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OpenSea’s layoffs and Polkadot’s strange retreat marked year of heavy job losses in crypto

OpenSea’s layoffs and Polkadot’s strange retreat marked year of heavy job losses in crypto
Tumult in the ranks at Polkadot was one of the biggest crypto layoff stories of the year. Credit: Rita Fortunato/DL News
  • Polkadot's ill-timed offsite was the talk of DeFi.
  • A shuffle at the top of Binance punctuated a rough year at the big exchange.
  • OpenSea laid off workers as the NFT market swooned.

A bear market always takes its toll.

In 2023, the crypto industry suffered heavy layoffs with more than 13,400 employees culled across 108 companies, according to

Few sectors were spared: exchanges, lenders, Bitcoin miners, news publications, and NFT studios all felt the pain.

The lost jobs may have seemed a surprise in a year when Bitcoin surged more than 150%. But the damage wrought by scandals and market forces in 2022 forced crypto players to readjust.

Here are some of the most dramatic job moves of the year:

Polkadot’s ‘Hunger Games’ retreat

In October, Parity Technologies, the firm behind Polkadot, told its 385 employees that it was laying them off — only a week before the company’s annual retreat in Mallorca.

With flights already booked, the affected employees said they were still expected to show up to the event. Parity countered that it made the event opt-in following the layoff announcement.

Understandably, the retreat — originally planned as a fun week of presentations, workshops, and parties in a luxurious beach resort — was painful to attend.

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“Some people cried, even on stage giving presentations,” one employee told DL News. “Many left early.”

Another one said it was a “surreal, sick joke,” then adding: “Kinda Hunger Games vibes.”

Richard Teng replaces Changpeng Zhao as Binance CEO

Binance saw a continuous outflow of executives throughout 2023, culminating with the biggest resignation of all: Changpeng Zhao.

Zhao, also known as CZ, stepped down from his position as CEO, paid a $50 million fine, and pleaded guilty to violating banking laws as part of a settlement with the US Department of Justice.

Zhao remains Binance’s largest shareholder — and his partner, Yi He continues to lead the exchange’s business, marketing, and branding strategy.

Richard Teng, his successor, doesn’t have the same depth of experience in crypto culture, but makes up for it with his experience in traditional finance.

Teng joined Binance in 2021 and quickly rose through the ranks. While it’s still early to tell the kind of impact Teng will have on crypto, it’s unlikely to be boring.

OpenSea’s mansion meetup

OpenSea, the NFT marketplace, announced in November that it would trim about 100 employees — half of its staff.

With the NFT market in a coma, the company’s valuation has plunged to $1.3 billion from $13 billion. CEO Devin Finzer said the layoffs were necessary to pave the way for OpenSea 2.0.

Two days after the layoffs, OpenSea organised a two-week long company retreat in Katy Perry’s and Russell Brand’s former $9 million mansion in West Hollywood, according to Fortune.

Half of the remaining staff were invited to stay in the 11,000-square-foot home, which the current owner, real estate developer Lorenzo Doumani, rents for $275,000 a month for corporate retreats, according to Fortune.

A company spokesperson told Fortune that the mansion’s cost wasn’t as important as focusing the surviving team on building OpenSea 2.0.

But even employees didn’t really seem to know what that meant, besides reorganising the engineering and product units.

Crypto loses key ally on Capitol Hill

When Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, was ousted by a mutiny in his own party in October it triggered a chain reaction that impacted the crypto industry.

Patrick McHenry, a Republican congressman from North Carolina, was appointed interim speaker. At first glance, this appeared to be a boon for the digital assets industry.

McHenry, a courtly lawmaker fond of bow ties, had thrown his considerable support behind crypto legislation and appeared to back the industry’s efforts to carve out exceptions from US securities law.

But that wasn’t necessarily the case. By having to step aside as chair of the powerful Financial Services Committee to take on his new role, McHenry was no longer in position to shepherd key crypto bills, DL News reported.

Meanwhile, another crypto ally, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, made an unsuccessful bid for the nomination.

In the end, Congressman Mike Johnson — a relative unknown, with no crypto track record — was elected the 56th Speaker of the House.

Then McHenry said he won’t seek reelection when his term ends in January 2025. With his departure, the crypto industry will lose an important ally on Capitol Hill.

With reporting by Tim Craig, Inbar Preiss, and Joanna Wright

Tom Carreras writes for DL News from Latin America. Got a tip about crypto job moves? Reach out at

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