‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Employees’ Struggles at Coinbase

‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at Coinbase

The next day, 37-year-old Armstrong summed up the tone of what he had heard. "There was just this pouring out: Why doesn't the company have my back?" he said at a staff meeting, according to a recording of the meeting shared with the New York Times. In a corporate email he later sent, which was also passed on to The Times, he agreed to revise the diversity and inclusion plan and improve mentoring.

But in September, Mr Armstrong posted a public blog post urging staff to leave concerns about issues like racial justice at the door. He said while the company is committed to diversity, employees need to focus on Coinbase's mission to make profits and advance cryptocurrencies. They should resign if they disagree, he said.

"We don't get involved here if problems are not related to our core business," wrote Armstrong.

The position was immediately rejected by the employees. "Why stick around and put the effort into this work when it only serves as recruitment points and doesn't really improve a sense of belonging and psychological security," wrote Lauren Lee, responsible for diversity and inclusion, in a Slack message posted by The Mal .

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

Mr. Armstrong, a former Airbnb engineer, and Fred Ehrsam, a former Goldman Sachs trader, founded Coinbase eight years ago to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. They grew the start-up into a leading provider of cryptocurrencies and made money by collecting fees for business done by its customers. (Mr. Ehrsam left day-to-day business in 2017.)

Today Coinbase is experiencing a new wave of interest in cryptocurrencies. The value of the virtual currency Bitcoin is nearing a new high as investors increasingly treat it as an alternative to gold.

Much of Coinbase's culture comes from the culture of Bitcoin, current and former employees said. Embodying a libertarian philosophy directed against mainstream institutions, Bitcoin has drawn a generation of fans known as "Crypto Bros." Many have promoted a brazen, male-dominated way of life and have been criticized for sowing racism and sexism.