On Wednesday, major U.S.-based crypto exchange Kraken published a culture statement insisting it would continue to hire through the crypto downturn but only if applicants fit its new "crypto-first culture," which means employees must "not call someone’s words toxic, hateful, racist, x-phobic, unhelpful, etc.," and entails things like hiring based "strictly on merit" and not "a short checklist of obvious physical features."
Kraken's new culture statement reads more like a manifesto, with sections titled "VI. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sound Money'' and "VII. Someone Must be Offended, Some of the Time." A great deal of it is focused on “The Mission” which Kraken’s manifesto states "is to accelerate the worldwide adoption of cryptocurrency because we believe that this will improve lives of billions of people and usher in a new era of human flourishing."
In one section, Kraken insists it is founded in "dangerous" ideas: the ideas that free markets must reign supreme, that people must be free to say what they want, and a host of other libertarian beliefs that boil down to protection of private property, self-defense, and autonomy. "This should be no surprise to Americans as these rights can all be derived from the US constitution," Kraken's manifesto explains at one point. "Our ability to drive crypto adoption in the world depends on these rights. Not everyone needs to personally hold these beliefs to enlist as a Krakenite but these beliefs are a core component of our culture."
This single-minded commitment, Kraken cautions, may lead to places that workers don’t like. Its manifesto warns that the company “will engage in lobbying, as a single-issue donor, supporting controversial politicians and legislation that furthers The Mission, possibly to the detriment of other civil rights causes.” Kraken’s commitment to libertarian values also may mean it will advertise and sponsor "controversial" content, and incorporate "firearm and self-defense training" at corporate retreats (though participation will be optional).
In another section, Kraken’s manifesto argues that: "If nobody is ever offended, we either don't have enough diversity of thought or we don't have enough transparency in communication." To this end, Kraken explains that there will need to be new guidelines on how communication should happen at the company.
For example, "Krakenites" are free to request or deny "personal language and communication preferences of each other," prioritize communication styles that go beyond text, give each other "the benefit of the doubt," never "call someone's words toxic, hateful, racist, x-phobic, unhelpful, etc." and so on.
In a quick aside at the bottom of this section, a tiny note: "Note: we abide by all labor laws and do not support illegal activities in the workplace."
After publishing the blog, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell took to Twitter to pen a thread highlighting "20 people" out of hundreds of employees that he said were a "bad fit" and that "sap the productivity out of another 400." He said that these employees were "upset" by a few things that he described as "FWP" (first world problems), and described them as "triggered." These included:
* DEI (Silicon Valley's version)
* pronouns, whether someone can identify as a different race and be allowed to use the N-word
* whether differences in human sex exist at all
* being respected and unoffended
* being "harmed" by "violent" words”
At the end of the thread Powell makes an attempt to front-run coming reporting on what Kraken's culture is actually like. Powell insists that someone was sharing internal chats "devoid of context, with a journalist who we expect to publish a hit piece in the next few days." Later that afternoon, a New York Times report on an internal culture war at Kraken stoked by Powell was published.
Powell is not the first crypto exchange CEO to try this tactic: Back in 2020 Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong first attempted to overhaul Coinbase’s culture to dismiss any values beyond those of the company’s core business as “a distraction.” Armstrong published a manifesto declaring Coinbase a "mission focused" company and banned discussion of politics at work, and offered any "uncomfortable" employees an exit package. The move sparked fears of surveillance and censorship among employees who remained at the company. Months later, Coinbase would publish a preemptive denial of an upcoming New York Times story on Coinbase employees who left the company after reporting discriminatory treatment of Black workers.
"Back to dictatorship," Powell closes out one tweet in his thread.
A request for comment sent to Kraken and Powell was not immediately returned.