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Talent density at Coinbase

Tl;dr: We're implementing 5 new measures to increase talent density at Coinbase.

By L J Brock


, November 16, 2023

, 3min read time

Coinbase Blog

Top Talent is our #1 operating priority at Coinbase, and we're always looking to improve on this dimension.

Our culture doc describes our commitment to top talent:

We take extraordinary measures to have exceptional people in every seat. We ask whether each candidate will raise the average on the team before making an offer. We cast a wide net, to attract candidates from every background, focusing on both skill and culture alignment. We actively coach and develop. Unremarkable performance gets a generous severance package.

Achieving our mission to increase economic freedom in the world is dependent on the caliber of people we have in every role. We have a very good team today, but we should always be thinking about how to hit a higher bar.

To start with, we had to think hard about what we want and don't want. We don't just want to hire people who have X number of years of experience in some skill we need. We don’t want to hire individuals who rest on their pedigree or boast association with elite institutions and corporations. We are focused on finding star individual performers and measure that by proven real-world impact. 

We want people who push us to be better, who raise our energy, and who are far better than us in at least one area. These are people who are hungry and eager to leave their mark on the world, who relish the pressure and privilege of working with high caliber colleagues, and who actively seek out critical feedback in service of continuous improvement. We’ve found they’re often quirky and eccentric, have a low ego-to-ability ratio, and run towards solving the gnarliest problems the company is facing. 

We want to hire and retain people who are passionate about crypto and economic freedom. People who are unfazed by volatility and take a long term view. People who are builders and techno-optimists; those who recognize technology, capitalism, and free markets are some of the best tools we've found to improve the human condition.

Here are five measures we’re taking to improve talent density at Coinbase.

1. Enhanced structured assessments with cognitive testing

Over the past 12 months, we have tested structured assessments for cultural alignment and technical skills, and validated these were predictive of performance at Coinbase. Moving forward, we will be adding cognitive testing to our structured assessments and hiring process. These assessments are intended to complement, not replace, live interviews and work trials. We believe having a minimum bar on these assessments will drive consistency in evaluation, reduce bias, and foster a meritocracy.

2. Increasing our % of hires from internships

In the past, we have under-prioritized emerging, high potential talent and are taking action to correct this. This year we received over 30,000 applications for our internship program. Over the next couple of years, our goal is to have ~20% of all new full-time Product, Engineering and Design employees to have gone through our internship program. 

Internships are a great opportunity to see who can deliver real value and help inject fresh perspectives into our organization. Importantly, they also give candidates the opportunity to assess the reality of working for Coinbase. 

To invest in emerging talent, we plan to have interns predominantly work in an in-office experience in the Bay Area and New York. This group will interact regularly with our experienced employees as these locations serve as our largest hubs for team offsites. We will retain our remote-first culture for our broader employee population. 

3. CEO and President/COO approval of all hires

To help raise the bar, we are introducing a temporary guardrail: Brian Armstrong and Emilie Choi will approve all new hires, consistent with applicable laws. We doubt this will scale indefinitely, but there are few better uses of our executives’ time than helping create a culture of top talent.

Hiring managers will conduct the recruitment process with our talent team and submit a hiring packet with a one paragraph summary of how the candidate has demonstrated extraordinary ability. Going forward, every candidate at Coinbase must have some evidence of extraordinary ability to be hired. We're looking for candidates with a trail of real world results, not a collection of accolades.

4. Real time feedback and performance management

We will improve our quarterly performance reviews by introducing manager ratings on output (what) and behavior (how). This means employees will receive two numeric ratings on a quarterly basis as opposed to our current ‘on-track / off-track’ ratings. This will provide insight into performance trends, act as a tool to identify star performers sooner and offer more timely coaching and development.

We will also be developing a custom internal tool based around Slack to capture more frequent and diverse points of performance feedback. Our existing processes rely heavily on manager feedback but lack the means to collect and appropriately weight feedback from peers and stakeholders. In a remote environment, this feedback is essential to provide a more rounded measurement of performance. Our goal is to gather high quality data, while minimizing the tax on the org spent doing performance management. 

5. Executive accountability for talent density

Creating a more talent dense environment not only requires us to hire and retain top performers, but to also take an intentional approach for underperformance. Balancing across these dimensions is the responsibility of every Coinbase manager, and ensuring we achieve and maintain a new standard of excellence at all levels of the company is critical to our success. 

To reinforce this, we are creating stronger executive accountability.  Beginning in 2024 we are tying a measure of talent density to each executive team member's individual performance rating.


We're sharing this to be open and honest about the culture at Coinbase. While this message will be off-putting to some, and is sure to be criticized, it is our bat-signal to speak to the kind of talent we want to work with. Our vision is that every employee at Coinbase feels a sense of pride, knowing they are amongst the few who made it through a very selective process.

To those that this describes, we’re offering a chance to increase the economic freedom of the world at the most-trusted crypto company. We promise that you will be surrounded by outlier talent who work incredibly hard, you will be pushed beyond what you think you’re capable of, and you will have the opportunity to do the best work of your life. We will reward outperformance generously, both financially and through accelerated career growth, and we’ll deliver a leading remote-first environment with frequent in-person events. 

Working at Coinbase is not for the faint of heart. But for those who are purpose-driven, high-achieving, action-oriented, and convicted in the potential of crypto, there is no better place to be. Please view our open roles here.

L.J. Brock

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