‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Efforts at Coinbase

The following day, Mr Armstrong, 37, summed up the tone of what he heard. “This deportation was just like, Why doesn’t the company have my back?” he said at a staff meeting, according to a recording of the session shared with The New York Times. In a company email he later sent, also shared with The Times, he agreed to revamp the diversity and inclusion plan and increase mentoring.

But in September, Mr Armstrong published a public blog post telling employees to leave concerns about issues like racial justice at the door. He said while the company welcomed diversity, staff needed to focus on Coinbase’s mission of profit and promoting cryptocurrencies. They should resign if they did not agree, he said.

“We do not engage here when issues are not related to our core mission,” Armstrong.

The job immediately fired a blow from employees. “Why stay and put effort into this work if it’s combined into recruitment points and not improve the sense of belonging and psychological safety,” Lauren Lee, who was responsible for diversity and inclusion, wrote in a Slack message and seen by The Times.

Ms Lee, who did not respond to requests for comment, resigned last month. So too at least 60 more.

Mr. Armstrong, a former Airbnb engineer, and Fred Ehrsam, a former Goldman Sachs trader, Coinbase eight years ago to provide a place to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. They built the startup business a cryptocurrency leader, making money by taking fees on trades set by its customers. (Mr. Ehrsam left day-to-day operations in 2017.)

Today, Coinbase is riding a new wave of interest in cryptocurrencies, with the value of Bitcoin virtual currency approaching a new peak as investors increasingly treat it as an alternative to gold.

Much of Coinbase’s culture stems from the one around Bitcoin, current and former employees say. Bitcoin, which embodies a liberal philosophy that snubs its nose in the brains of mainstream organizations, has attracted a generation of fans called “crypto bros.” Many have propagated a wicked way of life by men, facing criticism for sowing racism and sexism.