Cryptocurrency Billionaire Changpeng Zhao Catapulted Binance Into The No. 1 Exchange In Just 8 Months

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Cryptocurrency billionaire Changpeng Zhao is the architect of Binance, the No. 1 virtual currency exchange in the world. And he pulled that off in just eight months while scoring the cover of Forbes magazine’s first-ever cryptocurrency billionaires list.

Many people had never heard of cryptocurrencies until a few months ago, when Bitcoin — the leading digital currency by market cap — generated countless headlines for its wild price swings. In April 2017, the price of one Bitcoin (BTC) hovered at about $1,000. By December, it had soared to almost $20,000 a token.

Those staggering returns got the attention of many individual investors and much of Wall Street. While billionaire titans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have expressed skepticism about the opaque, unregulated market, Bitcoin evangelists like the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, and Binance’s Changpeng Zhao are convinced that virtual currencies are the unstoppable wave of the future.

‘Crypto Is the Future’

“I’m convinced 100 percent that crypto is the future,” Zhao (nickname: CZ) told Bloomberg. “I just know it will happen.”

However, not everyone is so optimistic, pointing to the regulatory backlash crypto markets have kicked up in the United States, South Korea, China, and Russia.

“It’s a regulatory minefield out there right now,” said Thomas Glucksmann of Hong Kong-based crypto exchange Gatecoin Ltd. “Less than a handful of jurisdictions are welcoming crypto businesses and even fewer have very clear rules and guidelines for crypto exchanges.”

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Then, there are other problems, like the proliferation of hacks and attempted hacks on crypto exchanges. On March 7, Binance was targeted in a massive hacking effort.

The plot was unsuccessful, but Zhao was so rattled by the incident that Binance is offering $10 million in bounties to tipsters who can help them track down cyberthieves.

“Binance has currently allocated the equivalent of $10,000,000 USD in crypto reserves for future bounty awards against any illegal hacking attempts on Binance,” the exchange wrote in a note on its website.

Binance vowed that it will no longer react passively to hacking attempts but will instead take proactive measures to hunt down would-be thieves.

“To ensure a safe crypto community, we can’t simply play defense. We need to actively prevent any instances of hacking before they occur, as well as follow through after-the-fact.”

winklevoss twins tyler cameron bitcoin billionaires
The Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, are bitcoin bulls. Featured image credit: Noam GalaiGetty Images

It is this kind of proactive leadership that has catapulted Changpeng Zhao from an obscure computer coder into a crypto kingpin whose net worth tops $1 billion.

In February 2018, Forbes released its first-ever list of cryptocurrency billionaires. And Zhao, 41, made the cover of the issue and landed at No. 3 in the rankings.

Forbes 2018 List of the Richest People in Crypto (Net Worth)

  1. Chris Larsen, Co-founder of Ripple: $7.5 to $8 billion
  2. Joseph Lubin, Co-founder of Ethereum: $1 billion to $1.5 billion
  3. Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance: $1.1 billion to $2 billion
  4. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Co-founders of Gemini: $900 million to $1.1 billion
  5. Matthew Mellon, Individual investor: $900 million to $1 billion
  6. Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase: $900 million to $1 billion
  7. Matthew Roszak, Co-founder of Bloq: $900 million to $1 billion
  8. Anthony Di Iorio, Co-founder of Ethereum: $750 million to $1 billion
  9. Brock Pierce, Chairman of Bitcoin Foundation: $700 million to $1 billion
  10. Michael Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Digital: $700 million to $1 billion
  11. Brendan Blumer, CEO of Block.one: $600 million to $700 million
  12. Dan Larimer, CTO in Block.one: $600 million to $700 million
  13. Valery Vavilov, CEO of Bitfury: $500 million to $700 million
  14. Charles Hoskinson, Co-founder of Ethereum and IOHK (Cardano): $500 million to $600 million
  15. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple: $400 million to $500 million
  16. Barry Silbert, CEO of Digital Currency Group: $400 million to $500 million
  17. Vitalik Buterin, Creator of Ethereum: $400 million to $500 million