Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong is taking a strong stance against woke corporatism by refusing to participate in certain social and political movements such as Black Lives Matter. Armstrong’s address comes in response to a recent employee walkout at the cryptocurrency company.
“Everyone is asking the question about how companies should engage in broader societal issues during these difficult times while keeping their teams united and focused on the mission,” Armstrong said.
“It has become common for Silicon Valley companies to engage in a wide variety of social activism, even those unrelated to what the company does, and there are certainly employees who really want this in the company they work for. So why have we decided to take a different approach?” he wrote in a blog post clarifying the company’s policies.
Armstrong explained Coinbase prioritizes its mission, “playing as a championship team, focus on building, and being transparent” and that taking a stance one way or another would violate their inclusive work environment.
“While I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction and by creating internal division,” Armstrong stated.
Armstrong wrote that for the company to focus on activism unrelated to their business would go against the principle of inclusion. “We have people with many different backgrounds and viewpoints at Coinbase, and even if we all agree that something is a problem, we may not agree on how to actually go solve it.”
Armstrong also clarified that while the company does not want to focus on debate surrounding political or social justice matters, they do encourage it as “core to a healthy team where it is safe to disagree.”
“Of course, there are exceptions here around internal employment matters, whistleblowing, etc. And we want all employees to feel safe disagreeing on the work itself,” he explained. “Candor and debate are core to a healthy team, where it is safe to disagree. We consider these to be related to our mission.”
According to Armstrong, Coinbase employee duties should be used to the “service of the company or our own interests as employees and shareholders” and that leaving “policy decisions, non-profit work, broader societal issues, and political causes” out of their business strategies as much as possible is the best way to do so.
“We focus minimally on causes not directly related to the mission,” he said.
While Armstrong previously expressed his support for Black Lives Matter, engineers at Coinbase staged a walkout in June “after Armstrong declined to issue a public statement affirming that Black lives matter.”
I want to unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter.
— Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong) June 4, 2020
Armstrong also received backlash from some for his decision such as former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo who offered to provide “video commentary” for the “me-first capitalists” who “are going to be the first people lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution.”