Some call it the Bill Gates of the crypto industry, but I personally think it does more than move our industry forward, but it transforms a deep-rooted economic and social culture. It fills concert halls speaking of the importance of decentralization and the freedom of money. He finds the time to organize dinners for journalists, introducing them to the empire he has built before leaving quickly for another meeting with his team. He is idolized by his colleagues, respected by his competitors, and gives off a positive energy when you meet him.
In the 2019 bear market, it managed to maintain the position of Binance as one of the main crypto exchanges by launching its first initial exchange offer in January, by developing its native block chain Binance Chain, by executing a decentralized trading platform, launching a trading desk in the United States and keeping it competitive with the Binance futures trading platform – to name a few.
So when the time came to make a choice for the winner of Cointelegraph’s very first Top 100 list, the selection of Changpeng Zhao was a unanimous decision among our editors.
I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an hour with CZ on the eve of Valentine’s Day – a vacation he would spend with his true love: his job – to talk a little about him and his projects (with the next major movement being the launch of Binance Cloud, the exclusive details of which will be revealed very soon).
Keep it simple and work hard
Upon learning that he was selected for first place on the list and being asked about his favorite achievements in 2019, he was typically humble: “In addition to forming a very good team and leading them, I do not haven’t really done much personally. But the team did a lot of very hard work. “
2019 has certainly been a year full of initiatives and product launches, all of which have received in-depth participation from CZ. Over the next two years, however, he plans to create a “more useless situation” so that nothing depends too much on him. After that, he shared, he can probably relax and spend more time traveling the world, breaking the boundaries of “airport – hotel – back to the airport – sort of gone” mode.
It is hard to believe that he will one day do less than now, because he is a maximalist when it comes to work. He is however known as being rather minimalist in his personal life. No big houses, no yachts, not even a business suit. He also did not celebrate the last new year, explaining that he stayed at home because “it’s just another day”.
“I’m not a materialist because it’s a bit difficult to wear everything that is physical. I like to stay mobile. I like being able to live in a different city each month if I wish. And with a shared economy, it’s so much easier now. So we don’t need a car – you have Uber everywhere. You have Airbnb, so I don’t need to buy a house. I don’t feel the need to own a lot, to have a really complicated life. Keep it simple. “
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
“There must have been some recently, actually [with enthusiasm] I don’t remember what it is, but there must be a few first times [starts thinking deeply] recently. [long pause] To be honest, I don’t really remember. “
I asked CZ if he liked being famous and what was the biggest challenge of being a person in the eyes of the public. If he had a choice, he replied quickly, he would rather not be famous. But Binance had to have a public face in order to raise funds and continue to grow. It is also very important, according to CZ, to have a public face to build trust with clients who entrust their funds to custody of Binance. “I know we are in an industry that technically we don’t need to trust, but there is still a lot of trust that is needed in a lot of different places.”
CZ also revealed with a smile that he had been forced to be a public face because the other team members did not want to be made public.
“I was really hoping there would be a better face, to be honest. I do not think I am a very good public speaker. There are also much more beautiful people. But unfortunately, for Binance, it’s me. So Binance is a bit stuck with me for now. “
Stay calm and all-in on Bitcoin
It was in 2013 that CZ started to learn about Bitcoin. He read the white paper and started participating in thematic events. Later, at a small conference in Las Vegas, he met some of today’s industry giants: Charlie Lee, Matthew Roszak, Vitalik Buterin. There was also a representative from Ripple who taught CZ how to use it. In the process, he transferred XRP to CZ. When they finished, CZ wanted to return the pieces, but replied, “You can keep it and you can use it to teach the next guy.” This sparked a wild crypto adventure.
CZ quickly became enthusiastic about the technology: “I thought this community was really nice. I had great confidence in the success of Bitcoin, in the success of the cryptocurrency. “
In 2014, CZ sold its house to carpet Bitcoin. In three months, BTC went from $ 600 to $ 200, losing two-thirds of the value of its home for about two years before the price rose again. When asked if he would advise someone to take such a risk, CZ responded more like a sage than a poker player: “For different people, this risk appetite and risk situation are different. I would not recommend to people who are struggling to repay mortgages on their house and who need a guaranteed income from their investments to repay a loan, sell their house and make crypto, because crypto is very volatile. “
You seem so calm. Do you meditate or were you born like that?
“I don’t meditate that much. I tried it. I find it a bit boring, to be honest. I don’t need it. I’m already very calm. I have a low heart rate. My frequency Resting heart rate is around 50. In Binance, I never shouted. I never shouted at anyone. I never became really restless. I’m still a very calm person. “
Not only did he sell the house, he also quit his job. In two weeks, he managed to find a new one on blockchain.info, where he stayed for three years before joining OKCoin as technical director. There he did not spend more than a year. It was 2017, the year of Binance’s founding.
Along the way, CZ has contributed to a considerable number of startups, many of which have failed. He has a tip that helps him to remain optimistic, a parable he has already heard from someone: “If you walk at the bottom of a valley, what do you do? And the answer is quite simple: you keep walking as long as you keep walking. Then you end up leaving the valley. “
Continue to code and get an MBA
CZ majored in computer science at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. But the last time he coded something, he said, was a few years ago. He never coded for Binance – all of his code is written by others – but he wrote scripts for himself. Now he admits that he didn’t have time to sit and watch a computer screen without interruption. It’s just not his current life situation. He described his time as very segmented because he is often interrupted.
“I tell others that I now have the memory of a goldfish, as if I can’t remember anything longer than seven seconds.”
When asked for advice from the next generation of founders on whether to get a computer science degree or a master’s in business administration, CZ rejects the premise of the question and says to go for both. His point of view is that, in this sector and as such, you are obliged to manage everything: technology, business models, business development, negotiation of agreements, marketing, customer service, compliance, legal, accounting, finance, HR. And guess what? CZ does not consider itself an expert in any of these areas. With my objection to CZ’s claims of being a poor public speaker quickly dismissed earlier, I decided that challenging it at this point would be futile.
Stay number one and keep going
The first interview with CZ I participated in dates back to 2018. At the time, he told us that Binance was trying very hard not to be number one, “because number one sometimes creates other problems, in particular especially with regulators ”. In 2020, I asked if CZ still agreed with this, or if he had finally given up on not standing out too much.
CZ admitted that two years ago the market was riddled with regulatory uncertainties, while the current situation is much better. “I think today is okay to go ahead, get the market share, and you won’t be the only one at the top for which all the regulators are coming.” He also added that there is fiercer competition in the market today, so it has become more difficult for small players to build themselves.
“But we are still in the early stages. We want to see more exchanges, because right now, all over the world, if you can see more exchanges, we can see more people entering cryptography. “
CZ seems very satisfied with his professional career: “I feel that I am really lucky to have the chance to do what we do, which is to increase access to crypto, to increase the freedom of money for people around the world. It’s something that I’m really energetic about. And I just feel lucky to be able to do it. “
If you could clone yourself, what would you like this clone to do?
“I would love the clone to do other work [laughing]. I would make a lot of clones to do a lot of work. We can do ten different interviews at the same time. “
Stay cool, we live in a simulation
Binance’s current goal on developing free money is intended to empower people to fund more research on biotechnology, space exploration (this area, CZ leaves to Elon Musk) and the IA – which, according to CZ, will help our species move forward significantly. For example, CZ believes, the coronavirus problem could be resolved once research funding is accelerated.
CZ certainly wants the existing world to improve, but at the same time, he is a big proponent of simulation theory. This means that we live in an artificial digital simulation designed or orchestrated by a more sophisticated intelligence. It also means, according to CZ, that in 100 or 500 years, technological progress will make the simulation in which we live controllable.
“I think it’s 99.99999% that we live in a simulation. So mathematically, it’s 100%.”
“If you look at this Nintendo Super Mario, we can simulate the guy going forward, backward. The tricky part is that I don’t know yet what kind of simulation we are. We see it being simulated by a higher being, a different dimension – or are we just sitting, sleeping there, dreaming in the same way of ourselves or our own kind. “
Even if we don’t know what simulation we’re living in, CZ explained, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously. On the contrary, even if it is a full simulation, everything in the simulation still matters. “There is a coronavirus that counts, there are floods in places, climate change, all of these are challenges that lie ahead. And we must do our best to help where we can. “
Another positive aspect of believing in simulation is that it helps to cope with difficult situations and stress, it somehow gives you a clearer view of things. “Sometimes you say,” Well, you know, it’s just a simulation, it’s just a game. “My role here is just to do my best. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. So it makes life a lot easier, actually. “
Rapid Fire Questions for CZ
Sea or mountain?
I would probably choose the mountains, but I also like ocean sports.
Beer or wine?
McDonald’s or Burger King?
Burger King because at least some of them accept Bitcoin and Binance coins.
Black or yellow?
Snowboard or work?
I really enjoy snowboarding, but you can’t snowboard all the time. You can do a few days a year, that’s pretty good.
Simulation or reality?
Definitely, the simulation. There is no reality.
Changpeng Zhao is ranked # 1 in the first Cointelegraph Top 100 in crypto and blockchain.