Let me preface this article by admitting that I am not a fan of crypto currencies or the blockchain in general. As a friend recently put it: Crypto and blockchain are solutions desperately in search of a problem to solve.
Let’s all just be honest about crypto. If you bought some digital currency in the last few years, you did it exclusively because you hoped the value would go up. You didn’t believe in some revolutionary technology that blockchain could provide. You hoped you would put in X dollars and take out 2X after a few months.
I have felt this way about crypto for about a decade. And that means, for roughly 9.5 years, I have looked like an absolute fool as tons of people made tons of money buying low and selling high. Average Joes made millions, tens of millions or more. A few friends of friends made significant sums of money. Enough to buy fancy cars and big mansions.
And no one got richer than a handful of crypto tycoons who sit atop the industry’s most prominent companies. These tycoons didn’t just make millions. They made billions upon billions upon billions in paper fortunes.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes – the bigger they are, the harder they fall. In just the last few weeks the richest crypto tycoons have learned that digital fortunes can fade just as quickly as they rocket to the moon.
Let’s start with Changpeng Zhao (pictured above). Changpeng is the creator of Binance – the largest crypto exchange on the planet. In mid-January, Changpeng, who is commonly known as “CZ,” was sitting atop a paper fortune worth $97 billion. Fast forward to the present and CZ’s net worth is currently $10 billion.
In fairness, it’s unclear if there really is a single person out there who is still alive and controls the original Satoshi Nakamoto bitcoin fortune. If there is, Satoshi’s wallet contains 1 million bitcoins. When bitcoin hit an all-time high of $69,000 in November 2021, those 1 million bitcoin were worth $69 billion. As I type this article the price of bitcoin is $21,540. That means Satoshi’s collection is worth $21.5 billion.
That’s a $47.5 billion drop in six months.
Today Sam Bankman-Fried’s net worth is a little under $9 billion.
The Winklevoss Twins
First made famous by the Facebook movie thanks to their lawsuit which accused Mark Zuckerberg of stealing the idea for Facebook, the Winklevoss twins have found a new life and relevancy thanks to their crypto umbrella company Gemini. Through Gemini Tyler and Cameron oversee dozens of crypto investments, primarily in the NFT space. It is believed that together the Winklevoss twins own approximately 1% of all Bitcoin in existence, which would equate to approximately 180,000 Bitcoins. At the November 2021 peak price of $69,000, their empire gave them a combined net worth of $12-13 billion.
At today’s $21,000 bitcoin price, the twins are going to have to make-do with $1.5 billion a piece.
Brian Armstrong is the CEO and co-founder of Coinbase. He owns 20% of Coinbase’s outstanding equity. A few months after after the company’s April 2021 IPO, a single share of Coinbase briefly traded for $430. At that level, the company’s total market cap was $112 billion and Brian’s paper net worth very briefly hit $22 billion. That was enough to briefly rank Brian among the 100 richest people on the planet. Unfortunately, as I type this article a single share of Coinbase trades for $51 a share and the company sports an $11.45 billion market cap. That’s an 85% decline since its public debut.
As of Tuesday’s market close, Brian Armstrong’s net worth is $2.2 billion.