On July 14, James Hu was sitting in his “fabulously expensive” apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He had just returned from the Soho offices of OpenSea, the non-fungible token marketplace, where he had been laid off from his job and locked out of his work computer.
The event was not exactly a huge shock to Hu, who had watched mass crypto layoffs happen all summer. With prices for NFTs in freefall, OpenSea was suddenly experiencing a 90% drop in transactions, according to DappRadar, and was bringing in much less money—a dramatic reversal of the intense growth that had led to Hu’s hiring in January. His position, first in business operations then in product, was jury-rigged from the start. “I applied for a role that didn’t exist,” he recalled. “They kind of just made a role for me because they were probably like, ‘Oh, this is like a smart person who likes NFTs. Let’s just bring him on.’”
But, as with many crypto companies, OpenSea’s fortunes shifted in Q2, with CEO Devin Finzer citing an “unprecedented combination of crypto winter and broad macroeconomic instability” for his decision to lay off 20% of OpenSea’s workforce. Hu joined roughly 50 of his colleagues and more than 4,000 additional workers laid off from jobs in the crypto industry since April, according to Layoffs.fyi. The cutbacks represented a harsh awakening after a two-year-long fever dream for crypto workers. “Folks I’ve talked to that have been laid off describe the last 12 months as a massive hit of crack,” Hu said. “Everyone was getting so rich that we couldn’t think clearly.”