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Kraken hires ex-NBC, Twitter executive as crypto jobs boom, war for talent erupts

Crypto exchange Kraken has plucked its latest executive hire from the media sector.

Mike Davidson will join Kraken as its new vice president of design, bringing experience from big name media companies such as Disney and NBC as well as social media giant Twitter.

As the digital coin movement booms and investors big and small ride the wave, institutions have ramped up on recruiting more crypto talent, but much less focus has been paid to design. Davidson's hire signals that crypto companies aren't just pulling talent from technology, government and finance, but are also will pay for top designers.

“Mike’s strong track record of design leadership will have a huge impact at Kraken as we continue to grow into new markets,” said Jeremy Welch, Kraken’s chief product officer.

The booming crypto sector is creating full employment for a range of job seekers. Last week, Bloomberg compiled data from LinkedIn showing that crypto jobs are opening in cities across the country, from San Francisco, Denver and Austin to Miami and New York City. Among those analyzed, the most common job titles focused primarily on developer or financial related roles, including trader, blockchain developer and Bitcoin miner.

At the executive level, hires from the U.S. government alone have been plentiful, including boldface names like former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, who has served as a board advisor for the Digital Currency Group since 2016.

Mike Davidson - Kraken VP of Design
Mike Davidson, Kraken's new VP of Design

Meanwhile, venture capital firm Andressen Horowitz, which is heavily investing into the crypto space, brought on Department of Justice and Coinbase veteran Katie Haun in 2017 and more recently ex-Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner Brian Quintenz, a former Commissioner for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

And last week, crypto infrastructure company Bitfury announced Brian Brooks, who previously served as Head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) under President Donald Trump, as their new CEO.

While filling roles that give crypto companies a regulatory edge cannot be understated as a chief priority for a sector aiming to disrupt money and build a new internet, design shouldn't get overlooked either according to Nako Mbelle, a Toronto-based Fintech recruiter who specializes in the crypto sector. Finding talented designer is becoming increasingly important as more traditional financial companies begin offering crypto services and products Mbelle pointed out.

"Our industry is finally taking design seriously because we can all sense that the banks are coming sooner than later and we need to get to the masses before they do," Mbelle told Yahoo Finance, speaking of why crypto-native consumer businesses need quality aesthetics.

This push for more design-focus now could also stem from the sheer amount of capital many crypto companies raised throughout the last year.

"You're seeing in more capital from what I would call sophisticated and connected investors that have a strong vested interest to see the industry continue to progress positively," said Devin Ryan, Director of Financial Technology Research at JMP Securities. Ryan's team recently published a report analyzing the growth crypto companies have seen over the last year.

Improved product design is likely one trickle down effect of the trend.

"There's going to be more concerted efforts around what I would call positive advertising for the industry to create a narrative that helps people better understand the space and make it less nebulous," Ryan told Yahoo Finance.

Another design avenue highlighted by Dan Hennessy, crypto lender BlockFi's creative director, is less obvious. Aesthetically pleasing physical products and merchandise go a long way for investors gaining exposure. Hennessy told Yahoo Finance the company put particular care in designing the packaging for their crypto rewards credit card, which customers have applauded over social media platforms.

For a $3 trillion asset class that's virtually intangible, packaging and design might matter more than one would think.

David Hollerith covers cryptocurrency for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @dshollers.

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