Career Stories

Want a Career in Web3? This VP at Coinbase Shares What It Takes to Succeed in the Industry

Dan Kim, the VP of Business Development at Coinbase
Dan Kim, the VP of Business Development at Coinbase.
| Courtesy of Coinbase

Technology’s ability to improve the way people live has been the driving force behind Dan Kim’s career—and the reason he quickly left investment banking to work in tech.

“I truly believe we are living in a world full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” says Kim, who today is the Vice President of Business Development for Coinbase. “From the internet, optical computing, home sharing, and electric cars to cryptocurrency, there is so much that technology can change to make the world a better place.”

Kim also founded and ran the frozen yogurt company Red Mango before it was acquired in 2014, which taught him a number of lessons that continue to impact his approach to work.

“Starting, funding, and operating your own business in a hyper-competitive industry teaches you how important time is and how to prioritize making decisions quickly,” he says. “As a leader, you have to act with a sense of constant urgency, because if you don’t, who else will?

Here, he shares the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses, how Coinbase takes employee development seriously, and why you don’t need to be an expert in crypto to work in the industry.

What have been your keys to success in pivoting careers, from finance to marketing to business development?

The first is having an owner’s mindset. I grew up in a family of first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs, so I’ve always prioritized being able to start and run a business instead of just being good at one specific thing a business needs. I also understood how important it is to have hands-on experience, interacting directly with both your customers and suppliers as frequently as you can.

I’m also aware of my strengths and weaknesses. As an entrepreneur, one of the most important things you can learn is the fact that you can’t be great at everything—but even if you were, you don’t have time to do everything well. Knowing what you’re good at, and, more importantly, having the humility to hire someone who’s better than you is an important key to being able to pivot careers.

What are you responsible for in your role?

Functionally, I oversee our business development team that supports the web3 and developer ecosystems. This includes leading our partnerships with other web3 businesses (including our gaming and NFT marketplace verticals), as well as our developer relations and asset listings teams.

Culturally, I am responsible for making sure everyone in the company understands and supports the Coinbase mission, and that we are executing our mission in accordance with the values that make Coinbase unique.

In what ways does Coinbase intentionally support growth from within and employee development?

Coinbase really excels in its learning and development program. It has built a team that not only aims to educate employees on how to be better contributors and leaders, but also to help the world understand the power of blockchain technology and navigate web3 in safe, fun, and trusted ways.

Coinbase also has a strong employee/manager feedback system. We are committed to both informal (more periodic) and formal (annual) reviews that are 360 in nature. We not only take measurement and scoring seriously, but are also committed to making sure reviews are done the right way. For example, we spend a lot of time focusing on fighting bias and invest heavily in the right employee engagement tools. Managers and their teams are given the support, knowledge, and programs to address improvement opportunities.

We have excellent programs in place to measure what team members are good at and help them develop skill sets they may need to get to the next level in their careers. An example of this is our Torch leadership program that we offer to our managers.

Finally, Coinbase has excellent onboarding systems that are designed to introduce new employees in our remote-first ways of working. This includes onboarding buddies and hard-core subject-matter-based bootcamps.

Why is now a particularly exciting time to work at Coinbase and in the cryptocurrency industry?

We’re just at the beginning of a technology that will completely change the world. Crypto—and more specifically, blockchain technology—will transform everything about how we live, save, invest, and innovate. Those who understand this technology will not only have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something enormous, but also gain skills that will be invaluable in the foreseeable future in nearly any industry, from finance to consumer goods to food to automotive.

Coinbase is a platform where more than 100 million users trust our products and services to safely connect into the rapidly growing web3 ecosystem. Governments and regulators from around the world trust us the most. So for those who are passionate about blockchain technology and want to learn more about how to leverage the power of cryptocurrency to transform the way the world works and innovates, Coinbase is the perfect place to contribute to our broader mission of helping the world achieve economic and social freedom.

What is one misconception of cryptocurrency and how would you respond to it?

“You have to really understand crypto to work in crypto.”

This is probably the biggest misconception in the industry today. Crypto is something that people definitely have to learn, but you don’t have to be an expert in it in order to start a career in web3. What’s more important is having the right overall business mindset—such as a strong sense of urgency and ownership—and a passion for the things web3 and blockchain technology can do to make the world a better, fairer, and safer place. Some of the best people I’ve hired had little to no experience in web3, but had the right attitude, interest, and willingness to work hard. Joining companies like Coinbase not only helps you meet other mission-oriented blockchain enthusiasts, but also provides you with the best resources to learn and become well versed in what makes web3 and cryptocurrency interesting and rewarding.

How do you maintain work-life balance?

Coinbase realizes the importance of work-life balance, especially in a fast-changing and rapidly moving space like web3 that attracts a lot of high-performing professionals with a mission-oriented mindset. When the lines between professional and personal interests start to blur—as is the case for many who are passionate about crypto—it’s important we all take time off to reset and recharge.

Coinbase has a number of programs that make this a priority, the most popular and productive of which is recharge weeks. Coinbase is also quite active and intentional about providing managers and employees with tips and resources on how to maintain healthy working conditions. One thing I learned from these programs is how much less cognitive stress your brain experiences during video calls if you turn off your own video preview screen so you can’t see yourself.

What are you currently reading, watching, and/or listening to?

Don’t judge me, but House of the Dragon is on my iPad playlist right now. Sometimes I need to escape into a fantasy world—I think of it as a fantasy metaverse.

Updated 11/1/2022