Kraken Culture Explained
Version 1.1 June, 2022
If culture is the way of life for a group of people, then company culture is the way of work for a group of people. It is a company’s shared set of traditions, values, goals, attitudes and norms – whether written or unwritten. We believe that every company should be as different and unique as every individual. Just as two individuals may or may not be compatible with one another, an individual and a company may or may not be compatible.
After reading this description of Kraken company culture, we hope that you have a sense of if you would like working here. We understand that while we will always be a great place to work for some who share our mission, we may not be the most compatible company for some others. If it wasn’t meant to be, that’s okay. We want you to be happy! With that said, we hope that you do want to become a Krakenite (i.e., a member of the Kraken team)!
Krakenites are aligned with both the culture and the mission.
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill
“You can't be everything to everyone, but you can be something to someone.” – Andrew Davis
0. In the Beginning was the Problem, and the Problem was Money
Our Founders have worked together for over 20 years in remote-first companies, in the virtual goods industry. Prior to Kraken, from 2001-2011, they ran a virtual goods marketplace for video games called Lewt, which was constantly plagued by payment problems. Digital currency was obviously the future and when they discovered Bitcoin in 2011 they went all-in, sold Lewt and started Kraken with the belief that Bitcoin – if they could drive adoption – would improve life for billions of people.
Starting a crypto exchange was a daunting task, chock-full of danger, technical and legal complexity but the pair saw it a challenge worth pursuing. They funded the company from their own pockets for the first three years, before investors took the industry seriously. It requires an ideological drive, a greater sense of purpose, to walk away from a successful business and risk everything while “experts” call you crazy.
Eleven years later, our Founders are still on the front lines of the battle. Their values – crypto, cypherpunk, libertarian values – are the core of what continues to make this company the most attractive home for the top minds in the industry.
If you’d like to learn more about our Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Jesse, his personal style and views, you can check out the interviews he’s done and his Twitter account: @jespow
The Tentaclemandments of Kraken
I. Crypto is for Everyone
When Satoshi released the Bitcoin white paper in late 2008, he proposed for the first time a system of borderless, global, digital money. The network of Bitcoin nodes is leaderless yet maintains monetary and cryptographic soundness through the process of distributed consensus.
Proof-of-work has revolutionized the very concept of money. No longer do a small cabal of bureaucrats or politicians decide how much money circulates or who receives special privilege – or punishment – within the monetary system.
Bitcoin removes politics from money. The implication is that anyone is free to transact on the Bitcoin network as long as they can cryptographically prove control of their keys. Anyone can participate in Bitcoin mining as long as they follow the rules of the system and expend energy to do so.
There are no shortcuts. No one can change the rules of the system without the overwhelming consensus of all participants, not merely a democratic majority. No one can rewrite history. No one can print money out of thin air and give it to their friends. The culture of Bitcoin – and the aspiration of the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem it spawned – is one of extreme ownership, responsibility, and work.
Beyond Bitcoin, other applications of blockchain technology are powering an explosion of experiments in decentralized finance, which are already solving real problems. DeFi yield farming gives the unbanked a self-serve, permissionless opportunity to earn a return on their savings. NFTs are replacing traditional certificates of ownership, proof of identity, concert tickets, and enabling new forms of digital art. The Web 3.0 movement will ultimately replace much of the centralized Internet with freer, fairer, censorship-resistant alternatives.
All are welcome to join the revolution. More importantly, no one can be excluded.
Global Cryptocurrency Adoption - June 2021 by Chainalysis
II. Belief in The Mission is a Must
A mission statement creates the core identity of a company. It encourages unity among the team and informs fast and easy decentralized decision making.
At Kraken, The Mission is to accelerate the global adoption of crypto so that everyone can achieve true financial freedom and inclusion because we believe that this will improve lives of billions of people and usher in a new era of human flourishing.
We will accomplish The Mission by building a bridge from the old world to the new, meeting people where they are, and shepherding them gently across in a way that feels natural, safe, fun and superior to everything they’ve known before. We’ll pull rather than push by continuing to simplify, improve accessibility and expand the use cases of crypto for ordinary people. Unparalleled user experience and customer service is core to The Mission.
Crypto is to money what the Internet is to information — it is freeing, democratizing, equalizing. Today, billions of people are victimized and suffering as a direct result of a highly exclusionary and discriminatory financial system that overwhelmingly disadvantages minorities and the poor. It is our duty to see to it that we bring these people along with us, that they are not left out in the cold.
For over a decade, this company, through its adherence to The Mission and crypto ethos, has managed to attract and retain many of the most talented crypto experts in the world. Although we’re mindful of things like client growth, shareholder returns, and enjoying our time at work, our unwavering north star and ultimate goal is always to achieve The Mission. It underpins who we are, what we think, what we build, and all key decisions we make.
Does every Krakenite need to believe in The Mission? We believe so. Why? We are fighting an extremely difficult, protracted battle, facing tremendous uncertainty and peril. For the true believers, the prize makes the pain worthwhile. For those with less conviction, the journey might be too much.
Daily Mail, December 5, 2000
“We learned that leadership requires belief in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory, particularly when doubters question whether victory is even possible.
Belief in the mission ties in with the fourth Law of Combat: Decentralized Command. The leader must explain not just what to do, but why. It is the responsibility of the subordinate leader to reach out and ask if they do not understand. Only when leaders at all levels understand and believe in the mission can they pass that understanding and belief to their teams so that they can persevere through challenges, execute and win.” – Jocko Willink, 2015
III. Keep Up with Crypto or Fall Behind
You don’t need to be an expert coming in but you can’t be a noob for long. Crypto is moving at light speed and the company must always be prepared to pivot based on many uncontrollable external factors. Time must be dedicated to learning the fundamentals and staying abreast of the latest developments which could impact our clients and the work we’re doing. We expect each Krakenite to spend a few hours each week on education. Some roles may require more.
Fortunately, the company has a tremendous number of learning resources available and this knowledge will get you invited to all the best parties. Here are some ideas for how to spend your time:
- Kraken chat rooms, including: #crypto-memes, #defi, #industry, #nft, #pricetalk, #yield-hunters
- Leader AMAs
- Krakenite Deeper Dive Podcast
- Kraken Crypto Learning & Development Courses
The crypto movement is a rebellion — a war for The People’s Money. Our right to choose our currency, and the fate of the billions of people excluded from the financial system depends on our victory. Reconnaissance and intelligence gathering are a key part of our strategy. Decentralized Command requires that we all be informed.
If you haven’t used crypto yet, it’s probably a little early to enlist with Kraken but you can get started here.
“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” – Aristotle Onassis
“Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge, knowledge makes you great.” – APJ Abdul Kalam
“People pay more than my salary to join private groups with this much alpha. The quality of discussion and expertise of participants is on another level.” – anon Krakenite
“We find that the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline in their camps, and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war.” – Vegetius
IV. Know thy Self, Know thy Enemy, Know thy Customer
Krakenites are expected to use our products, to use competitors’ products, and to seek input from users in the process of developing products.
Dogfooding is an absolute requirement for everyone in the company. Every client-facing product should be familiar to every Krakenite. No Krakenite, in any role, should ever fail if called upon, to describe or demonstrate any products used by our clients. You don’t even have to risk a finger!
Knowing our competitors’ products helps us understand our relative position. It might also help us understand something about the expectations of clients we hope to convert. Are we differentiated? Are we better or worse? Why? How? Where should we be spending our time? How can we win?
Users say the darndest things, and so does the data, which is why we’re always listening, looking for new insights, points of friction, things people want, and ways of using our products we never imagined. Bringing crypto to the masses means making it easy, friendly, and humane.
We shouldn’t forget that the biggest enemy is the incumbent system, those fighting to maintain power in the status quo, and the attachment people have to its familiarity, no matter how much they’ve been cheated.
It’s still up to us to think beyond the “faster horse” or “better bank” and show people what they need but never wanted — what they never thought possible.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso
Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.” – Bruce Lee
"Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd ask customers what they wanted, they would've told me a faster horse.' People don't know what they want until you show it to them." — Steve Jobs
V. More Pirate than Professional
The “Professionals” are still sitting on the sidelines, waiting for parental approval. The Pirates have been sailing the high seas of uncertainty for the last decade to deliver humanity to the promised land. Do Krakenites “act professional”? It depends on who you ask! If you’re from a traditional environment, you may find us to be casual and transparent by comparison.
Krakenites are focused on outcomes, which is why we value skill and knowledge above credentials and presentation. It’s why we work remotely in pajamas rather than from offices in suits. We may look like a motley crew of misfits but we run a tight ship and get a lot done. Of course, we keep a few business costumes in the trunk for special occasions.
Krakenites are “professional pirates” which means we’re:
- Radically transparent and authentic
- Casual and approachable (vs. formal and guarded)
- Clear, concise, and direct communicators
- Highly adaptive and flexible team players with strong work ethic
- Kind-hearted while also being extremely candid (i.e., you may not always like everything that’s said, but it’s coming from a good place)
- Skeptical of too much centralized power
- Creative and unconventional in how we approach problems
- Fond of adventure and capable enough to trust ourselves in navigating tricky situations that’d scare “professionals”
- Unafraid to express differing opinions, calmly ask questions, or confront issues in a small or large group
If you value etiquette meaningfully above transparency and authenticity then you may be uncomfortable here.
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things - they push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
VI. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sound Money
The crypto movement is rooted in “dangerous” ideas, such as all humans having fundamental rights to:
- Free speech
- Free markets
- Currency choice
- Open source software
- Personal & financial privacy
Some might characterize these beliefs as humanitarian, egalitarian, libertarian or classically liberal. People who hold the above beliefs often believe that none of those rights are possible without these rights:
This should be no surprise to Americans as these rights can all be derived from the US Constitution. While government encroachment on these rights has become tolerated (or even demanded), we believe that we should covet the rights we have because they are never returned once taken. Our ability to drive crypto adoption in the world depends on these rights.
Not everyone needs to personally hold these beliefs to enlist as a Krakenite but these beliefs are a core component of our culture. You will be exposed to them regularly, and expected to instill them in your decision making at work.
Here are some examples of how these beliefs might affect how you work and your experience:
- We will push back on government overreach
- We will go above and beyond to protect the personal and financial privacy of our clients
- We may develop or sponsor open source software that empowers citizens to resist corruption
- We will seek to limit market interference and restrictions on who is allowed to participate in markets
- We will engage in disputes with government agencies where outdated laws are unfairly exclusionary
- We will engage in lobbying, as a single-issue donor, supporting controversial politicians and legislation that furthers The Mission, possibly to the detriment of other civil rights causes
- We will advertise with and sponsor controversial television programs, podcasts, influencers and events, if it furthers The Mission
- We may incorporate firearm and self-defense training in to corporate retreats
- We will allow discussion and photographs of firearms in public (but optional) chat rooms
- We will not discriminate based on choices resulting from Krakenites exercising their right to bodily autonomy
- Retreat attendance is optional, however, remote participation may not be facilitated. Retreat activities are optional and we try to support several options to choose from.
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies” – Thomas Jefferson
“If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution by morning.” – Andrew Jackson
“I don’t believe we shall ever have good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government.” – F.A. Hayek
“A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it is going to get.” – Ian Williams Goddard
VII. Someone Must be Offended, Some of the Time
If nobody is ever offended, we either don’t have enough diversity of thought or we don’t have enough transparency in communication. We are pushing the envelope, treading in uncharted territory, and doing what has never before been done. If it feels easy or comfortable all of the time, you’re probably doing it wrong. While it is not our goal to offend people, we recognize that it’s inevitable in a global organization that is optimizing for team outcomes above individual feelings.
While brilliant jerks are not welcome among our ranks, Kraken moves fast and we collectively understand that there is no time to spend sugarcoating every interaction, especially as many are text-based and lack explicit tone. The ideal Krakenite is both thick skinned, and well intentioned.
We acknowledge that when individuals come together a beautiful melting pot forms — one which consists of very different societal norms, world perspectives, opinions, preferences, expectations, and senses of humor. Within our global and diverse company, these differences are magnified. We have team members from over 70+ countries, speaking 50+ languages, and representing a wide range of demographics. As a result, it is inevitable to have a wide range of individual standards and principles at our company. We embrace and celebrate this reality of diversity.
Diversity cannot exist if there is no 1) diversity of thought and 2) tolerance of diverse thoughts.
We believe that expecting or encouraging Krakenites to strive to never ever offend their fellow teammates and/or to be compelled into conforming to the most vocal colleague’s societal or cultural norms, leads to a significant reduction in our ability to build and celebrate diversity and inclusiveness. We also believe the quality of overall Krakenite happiness, company culture, transparency, and productivity will suffer.
Sometimes as humans, despite our best efforts, we say or do the wrong thing. What’s important is we strive to not offend one another, and we always try to be kind to one another. We seek to understand each other, and we aim to maximize productive interactions.
Our basic principles for communicating:
- We mostly communicate in English, sometimes unsuccessfully due to language barriers and varying levels of proficiency across 70+ countries
- Krakenites are welcome to request (and deny) personal language and communication preferences of each other but there is no right, wrong or formal rule that would impose an obligation or make one preference subservient to another
- Text-based communication is suboptimal in many ways. We don’t benefit from tone of voice, facial expressions, mannerisms and other context indicators. Abundant use of emoji is strongly encouraged. 😀😊🤗
- We give each other the benefit of the doubt
- Everyone is responsible for their own feelings
- Being offended doesn’t necessarily make you right
- Being offended doesn’t necessarily make you “harmed”
- Words nor silence are ever “violence”
- We say why we disagree and calmly challenge ideas with logic, reason, and better ideas
- We do not call someone’s words toxic, hateful, racist, x-phobic, unhelpful, etc.
- We do not demand respect, but we encourage offering it
- We assume ignorance before we assume malice
- We always work to de-escalate a discussion that becomes emotional
- We try to resolve personal disputes 1:1, ideally over a video call vs chat
Note: we abide by all labor laws and do not support illegal activities in the workplace.
Krakenites are both humble and resilient.
“If your goal is to offend no one, you’ll never tell the truth, at least not the whole truth.” – Steven James
“My fear is that we as a society have become more afraid to offend each other than to offend God” – Scott Mackintosh
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” – Capt. Jack Sparrow
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” – some kid
“The strength of any anti-wokeness movement depends in large part on the strengths of its antibodies to a certain kind of emotionalism.” – Richard Hanania
“Let us conjecture that the formation of moral values in society doesn’t come from the evolution of the consensus. No, it is the most intolerant person who imposes virtue on others precisely because of that intolerance. The same can apply to civil rights… So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. It is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating [extreme religious intolerance] which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion. The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.” – Nassim Taleb
“A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.” – Bradley Campbell
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
VIII. No mission but The Mission
There is no second mission. That means the question: “Should we do X side mission?” is always answered in the context of whether and to what extent it is necessary or even helpful in achieving The Mission. For example,
- Should we aim to be exemplary in terms of stereotypical team diversity measurements? No.
- Should we aim to be exemplary in terms of execution, product and service quality? Yes.
- Should we donate money to the Current Thing? No.
- Should we donate money to crypto research? Yes.
- Should we mandate the seasonal flu vaccine? No.
- Should we mandate good individual OpSec? Yes.
We believe that this weaponization of the financial system is immoral. Financial services have often been compelled to deplatform people and organizations with unpopular views. In our age, being without financial services is like being without electricity. Our goal is maximum representation and inclusion, to the extent we are not supporting illegal activity. We will not voluntarily deplatform controversial but law-abiding individuals or businesses. Of course, if the laws change, we will follow them.
There is no room for tribalism, in-fighting or the pursuit of agendas that are not officially set by the company. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by petty disputes over first-world problems while the rest of the world suffers with a real humanitarian crisis that we can help solve. Not only that, we are in competition with other businesses fighting for the same clients. This is not a lifestyle business. This is a grow and win or die business. This is… Kraken!
IX. Global perspective drives true inclusivity
People are weird. Crypto people even weirder and if you join the company, you will be assimilated🤖. We value the unique perspective that each individual brings, wherever they’re from, and whatever their background.
We hire strictly based on merit, meaning we seek out the candidates with the abilities, knowledge, and skills considered the most suitable for the job. Then we assess for alignment with our culture and The Mission. Given the 70+ countries and 50+ languages represented within the company, we place a strong emphasis on team cohesion. Hiring for merit, rather than credentials or optics means that people who don’t “fit the profile” have a better shot. We cast as wide a net as possible in the sourcing phase and treat all candidates as unique individuals.
We reject the myopic view that “diversity” can be captured by a short checklist of obvious physical features. Silicon Valley’s view of diversity in the world is dangerously limited, a commodification of individuals, and a disturbing reflection of profound ignorance. Viewed through a global lens, diversity is infinite. We place an emphasis on equality of opportunity, regardless of background.
To maintain cohesion in such a diverse environment, we must acknowledge our own ethnocentric tendencies, give grace, and embrace humility. Many Krakenites benefit from and struggle with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For others, English is a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th language. Misunderstandings will occur and mistakes will be made. Fortunately, this is not an honor culture, nor is it one of victimhood. **Kraken upholds a culture of dignity.
We’re building products and services to benefit all humans** and we see our range of diverse perspectives as one of our biggest competitive advantages. No differences should ever be allowed to derail us from The Mission.
While we don’t overly focus on our differences, we encourage everyone to be their unique selves. Given the remote environment, many choose to reveal very little about themselves and that’s totally fine too! Some even choose to go by a pseudonym rather than their legal name, which is great OpSec.
We discourage asking for and offering personal and demographic information which might be a burden to others or give the impression that we care about an individual’s identity more than we do their ability to raise the bar for the team. We’re especially careful of this in the recruiting and onboarding phases, before someone really knows and trusts us.
Note: We are committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against legally protected groups in every jurisdiction in which we operate.
X. Conduct Becoming of a Krakenite: Chivalry at Sea
The Krakenites who thrive in their work and working relationships tend to possess similar personality traits and exhibit similar behaviors. Please see the below lists to understand what we encourage and reward, as well as what we discourage and avoid.
A quick note on some key points!
- Kraken will always feel like a startup in many ways. Big company experience is great if it comes with the right attitude. If you’re joining us from a late-stage, megalithic corporation it’s so important that you believe in your mind and heart that you do not have all of the answers. We don’t either! Instead, we hope that you want to partner with us to find the answers. When newer Krakenites attempt to build processes or solutions without collaborating closely with and listening to the experienced Krakenites, it is always painful and never effective.
- Bureaucracy must die! We are hellbent on avoiding the vicious, death spiral of bullshit and bureaucracy that creeps in over time as a company scales (i.e., more people and meetings means more buy-in is required which leads to persuasiveness being rewarded more than building which causes the builders to leave and then nothing gets done). Therefore, we try to keep teams small, designate DRIs, disagree and commit (i.e., support and implement the decision as if it were your own), and avoid committees or consensus-seeking.
- Kraken despises office politics (i.e., activities associated with the use of influence tactics to improve personal interests). If you have worked in a big company environment in your past (even if it was years ago), you may want to reflect on what behaviors, tendencies, or habits you have been exposed to (or have unintentionally learned) and make a point to not do those things here.
- Driven by purpose, reward, competence, etc.
- Radically transparent, substance-rich communicator
- Positive and determined attitude
- Speaks simply and truthfully
- Curious and encourages curiosity in others
- Craves and appreciates critical feedback
- Proactively calls attention to their missteps or oversights, and takes extreme ownership
- Proactively points out possible weaknesses in their work (so the work can be made stronger), especially when presenting work for or to a group
- Nice to everyone
- Treats every Krakenite the same, regardless of role, tenure or perceived level of power
- Is comfortable with taking risk and doesn’t let risk intimidate them from doing what’s good for the business
- Out-of-the-box thinker: Craves creativity, innovation, understands that leaps of faith are necessary, and understands that not all value can be quantified
- First-principles thinker: Seeks to understand the root of a problem and looks for novel solutions
- Values speed
- Breaks down workplace politics and doesn’t engage in it
- Extremely comfortable with computers, modern technology, the Internet and automation tools
What doesn’t work:
- Driven by ego or the pursuit of power
- Arrogant, pompous, or acts superior to others
- Self-centered, reckless, lazy
- Self-pitying or unconstructive attitude
- Lies or tells you what you want to hear
- Not curious and/or punishes others for asking questions
- Speaks with a lot of corporate buzzwords, jargon, or fluff (which may indicate a preoccupation with wanting to appear impressive or concealment of lack of knowledge)
- Reacts defensively to critical feedback
- Hides, denies, obfuscates, or “spins” (misrepresents so it’s more flattering) any misstep or oversight made
- Conceals possible weaknesses in their work (so others cannot easily identify areas to improve), especially when presenting work for a group
- Is only nice (or extra nice) to those who they can gain advantages from
- Treats or talks to Krakenites differently depending on their role, hierarchical position, or perceived level of authority or power
- Takes no or low risk for most or all things, regardless of what’s good for the business. This may be done in order to “fly under the radar” and “play it safe” or to achieve maximum job security (even though the result will be the opposite)
- Inside-the-box thinker: Has little interest in creativity, innovation, is uncomfortable with taking leaps of faith, and discounts value that cannot (or cannot easily) be quantified
Thank you so much for taking the time to read The Tentaclemandments!
Your voracious reading habits will serve you well in the crypto industry. 🤓
Culture is something we take seriously because we believe having a strong culture is necessary for being an effective company and for achieving The Mission.
We hope you think Kraken is a compatible workplace for you.