Crypto Market Crash: A New Era of Layoffs

In his book “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets”, former Wall Street trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb first wrote about the concept of a “Black Swan” event. These are extremely negative events or occurrences that are impossibly difficult to predict. 

Taleb outlined the three defining attributes of a black swan event:

  1. An event that is unpredictable.
  2. It results in severe and widespread consequences.
  3. After the occurrence of a black swan event, people will rationalise the event as having been predictable (known as the hindsight bias).

Since its peak in November 2021, the crypto market has lost over $2 trillion in value in a series of Black Swan events, each one setting the stage for the next one, in a terrifying domino effect to the bottom. Back then Bitcoin’s market cap alone was higher than the total market cap of all crypto ($1.1 trillion compared to today’s $1 trillion). So what happened?

There are many different theories, but the strongest one is the Omicron variation of the Covid-19 virus. While that is the most plausible, and for the record, the theory I would hitch my horse to, I am also aware of the poetic justice of Omicron on Bitcoin. 

Covid-19 was a Black Swan event in itself. But it also started the great 2020 crypto rally as BTC went from $5,200 to $63,000 in 12 months (+1200%) as investors saw crypto as an alternative to gold and pulled their money out of traditional stocks and piled it into crypto. 

But that changed the investing demographic of crypto. Retail investors lack the same conviction as the so called “HODLERS” and while the value of the entire crypto market went up, the conviction to hold was greatly diluted. So 12 months later when Omicron hit, those same investors who panicked the previous year which ultimately pumped crypto up, were now the very same ones bringing it crashing down to earth.

This put more pressure on the industry, and cracks became fissures: the TerraLuna crash, steep inflation rises, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 3AC going under, all Black Swan events that contributed either directly or indirectly to current market conditions, and will continue to do so in the months ahead.

Volatility, in price at least, is nothing new to the crypto space, in fact, it is widely accepted as part of the ride. But such a dramatic drop cannot be felt consequence free, and it is the workers, as it always has been, that feels the bite. But what does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Let’s take a look at some companies, their staff cuts, and the industry as a whole to see if there is a silver lining to be had.

PART 1: The Companies

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Gemini was one of the first companies to signal things were bleak when they cited “turbulent market conditions that are likely to persist for some time”. The crypto-exchange owned by billionaires Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, was among the first crypto titans to announce it was firing 10 percent of its employees.

Coinbase followed shortly after by announcing a hiring freeze. LinkedIn became awash with stories of people several stages deep into interviews being ghosted, or had recently accepted positions that now no longer existed. Then the company said in June that it would slash 18 percent of its workforce, which is about 1,100 jobs. The layoffs came a day after Bitcoin plunged around 50 per cent after major US cryptocurrency lending company Celsius Network froze withdrawals and transfers.

Crypto.com was next, announcing that it was laying off over 260 members of its workforce to “ensure continued and sustainable growth for the long term.” CEO Kris Marszalek said in a tweet, adding, “We will continue to evaluate how to best optimise our resources to position ourselves as the strongest builders during the down cycle to become the biggest winners during the next bull run.”

Amongst all this, BlockFi and 2TM revealed staff cuts of 600 and 100 employees respectively before Celsius, in a bid to try and save itself from complete disaster laid off 150 employees.

After all this, we are still not out of the woods as NFT marketplace OpenSea became the latest crypto behemoth to wield the axe. Devin Finzer, co-founder and CEO took to Twitter to disclose that his company was laying off up to 20 percent of its staff. He blamed “an unprecedented combination of crypto winter and broad macroeconomic instability” for the layoffs.

Note: We do not actually know what that number 20% represents, but its LinkedIn page shows just over 750 employees, which could mean around 150 job cuts. However, the company also announced that impacted staff will receive “generous severance” and healthcare coverage as well.

This forced exodus hasn’t been limited to just the crypto space, but has spread to the greater tech ecosystem. Pokemon GO game developer Niantic has asked eight per cent of its workforce to leave the company, which is said to be around 85-90 people, while Elon Musk-run Tesla has cut 10% of its salaried workforce.

Some reported figures put the total job losses at around 22,000 so far which could rise to 50,000 before the year is out. Most of these job losses are coming from the start-up tech space, where things look even more grim in the short term. In fact, of the initial 22,000 jobs lost, it is reported that 60% have come from startups who are in need of “restructuring” or “cost management”.

PART 2: The Salaries/Workers

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Having now examined the events leading up to the layoffs and the companies doing so, let’s look at what really matters; the people. Thousands of livelihoods affected by previous events will pay it forward by making their mark on the economy. Lower household incomes create a ‘lower spending’ ripple effect that touches every other industry, from property to groceries, and everything in between. 

It’s not all doom and gloom however, as several companies are actually ramping up their recruitment services because for stable, well adjusted companies, this feels like winning the jackpot. There has been a huge influx of talent becoming available and companies like Moonpay, and BitGet are actually snapping up talent from their rival companies. 

In researching for this article, I found something quite interesting regarding salaries. My initial hypothesis was that as more top tier talent became more available, salaries would decrease in a classic “supply and demand” style scale. But actually, wages have remained relatively stable over the last few months. Collecting salaries submitted by crypto workers to the subreddit r/cryptojobslist, a Reddit user running it was able to verify positions and salaries, and compile accurate stats regarding salaries. 

What they found was that the lowest earning salaries tended to be around $10k, while the highest remained at around $300k with the average salary moving around $85k. These figures have not deviated much over the past few months, so while the market might be crashing, the value of the individual remains steady. It is of course important to note that these salaries come from all across the world and all sizes of companies.

To exemplify this, Solidity Engineers can earn anything between $170k – $300k depending on the company and the level of skill of the individual. Nothing can be taken for granted, but the opportunities are still out there. They might be harder to find, but they are there.

PART 3: The industry (silver lining)

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So, is there anything we can take away from all of this? Is there a silver lining to be had?

The answer depends on your personal perspective. 

The industry will recover; whether that is through regulation that will bring security and stability to the space, or the possibility of a BTC spot ETF that is always on the horizon for bulls. 

The events of 2022 will be rationalised as having been predictable, “of course Russia was going to invade, didn’t you see signs? It’s so obvious now!” they will say as Nassim Nicholas Taleb expects they will. And who knows, maybe there are a few Black Swan events lurking in the latter half of 2022 waiting to spring up like an actual swan going for the slice of bread you were going to feed to the ducks. By that I mean I’m watching the Mt. Gox pay-out with particular interest.

Either way, nothing about this is new. Remember, back in 2011 Bitcoin went from $32, to a penny in a 99% drop? Anything less than that is a win!

In the meantime, stay safe, stay diversified, and be smart.

How Blockchain Can Enhance Your CSR Footprint

This summer we experienced the hottest day in the history of UK temperature as parts of southern England saw temperatures over 40.2 Celsius for the first time. While some people felt like they were enjoying the type of weather typical of a tropical holiday, the reality was far grimmer.

In London, the mayor was dealing with several major incidents that saw the fire brigade report its busiest single day since the second world war. “Normally we get 350 calls a day, on a busy day we can get up to 500 calls. Yesterday the fire service had more than 2,600 calls a day.” The Met Office came with omens of greater peril as they warned of temperatures so high, they “could lead to serious illness or loss of life”.

And that is exactly what we saw. One model using hospital records estimates some 866 people may have died from heat-related illnesses over the hottest 48-hour period, a record we would hope is never broken, but likely will be with ever-increasing regularity. 

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Carbon is actually an umbrella term for various greenhouse gas emissions like CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and F-gases. All of these are released through a wide variety of activities; burning fossil fuels like oil are the obvious one, but agriculture, deforestation, and industrial processes also contribute.

Businesses are among the main culprits for increasing humanity’s carbon emissions. But thankfully, companies coming into existence on the wave of Web3 are more conscious of such matters and are willing to put resources into creating a greener existence. This is an important part of a company’s CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility. And by that, we mean the internal regulations a business puts in place to hold itself responsible, whether that be to the public, the advertising agencies, its shareholders, or even to the staff within it.

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If you have been in investing circles the last few years, you might have come across another term known as ESG, or “Environmental, Social Governance”, which was very similar. ESG is a way for potential investors to screen a company, to see if they align with your beliefs. To do this, investors will take into account the company’s environmental impact which includes its carbon footprint (Environmental), and its relationships in the area they operate in, including with employees, suppliers, customers, and the wider community (Social). You also look at the company’s leadership, executive pay, shareholder rights, audits, and internal controls (Governance).

However, despite the claims that companies have been going green, independent watchdogs have found numerous companies have used ESG as a way to portray a more favourable image while maintaining practices diametrically opposed to it. From Volkswagen claiming to have the lowest emissions, when in fact they deliberately installed faulty detection devices that recorded inaccurate readings, to Coca-Cola’s “Red to Green” environmental initiative doing nothing to stop it from being the world’s largest plastic polluter.

Scandals like this have caused what was once a genuinely forward-thinking standard to be met with derision. Those using the term are now met more with suspicion than praise. That’s where CSR comes in. CSR has become the next evolution in the way of thinking that ESG started. While ESG is more of a set of guidelines applied to an existing business, CSR is the business model in itself and we are seeing companies in the Web3 space embrace it in ways like never before.

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Market research at a company I used to work for showed that based on the opinions of 75,000 people, 71% were more willing to make smaller returns on investment if the company was more environmentally friendly. With such an appetite for ESG investing, companies that not only promote their corporate social responsibility but actually live by it are set to do very well as the new cycle of generational investors enters the market. And if the trend is to continue, that desire will only get stronger as the years go by.

Web3 as you know is designed around making a more decentralised internet that isn’t controlled by a few powerful centralised entities that dictate everything. Communities are the backbone of this new internet, and if those communities are pushing for environmentally sound practices, then that’s what we are going to see.

Blockchain innovations are already helping existing companies improve their supply chains. I spoke to an ex-marketer for Unilever who told me exactly how it helped them.

When a fault with a product was detected, the normal practice was to recall every product in the region the fault was detected. This resulted in thousands of cases being recalled. It was time-consuming, wasteful, and expensive. But thanks to blockchain technology, they were able to pinpoint the exact shipment and its journey from harvest, to shop. The recall effort was vastly reduced and minimal in disruption.

 To better show how this is possible, you just need to look at how cumbersome the supply chain is. Modern supply chains create mountains of paperwork. When it comes to the ocean freight industry, which makes up for 90% of shipped goods globally, IBM estimates that shipping requires “on average 30 signatures from different organisations and 200 instances of communication”. 

Let that sink in. Forget the fact that paper-based processes are extremely vulnerable to manipulation and human error, it’s also incredibly bad for the environment. A system like that is constantly leaving itself exposed to delays and poor transparency that are just waiting to be logistical headaches.

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Blockchain technology creates a clear, and transparent ledger of a product’s journey that can be easily traced, monitored, and remain secure. So, for Unilever, doing so allowed them to trace back the faulty product back quickly to identify any other potentially affected products and recalled them with far less disruption and cost than before.

But it is the transparency of the Blockchain that will stop companies from creating an ESG façade. The Blockchain presents the “truth” as an unbiased view of events because the trust in it is not on an individual or central entity, but on technology, cryptography, and mathematics. 

Ethereum, and its coming move to a Proof of Stake blockchain, operates in such a way that requires significantly less energy than Bitcoin, and its ability to utilise smart contracts make it possible to program almost any kind of automated process onto it, making this an extremely viable entry point for businesses considering using blockchain technology.

The potential use cases for Blockchain technology are still being discovered, will your business be one of them?

Hybrid Competence: harnessing the workforce of the future

What do LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all have in common?

They all give their employees time and space to work on their own projects, usually on company time. What did this achieve? Well, apart from numerous innovations that we all use today (Gmail anyone?) it did one very important thing. It gave their employees freedom. Freedom, it’s the thing we all crave. And when we are given it by our company, it does wonders for the headspace.

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Hybrid Competence: the newest soft skill for your resume

Prior to the global pandemic, the idea of working remotely was reserved either for the eccentric who refused to conform to numerous societal norms, which included the workplace (the mad scientist in his lab upon the hill), or the elite figurehead who wields enough power and influence that they don’t need to conform (Tony Stark from the Marvel Universe). In both cases, we view these characters as different to the rest of us. Their contribution to the bigger picture is great enough that they are afforded the luxury of minimal or no oversight, their methods are not questioned, and they are given the freedom to work on their own terms.

Media that portrays remote workers in such a fashion therefore implies the opposite of everyone else. That the rest of us do not make meaningful contributions and therefore do not deserve the freedom to work remotely. But why not?

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SoulBound Tokens (SBTs) The Future of NFTs?

The buzzword around the crypto space over the past week has been SBTs or SoulBound Tokens. This is thanks to Ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin publishing a 37-page paper entitled “Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul” which is a pretty heavy title in itself. 

But are these SoulBound tokens the next stage in crypto evolution, another branch from NFTs as we understand them today, or just wishful thinking?

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Film Roundup – May 2022

So I used to write little film reviews for fun on my Instagram when I first got a Cineworld unlimited card. After the past 2 years of barely any visits to my favourite place in the world, I’m determined to make the most out of it this year, and with plenty of big films slated to come out this year, I’m very excited! So if you want yet another bunch of reviews from an underqualified blog writer, you’re in the right place!

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Film Roundup – April 2022

So I used to write little film reviews for fun on my Instagram when I first got a Cineworld unlimited card. After the past 2 years of barely any visits to my favourite place in the world, I’m determined to make the most out of it this year, and with plenty of big films slated to come out this year, I’m very excited! So if you want yet another bunch of reviews from an underqualified blog writer, you’re in the right place!

April Update: Hello again! This month has been wild as I swap jobs more than underwear it seems. So this month has been one of the most meagre with only 2 visits. If you missed the March’s edition, you can read that here, and don’t forget to check out my article on some of my favourite films from 2021!

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10 craziest things from the r/place project

What is r/place

r/place is a subreddit, the subdomains of Reddit. Nearly everything has a “subreddit”, which is identified by the r/ before it. Here are some of the largest subreddits you can visit, but there are thousands of subreddits that go way beyond weird and wonderful. r/place was created as a part art project, part social experiment to see how collaborative art between strangers developed. The result was simply amazing.

How did it work?

A blank canvas was created and divided into 4 million pixels. Each Reddit user was allowed to place a single pixel of a colour of their choosing every 5 minutes. This went on for 3 days. And the result was a staggering piece of collaborative art. But while the overall picture was beautiful, there were loads of crazy story arcs if you look closer.

Here is a timelapse of the whole 3 days in all its glory.

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