More On: NFTs
Executives from tech behemoths such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon are leaving to pursue careers in the burgeoning field of cryptocurrency.
Polygon and Circle, two blockchain platforms, have recently acquired top talent from Great Computing businesses, tempting them with the promise of working on the next "big thing" in tech – Web 3.0, or Web3.
Ryan Wyatt left YouTube earlier this month to join Polygon's new gaming team. Wyatt joined the Google-owned video site in 2014 to spearhead a drive into video game programming and more aggressively compete with Amazon's Twitch platform.
"I was the first person there when I started at YouTube Gaming about eight years ago," Wyatt told CNBC in an interview. "We didn't have a team," says the narrator. People were becoming increasingly interested in gaming video."
"I see this possibility in the same light," he continued, calling the current stage of blockchain development "early" and "exciting."
Web3's excitement has drawn some of the industry's best thinkers. The Web3 movement advocates reorganizing the internet in such a way that major online services are migrated to decentralized technologies such as blockchain.
Sherice Torres, the former chief marketing officer of Facebook's crypto and payments company, Novi, is among the Silicon Valley elite who has jumped ship to crypto. Circle hired her in January of this year. Pravjit Tiwana, a former Amazon cloud executive, has joined cryptocurrency exchange Gemini as its chief technology officer.
Novi's former CEO, David Marcus, left late last year. Marcus has been praising Web3 on Twitter, despite the fact that he has yet to reveal his next step.
Marcus tweeted last month, "I've never felt this connected to a community of builders like the crypto/web3 one."
I’ve never felt this connected to a community of builders like the crypto/web3 one. I’m not talking about folks who are in it for a quick speculative win. I’m talking about people who want to rebuild the internet’s infrastructure to move value and power in the hands of people.— David Marcus - dmarcus.eth (@davidmarcus) January 26, 2022
According to experts, the nascent industry's quick expansion is attracting tech executives.
"Naturally, individuals will want to work on what they perceive to be the most exciting and inventive advances in the technology industry," Alex Bouaziz, CEO and co-founder of payroll software business Deel, told CNBC.
"Many regard it as the future of the tech industry, similar to how Facebook and Amazon were once appealing."
A career move that might be lucrative
Another factor that is luring people from Big Tech firms to Web3 is money.
Bitcoin exchange Coinbase, according to statistics from Blind, a social network for tech professionals, pays software engineers up to $900,000 per year.
Crypto companies have seen a rise in investment, which means they have a lot more money to spend on attractive compensation packages for major employees. According to CB Insight data, blockchain startups raised a record $25 billion in venture financing last year.
Stock option systems are also common in tech start-ups, which allow employees to own a portion of the company. With private crypto company valuations skyrocketing, early employees may be in line for a large reward if the company is acquired or goes public.
And the tendency isn't limited to the United States.
Crypto businesses are also targeting talent from Facebook, Amazon, and Apple in the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to recruitment agency Hays.
"We expect the market for IT talent across all levels to grow even more competitive as more crypto/Web3 companies emerge," James Hallahan, director of Hays' technology division in the United Kingdom and Ireland, told CNBC.
Web3 has its detractors
Web3 is still a phrase with a lot of ambiguity. It refers to efforts aimed at creating a decentralized version of the internet based on crypto networks in general.
Platforms could theoretically compensate users for their posts with blockchain-native assets, effectively turning the advertising-fueled business of Facebook and YouTube on its head.
However, some of Silicon Valley's biggest names have slammed Web3. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey believes it is overly centralized and controlled by a few venture capitalists, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk sees it as a "marketing jargon" rather than reality.
When Wyatt first started at YouTube, though, people were wary about the idea of watching others play video games, even "endemic gamers," he said. According to Wyatt, gaming is now the second-largest vertical on YouTube.
Similarly, he believes that some of the anti-crypto and anti-Web3 sentiment will fade once more fleshed-out experiences, such as blockbuster video games and social apps, become available.
However, don't expect tech behemoths to take the challenge lightly.
Meta began work on its Novi crypto wallet in 2019 and is rumored to be investigating additional facilities for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
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