Hong Kong (CNN Business) — A crypto CEO has become one of the richest people on Earth.
Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, who runs cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has joined the ranks of the world’s top billionaires, with an estimated net worth of at least $ 96 billion, according to new calculations from the Billionaires Index of Billionaires. Bloomberg published on Monday.
Zhao’s projected fortune now rivals that of Oracle (ORCL) founder Larry Ellison and surpasses that of Mukesh Ambani, the Indian tycoon whose fortune has also skyrocketed in the past two years.
Bet on cryptocurrencies
The rise of the Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur is emblematic of rapid wealth creation in the fast-paced world of digital currencies.
Last year, other crypto founders also enjoyed huge gains as the value of virtual currencies increased. Thus, ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin and Coinbase founder Brain Armstrong became billionaires.
Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX, another Binance-backed cryptocurrency exchange, highlighted Tuesday the “unprecedented wealth creation that has occurred in the industry in recent years.”
“I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what to do (with it),” Friedman, who is a young billionaire, said during a virtual discussion on stage at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong.
In a Twitter post on Monday, Zhao also appeared to acknowledge the distinction.
“Don’t worry about the rankings. Focus on how many people you can help,” he wrote.
Who is Changpeng “CZ” Zhao?
Zhao launched Binance in 2017, gradually making it one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.
According to a company blog post, the executive grew up in an immigrant family in Canada and previously worked at McDonald’s to help support his home.
After studying computer science at McGill University, he worked on trading software for the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Bloomberg.
“He then found out about bitcoin in 2013 during a game of poker, after which he decided to bet on crypto by dedicating his life to it,” according to Binance. “He even sold his apartment to buy bitcoins.”
Like other exchanges, Binance has faced significant regulatory hurdles around the world in recent months, including a ban in the UK and other restrictions in countries like Canada.
Zhao has publicly addressed the setbacks, writing in an open letter last year that “clear regulations are critical for continued growth.”
“More regulations are, in fact, positive signs that an industry is maturing,” he added. “Because this lays the foundation for a broader population to feel safe participating in cryptocurrencies.”