Changpeng Zhao, Sam Bankman-Fried… who are the crypto billionaires?

Cryptocurrencies promise to create a new monetary system, reboot the old world that has been labeled as unequal. But above all, they have forged a new generation of the ultra-rich. portraits.

They prophesied the crypto revolution before someone else and are now billionaires. These influential crypto gurus easily present themselves as knights fighting against the ancient financial world. Contrary to the idea that cryptocurrencies would redistribute power in a more egalitarian way, they embody an atypical and exclusively male elite.

Changpeng Zhao, founder of Binance

Changpeng ZhaoCZ for those close to him, Binance founded (contraction of binary and from finance) in 2017. The platform has since become the world’s largest marketplace for the exchange of cryptocurrencies. It now has over 90 million users. Frameless glasses and a black hoodie (still flanked by the yellow Binance logo), the Chinese-Canadian CZ won’t pay for a Musk’s excesses, even though he has 6.4 million subscribers to the counter on Twitter.

The myth of CZ has been forged at work ever since he moved from job to job at Vancouver’s McDonalds to help his parents who had fled China after the Tian’anmen demonstrations. CZ is not a commercial genius. He is, he says, the blacksmith who supplies people with their swords. “Depleted” by the recent crypto crash, CZ’s fortune now weighs “just” $14 billion.

The crypto mogul has just set his sights on France. After a newly installed Web3 incubator at Station F, it aims to establish its European headquarters in Paris. France, a bitcoin nation? The Financial Markets Authority (AMF) has just issued a precious sesame: the approval of the digital service provider (PSAN), which opens the door to the French financial markets.

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of FTX

the last name of Sam Bankman Fried, alias SBF, intended for financing? Born in 1992 in Stanford, at just 30 years old, he is one of the most prominent crypto billionaires. Noticed at a very young age for his talent in mathematics, then educated at the famous MIT, he began his career as a trader on Wall Street. He owes his fortune to the companies he founded: FTX, a digital currency exchange platform, and Alameda Research, a crypto investment fund located in the Japanese market. His niche: the thriving metaverse and NFT business.

But the shaggy-haired, round-faced young billionaire is also a sports enthusiast: he collects contracts for sponsorship and from Naming† He even managed to make American football player Tom Brady and his wife Gisele Bündchen benefactor ambassadors for FTX. The foundation, the Foundation FTX, fight against poverty and animal suffering, whereby SBF itself is a convinced vegan. His legend reports that he still lives with a roommate and never offers himself a vacation. But also that unlike some of his libertarian counterparts, he instead supports Democrat Joe Biden. SBF says it is sensitive to the idea of ​​wealth redistribution. Is that why he recently told the Financial times that Bitcoin has no future as a means of payment? A stone in the pond for those who partly built their fortune in… bitcoin.

Vitalik Buterin, designer of Ethereum

Crowned “Prince of Crypto” by Time magazine in March 2022, Vitalik Buterin is the brain behind the Ethereum blockchain and the cryptocurrency of the same name, Ether. A little math genius, he designed this alternative protocol to Bitcoin in 2015, at just 20 years of age. A few years later, he is already a billionaire. The Russian-Canadian became enthusiastic about Bitcoin as a teenager between two games World of Warcraft and after leaving school, where he was bored to death. He embodies the figure of the dropout, these precocious geniuses who leave the university banks to start their businesses. But eventually entrepreneurship Vitalik Buterin grew tired.

During the pandemic, Vitalik Buterin chooses to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 in India thanks to significant donations, expressed in Ethers, of course. He co-founded a charitable organization, Balvi, which supports scientific research in the development of automotive vaccines against coronavirus infection. The young cryptophilanthropist is also one of those who want to abolish aging and transcend human mortality. Thus he overloads the transhumanist foundations with his gifts, especially those of Nick Bostrom, the founder of the World Transhumanist Association.

Early Bitcoin Investor Roger Ver aka Bitcoin Jesus

Figure of the “whales”, these early investors who are immensely wealthy today, Roger Worm early bets on Bitcoin. It is from this intuition that he gets his nickname Bitcoin Jesus. In addition to his personal investments in Bitcoin and in a number of projects related to the blockchain (Ripple, ZCash, BitPay, Kraken, etc.), Roger Ver runs the benchmark information site on crypto news, Bitcoin.com, until 2019. It also funds the Bitcoin Foundationa lobbying structure that allows crypto to compete with fiat currencies.

As an entrepreneur, Ver has had an underworld career. He started reselling computer components on Ebay in the early 2000s. Rich early, he dropped out of college (another dropout) and founded the e-commerce company Memory dealers† Tried in 2002 for selling explosives without a license, he made a short detour to the prison box.

An outspoken libertarian and anarcho-capitalist, Ver gained fame as a philanthropist when he donated a million dollars to the Foundation for Economic Education, an organization that promotes the dissolution of the state and the rigid defense of the principle of liberty. Disappointed with the laws of his country, the messiah goes from bartering hard drives to exchanging passports by giving up his American citizenship for that of Saint-Christophe-et-Nevis, a Caribbean paradise adorned with palm trees and tax gifts. But Ver, who has a reputation as a wicked liar, also hauls a few pots. Bitcoin Jesus or… Bitcoin Judas

Craig Wright, the identity thief

highly educated Australian, Craig Wright appears to have had multiple lives, one of which resulted in him posing as Satoshi Nakomoto, the mysterious person (or group) behind the white paper from Bitcoin. Wright describes himself as a cybersecurity expert, lawyer, economist, but also a preacher (!), investor and mathematician. In 2014, he attempted to establish the first Bitcoin-based bank, Denariuz Bank. The project was quickly picked up by the regulators.

Is it to wash away this failure that he decides to claim the paternity of Bitcoin? Unfortunately, the evidence provided by Wright to justify revealing the mythical Satoshi’s identity (many of 2009 to send bitcoin, cryptographic signatures used to encrypt data) fails to convince the experts. Annoyed, he announces on his blog that he will withdraw from public debate, preferring to remain silent in the silence of the infinite spaces of the blockchain† Today there are people who see him as a misunderstood figure and others who see him as a con man who needs attention.

Peter Thiel, the old genius of Silicon Valley

Old Silicon Valley genius and libertarian prophet, peter thiel fell into the pot of finances when he was little. Co-founder of PayPal, Chairman of a hedge fund and venture capitalist, the Frankfurt-born libertarian invests all over Silicon Valley, according to his whims. No wonder this conservative and controversial tech billionaire has his sights set on cryptocurrencies. He who has always defended himself against being political, now says there could be nothing more political than Bitcoin, which he is a staunch supporter of.

But his leanings have also led him to support Donald Trump or the very conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. His current obsession? The web3. A new generation of the web whose contours are still vague, but where money abounds. Peter Thiel sees himself as the figurehead of this revolution and makes this known. Traditional financing? old-fashioned† The star investor Warren Buffett? A “gerontocrat”. For him, technology should liberate the world. Enough to ? Of all! In Thiel’s dream Web3, the planet would then become a tokenized super-exchange.

This article appeared in the Clash folder “Should Bitcoin be unlinked? » from L’ADN magazine 31

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