Local boss defends Kraken culture after CEO comments on ‘women’s intelligence’


Through that, I discovered bitcoin and I got really excited because it was the Venn diagram of those two worlds: non-government-issued money that was also computer code. So, I dove in headfirst and started doing crypto consulting and ended up working with some really cool people.

During this time it was very apparent that getting bitcoins in Australia was quite difficult, so together with a group of other people we started a bitcoin brokerage company called BitTrade which was acquired by Kraken in January 2020, and that’s how I came to Kraken.

Kraken was founded following the collapse of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.Credit:Toru Hanai/Reuters

When I arrived, the main objective was to create an on-ramp to the Aussie dollar and locate the business. Kraken is a completely isolated company, so we have a group of people working for Kraken who are based in Australia, and a good portion of them work on Australian-specific activities.

As a major international crypto exchange, what is your opinion on the local competition? Is there enough space for as many players as there are?

Recent statistics from the ASIC Investor Survey suggest that there is a huge adoption of crypto in Australia, so there is very good competition as a result. Global trading has always been available to Australians, and Kraken already had a very healthy local business here before we set up a local footprint.

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I think in general, and not just in Australia, there will be some sort of consolidation because, as with any new market, there are always many players and then differentiation becomes more difficult. So I think it’s inevitable that there will be fewer players.

A number of tech companies have recently laid off staff due to the market downturn. Did Kraken have to lay off staff?

Compared to other exchanges, we have kept our powder dry – we are a word of mouth growth company. We have a place in the market as a safe and trusted player. We have not sponsored sports stadiums.

So we are still recruiting. Yes, every business needs to be careful in a downturn, but we are well prepared. And Jesse [Powell] talked about how Kraken knows how to stock stores in a downturn because they’ve seen it before, it’s one of the oldest exchanges. I think we are really well placed.

Kraken does no sports sponsorship in Australia?

To date we haven’t done any major sports sponsorship globally, although there will be a small change in the coming months as I think there is a case to make sure our brand is as well known as others.

There is a wave of exchanges trying to differentiate themselves, and we believe we are differentiated in the sense that we are one of the most trusted exchanges in the market. But time will tell, and I think the time is probably right for us to introduce our brand to people more forcefully.

This week, the government announced that it would conduct a token mapping exercise to help with the regulation of crypto in Australia. What do you think of the government’s regulatory efforts?

We have participated in many consultations, and will continue to do so, and I think the consultation process has been very positive. We are regulated in many jurisdictions, so we are familiar with the interaction with regulation.

I think the token mapping exercise is interesting. It’s a little difficult, though, because with tokens and crypto, innovation is happening in this industry at such a rapid pace that I don’t think any mapping exercise can ever keep pace. And we only have to look to Japan to see some of the limitations that very heavy regulation brings.

Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, has sparked controversy for a 31-page cultural document outlining Kraken's

Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, has sparked controversy for a 31-page cultural document outlining Kraken’s “libertarian philosophical values.” Credit:Getty

Thus, any token mapping exercise should be flexible enough to accommodate the rapid innovation that is happening in crypto. NFTs are a great example of this – would we have been talking about this three years ago? Maybe if you’re cutting edge with CryptoKitties, but these days it’s pretty much the first thing people talk about.

You mentioned Jesse Powell a few times, what do you think of Jesse?

Jesse is a really interesting innovator. He’s a crypto OG, he understands technology, not just from an entrepreneurial acumen perspective, but on a technical level. He believes it is a hyper-innovative and essential infrastructure for individuals, and a tool that allows individuals to engage in what will be the future of not only finance, but also the future of the internet.

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Kraken is a global company, and each different geography has a very different topography when it comes to financial freedom. Jesse absolutely believes that crypto can break down barriers to financial freedom. And fundamentally, if the future of the internet relies on blockchain, which we think it is, then ensuring people have access to it is more critical than ever.

So I think that perspective from him is really inspiring. I think it’s really gripping, and I think he’s a strong voice when it comes to making that point.

It has recently attracted some coverage due to the release of some cultural material about Kraken’s corporate culture, which is steeped in “libertarian philosophical values”. Do you have any comments on that? Do you agree with the broader perspective he brings to culture in Kraken?

As someone working in an organization with people from all over the world, 70 different countries, I think it’s an incredibly diverse company. Kraken’s corporate culture is extremely inclusive in this regard.

I think there may have been comments in the media that perhaps characterize Jesse in a particular way. From my personal opinion and the people I work with, Kraken is an extremely productive and open place to work, and I think that fits crypto culture to some degree, and whether you want to call it libertarian or not, maybe that’s the right characterization.

The comments you mention are those that question whether people can use pronouns, question whether women have equal intelligence to men, and question who can use the N-word. Do you think these are appropriate comments for the CEO of a major crypto company?

Well, I don’t know if the comments were ever in context.

Would they be more appropriate if they were in context?

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What I’m suggesting is that the charge that these comments might or might not be inappropriate is almost impossible for outsiders to understand, because the only thing I’ve seen is an article from another publication, in which quotations were randomly extracted from the communication. So I think that’s a fundamentally inaccurate representation of what Jesse said in public and in private.

Talking about Kraken from my personal experience and my experience with Jesse is that he is an extremely open and fundamentally analytical person. And it’s a very respectful place to work actually.

If Kraken’s goal is to bring cryptocurrency to the masses and get more people to engage with Web3, do you think a company with a self-defined libertarian culture and “if you don’t like it, you can leave”, is the type of business that can really engage people with Web3?

Kraken’s products and the way they provide unparalleled levels of security to its users, a great platform for crypto assets, and an extremely strong and secure portal that we provide to our users – people will be watching what Kraken offers. business through this lens.

Some people may have an opinion on the importance of a CEO’s personal comments, and some may not. The same way some people will buy a Tesla because it’s the most efficient electric vehicle you can buy, regardless of what they think of the CEO’s personal comments.

I think a lot of people don’t necessarily always believe what they read and come into business with an open mind, and that’s what I hope people will when it comes to all of their choices. Kraken is a great example of an engaged company that creates extremely strong products for people, strong experiences, and has their best interests at heart as digital citizens.

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