Changpeng Zhao, also known as “CZ”, is a Canadian business magnate of Chinese descent. He is the co-founder and current CEO of Binance, which has become the largest cryptocurrency exchange globally in terms of trading volume as of July 2022. As of December 2022, Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimated Zhao’s net worth at $13.1 billion, ranking him as the 136th richest person in the world.
Changpeng Zhao, known as “CZ”, was born in Jiangsu, China on February 5, 1977. His father Shengkai moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1984 to continue his studies and the rest of the family joined him in 1989, shortly after the Tiananmen Square incident. They were able to obtain visas in a timely manner.
His parents, who were both teachers in China, had to leave their profession when his father was branded a “pro-bourgeois intellect” and sent to rural areas. He was a professor at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei at the time.
In the 1980s, communist China was a difficult period for Zhao and his family. In a Binance blog post, Zhao recounts his escape from China at the age of 12 after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“On Aug. 6, 1989, my mother and I left China and emigrated thousands of miles away to Canada. For those who know Chinese history, this is two months after the events of June 4, 1989,” Zhao wrote.
Zhao and his family spent several days waiting outside the Canadian embassy, seeking an expedited visa to escape the country after the brutal suppression of those who were critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
“I remember the line outside the Canadian embassy was three days long. We had to take shifts at night to keep our position in the queue,” Zhao remembered in the post. “It changed my life forever and opened up endless possibilities for me.”
Zhao’s introduction to the world of technology was through a $7,000 286 DOS computer that his father purchased. He developed an interest in programming and went on to study computer science, earning a degree from McGill University.
To support his family during his teenage years, Zhao took on various service jobs, including one at a McDonald’s. He later went on to attend McGill University in Montreal, Quebec where he studied computer science.
Zhao considers himself a Canadian citizen, as stated by him. He was born in China in 1977 and obtained a Canadian visa in 1989, leaving the country after the Tiananmen Square incident. He stated in 2022 that he became a Canadian citizen around 1992. He resided in China starting in 2005, owning an apartment in Shanghai, before selling it in 2015 to purchase Bitcoin. After the Chinese government banned crypto exchanges in late 2017, he relocated to Singapore and currently resides there.
Zhao intends to follow in the footsteps of other wealthy individuals by giving away a significant portion of his wealth. He stated, “I plan to donate a substantial amount of my wealth, just like many other entrepreneurs and founders have done, from Peabody to the present day. My goal is to donate anywhere from 90% to 99%.”
Following his graduation from McGill University, Zhao secured an internship with a subcontractor of the Tokyo Stock Exchange where he worked on developing software for trade order matching. He then worked full-time at Bloomberg Tradebook for four years as a developer of futures trading software.
Later, in 2005, he teamed up with some friends to launch an IT consulting firm, Fusion Systems, and moved to Singapore to establish the company. Fusion Systems was renowned for producing some of the fastest high-frequency trading systems for brokers.
Zhao was part of the team that developed Blockchain.info in 2013 and also served as the Chief Technology Officer at OKCoin.
Zhao’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish a few more businesses, including Bijie Tech which offered cloud-based solutions for exchanges. As the company flourished, the Chinese government’s tightening regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges in 2017 prompted Zhao to consider launching his own crypto platform.
He established Binance in 2017, propelling daily trading volume to surpass $20 billion. A passionate supporter of Bitcoin, he has acquired significant wealth in cryptocurrencies, but the majority of his over $15 billion net worth stems from his ownership in Binance Holdings Ltd.
In July 2017, Binance was established, but in September of the same year, China imposed a ban on all cryptocurrency exchanges. As a result, Zhao had to move the company, but instead of settling in a new location, he chose to make the business fully remote.
After its launch in July 2017, Binance raised $15 million through an initial coin offering and trading on the exchange began eleven days later. Within eight months, under Zhao’s leadership, Binance became the largest cryptocurrency exchange globally in terms of trading volume (as of April 2018). Zhao also introduced Binance Coin in 2017, which is a utility token offering various benefits, such as discounts on trading fees. In April 2019, Binance launched the Binance Smart Chain, which is an Ethereum rival and features smart contract functionality.
In 2018, Forbes listed Zhao as the third richest person in the cryptocurrency world, with an estimated net worth of $1.1-2 billion.
In 2019, Zhao established Binance.US, the U.S. affiliate of Binance. In 2021, Binance withdrew its application to run a crypto exchange based in Singapore.
Binance is a highly influential player in the cryptocurrency sector and its CEO, Zhao, is a prominent figure in the industry. Despite many other big crypto exchanges struggling, Binance remains at the forefront as the leading cryptocurrency exchange globally. Zhao may be one of the few crypto executives who has the potential to steer the industry towards greater legitimacy as regulatory scrutiny increases.
His net worth is estimated to be more than $15 Billion, however, it will fluctuate with the with the valuation of his company. Changpeng Zhao’s net worth may consist of crypto holdings or other undisclosed assets. At the peak of the crypto market frenzy in 2021, his net worth was estimated at over $65 billion, but following the market crash in 2022, it declined substantially. This information is not available for public disclosure.
Changpeng Zhao has been recognized as a crypto king.