CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

College students are rethinking their plans to wade into the wild waters of crypto

June 16, 2022, 9:31 AM UTC

The number of college students learning to become crypto-savvy developers—studying coding, business basics, and blockchain projects—has been rising for years. They read white papers for fun. And they even work on decentralized autonomous organizations in their free time.

But the crypto market’s decline—as rapid, violent, and unexpected as it has been—is putting all of that on hold for some.

“There’s a lot of potential for [crypto] to be innovative, but, as I’ve learned the hard way, it can be pretty volatile and unpredictable,” says Ashutosh Ukey, a 2021 graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who recently had a job offer from Coinbase rescinded. “For the immediate future, I am kind of reluctant to go into crypto because it’s a lot less stable than some of the other big tech sectors and industries.”

New graduates across the country, from UCLA, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California at Berkeley, among others, have all expressed concerns about joining the ranks of crypto engineers since they had job offers from Coinbase pulled out from underneath them, as I’ve reported over the past two weeks. And rightfully so.

Crypto’s downturn is far from over.

Even in the two weeks since Coinbase’s cutbacks, the crypto industry has devolved further, with hiring freezes and layoffs. At the same time, the market’s total value has dipped below $1 trillion for the first time since early 2021—a full $2 trillion less than its peak just seven months ago. “We’re in for a long haul,” Michael Adler, senior managing partner at recruitment firm AC Lion, told me. “If we’re going into a recession, the stock market keeps going down, and capital keeps getting more expensive, I think there’s going to be a lot of layoffs.”

So far, the layoffs have been primarily concentrated around crypto exchanges that hired troves of new employees over the past year as the crypto market exploded in popularity and size. After starting 2021 with 1,250 employees, Coinbase, for instance, swelled to close to 6,000 people. Now, the company has slashed 18% of its workforce, or about 1,100 jobs. BlockFi has laid off 20% of its staff. Gemini has cut 10% of its employees. “While we tried our best to get this just right,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a blog post published Tuesday, “in this case it is now clear to me that we over-hired.”

There are still plenty of openings out there. Data from TrueUp, a tech career tracking company, show that jobs in crypto and Web3 have fallen about 13.5% since March, but that there are still north of 10,000 openings today. Hiring in tech more broadly has remained steady as well, according to data from LinkedIn. And there are plenty of college graduates to go right along with them, bent on sticking to their plans to venture into crypto—no matter the market’s state. 

Jongwon Park, for instance, wants to work in the wonky world of decentralized finance after college, and the 19-year-old has no doubts that he’ll be able to. “Even if the ecosystem isn’t thriving,” says Park, who will be a sophomore at Illinois in the fall, “I still love DeFi.” Park’s optimism about a future in crypto partly stems from a belief that the startups, protocols, and developers working on building the financial plumbing behind crypto exist in a different class than the consumer-facing businesses that get the most attention and have so far accounted for the majority of recent cuts across the industry. 

“Infrastructure providers aren’t feeling the pinch,” says Park, who was speaking with Fortune over the phone while attending the Consensus conference in Austin. At Consensus, Park said, there were “a ton” of recruiters looking for blockchain developers. “I’m still very optimistic about the development side in general.” 

Granted, Park recognizes that there’s also the clear benefit that his graduation is three years away—a lifetime in crypto. Whatever the job market will be like come spring 2025, it’s likely to be drastically different from today. Still, there is an air of optimism among student developers who have the risk tolerance to weather a downturn like the winter currently taking hold.

“One of the best times to get in is right after a crash,” Solana Labs cofounder Anatoly Yakovenko, who graduated with a computer science degree in 2003 from Illinois on the heels of the dotcom bubble, recently told me. “Crypto’s probably the best choice for new grads right now.”

DO YOU WORK AT COINBASE? KRAKEN? IN CRYPTO? Want to talk? Maybe you’ve been laid off, had an offer rescinded, or been baffled by a CEO’’s comments on Slack—whatever it is, we should chat. My email’s below, and feel free to DM me on Twitter to get in touch via Signal, WhatsApp, or whatever messaging app you prefer.

Declan Harty
@declanharty
Declan.harty@fortune.com

DECENTRALIZED NEWS

Credits 🚀 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams will push Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto a bill to pause new proof-of-work crypto mining operations that are powered by fossil fuels.

FINRA CEO Robert Cook wants laid-off crypto workers who may want to work for the regulator to give him a call.

While layoffs have hit some of crypto’s most well-known names, others like Binance, Kraken, and Polygon are all still hiring

Uniswap Labs has added former NYSE president Stacey Cunningham as an adviser. 

Debits 🐻 

Crypto lender Celsius Network has hired a team of restructuring attorneys after pausing withdrawals, swaps, and transfers between accounts. 

Mike Novogratz expects two-thirds of crypto hedge funds to fail.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Richard Neal has asked the Government Accountability Office for data on what companies are offering crypto investments in 401(k) plans. 

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler is concerned that new legislation in the Senate could “undermine” existing regulations. 

Bill Gates says crypto and NFTs are based on “the greater fool theory.”

FOMO NO MO

Kraken’s culture wars. A New York Times article published on Wednesday detailed the infighting that is playing out within the fourth-largest crypto exchange: Kraken.

At the heart of the debate is 41-year-old crypto pioneer Kraken CEO Jesse Powell, who, in his communications with employees, has unabashedly questioned the status quo in the workplace and in society at large. That includes expressing skepticism about whether people should be able to use preferred pronouns, asking who is allowed to say the N-word, and declaring that, “Most American ladies have been brainwashed in modern times.” 

From the article:

In April, a Kraken employee posted a video internally on a different Slack group that set off the latest fracas. The video featured two women who said they preferred $100 in cash over a Bitcoin, which at the time cost more than $40,000. “But this is how female brain works,” the employee commented.

Mr. Powell chimed in. He said the debate over women’s mental abilities was unsettled. “Most American ladies have been brainwashed in modern times,” he added on Slack, in an exchange viewed by The Times.

His comments fueled a furor.

“For the person we look to for leadership and advocacy to joke about us being brainwashed in this context or make light of this situation is hurtful,” wrote one female employee.

“It isn’t heartening to see your gender’s minds, capabilities, and preferences discussed like this,” another wrote. “It’s incredibly othering and harmful to women.”

“Being offended is not being harmed,” Mr. Powell responded. “A discussion about science, biology, attempting to determine facts of the world cannot be harmful.”

BUBBLE-O-METER

13.5%

Crypto and Web3 job listings have fallen off a cliff over the past few weeks, dropping from 12,358 in March to 10,681 in June, according to tech career tracking company TrueUp. Included in that is the fact that Coinbase, which has already laid off 1,100 people, went from 594 openings to zero. Meanwhile, Crypto.com dropped its job listings from 808 to seven as Celsius (yes, that Celsius) went from 136 openings to nine.

THE LEDGER’S LATEST

Want to restore faith in crypto? Maybe it’s time for the industry to show some humility by Jacob Carpenter

The Celsius meltdown is an old-fashioned bank run—except there’s no bank by Gene Grant

If crypto lending platform Celsius goes bankrupt, users might not be able to get their money back by Nicholas Gordon

Celsius was marketing an 18% APY and reassuring customers just days ago. Now it’s completely frozen all withdrawals by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez

“There’s been a tremendous amount of capitulation and fear”: Mike Novogratz says the crypto market is nearing a bottom, despite macroeconomic challenges by Will Daniel

Crypto firms are slashing jobs right and left. So why is Binance hiring? by Andrew Marquardt

Bitcoin falls below $24,000 as experts see “Mordor” ahead, the land of evil from Lord of the Rings. Here’s what they’re looking out for by Taylor Locke

“Your government doesn’t get to define who you ‘really’ are”: Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin doubles down on crypto pseudonym culture by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

IF YOU DON’T KNOW, CRYPTO

FUD. Planning to take some Bitcoin maxi to task on Twitter? Be prepared to be accused of FUD. With the crypto market still struggling, some of its most fervent backers and believers have resorted to taking to Twitter to accuse detractors and skeptics of perpetuating “fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” or, more simply, FUD. But while FUD could be brushed off in years past as the crypto market rose higher and higher, the hits are surely hitting a little harder today.

This is the web version of The Ledger, Fortune’s weekly newsletter covering financial technology and cryptocurrency. Sign up here to receive future editions.