Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao Is The Real Deal

Earlier this month I visited the tiny European country of Lichtenstein (population: ~40,000). I was there to celebrate the announcement of a new crypto exchange called LCX. LCX is entering into a joint venture with Binance to create a new fiat to crypto exchange, to be called Binance LCX.

Binance, of course, is the worlds largest crypto exchange to date, and it’s just a little more than a year old. They facilitate the exchange of crypto assets for other crypto assets. They don’t exchange assets into fiat yet, and this partnership is a step towards meeting that demand. As a disclosure, our fund is involved in this new joint venture, although the details haven’t been announced yet.

This post isn’t really about LCX, I’ll write more about that project later at the right time. But I do want to say a few words about the CEO of Binance, Changpeng (“CZ”) Zhao.

He’s the real fucking deal.

This is actually the first time I’ve met him. I’ve been at events he was at, and I even spoke at the recent Binance conference in Seoul. But I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him.

In Lichtenstein everyone involved in the deal stayed at the same small hotel, and there were only a handful of us. So I had the opportunity to have multiple meals with him as well as interactions at two official events.

In my days at TechCrunch I had the opportunity to meet and interview many of the leading business people of our time. Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and many others.

I don’t know if CZ will reach the same level of success as these other people, but I do think one thing – he’s right up there in that group of titans in terms of personality, drive, charisma, etc.

These people have a variety of personality types and quirks, and achieved success in different ways. But they all have (or had, in the case of Steve Jobs) certain things in common, to varying degrees.

As I said in a follow up tweet, he’s thoughtful, strategic and deeply human. He seems to clearly understand where he wants Binance to go and how to give it the best chance of getting there. He also has a good sense of humor and good PR instincts.

A lot of my thoughts about him aren’t easily articulated, and it comes down largely to more of a gut level feeling. Still, after I tweeted about him people I know started reaching out to me to (mostly) agree.

One of those people is David Lee, who formerly ran SV Angel and is currently at Refactor Capital. After meeting CZ he was so impressed he wrote a note to his limited partners.

David’s notes, published with his permission:

My personal observation: he is impressive as a communicator and his talk was very precise. His statements felt authentic and very U.S. – focus on users, long-term view, embracing failure.
  1. 1. He thinks Binance has been successful so far because they want to lead on values and ethics. (see below).
  2. 2. Wants every competitor to copy their features – it grows the pie.
  3. 3. His goal is 1.2 BB users. They are at 10 MM now. That’s what he thinks about.
  4. 4. Decentralized exchanges are 5-10 years away from being superior to centralized. They will catch up though.
  5. 5. 2018 was supposed to be year of regulation. He views progress this year as “very positive”  in Asia (see below)
  6. 6. His vision – there will be millions of tokens in the future. Security tokens essential to this future. His vision – over 1mm tokens.
  7. 7. Won’t enter Korea unless someone else does. He will be a fast follower. He was very candid.
  8. 8. He doesn’t think we’re in a bear market and nowhere near the bottom.
  9. 9. He doesn’t read white papers. He just focuses on tech and operations.
  10. 10. He spends less than 15 minutes a day on Twitter.

David also mentioned that CZ spends as little time as possible facing outwards, that he is most happy when working on new features, the technical and operational side of the business. And that he uses “very crisp, precise speech.” I noticed this too.

If it seems like CZ is everywhere, that’s because the press always wants a piece of him. He’s probably only second to Vitalik Buterin when it comes to selfie requests at crypto events. But the side of him that i saw was quiet and thoughtful, not someone quick to talk or bluster. He clearly thinks at least a step or two ahead of most of his competitors (his decision to leave China at just the right time last year catapulted the company to the no. 1 position among its competitors).

And his team clearly believe in him, and Binance management in general. The vast majority (~90%) of them have opted to take their salaries in BNB coin instead of fiat. Whether you think that is smart or not, it clearly shows belief in the future of the company (and in fact BNB has been one of the best performing coins this year).

Bet on CZ if you can. Don’t bet against him if you can avoid it.

* The picture at the top of this post includes (from left to right) CZ, me, and Ripple SVP Ethan Beard.




Arrington XRP Capital In Korea: So Many Pictures

Two weeks ago Geoffrey and I went to Korea to speak at two crypto events: Beyond Blocks and the Binance- organized Blockchain Partners Summit.

This was an incredible trip. The Korean crypto community was vastly welcoming and accommodating.  We had a chance to see Seoul in all of its beauty, ate so many memorable meals with new and old friends, and had a chance to meet local entrepreneurs that we otherwise probably never would have had the opportunity to mingle with.

As usual, key investors and entrepreneurs from around the world, particularly Asia, attended the events. We saw many of our portfolio companies, and met dozens more companies trying new and interesting things with blockchain technology.

Special thanks to Hashed and Binance for organizing these events and inviting us to speak.

While we were in Seoul we also had the opportunity to visit Korean based exchanges UPbit an BitHumb.

And finally, I had a couple of interviews while I was there. The first was “Crypto” Ran NeuNer, and we had a fun talk here.

And last but definitely not least, Vivian Kim, a famous video journalist in Korea, had a long interview with me here.

Here are a few more pictures from the week:



CertiK In The News

We are ready to talk a little more about another one of our portfolio companies – CertiK. This is a fantastic company that has created a formal verification platform for smart contracts, and is backed by some of the most active and interesting crypto funds around the world.

They are now included on our portfolio page, and the company is beginning to talk about some of their investors and the products they’re developing.

From a recent Forbes article:

One company proposing an engineered solution is CertiK – an upcoming verification platform for all the components of a blockchain ecosystem, including smart contracts and DApps. Where its competitors rely on manual verification and the classic testing-based approach, CertiK would point to the fact that testing can only identify when bugs are present, and never certify their absence. Instead, CertiK’s platform will mathematically prove that any items are free of bugs and hacker-resistant.

According to CertiK, the answer to truly scalable verification is a layer-based system. Instead of testing—what the team describes as a “prohibitive” task reliant on human labor—CertiK uses modular verification to break tasks down into smaller ones, allowing them to be solved in a decentralized fashion. This style of work incentives and rewards the community to construct and validate proofs, improve solving algorithms, and maintain a resilient, cost-effective solution – all music to the ears to advocates of decentralization.

Having previously built one of the world’s first hacker-resistant operating systems, the CertiK team is a blend of academic and corporate verification experience – led by Yale and Columbia University professors, and backed by software engineers from Facebook, Google, and FreeWheel.

You can follow CertiK on Twitter @certikorg and on Medium here. We are excited to partner with CertiK, and expect great things from them in the future.



Say Hello To Oasis Labs

Earlier this week one of our portfolio companies – Oasis Labs, with Berkeley professor Dawn Song as CEO, was introduced to the world. This is a company that you will be hearing a lot about over the coming months and years.

The announcement this week was mostly about funding – the company raised $45 million from some of (really “nearly all of”) the best known crypto investors, ourselves humbly included. You can read more about the news at TechCrunch, the WSJ, Forbes and VentureBeat. The company’s blog post is here.

This is one of the more promising new smart contract protocol platform companies we’ve seen, and we are looking forward to working with them as they focus on data  privacy and scalability.

They will, I’m sure, unveil more when the time is right. In the meantime you can follow Oasis Labs on Twitter @OasisLabs.

Arrington XRP Capital Goes To Korea

Next week we (Michael and Geoffrey) are heading to Korea to speak at the Beyond Blocks Summit in Seoul. This is going to be a fantastic event, and will highlight the increasingly important Korea crypto market to investors and entrepreneurs from around the world.

I’ll be participating in a discussion on July 18 about investing in crypto. The event posted an introduction about me here, and there are a number of really interesting speakers attending from all over the world.

If you are in Korea next week please let us know. We are also hosting an invitation only party on July 16 in Seoul, along with Aelf and Signum Ventures. More details about that are here.

This is the first week of a full month of business travel for me. After Korea I’ll be visiting the middle east and then Europe (and possibly Russia). I look forward to meeting people from the community in person. Keep up to date on my location via my twitter account: @arrington, and instagram: @uncrunched.

Meet Me (and Tim Draper) On June 28 At Tony Perkins’ Cryptonite Event At Draper University

I’ll be joining Tim Draper and others at a salon event on June 28 at Draper University in San Mateo called Meet the Masters of the Crypto Investor Universe.

This is the first salon put on by long time technology entrepreneur Tony Perkins.  Like me, Tony has become a cryptocurrency entrepreneur and investor, and his events are top notch.

You can purchase tickets here for just $95. See you there.

Our Arrington XRP Capital Advisory Board

We are still a very young hedge fund, but we have been extremely active over the last few months in making new token purchases – you can see most of our non-confidential token purchases here on our portfolio page. This list doesn’t include other tokens we have purchased on the open market (or otherwise), of course, but it gives a good selection of the types of things we have made early, pre-release bets on.

An important part of our overall investment strategy is making these bets, and so we are constantly building alliances with people and entities that can help us see a broad range of new deals, and give us unique perspectives on the teams, products and technologies involved.

Some of these relationships are more formal, and so we’ve created a special advisory board to help us find and select deals. So far we have six people, all listed on our Team page and below. These are among the most networked people in the cryptocurrency world, and they are all really decent human beings as well.

We are proud to announce Yiseul Cho, Jeremy Gardner, Natalia Karayaneva, Miko Matsumara, Will O’Brien and Dovey Wan to the Arrington XRP Capital Advisory Board:

Yiseul Cho – Founder and MD, Zen9 Ltd – Yiseul is both a data scientist and blockchain expert. Yiseul previously worked for HSBC where she led the Blockchain analytics team. In 2016 she won 1st place in the Consensus Hackaton. Prior to that she was a founding partner of Blockchain Partners Korea and also worked at Facebook. Yiseul founded Asian Crypto Girl power, a group of influential female entrepreneurs in the Asian crypto space that supports female developers and entrepreneurs. She also founded Hyperledger London, the largest Hyperledger community in the world. She serves on the board or advises 2 blockchain conferences, PolicyPal Network, ICON Foundation, MediBloc, Waves Platform, Nucleus Vision and The Bee Token. Yiseul holds Masters degrees from École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris and MIT.

Jeremy Gardner – Founder and Managing Partner, Ausum Ventures – Jeremy Gardner is the Co-founder and GP of Ausum Ventures, a venture firm investing in blockchain technology for the betterment of humanity and the world. While attending the University of Michigan, Jeremy founded the Blockchain Education Network (BEN), a global educational nonprofit and cofound Augur, the decentralized prediction market platform, and led their ICO— the first ever on Ethereum. He most recently worked as an EIR and investing partner at Blockchain Capital, where he invested in several startups and started a new company, SAAVHA, database security firm. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Distributed Magazine. Lastly, Gardner helped structure the landmark Blockchain Capital security token ICO (ticker: BCAP).

Natalia Karayaneva – Founder and CEO, Propy – Natalia is the founder of Propy, a startup that raised > $15MM in its 2017 token sale to build a decentralized title registry for real estate. Propy uses the Ethereum blockchain technology in its system for reliably and cost-effectively automating the entire process of sales, transfer, and records management for global real-estate transactions. Natalia is an expert in token sales, ICO legislation, real estate, and token economics for physical assets. In addition to her domain expertise in real estate, Natalia is a recognized blockchain expert and a frequent speaker at conferences worldwide. Karayaneva is a managing owner of real estate development firm MP Group Ltd, an alumna of the University of Oxford, software engineer, and an expert in sustainable urban development. She founded her first company at the age of 19.

Miko Matsumara – Blockchain Expert, Advisor and Investor – Miko founded crypto exchange Evercoin and is a Venture Partner with BitBull Capital, a cryptocurrency fund-of-funds. He is a token holder in FileCoin, Brave, CIVIC, Propy, Polymath and an investor in Lyft. Miko has raised over $50 million in venture capital for Open Source startups and over $200M in ICO capital. In addition to advising many top crypto startups, Miko also leads the Crypto Underground meetup in San Francisco and is a well known speaker at many cryptocurrency and blockchain events. He holds an Master’s degree in Neuroscience from Yale University where he worked on abstract computational neural networks.

Will O’Brien – Blockchain Expert, Advisor and Investor – Will  was founder and CEO of BitGo from 2013-2015, limited partner and advisor to Blockchain Capital since 2013, and is an investor and advisor to pioneering projects (Civic, Orchid, Photon, Nodle, and Telegram). Will’s angel investment and advisory portfolio includes fintech, gaming and VR, media, healthtech, data and analytics, and cloud services. Prior to his work in crypto, Will was an executive at Keen IO (acquired by Scaleworks) Big Fish Games (acquired for $885 MM by Churchill Downs) and TrialPay (acquired by Visa). Will has been featured in the WSJ, NYT, Forbes, Fortune, AllThingsD, BusinessWeek, and various industry press. Will holds a B.A. in CS from Harvard and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

Dovey Wan – Managing DirectorDHVC (Danhua Capital) – In her professional career, Dovey has worked at eBay as a product manager before getting into venture investment and joined DHVC (Danhua Capital) as part of the founding team. Since 2013, Doveyhas become a crypto enthusiast and has been immersed in the blockchain world. Ever since she invested in Dfinity, Omisego, Kyber Network, 0x, Chia network, Messari, Handshake and she’s the board of Theta Network and few stealth ones. Dovey has an extensive experience with both Chinese and US crypto community, she’s now serving as a supernode nominator for Huobi Hadax and has been an active advocate for gender equality and self-regulation for crypto industry.



Arrington XRP Capital Goes To Asia

When we announced our fund in late 2017 I knew that we’d be doing a lot of business in Asia, but I’m still surprised that so many of the new cryptocurrency startups that we’ve invested in are from that region (many of our portfolio companies are listed here).

That’s why I was so excited to travel to Asia over the last two weeks to meet the crypto community there. First up was the World Digital Asset Summit in Singapore, put on by FBG Capital. Then I went to Hong Kong to meet the community there.

Highlights of the Trip:

I spoke on an investor panel that included FBG Capital, Polychain, Hashed, Kenetic Capital, Arrington XRP Capital, Shuttle Fund and Blocktower Capital.

I was a signatory to the Aelf Innovation Alliance, and I visited the Aelf offices.

I met the teams from CNN, DATA, Cortex, Thunder, Metadium and other teams from our portfolio.

I assisted portfolio company Propy with meetups in both Singapore and HongKong, and visited the Huobi offices in Hong Kong.

I met countless new entrepreneurs and investors, and we closed three new deals while I was there (to be announced shortly).

There is an explosion of entrepreneurship in Asia in general, and crypto specifically. I plan to spend more time in Asia this year. The optimism there is infectious, and I came back feeling fully recharged.

Next up, New York!