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Who should join Coinbase: Builders | by Brian Armstrong | Jul, 2020

Coinbase is an exciting and unique company and as we continue growing, it’s important that we create a strong culture. A few years ago, I wrote in the Coinbase culture doc:

Hire builders
We hire people who are passionate about creating new products with technology. We look for entrepreneurs who are comfortable with ambiguity. We prefer to work with people who actually execute toward ideas, instead of just coming up with them. When the creative moment strikes, we try not to let big company process get in the way or slow them down.

Today, I want to expand on this concept, and flesh out what it means to hire builders, so that people thinking of joining Coinbase can make an informed decision.

What do I mean when I say we want to hire builders?

At the root, builders create value in the world instead of taking or destroying it. They help build companies and make products, because they want to improve the world. When builders make things people want, not only do they solve customer problems, they also create jobs, grow the economy, and generate wealth in society.

Builders love working on important and ambitious missions. They know that the only way to accomplish a mission like this is with relentless focus. They try to ignore all of the other things that can distract a company, and keep the team united toward this goal, with everyone rowing in the same direction. They want to know how their work connects to the mission, and try to maximize the percent of their time that goes to delivering customer value.

Builders are pro technology. They recognize that science and engineering are some of the best levers we have to improve the world. In every industry, including education, financial services, healthcare, entertainment, energy, and more, the greatest improvements we’re seeing are coming from technology. Technology is what can help solve the world’s biggest problems, from climate change to improving education. Technology also drives down costs, making expensive initial prototypes eventually cheap enough for everyone. Builders are technological progressives: they believe that by investing in science, engineering, and technology we can create a better world.

Builders are inherent optimists. They believe the future will be better, and they have a plan to get there. They recognize that, over the arc of history, the human condition has improved dramatically, and that this trend can continue, when smart, dedicated people come together to build solutions. They recognize that “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world….[and] indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Builders are supportive of others who are trying to improve the world. They recognize that it’s easy to be a critic, but it’s hard to build something new that really helps people. They celebrate people who attempt the impossible and stumble, instead of trying to tear them down or belittle them, because they know how difficult it is to build.

Builders are unusually resilient and determined. They move from one setback to the next with enthusiasm. They know that it took Thomas Edison many attempts to create the light bulb, the Wright Brothers many attempts to achieve the first powered flight, and NASA many attempts (and human lives) to reach the moon. They have the audacity to believe they can achieve the impossible, and pick themselves up, even after repeated failure. They manage their own psychology to keep morale high, especially when the going gets tough.

Builders work hard. They want to join winning teams where sustained high performance is expected from everyone, because they recognize this improves their chances of building something great. And they also work hard because they love it. They find it incredibly fulfilling to work on something that matters. At the same time, they know how to rest and avoid burnout, to improve their productivity and creativity over the long term.

Builders care about profit because a company without profit is less likely to accomplish its mission. More capital means a company can hire more builders to come join the team, and it is an important measure of whether customer value is really being created. They also want to own a piece of the businesses they help create, not only so they can create wealth for themselves and their families, but also so they can invest it in the future.

Builders care about responsibility to society. They only want to build products that are good for humanity, and minimize negative externalities. But they recognize that this is complex: the things people want are not always what is good for them, and any tool can be used for good or bad purposes. They know that they always have to be able to look themselves in the mirror, and believe they are net contributing to society. They don’t believe in taking shortcuts that would temporarily increase profitability. They optimize for the long term goal.

Builders believe in creative disruption and free markets. They want the best product at the lowest price to win, as determined by the customer, to accelerate progress in society. They don’t want any handouts and they don’t want entrenched incumbents to have an unfair advantage. They want their product to survive solely based on whether customers vote for it with their dollars.

Builders take a global perspective because they want to improve the lives of as many people as possible. They know that focusing on the largest market, say the U.S., may only allow them to reach 4.3% of the global population. With technology improving distribution and lowering costs, builders are increasingly able to have a global reach.

With this understanding of builders, my hope is that people can make a more informed decision about whether Coinbase is the right place for them. It takes a wide variety of people to come together and make a company like Coinbase work. We have many roles and opportunities, but we all share some of these values around how to make a contribution to the world.

The mission of Coinbase is to create an open financial system for the world. This is no small task. It’s going to require dedicated focus for many years to come, and there will be many milestones and setbacks along the way. For those who join the team, they will know that they put a dent in the universe, and helped create economic freedom for millions of people around the world. Please check out our open roles here.

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