Changpeng Zhao runs Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange. Passing through Brussels, he reveals his ambitions for Europe and Belgium.
Every day, over $20 billion is traded on Binance. The crypto platform, which has 90 million users, is the biggest player in the sector. Its founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao, nicknamed CZ on social networks, made a whirlwind visit to Belgium. Last Sunday, it brought together 600 crypto fans at Dockx Brussels.
“I’m a normal guy. All I own is a van in Singapore and an apartment in Dubai.”
The Chinese-born entrepreneur, expatriated to Canada before leading a globe-trotting life, cultivates a cool attitude. “I am a normal guy”, assures the man, who weighs ten billion dollars, which makes him one of the 200 richest people on the planet. “I’m lucky to be financially free. But I’ve kept the same lifestyle. All I own is a van in Singapore and an apartment in Dubai.”
The crypto market is in free fall. Is it a bad time for Binance?
It’s a bad time for many people, but we have to put things into perspective. Binance started trading when bitcoin was at $2,000. Today it is around $20,000. It is ten times more than at the time. We have already experienced several cycles of this kind. We are regulars.
Has Crypto Entered A Systemic Crisis?
The crypto market has already experienced a sharp fall in 2018. But in five years, things have changed. The market has solidified. Currently, the effects are limited to a very small number of companies, such as Celsius (this crypto lending platform is facing serious liquidity problems, editor’s note). The other projects (Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB…) are doing well. As the industry is decentralized, there is no strong link between the projects. This will make it more resilient. We are touched. But the situation is better than in 2018.
Is Binance exposed to troubled projects?
Fortunately, Binance has almost no exposure to these projects. The only exposure we have is Luna (this stable coin has completely collapsed, editor’s note). We invested three million dollars in it at the start of the project. At its peak, this stake was worth 1.6 billion. Today, it is worth nothing. Some will say that we lost 1.6 billion, others that we lost three million. Anyway, it doesn’t have a big impact on our accounts. We have invested in 150 projects so far. He’s the only one who broke his face.
Several platforms have announced uploads. For its part, Binance is hiring. Comment is it possible?
The bear market is an opportunity for Binance. We deliberately limited our spending during the bull market, when all the companies were competing and offering crazy salary packages. Now that the other platforms have been licensed, there is more talent in the market and salaries are falling. This is the right time to engage.
Are you going to buy competing platforms?
The time has come for us to be more aggressive. We expect to participate in a consolidation movement in the market. We just raised $500 million. We don’t set limits.
“We seek to invest in start-ups in all countries, particularly in Belgium.”
We will also continue our investments in start-ups. Last week alone, more than 15 files arrived on my table. During the bull market, valuations were crazy. Now the prices are more reasonable. We look at start-ups in all countries, especially in Belgium, where the community is very active.
Are you going to apply for a license from the FSMA to operate in Belgium?
While waiting for the adoption of the new European regulations (Mica), we must register in each country. We are therefore discussing with all the regulators, including the FSMA.
“Clear regulations help support the growth of the crypto industry.”
At first, regulators still have a negative view of Binance, especially because of the criticisms of the crypto market conveyed by the media. But when they talk to me, they realize that I am a reasonable, mature and stable person. I am convinced that clear regulations will help support the growth of the crypto industry.
According to a Reuters investigation, Binance promotes money laundering.
It’s fake news. Reuters accuses us of facilitating the laundering of $2.3 billion. However, the blockchain (the technology that supports cryptocurrencies, editor’s note) is a public ledger on which all transactions can be found. Corn Reuters was never able to show us the transaction history.
There is no money laundering on Binance?
I wouldn’t go that far. But the numbers are not that high. We use the best anti-money laundering devices and the same control tools as the FBI or Interpol. When we detect a suspicious transaction, we immediately freeze it and contact the police.
How many users do you have in Belgium and Europe?
“Binance is the first crypto platform in Belgium.”
Binance is the first crypto platform in Belgium. Outside of the United States, Europe is the most important market for us. The adoption of cryptocurrencies is very strong there. In the countries where we obtain a license, we see a strong increase in the number of users. This is what happened in France and Italy. If we get it in Belgium, it will be the same.
Does Binance have a structure in Belgium?
Our European hub is Paris. We are going to hire 500 people in France by the end of the year. In Belgium we have a small team (35 people for Benelux, Editor’s note), but she is growing.
The key phrases
- “We’ve been through several bear market cycles before in the crypto market. We’re used to it.”
- “The time has come for us to be more aggressive. We intend to participate in a consolidation movement.”
- “We are talking to all regulators, including the FSMA.”
- “In Belgium we have a small team, but it is growing.”