How to Win the War for Crypto Talent

Crypto is booming, and with this growth comes a demand for talent. But finding the right employees is a challenge.

Do you hire for skills or for culture? What do you pay for a developer that can write crypto code, or to attract a salesperson that knows how to market to the crypto community? There are many factors that go into hiring the best talent, but which are the most important?

In this article, we explain what's driving the war for talent in crypto and what's required to win it.

War for talent has started

As any savvy crypto investor will confirm, the world of crypto has created a range of profitable opportunities over the crypto winter of the past two years. Investors, as well as corporates such as NYSE owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc, Microstrategy and Square, have used this period to pick up undervalued crypto assets, and to confirm cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a legitimate investment class and treasury tool.

With the crypto winter thawing, the crypto ecosystem continuing to grow from strength to strength, and remote working increasing, traders and investors may no longer be the primary beneficiaries from the coming boom. 

Talented people from all over the world can now capitalize on a plethora of crypto jobs and career opportunities in crypto.

Software developers, blockchain engineers, data scientists, as well as finance, risk, legal, compliance, business development and marketing experts, are blessed with the huge number of job opportunities in crypto. This will only continue to grow. With the demand for crypto experts set to explode alongside the sector's coming bull run, we are at a watershed moment for talented job seekers, and for employers seeking the very best in the market.

In 2009, the introduction of Bitcoin signalled the beginning of a new era that would see the creation of new products and services based on blockchain technology. Over the next decade, these included cryptocurrencies, utility tokens, trading platforms, prediction markets, virtual and physical wallets to name just a few.  

Over a decade on, the crypto industry is still in its infancy. However, adoption and development are evolving at a rapid rate. Recent examples of adoption include PayPal allowing users to use Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Similarly, the surge of capital and talented people into DeFi (decentralised finance) and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) shows how fast the crypto sector and use cases are developing.  

We are now on the precipice of an immensely exciting period for crypto talent, and for employers, a war for the best talent in crypto. 

Blockchain jobs in high demand with no signs of slowing

CNBC reported that blockchain was the most in-demand skill globally in 2020, ranking ahead of cloud computing and artificial intelligence. This reflects the fact that many businesses have only recently acknowledged the importance that crypto and blockchain technologies will have in the years to come.  

Supporting this, the number of crypto job listings doubled over the course of three months towards the end of 2018, and has continued to increase despite the impact of COVID-19. Some job categories such as blockchain engineers grew by over 500% during the 2018-2019 period. This signals that the fundamentals driving the crypto ecosystem continue unabated, with more companies embracing blockchain technology and the opportunities it provides.  

Blockchain set to impact 40 million jobs by 2030

Job opportunities in the crypto sector will only increase. PWC predicts that blockchain technology has the potential to add $1.6 trillion to the global economy and enhance 40 million jobs by 2030. Similarly, our forecasts show that the next two to three years will a significant rise in demand for blockchain developers, blockchain engineers, blockchain product managers, data scientists and data analysts. 

This increase in demand for talent is not limited to those job categories. We are already seeing a substantial increase in demand for talented finance, compliance, business development and marketing experts who have experience or exposure to crypto, or who have transferable skills that they can bring to the crypto ecosystem. We believe there will be a corresponding if not greater increase in demand for talent in these areas. We are currently seeing a surge in demand for compliance and marketing roles, for example. 

The exponential increase in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in 2017-2018 spearheaded the previous jump in demand for crypto talent. Crypto firms raised vast sums right across the spectrum - from coin and token projects to smart contract platforms, trading exchanges and hedge funds.  

We can see the correlation with crypto hedge funds. The bitcoin price is a crypto industry bell weather. As it rose over time, the capital flowing into the crypto hedge fund industry also rose.

  

Source: PWC 2020 Crypto Hedge Fund Report

In addition, the average years of investment management experience in crypto hedge funds also increased. It doubled over the last two years from 24 years to 50 years!  

This shows that:

  • More experienced investment managers are entering the industry in a short time.
  • Crypto hedge funds have been building their teams during the crypto winter ahead of the coming bull market.  

This trend will continue as the industry evolves and matures further. Those that have invested in their talent pool early are well positioned for outsized returns.   

The key players in the War for Crypto Talent

As the next bull market for Bitcoin, Ethereum and a host of altcoins and tokens looms, organizations in crypto and those that want to enter, will need to resource up their teams fast, and right across the board.   

Compared to the last crypto bull market, the crypto ecosystem of 2021 and beyond will:

  • Be significantly larger, diverse, and more resilient.
  • See more “non-native crypto” employers entering the system. They include large tech companies, financial institutions, investment banks, consultancy firms, and more recently, central banks!  

When you’ve got the likes of Blackrock, Facebook, PayPal, JP Morgan, S&P, Deloitte and KPMG to name a few, looking for crypto talent, the battle to attract, retain and develop talent has just become fiercer.

Two types of organisations will play key roles in the coming war for talent:

“Crypto natives”  

These are organisations whose principal purpose is to provide a blockchain technology related product or service. Examples include cryptocurrencies, crypto exchanges, utility token projects, DeFi and NFT service providers, crypto investment funds, crypto custodians and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs).

Leading crypto native employers include the:

There will also be the crypto "unicorns" that will undoubtedly emerge from the start-ups and ventures raising capital.  

We can see a range of these early stage ventures at sites like CryptoWeekly, AngelList and Pantera Capital. As the ICOs of 2017-18 showed, the chance to gain tremendous wealth from an equity participation in early-stage ventures will attract large numbers of smart and talented people.  

“Non-crypto natives”

These are organisations who take part in the crypto ecosystem but for whom blockchain technology is not (at least right now) at the heart of what they do. Examples of non-crypto natives include financial institutions, technology companies, investment banks, central banks and consultancy firms.  

More and more non-crypto natives have entered or are looking to enter the crypto ecosystem. A good indicator is to look at patent applications.  

Recent analysis from BCG on blockchain patenting and hiring showed strong blockchain patent and hiring activity by finance and tech companies. In contrast, consumer and retail, health care, and cybersecurity, displayed fairly high patenting activity but not the same levels of hiring yet.  

The chart below shows the top corporates filing patents and the proportion relating to smart contracts and crypto:

 

Source: Boston Consulting Group

Five principles to win the crypto talent war

The War for Talent is a term coined and made famous by Steven Hankin, Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod of McKinseyUsed more recently in the tech sector, it will soon feature in crypto.  

The war for talent describes a key strategic challenge and critical driver of performance:  

the ongoing battle to attract, develop and retain talented people at all levels of an organisation.

The war for talent in crypto is only just beginning, and both crypto native and non-native employers will have attributes which they can use to their advantage. Crypto natives may for example find it easier to provide equity linked incentives while non-crypto natives may have well-established talent networks and employer brands.

There will, however, be a select group of employers made up of both crypto and non-crypto natives that will dominate the crypto talent war over the coming decade. This dominant group, while diverse in size, type and resources, will have some key principles in common.

These employers will:

  • Embrace a talent mindset
  • Create a winning employee value proposition
  • Recruit top talent continuously
  • Grow outstanding leaders

The most important of these?  

Having a talent mindset!  

How do you recognise a talent mindset?  


Source: Adapted from the War for Talent  

Organisations with a talent mindset deeply believe that better talent:

  • At all levels is how you outperform your competitors.
  • Is a critical source of competitive advantage.
  • Enables all other high performance levers.

Once each leader in an organisation believes that talent is his or her responsibility, the other principles become the natural thing to do.

Conclusion 

As the crypto winter draws to a close, a more resilient and diverse crypto ecosystem is being revealed. 

More organisations are entering crypto, while those already in crypto are looking to scale their talent pool. People with blockchain skills and experience are in high demand, with demand also growing across all other blockchain job categories. This demand for talent will increase exponentially. Driven by the next crypto bull market, and by more non-crypto natives such as financial institutions, corporates and consulting firms entering the ecosystem. 

Finding, attracting, and keeping the best talent will be crucial for those who want to dominate. The select group of employers - both crypto natives and non-crypto natives - that will win the war for crypto talent over the coming decade will share some common principles. One key principle they will have in their DNA is the deep belief that better talent at all levels is how they will consistently outperform others.

Prepare for the coming crypto talent war with HireSatoshi. We can help you connect with the best talent in crypto. To learn more, contact our experts today.