Companies focused on blockchain technologies have proliferated, including cryptocurrency exchanges like Bitpanda, Gemini and CoinList; NFT and art collectible companies like OpenSea and Dapper Labs; and infrastructure companies like Dfinity and Alchemy.
Some of the brain drain into crypto has also been spurred by worries about the control and dominance of the biggest tech companies by their own employees. Many had joined Google, Facebook and others to create something new, only to encounter bureaucracy and the backlash of working at the behemoths.
Those leaving behind a Big Tech salary do not have to wait as long for a payoff at a crypto start-up as those at traditional tech start-ups.
While employees generally accept a smaller salary at tech start-ups in the hope that the company’s stock will hit it big one day, workers at crypto start-ups are provided “liquidity,” or the ability to cash out their shares, much earlier. Often, they can do so in the form of trading their company’s cryptocurrencies, according to Dan McCarthy, a recruiter for the investment firm Paradigm who has written on the potential upsides of crypto start-ups for tech workers.
In some cases, crypto start-ups offer compensation packages on a par with the biggest tech firms because of how easily employees can convert their company’s “tokens” — or the underlying cryptocurrency backing the start-up — into cash.
“It’s not necessarily the case that you have to go take one-third of your Big Tech salary anymore, because a lot of these companies are so well capitalized,” Mr. Cheng said.
Ms. Carter, the former Amazon vice president, said people were interested in working at crypto firms for more than just money. Some were drawn to the ethos of web3, which strives to decentralize power and decision making. It’s an alternative to how Google and Facebook came to dominate the internet by sucking up personal data from users to sell targeted ads.