Most recently, Binance founder and CEO Zhao Changpeng (also known as “CZ”) was a new addition to Forbes’ list of the 50 richest in 2021, where he was ranked 22nd.
The 45-year-old has amassed $ 1.9 billion in net worth as of August 10, 2021, thanks in part to an estimated 30 percent stake in his company.
It also ranks fifth on Forbes’ Crypto Rich 2021 list and 16.64. Place on Forbes ‘2021 Billionaires List. It was also featured on Forbes’ China Rich List in 2018, but was later removed in 2019.
Here’s a look at how Zhao built Binance over the years to amass his current wealth.
Flip burgers to run the world’s largest crypto exchange
Zhao Changpeng grew up in Jiangsu, China, and both of his parents were educators. His father, in particular, was a professor, but he was branded a “pro-bourgeois intellect” and temporarily exiled shortly after Zhao’s birth.
As a teenager, he made burgers at McDonald’s and worked night shifts at a gas station.
After studying computer science at McGill University in Montreal, he spent time in Tokyo and New York developing trading systems for the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Bloomberg’s Tradebook.
He did well at the company, getting three promotions in less than two years, but quitting the job in 2005. Then he moved to Shanghai to start his own trading systems company, Fusion Systems.
He later founded Binance in 2017, which is now a major player in the crypto verse.
The platform enables users to trade currencies and offers a wide range of cryptocurrency options to invest in. Binance also offers its merchants a crypto wallet that allows users to store, send and receive their electronic funds.
Image source: Corporate Finance Institute
The Binance platform also has its own coin, BNB, that users can buy, sell and hold. Today it is the third largest cryptocurrency in the world with a market capitalization of nearly $ 54 billion.
In July 2017, Zhao raised $ 15 million in Initial Coin Offerings when the market turned hot and became the largest crypto exchange in the world in six months.
The following year it reached six million users.
The dramatic rise in bank balances and rapid success garnered a lot of attention, with the highlight being the front page of Forbes magazine. It was a remarkable rise from burger turn to crypto billionaire.
By 2020, Binance had posted sales of more than $ 800 million and totaled $ 2 trillion in trade.
Last year, in April, Binance also took over CoinMarketCap and launched its own debit card for cryptocurrencies.
As Binance expands its business in various areas, Zhao admits that the Binance Card is actually losing money to the company, but he doesn’t mind because he wanted to bring this product out.
“We’re doing a bunch of new businesses that are burning money. It is too early to say what our earnings or earnings will be this year, ”he told Bloomberg Markets.
How he started with Bitcoin
Image source: Forbes
Zhao is so fond of Binance that he actually has a tattoo of the company logo on his arm.
He also believes in cryptocurrency so much that he likely invested “nearly 100 percent” of his net worth in cryptocurrency.
I don’t own a fiat – the physical stuff I own is probably negligible in terms of my net worth. So this is a concept shift. I don’t use cryptocurrency to buy fiat, I don’t use cryptocurrency to buy houses.
I just want to keep crypto. And I have no plans to convert my crypto to cash in the future.
– Binance founder and CEO Zhao Changpeng in an interview with Bloomberg Markets
A separate Forbes interview from 2018 also revealed that while Zhao is crypto-rich, she doesn’t own any cars, yachts, or fancy watches. Instead, he often shows off laptops – most of the ones he bought were five or six laptops at a time – simply because he “destroys (them) pretty quickly”.
Zhao, who currently lives in Singapore, first found out about Bobby Lee, the CEO of BTC China and his investor at a poker game.
They advised him to convert 10 percent of his net worth into bitcoin and said there is a high chance it could increase tenfold, which is essentially doubling his net worth.
That piqued his interest, but since there was a lack of educational content on Bitcoin at the time, he researched it by downloading a whitepaper online and scrolling through the bitcointalk.org forum.
Having a technical background, he understood the concept pretty quickly and liked the idea of Bitcoin because it is limitless and is maintained by the network.
“You can transfer money from any country to any other country without being limited to one person or intermediary. Since I’ve lived in many different countries, I lose a lot every time I have to exchange money, ”he said.
He then sold his apartment in Shanghai for $ 1 million and used the money for Bitcoin.
He later started jumping around on prominent crypto projects and came to Blockchain.info as the third member of the cryptocurrency wallet team.
He also worked for OKCoin for less than a year as Chief Technology Officer, a platform for spot trading between Fiat and digital assets.
Binance is currently facing regulatory scrutiny
Image source: Budrul Chukrut / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Despite Binance’s strong growth, regulations in China have slowed progress somewhat after the government banned trading in 2017. However, Binance responded by moving overseas and expanding to various locations around the world.
However, Binance has recently undergone intense regulatory scrutiny as authorities around the world try to crack down on the fast-growing crypto industry.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned Binance’s UK entity from any regulated activity. According to the FCA, Binance was one of many crypto firms to withdraw their applications for the UK’s temporary licensing regime for failing to meet anti-money laundering requirements.
Regulators in Japan, Canada and Italy have also taken action against the company, warning that it is not authorized to operate in the countries.
After this series of actions, Zhao expressed its intention to work with global regulators and be “fully compliant” to protect its users and the crypto industry.
“We have to be a licensed financial institution everywhere we operate,” Zhao said during a press conference in July.
He added that if regulators expect Binance to have headquarters, Binance will set up regional headquarters around the world. This gives them a “very easy to understand structure”.
However, he revealed that Binance has not yet decided on specific locations.
We have now taken a very strong pivot. We have been a technology startup for four years. From now on we’re going to be a financial institution … I think that mindset is a very big shift.
– Binance founder and CEO Zhao Changpeng in a press conference in July 2017
What’s next for Binance?
In an interview with CNBC, Zhao also said he was ready to step down from his CEO role as the company seeks to become a regulated financial institution.
Although he has no immediate plans to quit his role, he announced that Binance has a succession plan in place.
“We will become a fully regulated financial institution going forward,” said Zhao, adding that he would be “very open” to find a replacement CEO with more regulatory experience during the pivot.
Screenshot of Zhao Changpeng’s Twitter thread
The CEO’s contingency planning begins on day 0, just like (with) any other role. I think CEOs shouldn’t stay longer than ten years, ideally around five years. We live in a dynamic world. We need new thinking. Presidents are only in office for four years.
I don’t have to be a CEO and I’m not going. I will always find ways to contribute to the community behind the logo tattooed on my forearm. I am proud to be a member of the #binance ecosystem. Let’s keep it growing.
– Binance founder and CEO, Zhao Changpeng, said in a Twitter thread
For now, Binance intends to set up a number of regional headquarters around the world and will look for licenses wherever they are available.
Most recently, Binance also announced that they are starting a hiring frenzy to add compliance teams to strengthen their 1,600 to 1,700-strong company. Zhao stressed that hiring people with compliance and regulatory experience is his top priority.
Binance is also stepping up its hiring in Singapore with 50+ job vacancies ranging from business development to finance and operations available on its careers page.
And while crypto companies like Coinbase investigate IPOs, Zhao remains firm that they don’t want to go down the same path.
“We have enough cash so that we can grow ourselves. We don’t need a lot of money, we are profitable and growing, ”he said.
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Featured image source: Binance