Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (often referred to as CZ), runs the world’s largest crypto exchange. He is a billionaire, valued at $1.9 billion, ranked number 5 on Forbes’ Crypto Rich List, and one of the most followed and influential members of the industry. He is also a controversial figure mostly due to Binance’s arms-length approach to regulation. For years CZ claimed that Binance had no headquarters, as a nod to Bitcoin’s decentralized nature. However, as the industry has grown and brought regulatory attention along with it, CZ is now changing his tune and actively embracing licensing and regulators. It remains to be seen if this strategy will prove to be successful.
Much has been written about CZ and Binance’s history, but lost in those narratives is the story of a deeply integrated, profitable, and systemically significant organization in crypto.
I spoke to CZ to find out what investors around the world should know about Binance’s business model, trading flows and activity on the platform, how Asian markets differ from the rest of the world, how Binance’s blockchain platform fits with its centralized exchange, and how the company’s operating model will differ following its regulatory reboot.
Forbes: One thing that I find really interesting about Binance is that in some ways you forced Coinbase to change strategy a few years ago. Coinbase was really leaning into the institutional space. Then you launched, listing hundreds of tokens, and Coinbase had to switch back to focusing on the retail market because they were worried about losing that share. What did you think about that?
CZ: It wasn't intentional. What you said may or may not be true. To be frank, we could take that view, and most people may agree with it. But we didn't really think about Coinbase that much. When we first started, there were very few exchanges that wer...