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Coinbase lays off 18% of its workforce as executives prepare for a recession and ‘crypto winter

Coinbase lays off 18% of its workforce as executives prepare for a recession and ‘crypto winter

Coinbase is laying off almost a fifth of its workforce amid a collapse in its stock and crypto prices.

According to an email sent to employees on Tuesday morning, the cryptocurrency exchange will cut 18% of full-time jobs.

Coinbase has roughly 5,000 full-time workers, translating to a head count reduction of around 1,100 people.

Shares of Coinbase were down about 5.4% on Tuesday morning.

CEO Brian Armstrong pointed to a possible recession and a need to manage Coinbase’s burn rate and increase efficiency.

He also said the company grew “too quickly” during a bull market.

“We appear to be entering a recession after a 10+ year economic boom.

A recession could lead to another crypto winter and could last for an extended period,” Armstrong said, adding that past crypto winters have resulted in a significant decline in trading activity.

“While it’s hard to predict the economy or the markets, we always plan for the worst so we can operate the business through any environment.”

Coinbase had initially said it was pausing hiring. Two weeks later, the crypto giant announced extending the freeze for the “foreseeable future.”

Earlier this year, Coinbase planned to add 2,000 jobs across product, engineering, and design.

“Our employee costs are too high to manage this uncertain market effectively,” Armstrong said.

“While we tried our best to get this just right, in this case, it is now clear to me that we over-hired.”

The news comes during a deep rout for Coinbase shares.

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Coinbase lays off 18% of its workforce

The stock went public via a direct listing last April during a boom in crypto markets and investors clamoring for high-growth tech stocks.

Coinbase’s shares are down 79% this year and 85% from the all-time high. Meanwhile, bitcoin has dropped to near $22,000 and has lost 53% of its value this year.

San Francisco-based Coinbase reported a slump in users in its last quarter and a 27% decline in revenue from a year ago.

The company gets the majority of its top line from transaction fees, which are closely tied to trading activity.

President and Chief Operating Officer Emilie Choi called it a “very difficult decision for Coinbase” but given the economic backdrop, she said it “felt like the most prudent thing to do right now.”

Affected employees received a notification from HR. If so, the memo was sent to a personal email as Coinbase cut off access to the company systems.

Armstrong called it the “only practical choice” given the number of employees with access to customer information, and a way to “ensure not even a single person made a rash decision that harmed the business or themselves.”

Coinbase employees will have access to a talent hub to find new jobs in the industry, including Coinbase Ventures’ portfolio companies.

Choi said they would still be “doubling down” on areas like security and compliance and may be “reorienting” employees to near-term revenue drivers.

“If there are any cuts to new product areas, it’s going to be more around experimental venture areas that we’re still very bullish on, but that we don’t want to invest in this part of the cycle,” Choi told CNBC in an interview at the company’s headquarters.

“We will continue to invest in incredible innovative areas of crypto that we think are emerging over the longer term, but we’re probably going to do those in a more measured way in this type of an environment.”

Coinbase joins dozens of other tech and crypto companies slamming the brakes on hiring. Crypto lender BlockFi said it was cutting 20% of its employees on Monday.

Open-source tracker estimates that more than 5,500 start-up and tech jobs have been cut in June alone.

Coinbase’s intention is “that this is a one-time event,” Choi said, adding that the company has $6 billion of cash on the balance sheet.

The company has previously lived through multiple bear markets in crypto, also known as “crypto winters.”

“We will power through any macro-environment, any crypto winter, or anything that’s coming,” she said. “The reality, though, is that we have to adjust when we feel that there’s a very dynamic economic environment in play.”

Tech companies have been fighting low morale and attrition as their stocks get slammed. Last week, a petition posted to a decentralized publishing platform called for the removal and a “vote of no confidence” regarding several Coinbase executives, including Choi.

Coinbase Brian Armstrong called attention to the since-deleted petition and, in a Tweet, urged employees to quit if they don’t believe in the company.

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