- Kraken CEO Jesse Powell is stepping down from Kraken, the cryptocurrency exchange he founded in 2011, and will be succeeded by longtime Chief Operating Officer Dave Ripley in the coming months, the company announced Wednesday.
- Powell will become chairman of the company and remains Kraken’s largest shareholder.
- Ripley, who was selected after a search that included more than a dozen contenders, told Fortune that he expects “little will change” about the company’s culture. Powell received backlash for “anti-woke” ideals laid out on Twitter and in Kraken’s 4,000-word culture document released in June.
Powell and Ripley are OGs in the crypto world. Powell built Kraken, which, as of July, was worth $11 billion and had 6 million customers last summer. Ripley joined Kraken six years ago through its acquisition of Glidera, a crypto wallet funding service he co-founded.
In its announcement, Kraken credited Ripley with growing the company from 50 to more than 3,000 employees, for completing more than 16 acquisitions and for securing regulatory licenses and partnerships.
“Dave’s proven leadership and experience give me great confidence that he’s the ideal successor and the best person to lead Kraken through its next era of growth,” Powell said. “I look forward to spending more of my time on the company’s products, user experience and broader industry advocacy.”
Powell had been “considering stepping down for quite some time,” a source familiar with the executive’s thinking told Forbes.
Powell found the national spotlight amid controversy about his “anti-woke” ideals on topics including use of preferred pronouns, diversity-focused hiring and abortion.
His decision to step back at the company he founded, he told Fortune, has nothing to do with the bad press surrounding his opinions or the company culture but rather that he’s “grown tired of long hours and day-to-day management tasks.”
“For me, this is about spending more time on stuff which I’m good at and enjoy doing, like working on product and industry advocacy stuff,” he told Fortune, adding that he plans to play catch-up with matters like “11 years of unopened mail.”
Ripley, who will fully take on the CEO role once a new COO is recruited, said in a company statement that his vision “is in lockstep with Jesse’s — to accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrency.”
The company plans to continue its portfolio expansion under the new leadership.
Ripley, though, acknowledged to Fortune that he “is not the same level of cultural figure in terms of social media” as Powell.
Ripley co-authored the 4,000 word “culture document,” a blog post on Kraken’s website in which company leadership shirked what it called the “myopic view of ‘diversity’ that can be captured by a short checklist of obvious physical features” and laid out rules of communication that necessitate “thick skin.” Some of these rules include that “everyone is responsible for their own feelings; being offended doesn’t necessarily make you right [or] harmed; and words nor silence are ever ‘violence.’”
The company gave employees a severance package with four months’ pay to employees who resigned over the culture document. Less than 5% of Kraken’s employees took the package, Fortune reported, and 1% said they did so for “mission or culture differences.”
“Most people don’t care and just want to work but they can’t be productive while triggered people keep dragging them in to debates and therapy sessions,” Powell tweeted recently in reference to the document, adding, that the statement “led to greater cohesion at the company and a surge in job applications.”
Powell’s resignation comes amid a crypto winter, the digital asset space’s equivalent to a bear market, which has seen the price of Bitcoin nosedive from a mid-November high of more than $68,000 to less than $19,000 Thursday morning. Kraken, however, “piled up a ton of cash” during the recent bull market, Powell and Ripley told Fortune, that will allow it to weather the market downturn.