Binance CEO Interview on How He Built World’s Largest Crypto Exchange
- Changpeng Zhao is the founder of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume.
- In an interview, Zhao recounts how he built Binance in 180 days and continues to grow its divisions.
- He also breaks down why he’s keeping most of his personal assets in Bitcoin and Binance Coin.
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To Changpeng Zhao, home has always been less about a physical address and more of an inner world that transcends geographical boundaries.
Growing up in China, Zhao had a somewhat nomadic upbringing as he followed his educator parents who moved in between cities every few years. When he was 12, the family immigrated to Canada where he stayed for another decade before moving to Tokyo, New York, and then Shanghai for work.
Today, as the chief executive of the world’s largest crypto exchange Binance, Zhao finds his early exposure to the world from constant traveling and moving immensely helpful.
While the coronavirus-induced lockdown has kept Zhao in Asia for the past year, his normal schedule has been to switch locations every few months to spend time with employees and users that have sprouted up all over the world.
“I have a habit of moving around a lot, but it gives me more exposure to the world,” Zhao, who goes by “CZ,” said in an interview. “I like to stay mobile, I like to visit more places just so that I know what’s going on in different locations.”
This type of borderless living has given Zhao a front-row seat to the frictions and inefficiencies of converting fiat money, which refers to all currencies backed by government decrees.
“If you use fiat to do cross-border transactions, it’s actually very difficult and you get really creamed on the conversion rates,” he said. “If you exchange currency at an airport, you lose about 10% each time so the cost is very high.”
These days, Zhao tries to pay in crypto whenever and wherever he can. He does that by using the Binance Visa card, which allows users to convert and spend their cryptocurrencies at more than 60 million merchants worldwide but is limited to customers living in Europe, according to its website.
“I use this card very heavily, but sometimes I do need fiat cash,” he said. “I typically will just ask a friend and say ‘hey, do you have $500 I can get from you, I’ll give you some BNB (Binance Coin),’ most of them will be polite enough to say yes, so I get by that way.”
It takes 17 years and 180 days
The limitations of fiat money in cross-border transactions were not the only thing that led Zhao to crypto.
In 2013, he came across the Bitcoin whitepaper, which immediately clicked for him as a developer who has always worked at the intersection of finance and technology.
“I understood the benefits…