[Coinbase] Top of Mind: Staying Focused During Market Downturns
By Brian Armstrong
Sharing a note I sent to the Coinbase team last night.
We have a cultural norm not to discuss short term stock price fluctuations, but I’m going to break our norm in this case given the wild volatility we’re seeing. I realize it can be scary to see our stock price down with associated negative headlines. Of course, we are not alone, and there is a broader market downturn as well which adds fuel to the fire.
In times like these we need to step back, and zoom out. Nothing about Coinbase changed this week, we are the same company we were yesterday, or a year ago. If anything, we are in an even stronger position given our balance sheet. This last bull cycle has generated tremendous profit and cash that adds to our resiliency, and we have built an incredible team with some of the best talent in the world.
Volatility is inevitable. We can’t control it, but we do plan for it. Through the ups and downs of crypto over the last 10 years, Coinbase has focused on building. Through the highs we get to focus on scaling and many new people get introduced to crypto. Through the lows we get to focus on innovation and paying off tech debt.
I don’t know how long this down-cycle will last, or if we are at the bottom. I just know that we will make it through to the other side, and we come out stronger than ever if we focus on what matters: building.
Tomorrow we have our bi-weekly town hall, and we know employees have questions. We’ll address the most frequent questions we’re hearing. We will also address the public concern about a disclosure we made in our 10Q filing, which I tweeted about yesterday, as well.
See you all tomorrow,
P.S. I’m attaching a note I sent to the company right after we went public:
Congratulations on an incredible week! It’s hard to believe how far Coinbase has come in just under a decade. One of the most challenging parts about working in this industry is managing through the highs and lows of crypto cycles. Whether this is the first cycle that you’ve seen up close, or your fourth, it can be emotional to see significant price changes, along with how they can alter the external perspective on our industry. In the past, we just had crypto prices to watch. But now, we have a new price to watch: our share price.
This moment right now feels great. We’re a public company, we’re profitable and crypto is the hot topic. But with that excitement comes a lot of hype and high expectations that can occasionally lead to over-exuberance, including around Coinbase itself.
It’s important that we don’t let external noise set the wrong expectations for what success looks like. While I’m certainly proud of what we’ve accomplished, and excited to see so much interest in crypto, it’s important to ignore the hype and focus on what we can control. We are not our stock price, or the price of bitcoin. Maintaining our focus on the long-term mission, regardless of what the world is doing around us, is the only way we’ll succeed with ambitions as large as ours.
I personally plan to not look at the stock price except for rare instances such as quarterly earnings calls, or as needed to discuss employee compensation matters. So I’d like to take this moment to establish a new cultural norm, which is that we will not discuss short term stock price fluctuations in the normal course of business. I think it’s incredibly important to keep a clear mind, and focus on what matters over the long term, and hopefully this will help us do that.
Let me share a quick story about a number of employees who joined at the peak of the 2017 bull run. They thought they were joining a rocket ship that was only going one way: up. Many of them were disappointed and some even left after things trended down for a year or two. But if you zoom out to a 3-year timeframe, employees who stayed were incredibly well rewarded. The same is true for those that purchased crypto at the peak of the 2017 bull run and held. It took real conviction and long-term perspective to stick through the crypto winter (especially when others said it was foolish), even if now it seems so clear in hindsight. There is a real art to tuning out all the noise in the world, and focusing on the rare bit of signal which helps you develop your own convictions.
Both up and down markets are helpful for their own reasons. The down markets bring a focus on innovation, and the short term thinkers tend to get distracted and leave the ecosystem. In up markets we get to focus on scaling, and a massive wave of adoption introduces crypto to more people for the first time. Every time a new hype/despair cycle emerges, my main takeaway is to be thankful that we persisted through the last one with our long term thinking.
We need to be sure we don’t let the current hype get to our heads. At the end of this cycle we may see crypto prices or our stock price fall, and some people will become disillusioned and walk away from crypto again. We will need to ignore that volatility and keep making forward progress on our long-term goals regardless of what the market is doing that day.
If you can’t ignore the hype while things are trending up, then you can’t ignore the despair when things are trending down. Stay strong, keep a long term perspective, and let’s keep building.
Have a great weekend!
Top of Mind: Staying Focused During Market Downturns was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.