When the coronavirus pandemic struck, cryptocurrency firm Kraken found itself in an enviable position: Like a handful of other industries, such as cleaning and video streaming, crypto companies faced an influx of new business.
Investors, including new and existing customers, were coming to Kraken in droves, and the company found itself desperately short of staff to meet the new demand. At the same time, CEO Jesse Powell began hearing stories of how the pandemic was leading to massive unemployment—including among the friends and loved ones of his employees.
In response, Powell came up with an idea to address both challenges: He turned to Kraken’s staff to help him fill 100 new customer service positions. In March, the company sent out a Google Survey to all of its 800 staff members, asking them if someone in their household wanted a job with Kraken.
Over a quarter of employees replied yes, and Kraken had nearly 400 referrals. Giving priority to applicants who said they were in dire financial straits, the company quickly made 101 job offers, which led to 94 hires.
The new hires include Stella, a one-time foreign exchange trader, whose daughter directed her to the open position, and Ana, a university scientist, the significant other of a longtime Kraken employee. (Kraken declined to provide last names, citing its privacy-centered corporate culture).
“We’ve hired people’s wives, husbands, mothers, children and roommates,” said Christina Yee, Chief Brand Officer at Kraken.
The new employees hired during the pandemic include a restaurant manager, a cook, and those with backgrounds in TV, law enforcement and hotel work. In their role at Kraken, they are verifying client accounts to ensure the company complies with banking laws, and replying to customer inquiries. The initiative has been so successful that Kraken is launching a second round of hires to add 100 more people.
The new hires are located in the U.S., Europe and other countries around the world, and nearly all are starting at $15 an hour. In some cases, this amounts to less than their previous wages but, at a time of Great Depression-level unemployment, it’s at least a steady job. Each new worker also received a corporate laptop in less than two weeks—a feat of logistics of which Yee is particularly proud.
Yee adds that Kraken’s unorthodox hiring strategy has provided additional benefits. Namely, the fact the new hires already co-habitate with Kraken colleagues has resulted in accelerated training, and has made it easy for them to communicate client pain points to others in the company.
Kraken says some of the new hires are already being promoted to new positions, and that it intends to keep all of its new staff in the future provided the crypto markets remain bustling. The company’s strategy was helped by the fact that staff worked remotely to begin with. But it could also help establish a precedent as more firms contemplate ditching their offices for an online work environment, and explore new types of hiring.
“Everyone is more productive because of the ability to share insights, and because they’re less worried about their loved ones,” Yee says.