Even under a massive price drop, some people are leaving Silicon Valley jobs for crypto.Getty
Despite plummeting cryptocurrency prices since November, a number of former Silicon Valley tech employees are leaving roles in companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Airbnb to work in crypto. A recent Glassdoor study found crypto-related job growth to be outpacing crypto prices. I interviewed people in a variety of roles within the crypto space to hear why they made the leap and where they see crypto headed long-term.
Bitcoin has plummeted since November 2018.Forbescrypto.com
Yu Pan, R&D Engineer, Origin Protocol
Yu Pan, an engineer at Origin Protocol previously worked at both PayPal and YouTube.Origin Protocol
Tech Companies you left?PayPal, YouTube, Omlet Arcade
Why did you make the leap to crypto? I’ve always been interested in the magic of public key cryptography and believe that decentralized applications have the potential to change the world. Cryptography allows a person to expose only the information that she wants to share and provides a mechanism for verification without trust.
Where do you see crypto in the long-run? Publicly visible ledgers are necessary and powerful, especially with the ability to encode agreements and logic beyond just storing data. We want to create a future where buyers and sellers can transact in the wild by using neutral tools that don’t favor either party. A perfect use case for this is the sharing economy.
What do you like about your job now versus your former role? I like the open-source environment and mentality in addition to working with public key cryptography. Unlike working on centralized applications, people here care more about the collective effort to build community and distributed solutions. It’s not about holding on to ideas and intellectual property. Instead of thinking about how to keep a centralized database safe and secure, we have to think about the consequences for the entire network. Decentralization results in complete visibility of code and data, meaning we have less control once our code is out in the wild. If something needs to be fixed, we can’t just take it out, we have to involve everyone who has adopted our technology to add in the needed changes.
Henry Liu, Managing Partner, YGC Capital
Henry Liu, managing partner at YGC Capital, left a role at Facebook.Henry Liu
Tech Company you left: Facebook
Why did you make the leap to crypto? The blockchain industry has reached the critical mass of early adopters. I truly believe that after 2017 there won’t be a world without cryptocurrencies. I’ve missed the booms for dot-com, the mobile adoption, and the sharing economy, but I won’t miss this.
Where do you see crypto in the long-run? There are clear use-cases today in record keeping, auditing, supply-chain and number of industries that can use blockchain to bring efficiencies to the archaic systems and help them with long overdue digital transformation. I believe it will open up borders and reduce corruption in countries like Venezuela, Argentina and Turkey.
What do you like about your job now versus your former role? I’m a double-immigrant. My family is from China and I was born in Osaka, Japan. I’m a native Japanese, Chinese, and English speaker. There are very few roles that are out there that would allow me to use my cultural advantages and also my previous career experiences. I thought Facebook moves fast, but in comparison to blockchain, it’s like a car next to a bullet-train.
Will Bitcoin always be the standard? Bitcoin won’t go away, but we also don’t see it growing either. The community of bitcoin and the core team are not focusing on adoption and usage and without more people using it, there won’t be any growth in the value either. We believe the industry will specialize in different sectors and we are already seeing that unfold with micro-payments and IoT. We hope BTC does well, but our bets are elsewhere.
Kari Tarr, Director of Operations, Good Money
Kari Tarr previously worked at Airbnb and Amazon before joining a crypto startup.Kari Tarr
Tech Companies you left: Airbnb, Amazon
Why did you make the leap to crypto? It was risky at the time I joined both Airbnb and Amazon before that, but the timing turned out to be right. I’m making a similar bet on crypto because I think the next few years are when we’ll see 10-100X growth. This type of digitization of legacy industries happens in waves. I believe the geeks will find a way, and cryptocurrencies will become mainstream, it’s not if, but when.
What do you like about your job now versus your former role? I’ve never done a pre-product startup and the energy and sense of urgency is invigorating. There are similarities to the early days at Airbnb, building a product without knowing entirely what the regulatory landscape will look like when it’s finished.
What will using a crypto wallet look like in 3 years? Certainly, less friction. In 3 years, we’ll have settled on a solution for managing private keys in a way that’s secure and still somewhat decentralized, but protects users from making irreversible mistakes. It’ll feel as simple as Venmo but using more innovative authentication like biometric technology. The next big leap is really going to be all about identity management, which is the prerequisite for financial transactions.
Will Bitcoin always be the standard? No, Bitcoin proved the concept of managing a distributed financial ledger on the internet, but it has run into problems with technical governance, scalability, and power consumption relegating it to being a store of value, but unsuitable for global payments. There are far more advanced blockchains being developed, and it remains to be seen which one the market will pick as the platform of choice.
Akbar Thobhani, Co-Founder and CEO of SFOX
Akbar Thobhani worked at NASA and Airbnb before co-founding SFOX.Akbar Thobhani
Tech Companies you left: Airbnb, Stamps.com, NASA
Why did you make the leap to crypto? I have always been inspired by projects that find new ways to connect and empower people to transact across borders safely. Airbnb did this by providing a platform that allows people to securely share homes with strangers all over the world; crypto takes this a step further by allowing people to safely transact around the world without any kind of intermediary.
Will Bitcoin always be the “gold standard” for crypto? Bitcoin will probably always be the “gold standard” because it has the largest adoption of any cryptocurrency, the simplest use case and the most robust infrastructure of any cryptocurrency. It’s where individuals and institutions alike begin when they first adopt crypto. As crypto matures, it’s easy to imagine other cryptocurrencies will become “standards” of their own—for example, it’s easy to imagine one or several blockchains emerging as a platform for equity settlement.
How will crypto scale? This question implies that crypto has a scaling problem in the first place. It doesn’t. You might have heard comparisons between Visa’s thousands of transactions per second and Bitcoin’s 7 transactions per second, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. Blockchains like Bitcoin’s are best suited for acting as a settlement layer, and companies like Visa only actually settle with banks once or twice per day. In this regard, the scale that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin need is already there: other technologies will serve as the scalable transaction layer on top of a blockchain-based settlement layer.
Mike Zajko, Head of Sales at CoinList
Mike Zajko, Head of Sales at CoinList previously worked for Facebook.Mike Zaiko
Tech Company you left: Facebook
Why did you make the leap to crypto?
It’s rare one has the opportunity to join an entirely new industry during its inception. Crypto presented this type of opportunity and I didn’t want to be on the periphery, I wanted to play a role in it.
Where do you see crypto in the long-run? Crypto as a term will fade into that background as the technologies being developed provide the infrastructure for the way we do business. We’ll move beyond it being used as a pure speculative asset to an era of real functional value.
What do you like about your job now versus your former role?
With crypto being so new, you have the opportunity to create entirely new ways of doing things. There is a real demand for creative experimentation without reliance on old maxims. Facebook at its core is an advertising business, while it’s incredibly disruptive in its own right, the company still operates within an industry where the rules have already been written.
These conversations have been edited and condensed for clarity.