What’s different about the decentralized business model of a company like Coinbase? Why do they measure success based on customer experience? And how do they find the best talent with the right mindset to join the Coinbase team?

John Yi is the Group Product Manager for Services at Coinbase, a digital currency platform where merchants and consumers can transact with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin. Based in San Francisco, Coinbase is on a mission to champion economic freedom through innovation in digital currency. John’s role is to manage the teams that build the infrastructure for consumer products.

Today, John joins us to explain how a conversation at Occupy Wall Street sparked his interest in cryptocurrency. He shares Coinbase’s ‘hell yes’ hiring policy, describing the entrepreneurial mindset of the company’s team. John speaks to what’s different about a decentralized business model and the challenge of building interoperable products and scalable infrastructure. Listen in for John’s insight on the concept of non-fungible tokens and learn about Coinbase’s focus on customer experience!

Topics Covered

What sparked John’s interest in cryptocurrency 2011 at Occupy Wall Street rally in NYC Conversation on transcending centralized money

Coinbase’s transparent hiring policy ‘If you’re not a hell yes, you’re a no’ Bias toward entrepreneurial mindset

What’s different about the decentralized business model Build trust to keep people coming back (don’t hoard value) Products interoperable with any number of others

How Coinbase employees get up to speed on the industry Bias toward raw intellect and curiosity Learn by nature of work, Coinbase University

What has surprised John about the crypto industry Wrong about payments as main use case Concept of non-fungible tokens (NFT)

John’s role at Coinbase Build infrastructure behind consumer products Work with consumer team on NPS

John’s definition of success Work on stuff you enjoy with people you admire

Connect with John

Coinbase https://www.coinbase.com/
Coinbase on Twitter https://twitter.com/coinbase
Coinbase on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Coinbase/
John on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnyi/
John on Medium https://medium.com/@johnyi275
John on Twitter https://twitter.com/johnyi275


‘Bar Raisers at Coinbase: If You’re Not a Hell Yes, You’re a No’ on The Coinbase Blog https://blog.coinbase.com/bar-raisers-at-coinbase-if-youre-not-a-hell-yes-you-re-a-no-68145c6fbe60
Ethmoji https://ethmoji.io/
CryptoKitties https://www.cryptokitties.co/
True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer https://www.amazon.com/True-Believer-Thoughts-Movements-Perennial/dp/0060505915

Connect with Boost VC

Boost VC Website https://www.boost.vc/
Boost VC on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/boostvc/
Boost VC on Twitter https://twitter.com/BoostVC

United States


00:00:05go to the movies a podcast your weekly dose of one informative interviews with incredible guests from the latest capital I'm your host Adam draper and managing and a fortune are you ready to rock today's episode of the BCC podcasts I get to interview John ye who is awesome
00:00:36he's a group product manager at coin bass he's been there for about four years and what we talk about is how to scale infrastructure to make it better for the customer we also touch on how hiring has evolved that coin bis and how decentralize products are different to
00:00:53build for than centralize products so lots of topics really fun and enjoy all Ryan he we're here with John he from coin base what's your title again it's random group product manager for services group product manager for services who has been at Columbus for about four years yep
00:01:12and has been a boost we see mentor and helped out a bunch of our companies so thank you teacher and I'm really excited to have you on the show so thanks for coming thanks okay what led you into crypto currency yeah I wish there was like a a
00:01:27really liked the story writer but it was actually a series of things that happened I was trying to think back awhile ago when someone asked me this question and my initial opening to the idea of crypto was actually December of things twenty eleven into Cali park members got
00:01:44a park where is that it is in New York City on Wall Street where occupy Wall Street started %HESITATION and that started in September of that year and I was here in San Francisco and just wondering like what was really going on we had like an Oakland version
00:01:57of if you remember were people living yeah every city had like a smaller version I think so yeah but I never actually made it out to open for some reason and then December rolls around and I had the opportunity to be in New York by myself actually so
00:02:09I spent the better part of five days in the car park with the folks of occupy Wall Street and one of my first discussions that they had their their participated in was what would the world look like if we transcended centralized money and at the time I had
00:02:23no idea this twenty eleven I had never heard of that corn wasn't super early adopter anything but we'll just what a fascinating debate jocks that have on a exactly where it makes sense because occupy washers all about like no tear down the centralized finance people or whatever I
00:02:39thought was a fascinating discussion and then about a year later a buddy of mine said Hey we should buy bitcoin so I sent a bunch of money to Japan to get into a fund or an exchange that we all know and love is not rocks arm and lost
00:02:52my shirt a couple years later got word that Columbus was looking for people so it all kind of came together where did you grow up humble county so about three miles north of San Francisco and have you always been in California for the most part I grew up
00:03:06in Eureka went to college in New York and spent much time around the world and came back here seventeen years ago save a place outside of the U. S. favorite city I think even our own dinner once a Centauro Chile yes only there once a nose now is
00:03:23just that it's about the same latitude longitude I can't believe I can remember but it's got a similar terrain to back from California discusses confluence of what the different European cultures and styles mixed with this kind of indigenous stuff and I don't know school I have been once
00:03:40it was a long time ago I remember liking it yes and tennis and that didn't make it up to now I need to go back to I think what one of the things that I do want to do a little bit more of it's just like it's important
00:03:51get out of like the bubble and valley and explore how people are thinking outside I think Silicon Valley sort of the are in the of the world or that's how the rest of world views it right and so it's important to see what the rest the world is
00:04:06looking at and how their viewing talk about I don't know okay so one of the things I actually did one talked about you've been echoing this for four years is that there's a great hiring policy that I read you guys released a blog post about and it was
00:04:19about the hell yes mentality is that what it is yeah I don't know if there's official into it now but ever since I've been there there is an unofficial and mantra which is if you're not a hell yes or no yes if you're not a hell yes you're
00:04:31now do you see any like trends and the traits that people who do get hired sort of have we hire across a broad spectrum of roles obviously and now you know several different offices around the world so I couldn't say that there's only one or two trains to
00:04:47the rooster type people I think we definitely biased towards realism you know serve you in your job as you see tons and tons of westerners there in many cases just a different breed of people who are the don't run from problems who will dive into complexity who sometimes
00:05:06will do what seems kind of nonsensical just in the pursuit of something they think is important or interesting I say if there's one characteristic of people generally speaking I think that would be one and you've been a product manager in crypto for longer than almost anyone it just
00:05:21hasn't been that long like of your like a grandfather of the industry there you had previously worked in other places in different capacities up what is different about sort of the decentralized thought processes verses I guess old yeah I don't know what your compare ours is the longest
00:05:40intended before crime base was at Facebook similar to some degree in terms of engineering led and very execution oriented companies are so the business models released the biz models are far as crypto has begun to have been smiles is at least so far very different I think from
00:05:57some of the more centralized models I think the idea that we are just helping people to access an open protocol is significantly different so it's less about can we kind of get and keep and hoard value with people and more about what Connie naval so that people keep
00:06:15coming back and telling your friends and family teams are so it's sort of like being more open is indeed less of it yes I think it's like it's almost like why I know that the hiring is a hell yes policy like you guys opened up this over trans
00:06:28learn about your transparent right transparency right that's true yeah sort of matter we as a business we're creating interfaces so that people can easily use things that if they really wanted they could access and any number of different ways through other companies or on their own answer developer
00:06:44and so it's by building this trust with people through making it easy making a trustworthy that they will keep coming back is or leases are thesis were as having a lot of other companies although there strong companies like a face we're gonna mentioned there all about can we
00:06:59not trout that's a very serious word but like bringing your social graph and help you to connect it and then in a sense like the only way that you can use it right just like you have to come to us to use it it's very hard if not
00:07:12impossible to actually like for all of your social graph to some other service whereas easy if you wanted to take all your crypto and send it somewhere else well that makes it even more complicated problem probably in a lot of ways totally different yeah completely different you're literally
00:07:28trying to figure out how to build better products so they want to be there right exactly while also having to build products that are interoperable with you know some grander vision of open vision so there's this kind of very interesting dichotomy almost where we want to be the
00:07:46place for you to springboard into this world and we want to be the people that build the most interesting products of facilitate that but that also means we have to be interoperable with any number of other products and you guys scaled in people last year affair amount one
00:08:02of the things that I'm always fascinated about is like there are a lot of non idealist crypto people who are joining coin base in other companies out there how do you get employees up to speed on the industry because it is a different thought process it's not control
00:08:21this it's we need to enable this right yes gotten for really thought about that way before but you're right I think what we do most generations for intelligent people whether they have been successful and drop them in the ocean so we all swimming coach wound itself you'll sometimes
00:08:39we find telling people many of whom have been successful in other domains other worlds and who are curious about crypto and you don't want to join a group of people is right passion and well resource to execute against it certainly not everyone is a crypto like idealist or
00:08:54enthusiast to begin with I think probably seventy five percent or eighty percent of them are you know somewhat familiar with the concepts but probably learned more in the interview process than they have in the last year so I guess to answer your question I think we tend to
00:09:09bias just towards people that have brought in order to ensure our city and then just in the nature of the work that we do they will get up to speed quickly on the crypto specific stuff and we also do a bunch of internal education we have what's called
00:09:23a fish the condition of our city where we do internal external speakers and that sort of thing if you wanted to become sort of idealist lilacs for you probably could you were given the gifts right is not a brain washing our indoctrination one of us one of us
00:09:39I think that on some of you definitely have to have a curiosity about the cryptocurrency space sure to join Columbus or anything sure I guess you'd love the people yeah I guess at least a curiosity which is we get signal around curiosity by people being somewhat familiar with
00:09:55the fundamentals as we talk to them but also having done specific things are going to meet up Sir no writing blog posts about crypto certainly like these types of things are almost like a requirement so we do I guess screen for that sort of thing what is surprise
00:10:10you in the last year on a macro level of the crypto currency industry I mean one obvious thing is like just people know what it is not right but is there anything like that has surprised you in being a product manager or in coin business scale or anything
00:10:27yeah I mean a ton of things of surprise me I think that's kind of the fun part it's frustrating on shoes well but as fun part is we as humans I think we generally think were really smart we look at the past we sell the future going to
00:10:40be like the past plus today equals whatever but it's almost never the case you actually look back and you think like in ninety nine people or to the web and screens at all this is like newspapers but on a video screen you can do these neat little like
00:10:53clicks to go to other pages like all that's cool so it's gonna be like a newspaper like no one would have predicted known did predict as far as I know that we have like ubiquitous G. P. S. and we'd have Michael processes in our pockets and you know
00:11:06things like you know ride sharing all these things are now enabled the I think the same thing will happen in terms of crypto currency so your question what surprised me is I guess I shouldn't have is that what we thought might happen four years ago when you know
00:11:19I first met they say was wrong you know because of the time we're pushing payments as the main use case hunters up which was right at the time to get people interested in the potential but you know still has not materialized as the utility right so what we've
00:11:37seen is very strange and new and different things like non fungible tokens right where this idea especially for me who didn't grow up digital native like my son will to think of a thing that has value that is just pixels or an idea is still hard for me
00:11:54I've been living and breathing right but this world is going to be so different and five or ten years the two technologies that BCC is most invested in this virtual reality and cryptocurrency and non fungible tokens are fascinating to me because if you saw the movie ready player
00:12:10one hand the entire movie needs crypto to work right in order to function right because they're going into different worlds different lands yet and there's one of things and digital scarcity is like one of the most important things for the internet but also for virtual reality like a
00:12:27hundred percent yeah yeah fastening but to think like you know friends are watching our you know Gee I think this idea that you have a system where someone just create something and then by infinite amounts of licenses ability and like customizability you can actually thank create and generate
00:12:46value over time where it's all this is like a set of pixels that you created which someone else could easily do if they wanted yeah I think it's going to unlock like a New World of art like that's what I'm excited about like a new digital art world
00:13:01that you can have like I don't eat so you want your you're bullish either but I do believe that one of the undervalued things in this industry right now are and if he took I think non fungible tokens look like a toy and we're about to see what
00:13:18digital scarcity really means right and we're gonna see people build things that are really valuable and there's only one of them we've always looked at the internet is infinite I think that's right things fascinate wanted analog that I think helps people is I've been thinking about this in
00:13:31terms of one of my favorite things like I brought a book and we're talking on a book as we got started here you think back to say like all men and see first edition right like that is a physically scarce resource that only I don't know how many
00:13:46M. guessing like hundreds you hard rock exist in the world and are probably worth thousands tens of thousands hundreds of thousand dollars because of that but at the other day the words of the same as the version I can buy down the street right so I think that
00:13:59helps some people bridge that knowledge gap or the belief gap that just because it's the same sort of the same text doesn't mean it's worth the same right so there is an instance of all men see it is worth a hundred thousand dollars because it has other characteristics
00:14:15and it is scarce and someday we will see that sort of thing in the digital stream all I yeah I mean we're already seeing it in crypto news mind stayed at sixteen Bucks for like two months now so I have I have a %HESITATION seventeen generation crypto Kitty
00:14:33named like Tom it had like well maybe it's gonna be an amazing investment from my perspective it was like I need to understand how this flow works like I feel like the key with everything in the world but definitely in the cryptocurrency blockchain world is you need to
00:14:50understand what the process is like right first time I stored things cold storage the first time about a crypto Kitty the first out like you need to try this earnings how are you guys thinking about making things better and more efficient is there like a process for that
00:15:05matter I mean yeah I mean we don't have any legal immigrants saucer what do you feel your job in the coin basis mine personally your personal like mission and yes or no my current position manage the product management team that builds the things that power our consumer products
00:15:22so most people know our consumer right flagship products like comics are common our apps interchange products I work on my team works on the infrastructure hinos like payments for instance the connects with a microphone at work to control the banks in print processors I manage growth that helps
00:15:41you know gives customers identity those sorts of things so the last eighteen months were crazy probably still crazy but like they were crazy like things broke it down like you were the infrastructure exactly yeah me me and a bunch of other people that are way smarter and better
00:15:56than the obviously but yeah we thankfully had invested a bunch India twenty fourteen twenty fifteen twenty sixteen and twenty seventeen rolled around and we just you know in large part held on for dear life and you know kept bringing more people to the fire and thankfully you know
00:16:11made out mostly unscathed but are now in a position to continue investing for people yeah I thought the best way to explain like the scale of what point this was hitting was like you're a fin tech company that has to scale like Twitter rang like and like even
00:16:27Twitter how to fail well you know for crypto in general is awesome last like twelve months yeah it to me but your question terms of how we think about making easy and I mean so even though we're not necessarily building the front and in most cases so customers
00:16:43may not see the actual like works there are engineers are building although in some cases they do it slide for payments for instance how we're starting to measure success is internal commitments to customer experience so when a customer no places in order for you know they have a
00:17:00set of expectations that it's not confusing experience that it actually settles an excellent time to go into the first block that's available no they don't need to understand you know the blockchain and you know all the transactions and stuff these happen the background but we're thinking about in
00:17:15terms of does that customer expect this to be settled in X. amount of time and if not what error messages should they see or that sort of thing and how do you communicate with the customer in that regard well we work with the consumer team strata so internal
00:17:30recall the Quimby start counting the consumer team to work with them and say Hey listen what we expect that this is the best we can do at this error rate or whatever and they will come back Goshen say well we can't do that we need to make our
00:17:42house or even happier than that on average and then we'll go back and figure out what we can do that all start ups at some level or just trying to solve problems and make the customer happy and it's about efficiency mechanisms or do that it's important it's the
00:17:55only thing that matters yeah the other day if you don't have happy customers I guess you don't have a business yeah I am as I'd say most people are trying to think of going this is a bigger company you're only one degree separated from the customer that's right
00:18:08like that scene seemly valuable for an infrastructure yeah maybe maybe telling that our primary internal metrics are around in PS basically about customer satisfaction and not any other of the site you know valley popular numbers that you might you might thank you wanna make everyone happy escrita if
00:18:26they're satisfied look you coming back in and we can keep building products it'll be liable to them and will make some money and everyone's happy yeah that is a well run organization where you're building infrastructure and you're one step removed I think that's incredible the next part of
00:18:39this is the lightning round okay okay reading I think so don't sounds painful okay let it is for some people the let me grab what's your favorite book one of my favorite books is the true believer by air coffer if you haven't read it highly highly recommend what's
00:19:00it about it explores the nature of man and why it is that we are attracted to mass movements very very topical even today was written in the sixties I always talk about the people who I want to invest in are true believers but it means it's this like
00:19:17arbitrary thing that it's difficult for someone to really latch on to what that means yeah and so I need to read this book because investing start ups actually say I don't invest in startups I invest in movements products and this is like made for me this book yeah
00:19:31I mean there's some sort of subtext to it that's probably different applications I don't know I have a very specific lands I look at everything through okay can you throw a football not real far of smallish hands I don't know so okay what sports did you play I
00:19:48did play football but I was %HESITATION tailback I wrestled boxed ran do you sell to those not so much boxing not so much resting either I do mostly running now very long distance running along longest reception is fifty miles what's this is a for I will understand okay
00:20:11mile thirty two yeah okay yeah like what are you thinking it's really hard to explain you've gone into a transcendent almost experience where you feel pain but it's sort of a dull pain in the background and you're just able then to think about stuff that I don't normally
00:20:29think about okay now that sounds like something I gotta try it should be your former director engineering Adrian I just got him an ultra running too I'm gonna start with like running yeah not there and I do love running when I'm getting anxious I know that I need
00:20:46to go on like three mile run yet but that is different than a fifty mile run is not that different okay will get to know yeah we started growing okay if you could have one super power what would it be I would love to fast forward learning so
00:21:01if I can fast for like ten X. on learning a language kind of matrix style without having to plug something in my head that would be awesome come true in ten minutes or something I ask this question all the time and no one gives the same answer it's
00:21:15amazing because everyone always thinks like you're gonna give the answer of like flight or one of my other favorites that someone said was saying the right thing at the right time are gonna be awesome yeah I never have that I'm the guy that like ten minutes later after
00:21:28this shot was the right there Arjuna said that okay you can ask one person one question what personal question rather than like any like historical figure I think a lot of people I just leave the earth too soon haven't like really giving it their all our anyways I
00:21:45think somebody like Kurt Cobain remember Nevada when he died or as a sophomore in college I just thought man this guy had so much left to do and so I I don't question or maybe I just say like how are you doing we probably need more people asking
00:22:00at the time but yeah yeah maybe that that is an amazing answer talk about people who begin movements like yet we still have a lot lot left to give yeah on the movement Ryan Reynolds are Ryan Gosling god for a long time I had no idea which was
00:22:16which will it's good now you do probably Ryan Gosling I love that was a crazy movie behind the pines or whatever so I I haven't seen you like that it was freaky yeah others not like my crazy stupid love which I did that the different I don't know
00:22:32style yet we have different tastes we do great okay what is your definition of success oh gosh that's a hard one I feel really fortunate I feel like being able live in San Francisco for last seventeen years I guess there's some lucky success there I think being able
00:22:51to work on the stuff that you enjoy with people that you admire it'd have fun conversations that's that's successful awesome thank you for being on the best VC backed us thank you thank you so much for tuning in during your busy day to learn about sci fi technology
00:23:08for more info on what we do check out our website at W. W. W. dot dot PC or give us a follow on Twitter and Facebook at a big thank you to Maddy calendar quietly and Ben Lovell for their support in creating and producing this podcast Michael thank
00:23:26you to mellow drive in there a I composer for our amazing intro and outro song if you need music for your digital content check them out at Miller drive dot com lastly thanks to Tim hollow well with the podcast group in Washington who didn't incredible job mixing this
00:23:43audio %HESITATION species all about helping amazing sight by tech succeed if you have an idea you think we should get in touch with us at who stopped BC slash because and make sure to sign up to get notified when I it's open for the next Dr also we
00:24:00love to hear from our listeners so and drop us a comment on whatever streaming service we would love to hear that's it for this week and unfortunately we don't have enough time for marks are but be sure to tune in next week when salable Adam draper signing off
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