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CZ’s path to becoming a technology billionaire

From a friend’s suggestion, Changpeng Zhao began to learn about Bitcoin and 5 years later founded the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance.

Changpeng Zhao (CZ) is currently one of the richest billionaires in the world. At the age of 44, his fortune at one point reached $ 96 billion, according to Bloomberg last year, but now down to about 16 billion USD.

This short-lived ups and downs stemmed from the very asset he owns – cryptocurrencies. This is also what drove him to build Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, accounting for two-thirds of all cryptocurrency trading volumes on centralized exchanges last year. Binance also makes CZ one of the biggest influencers in the blockchain world today.

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, in Hanoi on the afternoon of June 3.  Photo: Khuong Nha

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, in Hanoi on the afternoon of June 3. Image: Khuong Nha

From technologists to Bitcoin believers

Like many tech billionaires in the world, CZ is also a programming engineer. However, unlike Elon Musk or Bill Gates who built achievements at a young age, CZ seems to be “anonymous” at the beginning of his career.

In the late 1980s, after reuniting with his father in Canada, Zhao had his first real exposure to computers. The PC 286, bought by his father for $7,000, accounting for most of the family’s savings at the time, began to lead young Zhao to a love of programming. However, that passion is overwhelmed by the financial pressure on an immigrant family. In later stories, he always told about part-time work at McDonald’s or gas stations, to cover expenses.

Many years later, Zhao really entered the field of programming seriously. In his third year at McGill University (Canada), Zhao had an internship in Tokyo. Here, he worked for an outsourcing specialist company with the Tokyo Stock Exchange as a partner. It was also the first time the student knew about a concept like fintech or a financial transaction system.

In recent statements, the billionaire asserted that he “does not care about money or rankings”. But he also admitted that the young Zhao was then attracted by the huge amount of money flowing through financial trading systems. “In Tokyo, I quickly realized there was a lot of money flowing through this system. It was a huge amount of money. So I never left the industry,” CZ recalled in an interview with Bloomberg.

From his first job building an order matching system on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Zhao continued to dive deeper into the fintech industry with a job at Bloomberg’s Tradebook, which develops software for futures trading. Zhao was promoted three times in less than two years, becoming branch manager in New Jersey, London and Tokyo – a dream job for a 27-year-old engineer. However, that could not satisfy his desire to develop his career.

In 2005, Zhao quit his job and moved to Shanghai (China) to start a business. The company he founded Fusion Systems whose main product is a system capable of meeting high-frequency transactions for stockbrokers. The product is highly appreciated for its “incredible” fast response. Zhao quickly became famous and made friends in the financial investment world in China at that time.

His turning point came in 2013 when he was 36 years old, after a conversation with two friends, BTC China CEO Bobby Lee and investor Ron Cao. Both mentioned a digital asset called Bitcoin and encouraged Zhao to try investing 10% of his assets in them. “They said ‘there’s a small chance it’ll go to zero and you’ll lose that 10%. There’s a high chance it’ll go up 10x, and then you’ll be able to double your net worth’ . I thought it was a pretty serious offer,” Zhao recalls.

With his background in technology, it didn’t take him long to read Bitcoin’s white paper and understand its mechanics. With his own experience living in many countries and the high costs of exchanging money each time, he began to see the potential of cryptocurrencies.

“What I really liked about Bitcoin back then, and even now, was that it was borderless. I bought some Bitcoin and then just used it, played with it. I liked it immediately,” Zhao said. tell.

Instead of 10% as advised by two friends, he bet his entire fortune and job on Bitcoin. A $1 million apartment in Shanghai is for sale. The job at Fusion Systems was also transferred to spend time on the asset class he was newly enlightened with.

This belief also led him to the then famous “Bitcoin evangelists” Ben Reeves and Nic Cary. Together they set up the Blockchain.info cryptocurrency wallet. A year later, after achieving certain results, Zhao continued to challenge himself as the Chief Technology Officer of OKcoin, one of the major Bitcoin trading platforms in the world at that time. “I realized my strength was still working with the exchange,” Zhao said.

CZ at the NFT Summit event in Hanoi on the morning of June 4.  Photo: Minh Son

CZ at the NFT Summit event in Hanoi on the morning of June 4. Image: Minh Son


Having talent and experience in building financial trading systems, CZ quickly saw the limitations of cryptocurrency trading platforms at the time. In 2017, exchanges like OKcoin or Blockchain-style digital wallets are not uncommon. However, most of them support users to convert fiat to Bitcoin, with an unwieldy interface and poor load capacity.

“When the price of Bitcoin went up, all the sites went down. Even though there were hundreds of new exchanges every day, they were just copying each other. No one really made significant improvements,” Zhao recalls. He believes he can overcome these shortcomings.

Zhao officially launched Binance with the BNB coin issuance event, raising 15 million USD in mid-2017. The platform was highly appreciated for its convenient, mobile-optimized interface, and 24-hour care service. … Six months after its launch, Binance rose to become the largest exchange by volume in the world and continues to maintain this ranking to this day.

CZ, from an engineer with a modest name and fortune, after less than a year rose to a billionaire with a total fortune of about $1.1-2 billion. Most of these assets are calculated based on the value of the digital currencies he holds such as BNB and Bitcoin before, according to Forbes.

As the world’s leading exchange, Binance also faces a series of challenges due to regulatory policies in countries, as well as its ability to scale to serve millions of users and distributed governance. around the world.

Don’t care about property value

CZ said that almost 100% of his assets are in cryptocurrencies but have no intention of selling to buy a house or a car. His billionaire ranking is also constantly changing due to the volatile market. By the end of 2021, when the cryptocurrency market is growing strongly, the billionaire’s total assets will reach $96 billion. But just a few months later, the market saw many crashes and he is now worth less than $ 20 billion.

CZ and Binance themselves have never confirmed the founder’s net worth. “I don’t care about wealth, money, or rank,” CZ told Bloombergand vowed to give away most of his fortune before his death.

CZ's assets fluctuate greatly due to its dependence on the cryptocurrency market.  Photo: Bloomberg

CZ’s assets fluctuate greatly due to its dependence on the cryptocurrency market. Image: Bloomberg

Currently, this billionaire is still living in a rented hotel, without his own house and car. He also considers himself not an example of investing when he bets all his money on one asset class. “I think people should diversify their portfolios instead of ‘all in’ like me. I’m not a shining example of investing,” he said at a forum Q&A session. Reddit in May.

Even when he became a billionaire, Zhao said he was still surprised at how many people wanted to take pictures with him at events, because he described himself as “a boring guy”.

“In short, I’m an ordinary guy doing what needs to be done. That’s all,” CZ said in a blog.

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