Empire Newsletter: How to succeed in crypto by really, really trying

A breakdown on what works and what doesn’t in crypto hiring

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yuRomanovich/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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A crypto job hunt crash course 

We’re in the heart of stage 2 of this bull market. 

As someone who has hired 100+ people in crypto over the last 6.5 years, I have a lot of thoughts on how the job market changes through these cycles. 

If you thought crypto prices are volatile, just wait until you study the crypto labor market. This impacts founders, employees, first-time applicants, HR departments, college graduates and more. 

I’d like to use this post to try to help one group: those trying to get a first job in crypto.

Right now companies are hiring for just a few, high priority roles. Most of these roles are engineering, design and product related. If you don’t have these skills, it can feel impossible to get a job in stage 2. 

But stage 3 is where it gets crazy. Crypto companies bring out their hiring bazookas. I’m not talking about just adding a couple of roles to their job boards — these companies will launch dozens of roles at a time. You’ll see 100-person startups launching 50 roles in a month. 

Ask any founder at the end of 2024 about their main challenge, and 10 out of 10 will tell you it’s finding the right talent.

So why won’t you get a job if everyone is hiring?

Let me take you behind the scenes of what goes on in the mind of a hiring manager.

Reason #1: Sloppy outreach

I’m astonished by how many applicants submit resumes that aren’t formatted, spell our name wrong, include typos in their email and more. These problems weed out +50% of applicants. 

Reason #2: Rambling outreach

We receive hundreds of applications for each role. We get so many seven-paragraph emails. I’m sorry, but no one is reading that. Don’t waste time with a cover letter. 

Instead, write 4-5 sentences total on your background, why you’d be perfect for this role and your experience with crypto. That’s it! Nothing else. 

Reason #3: Lack of crypto experience

In an ideal world, we’d hire someone who has a perfect background and knows a lot about crypto. Unfortunately, this happens about 5% of the time.

Often, we’re choosing between a candidate who has a perfect background but is new to crypto vs. a candidate who has a solid background but loves crypto. 

You need to demonstrate your crypto knowledge. Demonstrating this knowledge does not mean telling the recruiter that you’re “passionate about this industry because it’s going to revolutionize the world.” 

Instead, it’s “I’ve been posting on Farcaster and Lens. I minted these NFTs. I listen to these podcasts religiously. I’m active on Crypto Twitter.”

At a bare minimum, get on X. Post everyday. Create charts and threads on podcasts.

Creating high-quality content is the best way to land a crypto job. 

Reason #4: Lack of creativity

Too many applicants send cookie-cutter applications. Do something different to stand out. 

One applicant sent us a video tearing apart our Twitter strategy. They ended up running our socials for two years. 

One applicant built an entire Blockworks ad sales deck from scratch. They’re now crushing sales.

Reason #5: Lack of a specific role

One mistake I keep seeing, especially with ex-bankers and consultants — don’t apply to work in “strategy.” The strategy role you want doesn’t exist.

Pitch why you’d be amazing for a specific role that exists at that type of company. Get hired, crush your job and then contribute to the company’s strategy.

I’ll end with this: Crypto is the most open industry in the world. It’s the only industry where there are still no experts. In nearly every other industry, you need several years of experience before you can be seen as influential. 

But you have to commit. You have to build the network, listen to the podcasts, interact on the apps, attend the conferences.

If you do that, you’ll succeed. And yes, we do use jargon. Lots of it. But that jargon works as a litmus test to see if you really get the social layer of the industry. Because that’s the most important layer of them all. 

Good luck out there. 

— Jason Yanowitz

Data Center

  • In March, monthly crypto job posts jumped to 427 from February’s 285 per CryptoJobsList.
  • Total value locked (TVL) across all blockchains is now $103.6 billion — its highest point since May 2022 but still nearly 30% below pre-Terra blowup levels.
  • Grayscale’s bitcoin ETF GBTC saw $303 million outflows Monday, despite Genesis announcing it had finished selling
  • Bitcoin (BTC) is still holding onto $70,000, though it’s declined 2% as of 8 am ET.
  • Ether (ETH) on the other hand, has held $3,600, but only barely.

The revolving door spins again

Blockchain analytics startup Chainalysis has tapped the former head of IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) as its inaugural global head of capacity building. 

Jim Lee will help law enforcement, tax agencies, financial institutions and regulators use Chainalysis data and services to “fight financial crime,” the company said Monday. 

Read more: Investment fraud relating to crypto rose 53% in 2023, FBI says 

During his 29 years at the agency, IRS-CI shut down Hydra, the biggest darknet market in the world. Under Lee’s leadership, officials also completed the largest-ever crypto seizure connected to terrorism financing in an operation against Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades. 

Chainalysis is no stranger to IRS-CI. 

In 2021, the IRS hired Chainalysis to track down and seize more than 69,000 bitcoin associated with the Silk Road case. 

In 2023, IRS-CI donated licenses for Chainalysis Reactor, the firm’s investigations product, to Ukrainian law enforcement agencies as part of a broader effort to help increase access to blockchain analysis tools and cyber training in the region. 

Read more: DOJ moves 30K BTC connected to Silk Road seizure

The door goes both ways, too. 

In 2021, Chainalysis’ former chief technical counsel Michael Mosier left the firm to become the acting director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) where he advocated for increased involvement from the Treasury’s cybersecurity team when it comes to fighting illicit activities related to crypto. He is now deputy director and digital innovation officer at FinCEN. 

Some policymakers have expressed concern with the trend of public-to-private sector moves. Late last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote to crypto exchange Coinbase and lobby groups Coin Center and the Blockchain Association, criticizing their recruitment strategies and accusing them of interfering with progress in Washington.

Crypto companies are building “a small army of former defense, national security and law enforcement officials,” Sen. Warren said, and it’s “stonewalling” her efforts to increase anti-money laundering and know-your-customer guidelines.   

“Sen. Warren should focus her efforts on the perpetrators, not those working hand-in-hand with US law enforcement to catch bad actors,” Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, said at the time. 

Warren has not made any public comments about Chainalysis’ latest hire yet, but the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to meet this morning to talk about one of her favorite topics: countering illicit finance, so we expect she will have lots to say about crypto. 

— Casey Wagner

Bring back building on Bitcoin 

Bitcoin is undergoing what’s been dubbed a Cambrian explosion in building activity. 

But much of it is focused on off-chain projects — layer-2s and sidechains — that run the risk of taking potential revenue away from miners.

Pre-Taproot, Bitcoin had for years a number of DeFi projects, including lending protocol Sovyrn, stablecoin system MoneyOnChain and smart contract-powered sidechains Rootstock and Stacks.

The advent of Taproot-fueled Ordinals — which brought NFT-like digital collectibles that until then were mostly synonymous with Ethereum and Solana — seems to have captured developer (and venture capitalist) imaginations across the industry.

Read more: Bitcoin ordinals volume jumps while ERC-404 experiment loses steam

If Ethereum’s mess of layer-2 networks can attract billions of dollars of activity, then Bitcoin must be able to replicate that success and attract even more. Particularly so, considering BTC boasts three times the market cap of ETH.

There’s now at least 11 sidechains building in Bitcoin’s orbit, and seven have launched in the past year. Altogether, Bitcoin sidechains have so far attracted about $709 million in total value locked. At the start of the year, that figure was below $200 million.

OG Bitcoin-tied networks Rootstock and Stacks have garnered the lion’s share of fresh capital, aside from upstart EVM layer-2 Merlin.

Still, taking the bull case for Bitcoin layer-2s (and even layer-3s) to the extreme undermines the viability of securing the actual Bitcoin blockchain.

Read more: How will the Bitcoin halving impact Bitcoin L2s?

If Bitcoin truly experiences its own DeFi summer — a vibrant upswing in DEX trading, lending activity and token issuance, all on layer-2s — then miners likely won’t benefit in any meaningful way. It’s the venture capitalists, validators and other private stakeholders stewarding those off-chain solutions that will reap most of the rewards.

Porting the kinds of DeFi activity seen on Ethereum to Bitcoin is a difficult challenge. That’s especially true given lengthier block times and relatively high fees. After all, it’s far easier to shift the bulk of those transactions offchain and settle to mainnet periodically than to overcome Bitcoin’s core activity bottlenecks — namely, the block size limit.

As Arch CEO Matt Mudano alluded to on today’s episode of the Empire podcast, it’s imperative for builders to explore engineering solutions that result in legitimate growth for mainnet activity post-halving later this month.

Read more: ‘BTC will have to hit $79K’: At-home miners brace for the Bitcoin halving

With mining rewards immediately halved, revenue from transaction fees will become even more critical for miners — and by extension, the overall health of the underlying Bitcoin blockchain on which its budding layer-2s and sidechains rely.

— David Canellis

The Works

  • New York City’s Economic Development Corporation is backing a new learning program that will run an Ethereum node. 
  • Some respondents struck a dour tone on Bitcoin in a recent Deutsche Bank survey, according to Bloomberg.
  • Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen is San Francisco’s biggest law enforcement donor, according to Mission Local. 
  • If you were planning to chow down on a Bored Ape burger this summer, I’ve got some bad news. 
  • A charter airline in the Bahamas has cut a deal with the Department of Justice over two planes financed by Sam Bankman-Fried, CH-Aviation writes. 

The Morning Riff

MicroStrategy, but make it Japan. 

That’s the newly announced shift for Japanese firm Metaplanet, which will copy MicroStrategy’s, uh, strategy of acquiring bitcoin. The idea is to become a vehicle for Japanese investors to get bitcoin exposure without paying potentially steep taxes.

According to new Metaplanet board member Jason Fang, the company’s move will let “anyone with an account” at the Tokyo Stock Exchange “gain exposure to bitcoin without any regulatory risks.”

Read more: ​​What analysts say the Bitcoin halving is set to do for MicroStrategy stock

To start, the company is investing 1 billion JPY, or roughly $6.6 million, into bitcoin. That amount is a far cry from the billions worth of BTC that MicroStrategy has accrued, but everyone has to start somewhere. 

Metaplanet is an early-stage investment company, per its website, so the strategy seems to align more with the company’s goals — unlike a certain enterprise analytics and software company. 

But the appetite for more than one MicroStrategy remains to be seen, especially as Metaplanet enters a more robust market with a much higher price tag. At this point, MicroStrategy — which first started acquiring bitcoin in 2020 — and co-founder Michael Saylor are old pros. 

— Katherine Ross


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