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Coinbase joins Pinterest in doing right by employees

TechCrunch Disrupt London 2014 - Day 2TechCrunch Disrupt London 2014 - Day 2
Coinbase CEO Brian ArmstrongPhotograph by Anthony Harvey — Getty Images

In March we wrote about how Pinterest had made a major move in the interest of employee justice, allowing workers with at least two years of service to retain vested stock options for up to seven years after departure (voluntary or not), rather than the traditional 90 days. This was a big deal because many tech startup workers are heavily compensated by stock options, but are forced to either exercise or lose vested options upon departure — something that not only requires enough cash to purchase the options, but also to pay the onerous tax bill.

Here was the concluding line: “The big question now is if other Silicon Valley ‘unicorns’ will follow Pinterest’s lead.”

The basic answer was… nope. To my knowledge, not a single other major startup has done the same. Well, until today.


Coinbase, a digital wallet company that has raised over $100 million in VC funding, today will announce a similar program for new employees (i.e., those joining this month and onward). My guess is that they’ll also figure out something for existing employees who want to move on, but that’s a bit trickier from a regulatory perspective. Coinbase currently has around 100 employees, and plans to add at least another 25 over the next year.

“This is a lot more meaningful for employees than giving them something like free massages,” says Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong, who says he was influenced by the Pinterest decision.

Armstrong adds that no current Coinbase employee had agitated for the change, but that he became more aware of the “golden handcuffs” problem when trying to recruit from other startups. “One candidate even mentioned the Pinterest thing on the phone with me during an interview, and said he never again wanted to work for a company that locked him in.”

Kudos to Coinbase for doing right by its employees. Now what is everyone else waiting for?

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