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Coinbase lays off 18% of its workforce. The CEO cites an upcoming crypto winter

The mobile phone icon for the Coinbase app is shown in New York on April 13, 2021.
Richard Drew
/
AP
The mobile phone icon for the Coinbase app is shown in New York on April 13, 2021.

The cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase laid off about 18% of its workforce — or about 1,100 people — on Tuesday, the company announced.

Coinbase CEO and cofounder Brian Armstrong blamed an impending recession in the U.S. and an upcoming "crypto winter" as the reasons for the company to be making these drastic cuts. A "crypto winter" is when prices "contract and remain low for an extended period," according to Forbes.

Armstrong said: "In past crypto winters, trading revenue (our largest revenue source) has declined significantly. While it's hard to predict the economy or the markets, we always plan for the worst so we can operate the business through any environment."

But he also admitted that the company has grown too quickly. Coinbase went public last year — becoming the first major cryptocurrency company to do so.

"While we tried our best to get this just right, in this case it is now clear to me that we over-hired," Armstrong said.

For some employees, the news was delivered abruptly. The company cut access to Coinbase systems for employees affected by the layoff. Because of this, notifications went out to the workers' personal email addresses.

"Given the number of employees who have access to sensitive customer information, it was unfortunately the only practical choice, to ensure not even a single person made a rash decision that harmed the business or themselves," Armstrong said.

It's been a rough year for the crypto currency market.

So far this year, Bitcoin has lost more than half of its value. It hit a record of more than $69,000 in November 2021. Today, it's trading around $23,000.

Other companies in the crypto industry have announced major layoffs as well — including BlockFi and Crypto.com.

Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University, told NPR that 2021 was the height of crypto mania.

"That was certainly a watershed moment. So, that meant that cryptos had risen a lot, and it gave them much more room to fall."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.