Changpeng Zhao, also known simply as CZ, is a Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur most well known for founding and being CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.
CZ is currently considered one of the most influential figures in all the crypto industry.
CZ was born in Jiangsu, China in 1977, coming from a family of teachers and educators. In 1989, when CZ was 12, he immigrated to Vancouver, Canada with his family. He attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, considered one of the finest universities in all of Canada, where he studied computer science.
Following his graduation in 2001, CZ traveled the world, finally taking an internship in Tokyo, Japan, with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where he developed software for matching trade orders. He worked with the TSE for four years. This job eventually led him to land a full-time position with Bloomberg Tradebook in New York, a broker-dealer brokerage firm that provides global financial services to investment advisors, hedge funds, proprietary desks, and other broker-dealers. CZ spent his time at Bloomberg Tradebook developing futures trading software.
After leaving Bloomberg and New York, CZ moved to Shanghai where he started Fusion Systems, a company that developed high-frequency trading software for brokers and global banks.
By 2013, he joined Blockchain.info (now known as Blockchain.com), which started out as a blockchain explorer and later expanded into offering a crypto wallet, a cryptocurrency exchange, and institutional investor cryptocurrency-based financial services like lending, borrowing, trading, and custody. CZ was Head of Development at Blockchain.com from December 2013 to May 2014.
CZ worked closely with Ben Reeves, founder of Blockchain.info, and Roger Ver, also known as Bitcoin Jesus, who was an early investor in many bitcoin-related startups including Blockchain.info.
By June 2014, CZ left Blockchain.info to become the CTO of the China-based OkCoin bitcoin exchange. During his time there, OkCoin added advanced features like futures trading, and it became the leading exchange in China.
He would only last about 9 months in the role, resigning in February 2015 due to a difference in direction with the rest of the executive team at the company. The company, at the time, was looking to extend its business more internationally, with hopes of setting up a headquarters in the U.S. or Hong Kong. OkCoin had aspirations to shift its focus to additional consumer services that could bring in more new users to the bitcoin ecosystem.
CZ had other things in mind, like launching his own exchange. But before that happened, he founded his second company, Bijie Technology, which developed cloud-based exchange software. In a short time period, Bijie Technology would supply its software to 30 exchanges.
Spring forward to 2017, while dining with fellow crypto entrepreneurs, Neo founder Da Hongfei and Crypto.com founder Kris Marszalek, the discussion turned to ICOs and using them as a vehicle to get your startup ideas funded. CZ went home and started writing his whitepaper outlining a new cryptocurrency exchange that would only deal in crypto-to-crypto trading, staying away from handling fiat currencies.
He gave the project the name Binance, a cross between “binary” and “finance”.
Binance became the first crypto exchange built using Bijie Technology’s cloud-based exchange software.
The rest is Binance history.
In November of 2022, it was reported that CZ and Binance had struck a deal to acquire a competitor, the near-collapse FTX exchange which has been struggling to meet customer withdrawals after a Coindesk investigation highlighted FTX’s financial foundation might not be as strong as earlier perceived. FTX had already experienced $6b in withdrawals over a 72 our period.
CZ went to Twitter to make the announcement, only to come back days later to walk away from the letter of intent to buy, citing the “latest news reports regarding mishandled customer funds and alleged U.S. agency investigations”.
following the FTX collapse, CA and Binance committed to offering $2b in BUSD to a recovery fund that buys distressed assets and support the broader crypto industry.
Coindesk voted CZ as “Coindesk’s Most Influential” in 2022