity on the roadmap to building an institutional business.
In November, chief policy officer Mike Lempres left for the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, one of Coinbase’s investors. “As chief legal and risk officer during a time of tremendous growth for Coinbase, Mike was instrumental in building the company’s legal and compliance functions and driving our vision of trust through compliance. We wish him the best,” Coinbase told Bloomberg.
Then in December, Jeremy Henrickson, the chief product officer, left Coinbase after more than two years at the company. The exchange called Henrickson’s contribution to the company “invaluable,” adding: “He helped to build our scrappy startup team into a high-functioning product and engineering organization — overseeing a 5x+ growth of the team.”
That same month, one of the earliest employees who joined Coinbase back in 2013, risk operations manager Rees Atlas, left the exchange for marketing communications startup Twilio.
Most recently, at least four managers left Coinbase this month, including Vaishali Mehta, a senior compliance manager who became the head of compliance at TrustToken, the startup behind the TrueUSD stablecoin.
“I really related to TrustToken’s vision to foster a new financial future which is resilient to fraud, failure and greed,” Mehta told CoinDesk through a spokesperson.
Previously unreported, Coinbase’s director of information technologies, Warren Tagle, left this month for Sonder, a startup providing travel housing search. Also, two members of the Coinbase investigative team monitoring suspicious activities on the exchange – Brooke Contreras and Colin Mason – departed in different directions. Contreras joined American Express and Mason went to the blockchain money transfer startup Wyre.
“We’re incredibly proud of our strong alumni network and encourage employees to start their crypto career at Coinbase, as many of them go on to continue making meaningful contributions to the broader crypto ecosystem,” a Coinbase spokesperson told CoinDesk.
But make no mistake, Coinbase also successfully attracted top Wall Street minds during the fall of 2018 to gear up for bringing institutional investors to the exchange.
In September, Fannie Mae executive Brian Brooks joined Coinbase as its chief legal officer, replacing Mike Lempres. “His arrival is part of our effort to expand our legal, compliance and government affairs capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole,” CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a blog post.
The following month, former Charles Schwab executive Chris Dodds joined Coinbase’s board of directors. “His extensive expertise will be an asset to the Coinbase leadership team as we focus on scaling our business,” Armstrong wrote in a separate blog post. “His addition to the Coinbase board is part of our effort to expand our financial services capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole.”
Another Wall Street veteran, former JPMorgan executive director Oputa Ezediaro, who has been leading the bank’s fixed-income securities and emerging markets departments, joined the Institutional Coverage Group at Coinbase in October.
Earlier in 2018, two other execs joined Coinbase to lead institutional sales. Eric Scro, former head of finance at the New York Stock Exchange, became Coinbase’s vice president of finance in March. “As the VP of Finance, Eric will be focused on helping serve institutional clients and deal with the increasingly complex financial and regulatory requirements of the business… Eric will also help guide the New York office’s growth across multiple business functions and assist in the development of new product offerings like Coinbase Custody,” Armstrong wrote.
Following Scro, Barclays’ former head of equity electronic sales Christine Sandler joined the exchange in April as a director of institutional sales.
In addition to finance professionals, a number of people moved to Coinbase from other tech startups during the year, including Facebook, AirBnB, LinkedIn and Uber.
For example, the senior data analyst Emily Loh came to Coinbase from Uber in December, and the vice president of data Michael Li, who joined in September, left LinkedIn for the crypto exchange. Also in December, Amy Ke joined as business operations and strategy manager after nearly three years at Deloitte. Coinbase confirmed these hirings, declining to provide any specifics.
Who almost joined
Finally, the anticipated on-boarding of Jonathan Kellner, a Wall Street veteran and former CEO of the brokerage firm Instinet, is no longer on the agenda.
The initial plan was that Kellner would lead institutional sales and support at Coinbase and integrate into the exchange’s business the brokerage company Keystone Capital, an acquisition announced in June 2018.
But now Kellner is no longer joining Coinbase, The Block reported last week. The exchange no longer is focused on traditional institutions like banks, but rather on crypto hedge funds, Dan Romero, Coinbase’s vice president, explained in the article.
A spokesperson for Coinbase confirmed to CoinDesk that Kellner is no longer joining the team. Kellner did not respond to requests for comment.
Adam White image via CoinDesk Consensus archives.