According to new figures from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index published Monday, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has joined the ranks of the world’s top billionaires, with an estimated net worth of at least $96 billion.
Zhao’s estimated worth now approaches that of Oracle (ORCL) founder Larry Ellison and exceeds that of Mukesh Ambani, the Indian entrepreneur whose fortune has also risen dramatically in the previous two years.
The ascent of the Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur is emblematic of the rapid creation of wealth in the fast-moving world of digital currencies.
Other crypto pioneers, including Vitalik Buterin, the developer of Ethereum, and Brian Armstrong, the founder of Coinbase, both became billionaires last year as the value of virtual coins rose.
On Tuesday, Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX, another Binance-backed cryptocurrency exchange, cited a “exceptional amount of wealth creation” in the business over the last few years.
Binance was founded by Zhao in 2017 and has since grown to become one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.
According to a company blog post, the executive grew up in an immigrant family in Canada and previously worked at McDonald’s to help support his household.
After studying computer science at McGill University, he worked on trading software for the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Bloomberg.
“He then learned about bitcoin in 2013 during a game of poker, after which he decided to go all-in on crypto by dedicating his life to it,” according to Binance. “He even sold his apartment to buy bitcoin.”
Like other exchanges, Binance has faced significant regulatory hurdles around the world in recent months, including a ban in the United Kingdom and other restrictions in countries including Canada.
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