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"Why I will never work in crypto again"

For the past few years, I’ve worked in crypto. Coming out of COVID, I didn’t want to go back to my job in investment management; I had spent over a decade at a top tier investment bank before scratching the itch to go to the buy-side. When I ultimately made it, the move was good in some ways, bad in many other ways and a reminder that the grass most certainly is not always greener – so I quit.

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Without a job lined up, I had the opportunity to step back and make a career move that I probably wouldn’t have considered previously. I chose to make a bet on crypto. At the time, Bitcoin was trading above $40,000 and had rallied circa 1000% in a two-year period. Crypto FOMO was everywhere and if you weren’t speculating on price appreciation, as crypto marched inevitably higher, then you were missing out. As my own PA trading account grew in value, I decided that the ultimate bet was on my own career.

After considerable due diligence, I joined a highly reputable, institutional crypto business in London. Much of the team had “TradFi” backgrounds from investment banks and well known hedge funds, but there was also a healthy dose of “crypto natives”: people who had never worked a 9 to 5 (or more realistically, a 7 to 7), preferred hoodies to button downs, spoke an almost entirely foreign language learned from Twitter/Discord/Telegram and were obsessed about every project, token drop, new all-time high and money making opportunity that the nascent crypto space threw out.

Especially in the early days, there was a lot to love: the technical detail, nuance and being front and centre of the crypto revolution that was underway. I also loved the potential for making serious sums of money as the space expanded and prices went to the moon.

Ultimately, I left that institutional crypto business to join a start-up, which was an experience unlike anything I had been through in my career: excitement, optimism, learning, non-stop 24x7 work… but in the end, more failure than success.

Reflecting on these two roles and the past few years, here are some of the reasons why I will never work in crypto again:

1)   Crypto lacks professionalism. Perhaps it's because of the anti-establishment, libertarian leanings of the space, but the crypto industry has a massive dispersion of professionalism amongst its participants. To be very clear, there are some truly professional people and firms, but the space also has more than its fair share of charlatans, weirdos, idealists and criminals. “TradFi” has regulators, exchanges, clearing houses, banks and swarms of legal & compliance teams to keep the bad actors in check. Crypto needs much more of the same. Indeed, crypto will never reach its full potential (and the most conservative institutional customer base) until the bar of professionalism – and regulation – is significantly raised.

2)  Ghosting. Maybe it's because their closest “friends” exist more often on a gaming console headset, or on a Telegram group chat. Maybe it's because they’ve never worked for a real business, with a real boss who has real expectations of how to operate. Either way, crypto people think it’s acceptable to just leave an ongoing discussion re: a business opportunity with no follow-up, no reason why – it just gets dropped. This is not how you communicate with your primary school crush, let alone with a business associate.

3)  There is too much dishonesty. There is a clear line between speaking optimistically about where your business could be and speaking plainly about where it is. Especially over the past two years (read: a deep, cold, extended crypto winter), many crypto businesses think it is acceptable to say one thing while meaning or doing another. Examples of this are rife, from committing to a joint venture (with no intention of ever partnering) to a glowing account of business growth (when there are no revenues and only the faintest hope of survival). Is this a problem particular to crypto or endemic to start-ups more broadly? Perhaps, but the charlatans, weirdos, idealists and criminals ofcrypto drag down the good actors with them.

JeJessica Sun is a pseudonym 

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