They’re the new kingpins of cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency has two kingpins. Forbes’ 2018 ranking of the world’s billionaires includes only a couple people who accumulated their vast fortunes from digital assets: Chris Larsen and Changpeng Zhao.
While Bitcoin typically dominates the press around cryptocurrencies, neither Larsen nor Zhao directly earned their billions from it. They’re instead deeply involved businessmen who are part of the larger, rapidly expanding ecosystem of cryptocurrency, helping to drive the coins into the future. Meanwhile, they’re proving that there’s more than simply a lot of money to be had in this still confusing world.
The tech veteran turned crypto-king
Chris Larsen, a 57-year-old American, is a veteran of the country’s tech industry. The co-founder and former CEO of Ripple, a cryptocurrency and payment network intended for global transactions, previously served as CEO and co-founder of Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace, and Eloan, an online platform for lending. Ripple counts major banks among its clients, including Bank of America and UBS, and has more direct control over its currency than Bitcoin, whose founder remains anonymous.
Ripple’s token, XRP, had an unprecedented rise over the winter that made Larsen almost overnight one of the richest people around the globe. His net worth briefly skyrocketed to about $60 billion. But the coin steeply dropped, and, based on Forbes’ reporting, Larsen will have to settle for a worth of $4.6 billion at the moment, putting him at No. 456 on the magazine’s list. The current executive chairman of Ripple, Larsen reportedly holds 5.19 billion XRP as well as a 17% stake in his company.
Larsen, who wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that banks should be seen as parent-like figures to their customers, has deep connections to finance that have no doubt helped propel Ripple.
A Chinese-Canadian ace coder
That also happens to be true of Changpeng Zhao, aka CZ, 41, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance, which is on a remarkable hot streak. It became the largest exchange of its type on earth in under 180 days.