Coinbase vs. Binance — why is one laying off thousands and another hiring?

Two companies in the crypto space are currently going through very different journeys. One is growing and the other shrinking. The question is — why? And can the human capital within these companies show us how each firm ended up here?

We are all aware of the job cuts that have affected Coinbase and I, along with all others in the industry, offer my sincere sympathy to those affected. It is by no means the only crypto firm that has announced layoffs. Both crypto.com and BlockFi also announced cuts. Binance however, is doing the complete opposite. Binance has an open jobs board with more than 2,000 jobs available across Europe.

Why? And how did we get here?

Coinbase was a larger organisation than Binance before the layoffs with 3730 employee profiles to Binance’s 2550. Coinbase employees came from much more varied company backgrounds. Employees at Coinbase had nearly 3 times the number of previous companies they’d worked at than Binance (6506 to 2187). This points to a workforce with a variety of experience. Coinbase employees also had a lot more experience than employees at Binance. The average experience length for employees at Coinbase was 3 years more than that at Binance. Coinbase employees also came from more varied universities than those at Binance. This could also be due to a larger number of employees in total, but these stats point to a more experienced, more varied workforce at Coinbase than Binance — so where is the problem?

Looking at employee retention — we start to see some clear differences. Coinbase employees were in their previous roles for 2.7 years on average. Their employment duration at Coinbase drops to less than half that at 1.2 years. Binances employment duration is almost double that at 2.3, and longer than the average tenure at their previous employment. This highlights a key problem. Why are Coinbase employees leaving? They are more experienced and have longer previous average employment durations than Binance employees, but Coinbase can’t seem to keep them.

Looking at the concentration of job titles we see that Software development is number 1 for Coinbase with nearly 26% of employees working in this area. Finance is number one for Binance with 40% of employees. At Binance software development comes in 4th with 4% of employees in this sector. At Coinbase finance comes in 11th place with only 3% of employees in the finance department. Generally, it seems that Coinbase employees are distributed across multiple sectors. Software development does have the most employees with 25.9% of the workforce but the 2nd largest group only has 8.9% of employees.

This employee concentration shows that Binance are very financially minded, they’re focussed on building a sustainable and lasting business. In the crypto world, instability is rife so having a strong finance department is key to success. In contrast, Coinbase seem to have pur software development and new technology above all else. Perhaps they believed the key to growth was rapidly releasing new features and developing more ad-ons for their users. Clearly, this hasn’t worked out for them.

Small disclosure: Where it says Unkown, these are profiles, which cannot be associated to companies.

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We can see that Coinbase employees don’t stay with the company as long as Binances employees do — perhaps there’s a culture or people mismatch. Coinbase employees are also very distributed across the organisation with only one real centre of concentrated employees and that’s Software development. This clearly shows where their focus was. Perhaps it was the focus on new features and development over financial stability that’s put Coinbase in the position it’s in today.

Binance is the more profitable company. Binance reported a profit of between $800 million and $1 billion in 2020. Coinbase reported a slightly higher profit for this term however in 2021 Coinbase reported a net revenue of $7.4bn but Binance reported net revenue of $20bn.

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