Kraken CEO and co-founder Jesse Powell
Photo: Kraken

Why Kraken's CEO is stepping down

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Good morning! This Friday, Protocol Fintech reporter Ben Pimentel talked with Kraken's Jesse Powell about leaving his CEO role.

Kraken’s CEO hands over the reins

It’s been a hard year for Kraken and crypto in general. But CEO Jesse Powell said he’s stepping down from the role because there’s just too much he doesn’t like about the job.

Powell doesn’t consider himself “to be an amazing manager,” he told my colleague Ben Pimentel in an interview yesterday. COO David Ripley will replace him.

  • “I really more so enjoy the work as an individual contributor, like getting into the weeds on the product stuff,” Powell told Ben.
  • Powell said he’s not interested in overseeing some tasks as CEO, like guiding Kraken toward an IPO. “I’m much more like a zero-to-one kind of guy,” he said.
  • Powel got some heat earlier this year over allegations about insensitive comments, then hit back against employees by declaring “Back to dictatorship” in a tweet and inviting employees uncomfortable with the company’s culture to “jet ski” into their future with four months’ pay. He said he doesn’t plan to “jet ski” himself, though. He’s staying on Kraken’s board.

Powell said he wants to focus on advocacy work, adding that there’s lots of “bad proposals” coming from lawmakers.

  • “There's some language and some legislation that has come up that's sort of indirect attacks on crypto,” he said. “I don't know if it's done intentionally, or if the authors of the legislation just really don't understand what the implications are of the language.”
  • Powell acknowledged that crypto is a national security and national economic issue, but said “it would be a disaster if we created some laws that just basically forced all the bitcoin companies to go offshore.”

— Sarah Roach

Do you need a virtual assistant?

Maybe! The popularity of VAs has grown dramatically over the past couple of years. And we’re not talking about virtual assistant tech; we’re talking about real people.

Who needs a virtual assistant the most? Laith Masarweh, who founded and runs the virtual assistant company Assistantly, told me that people just getting their businesses off the ground — or what he called “solo-prenuers” — need one most often.

  • Tons of companies that have laid off employees in recent months have also tapped VAs to offset the workload of their existing employees, Masarweh said.
  • Masarweh said those without the resources to hire full-time employees should look into VAs. “The knowledge and the quality of these virtual assistants is high,” he said. “They can get the ball rolling after two weeks or sooner to start with whatever you need.”

And what can they do for you? Masarweh broke down the responsibilities for virtual assistants into about five different categories: administrative operations, sales, marketing, social media, and more “niche” areas of expertise.

  • You can hire one to take on anything, really, like managing calendars and executive-level tasks. Masarweh has 15 VAs who help with tasks ranging from sales to operations.
  • Masarweh said VAs also have the potential to turn into full-time employees down the line. The person he hired to help with recruitment eventually became his client success manager and later his COO. “And he might be the CEO of the company,” he added. “I would have no problem having him do that.”

Masarweh added that if you’re going to hire a VA, make sure you treat them as part of the team. “I hire as if I was hiring an employee,” he said.

— Sarah Roach

LA’s housing problem

LA is quickly becoming a major tech hub. And just like in Silicon Valley, there’s a severe lack of housing.

LA’s housing is growing slower than its population. According to the 2020 Regional Housing Needs Assessment, LA needs to construct 457,000 units of housing by 2028 to keep up with demand. But the city is anticipated to build just short of 231,000 in that time period.

  • The flood of tech workers may exacerbate the problem. Six-figure tech salaries far outpace household income in the county, which is around $71,000, giving tech workers an advantage in rental markets.
  • Major liquidity events, such as a company being acquired or going public, allow tech workers to make large down payments or put in all-cash offers. This gives them the upper hand in home-buying, Matt Canzoneri, CEO and co-founder of proptech platform DwellWell, told me.

Tech provides some unconventional solutions. Prefabricated housing, both for homes and accessory dwelling units, can speed up production and increase units of housing without taking up space for massive construction projects.

  • This, however, needs to go hand-in-hand with better zoning laws. “At its core, that's really a zoning issue,” said Colin Jube, CEO of ADU company Modal Living.

More single-family zoning means fewer housing units per square mile. A study released in March by UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute found that 78% of residential land in LA is zoned for single-family housing. In the Bay Area, for reference, 85% of all residential land is single-family-zoned.

  • The LA Housing Element could rezone for up to 1.4 million new units of housing, LA city planner Matthew Glesne said.
  • Two bills were also supported by state legislators this summer boosting homebuilding by allowing housing developers to construct on commercial land.

But the city has a long way to go. “We have the second-fewest homes per adult of major cities in the country,” Glesne said. And as demand continues to increase, that will need to change fast.

— Nat Rubio-Licht


With a rocky economy and high inflation, cash flow is key. Check out our exclusive report in partnership with Wakefield to learn what's really slowing cash flow—and what you can do about it.

Learn more

People are talking

Marc Benioff said Salesforce will keep making acquisitions:

  • "We’ve bought 60 companies — we’ll always buy companies."

Nick Clegg said Meta is thinking of letting Donald Trump back onto Facebook:

  • “When you make a decision that affects the public realm, you need to act with great caution. You shouldn’t throw your weight about.”

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is pretty certain the Activision Blizzard deal will happen:

  • “Of course, any acquisition of this size will go through scrutiny, but we feel very, very confident that we’ll come out.

Making moves

Manesh Mahatme left WhatsApp for Amazon, where he previously worked, a source told Moneycontrol. Mahatme led WhatsApp’s payments business in India.

Bhrighu Sareen joined Highspot as president of product and engineering. Sareen is the former CVP of Microsoft Teams.

Assaf Ronen is Payoneer’s first chief platform officer. Ronen previously served as SoFi’s CPO and led Amazon’s Alexa shopping group before that.

Gregory Andre and Albert Alabau joined Rossum as CFO and chief people officer, respectively. Andre previously held the same role at Talkwalker, and Alabau is from Typeform.

Andrew Yolin is Landa’s new CMO. He previously held the same role at TD Ameritrade.

Allan Thygesen is DocuSign's new CEO. Thygesen's worked at Google for over a decade and most recently served as president of Americas and global partners.

Charlie Collier is leaving Fox for Roku, where he'll oversee ad sales and programming. Collier had been helping Fox rebuild its entertainment offerings.

In other news

Lawmakers want Starlink to operate in Iran, where internet access is shut down in areas where protests are taking place. Starlink may seek a license to offer services there.

It's a big day for Apple TV+. It has exclusive streaming rights to the Red Sox playing the Yankees today, and the game could test the streaming service's success with live sports.

Two Facebook users are suing Meta for alleged unauthorized data collection. Meta denied the claims.

Coinbase entered the Netherlandsafter getting approval from its central bank. The crypto exchange has been trying to expand in Europe for months.

Tesla recalled over 1 million carsover worries that its windows could pinch passengers when they close. There haven’t been any reported crashes or injuries related to the issue.

Amazon hired trucking companies that are more dangerous than others, The Wall Street Journal reported. Drivers carrying Amazon freight were found to be twice as likely to receive unsafe driving scores compared to their peers.

Frances Haugen launched a nonprofit called “Beyond the Screen,” which involves an open-source database of the ways tech fails in “legal and ethical obligations to society.”

Companies are turning to Snowflakefor their data-centric cybersecurity needs.

What does Wikimedia sound like?

Wikimedia wants people to decide on its signature sound, which it’s calling the Sound of All Human Knowledge (dramatic, which we love). It’s accepting submissions through Oct. 10 for sounds that “capture the essence of everything Wikimedia stands for.” The winner will get a trip to a recording studio to produce the final sound logo as well as a cash prize.


With a rocky economy and high inflation, cash flow is key. Check out our exclusive report in partnership with Wakefield to learn what's really slowing cash flow—and what you can do about it.

Learn more

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