Follow-up on the Coinbase corporate version of Florida

A year ago, the CEO of Coinbase paid employees who were the most passionate about social justice and political causes to leave. See “Coinbase is a mission focused company” and also “Taking a Stand Against Social Stances” (NYT, 9/29/2020). (If he’d been a Southerner he might have said “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the butt on your way out.”)

In other words, he was trying to create something like the Florida that we’ve experienced. After nearly two months here, I have seen exactly one Black Lives Matter message (bumper sticker on a black (not “Black”) Toyota Prius as we were on an excursion to Miami (IKEA, Guitar Hotel, and Marlins baseball game)). Supposedly there are a lot of people here who voted for either Trump or Biden, but there is no evidence of that from lawn signs or bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are display at perhaps 1/200th the rate compared to in Maskachusetts and the most common type of bumper sticker is school-related.

What happens at a company without on-the-clock activism? Discrimination against those who identify as Black, according to the NYT… “‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups” (11/27/2020):

One by one, they left. Some quit. Others were fired. All were Black.

The 15 people worked at Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency start-up, where they represented roughly three-quarters of the Black employees at the 600-person company. Before leaving in late 2018 and early 2019, at least 11 of them informed the human resources department or their managers about what they said was racist or discriminatory treatment, five people with knowledge of the situation said.

One of the employees was Alysa Butler, 25, who worked in recruiting. During her time at Coinbase, she said, she told her manager several times about how he and others excluded her from meetings and conversations, making her feel invisible.

“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said Ms. Butler, who resigned in April 2019. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”

(Wikipedia says Coinbase is “remote-first”, so how do employees know anything about the race IDs of other employees? See Achieve college student skin color diversity via image processing? as well)

How did it go for Coinbase from Management’s perspective? The CEO who wanted people to fight their social justice and political battles on their own time followed up with a Twitter thread:

It’s been about a year since my mission-focused blog post. It wasn’t easy to go through at the time, but looking back, it turned out to be one of the most positive changes I’ve made at Coinbase, and I’d recommend it to others.

We have a much more aligned company now, where we can focus on getting work done toward our mission. And it has allowed us to hire some of the best talent from organizations where employees are fed up with politics, infighting, and distraction.

One of the biggest concerns around our stance was that it would impact our diversity numbers. Since my post, we’ve grown our headcount about 110%, while our diversity numbers have remained the same, or even improved on some metrics.

Several people told me this would never happen when I circulated the original draft internally. It turns out that there are people from every background who want to work at a mission focused company.

If he is putting employees into buckets based on skin color in order to get “diversity numbers”, isn’t he himself engaging in a social justice cause at work? There was no legal requirement for Coinbase to gather these data, right? (Let me guess right now that age is not one of the axes of diversity for which Mr. Armstrong is anxious to get numbers!)

In other diversity news, the guy who stirred up hatred at University of Chicago (see “Geophysical Sciences Grad Students Call on Faculty to Denounce Videos By Department Member” 12/2/2020) got literally canceled at MIT, where he had been scheduled to give a lecture. From the Daily Mail:

…. after outraging ‘totalitarian’ Twitter mob by arguing that academic evaluations should be based on merit not racial ‘equity’

Dorian Abbot was denied the opportunity to give the Carlson Lecture, which is devoted to ‘new results in climate science’ and hosted by MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

The lecture was scheduled to be delivered on October 21, but Abbot learned over the weekend that EAPS would be canceling his talk.

In August, things took a turn when Abbot co-wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek in which he argued that the ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) initiative embraced on many college campuses nationwide ‘violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.’

DEI, according to Abbot and co-author Professor Ivan Marinovic, ‘treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.’

Abbot and Marinovic instead proposed ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’

(But who decides “merit”?)

It is kind of exciting for alumni when MIT can share a newspaper with Joe Biden’s $2.5 million granddaughter.

What would Dorian Abbot have talked about? He seems to be at least a little interested in Snowball Earth, one of my favorite geology subjects ever since reading an awesome book on the subject. He’s also interested in exoplanets, which fascinate everyone far more than how their Windows 11 computer or iPhone work. Maybe if Professor Abbot can get Elon Musk to blast him off to Gliese 273b (shouldn’t take that long to go 12.2 light-years in a Plaid Edition rocket), his critics will forget about him?


  • “Tesla must pay $137 million to a Black employee who sued for racial discrimination” (NPR, 10/5/2021), in which we learn that the article doesn’t match the headline. The now-rich elevator operator worked for a contractor to Tesla and was never directly employed by Tesla. (electrek has a more accurate headline: “Tesla is ordered to pay ex-worker $137 million in racial abuse lawsuit, releases blog about verdict”: Mr. Diaz never worked for Tesla. He was a contract employee who worked for Citistaff and nextSource. Mr. Diaz worked as an elevator operator at the Fremont factory for nine months, from June 2015 to March 2016. There was no witness testimony or other evidence that anyone ever heard the n-word used toward Mr. Diaz. Even though Mr. Diaz now complains about racial harassment at Fremont, at the time he said he was being harassed, he recommended to his son and daughter – while they were all living together in the same home – that they work at Tesla with him.)

10 thoughts on “Follow-up on the Coinbase corporate version of Florida

  1. > The now-rich elevator operator worked for a contractor to Tesla

    Hopefully he enjoys his career upgrade. Being an elevator operator is not a steady job, it has too many ups and downs 🙂

  2. Coinbase position – no activism in the workplace – used to be the norm. I recall “right” “conservative” activism on the workplace in mid 1990th – it was a bother although of course it was part of free speech. Now kids of “right” “conservative” activists agitate for something else crazy at a company dime while others have to work for them and get smaller pay because companies afraid of activism and pay them up which lowers overall employee morale. I have little sympathy for workplace activism. I’d say separate your work and activism. I also against employer meddling into employees after 5 PM activities outside the workplace. I think employers can and should mandate just work from 9 to 5 and on their property and keep their noses away from employees’ private lives.

  3. The Coinbase no-politics initiative was very popular among the large subset of software developers who cannot hold their views in public.

    I think the CEO was digging up diversity numbers to prove critics wrong, similar to Republican outlets stressing that Trump was popular with Black males (why wouldn’t he, he regarded males as human beings and not alimony-paying subhuman servants who should shut up and deliver).

    The comment about age-discrimination is correct. But Crackers also want to live, and the poke-and-hope stacks cobbled together by youthful geniuses allow for that:

  4. Homework Assignment: A couple of days ago I had no idea how relevant this would be when I commented elsewhere in the Infinite Elsewhere about Justin Bieber’s new boutique line of marijuana joints (“Peaches” ) and included a link to a bio of an Amazon employee who is an avid Virtual Reality gamer…

    But for anyone who is interested, here’s a mug shot gallery of approximately 600 Amazon “Pioneers.” They are not grouped according to any identifiable “buckets” and there is no official accounting of diversity measures. Maybe someone will take the time to feed all their portraits into an IBM Cloud App and run the numbers. These seem to be employees at almost every level from senior engineering to bucket brigade across the enterprise:

    • I should note that some of the profiles include the employee’s preferred pronouns, and some are in Japanese – somewhat inexplicably for a URL that includes /en/ – which I guess no longer connotes “English.” For example, here is Mamiko, who is a “Product Manager, FBA” in Tokyo. Fortunately for everyone if you right-click on her bio, Chrome will translate the page into English, and it does a pretty good job!

      “Q What kind of person do you think is suitable for this job?

      Those who can express their opinions and work independently, those who like to collaborate globally with people who work in many different departments and various parts of the world, think logically based on data and analysis I think it is perfect for those who like.”

      “Q. What was the deciding factor for joining Amazon ?

      I was involved in BtoC products that handle physical inventory, and I was able to work in a global environment, but the deciding factor was that the people working at Amazon were attractive. Since I had never worked for a foreign-affiliated company, I had the impression that there were a lot of cool people, but there were many people who were interesting and friendly, and diversity and inclusion were pervasive, which was the final result. It became a decisive factor.”

    • Finally, here is an employee who appears to be a Black man (no pronouns listed) and he doesn’t mention diversity and inclusion even once!

      “Prior to joining Amazon, Marcus Gilbert-Alan previously worked at Texas Instruments. He worked on system and software architecture for the OMAP and Jacinto line of application processors. These processors are used in a variety of embedded spaces from cell phone handsets to automotive…”

      “When asked what compelled him to join Amazon, Marcus called out Amazon’s willingness to take risks. “Since starting at Amazon, I learned that Amazon not only takes risks but constantly learns and applies knowledge from both successes and failures. Principal Engineers at Amazon are given broad latitude and are expected to operate independently across organizations. This degree of autonomy comes with measurable responsibility and requires the ability to influence outside of one’s reporting chain. The path cannot be dictated to you directly, you have to seek it out.”

      It sounds to me like this Engineer understands why he enjoys Engineering!

  5. The latest victory for social justice is just in:

    “On Sept. 10, Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Olivia Cook attended her first composition seminar with Sheng. This semester, the course focused on analyzing Shakespeare’s works, and the class began with a screening of the 1965 version of “Othello.” Cook told The Daily she quickly realized something seemed strange, and upon further inspection, noticed the onscreen actor Laurence Olivier was in blackface.”

    “I was stunned,” Cook said. “In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (people of color) in America, I was shocked that (Sheng) would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space.”

    Note that this is a British film (, and Europe at the time did not really have many Blacks (Chancellor Merkel has been working on improving the situation in 2015, which alas led to Brexit).

    Another case of U.S. cultural imperialism?

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