New 21Shares VP of Product is the latest defector from big tech

Crypto exchange-traded product (ETP) provider 21Shares has snatched former Uber executive Karan Chawla from the ride-hailing and delivery app and named him its new vice president of product.

Chawla, who was head of payments for the US, Canada and APAC at Uber for the last seven years, will “lead development of 21Shares’ product organization and roadmap to provide investors with access to the world’s most innovative DeFi protocols,” the company said in a statement on Monday. 

Speaking with The Block, Chawla said that, having joined Uber when it was still a “big startup,” he was looking forward to returning to a company with that “early-stage feel.”

“I think it’s still early days [for crypto] and it’s such a big opportunity. The key for us is going to be velocity. We need to be able to move quickly if there’s an opportunity,” he said. 

Chawla is not alone. The shift in longtime big tech employees moving to join crypto startups has been picking up momentum. Speaking with The New York Times in December, former Google executive-turned-startup-founder Sridhar Ramaswamy likened it to “a giant sucking sound coming from crypto.”

Among the defections are ride-hailing app Lyft’s CFO Brian Roberts move to OpenSea, and Jack Dorsey, who stepped down from Twitter to focus on his crypto and web3 company Block (formerly Square).

More and more talent is also moving from traditional finance to crypto. 21Share’s own head of trading Gurjeet Kundi, who joined the company in March, was formerly head of cross-asset ETF trading at Mizuho and spent close to two decades in ETF-related positions at Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and UniCredit.

The Block has also reported no fewer than 15 Citibank employees have moved to a range of crypto companies in the last months.

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