The last year has seen soaring interest in crypto, blockchain, and the DeFi sector. As new technologies and platforms launch and scale fast, crypto companies are desperate for qualified employees – who are proving to be the ultimate scarce resource.
The global coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a powerful catalyst for tech adoption. With millions of people forced to stay at home, new platforms have come online and existing solutions have gained new audiences in the rush to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Moreover, as our financial and economic circumstances have changed, individuals and corporations have sought new ways to earn money, maintain the value of their wealth, and gain a return on their assets. As these new platforms and solutions have scaled, the companies and organisations behind them have cast their net far and wide for the top talent to help drive their growth – and they’re running into a drought.
Crypto, DeFi and Blockchain Go Mainstream
Crypto has undoubtedly been one of the beneficiaries of COVID-19. Following the March 2020 crash below $4,000, bitcoin swiftly recovered and staged a 1,500% rally to well above $60,000. Even following a sharp correction in May 2021, BTC remained 800% above its low.
The crypto bull market was driven by institutions and retail traders looking for returns at a time of economic uncertainty, and for a way to hedge against the inflation they believe is coming. Michael Saylor, CEO of Microstrategy and a prominent advocate for crypto, put it like this: ‘We just had the awful realization that we were sitting on top of a $500 million ice cube that’s melting.’
But it’s not just bitcoin’s price that has exploded. The entire blockchain ecosystem has followed in its wake: exchanges, derivatives, infrastructure and institutional solutions – and, of course, the bleeding edge of blockchain, the DeFi movement. While still small by the standards of traditional finance (TradFi), DeFi has grown exponentially over the last 18 months.
All of these platforms require dedicated, top-tier developers to build and maintain them, and a host of other qualified and experienced professionals to market them, drive business integrations, and stay compliant with the latest regulatory updates.
In other words, running a crypto platform requires a lot of good people – but that’s where there’s a catch.
Low Supply, High Demand
The blockchain sector has grown fast – too fast, in fact, to fill all the roles that are needed. Crypto organisations were already struggling to find the expertise they needed at the beginning of 2020. Now, as some of these platforms have scaled 10x in a matter of months, they are simply finding it impossible to hire the people they need. The number of individuals with the appropriate experience and qualifications does not exist. Crypto companies, which are rarely constrained by geography, are casting their nets across the whole world – and still coming up short. Large organisations like Coinbase and Binance alone have dozens or even hundreds of open vacancies. Institutions opening new trading desks and platforms are creating even more demand. Then there are all the start-ups in the space – many of which are well-funded – seeking to source talent.
As with any scarce resource, the dynamics of supply and demand apply. Salaries have risen as companies chase a limited pool of suitable employees, often resorting to trying to recruit talent from their competitors. The fact that blockchain and DeFi initiatives are increasingly competing with roles within the TradFi industry only has the effect of pushing the price tag for a suitable employee higher.
Lowering the Bar
In the face of this bidding war for blockchain specialists, two things have happened. The first is that salaries have risen. The second is that companies have necessarily had to lower their expectations. While the number of candidates who apply for each vacancy has spiked, the majority do not have the necessary experience. Several years of prior work in the blockchain world is desirable, but many businesses have accepted the reality that one or two years is all they can realistically expect.
This opens opportunities for relative newcomers to the blockchain space, giving them the chance of landing a job that might, in other circumstances, have been beyond their reach. This, of course, entails risk for employers, who may be pushed into accepting a less-than-ideal candidate at short notice.
One of the ways employers are addressing their skills shortages while reducing that risk is to use more freelancers. This allows them to fill an immediate need and try out a potential long-term employee, without committing immediately. For the freelancer, it can be a great way to dip their toe in the water, gain experience, and learn about the technologies involved, while they decide where in the crypto world they ultimately want to work.
Platforms like LaborX enable employers and freelancers to connect directly, using the blockchain to organise work trustlessly and get paid in crypto. While payment for underqualified freelancers can be low, many employers are happy to pay market rates and above to get the job done – also making this an attractive source of second income for established professionals.
No End In Sight for the Jobs Boom
With the huge interest in crypto and blockchain technology, and the length of time it takes for newcomers to the sector to gain the experience they need to access the best jobs, there’s no indication that the high demand for blockchain specialists will end any time soon. Those who stay the course and continue to add to their skill set and expertise will find themselves in an enviable position in the future, as they will be at the top of the pile for recruiters. In a sector that has existed for barely a decade, experience is a scarce and valuable resource – and employers are willing to pay a premium for it.
To check out the latest freelance opportunities, visit www.LaborX.com.