/Coinbase’s first employee was hired after he emailed his undergraduate thesis on bitcoin to the founders — and was paid in cryptocurrency for 3 years

Coinbase’s first employee was hired after he emailed his undergraduate thesis on bitcoin to the founders — and was paid in cryptocurrency for 3 years


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Olaf Carlson-Wee.


Olaf Carlson-Wee, the founder of a cryptocurrency hedge fund, was the first employee at the biggest US bitcoin exchange, Coinbase.

After graduating from New York’s Vassar College with an undergraduate degree in Sociology, Carlson-Wee decided to send an “annoyingly long” cold email to Coinbase’s founders.

He detailed his hiring experience in a 2016 interview with startup accelerator, Y Combinator.

As one of Coinbase’s earliest users, Carlson-Wee grew determined to work with the company. He sent his roughly 90-page undergraduate thesis on “Bitcoin and the larger implications of open source finance” to the founders, hoping to land an interview.

“I literally cold emailed jobs@coinbase and said, ‘I love bitcoin. Here’s my thesis. I’ll do any job,” he said.

About five minutes after his email, Carlson-Wee heard back from one of the cofounders, Fred Ehrsam, who asked if they could hop on a Skype call.

They chatted for about 20 minutes, and the crypto enthusiast was asked to come prepared with two presentations at an in-person interview in San Francisco.

“The first should explain something complicated you know very well. The second should outline your vision for Coinbase,” Carlson-Wee said he was told.

He said his first presentation was on the pharmacological induction of lucid dreams and the second was on his high-level strategy for Coinbase with a focus on security.

“My strategy was to clean up PR problems, but focus 100% on security. Bad customer experiences will eventually be forgotten, but a security incident will not be forgotten.”

He was then asked to tackle a “really brutal mathematics problem” while Ehrsam went to talk over the hiring decision with the second cofounder, Brian Armstrong.

Carlson-Wee said he figured out the problem way faster than he would have expected. He was then grilled by Armstrong for another hour with questions like “What do you wanna do with your life?,” “What drives you as a person?,” and “What’s a belief you have that is extremely unpopular?”

Four days later, he was asked to work a two-week paid trial in customer support and eventually landed a formal job offer. “I did customer support by myself until we had 250,000 users. It was a marathon. It was like 12-hour days of fast replying,” he said.

During his three-year stint at Coinbase, Carlson-Wee’s $50,000 starting salary was paid entirely in bitcoin, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is unclear how much bitcoin he currently owns.

He now runs his own crypto hedge fund called Polychain Capital, managing assets worth more than $300 million, that has secured investments from Coinbase’s Ehrsam and venture capitalists like Sequoia Capital and Founders Fund.

Original Source