On Sept. 27, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong sought to center his employees’ work around the company’s core mission: “to bring economic freedom to people all over the world.” Armstrong argues for a narrow interpretation of Coinbase’s mission to build the best possible product because it is “already hugely ambitious” and because companies generally cannot succeed if their goals “include all forms of equality and justice.”
Armstrong’s perspective is not unique to Coinbase and represents a broader tech industry incarnation of the white-savior complex rooted in the belief of the product’s inherent goodness. This belief is especially noteworthy in crypto, given its diversity problem. Views like Armstrong’s, when coming from a mission-driven cryptocurrency organization, ignore and insult the people and organizations on the ground doing the critical work to financially empower communities. Furthermore, these views overestimate the ability of cryptocurrency to address financial exclusion caused by structural problems as well as technical ones.