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From Burgers to Bitcoin Billions: How CZ Built a Leading Crypto Exchange in Just 180 Days


The founder of Binance used to work at a McDonald’s and sold his apartment to go all-in on Bitcoin. So how did he end up leading the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world? Here’s his story.

The story of Binance is told through the hundreds of people who built its platform, as well as the millions of people who trade on the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange. But at the core of this tale is that of the founder, Changpeng Zhao (CZ), who launched Binance in July 2017 and led its rise to the top crypto exchange in the world after just 180 days. 

From Burgers to Bitcoin

CZ came from humble beginnings, as a Chinese-born immigrant in Canada, where he took on various odd jobs to help keep his family afloat. At one point, he was even working at a McDonald’s. 

All this hard work has led to CZ graduating computer science degree at McGill University in Montreal, then to building innovative trading software for the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Bloomberg’s Tradebook. 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. He even sold his apartment to buy Bitcoin. Even when the price of BTC at the time sank from $600 to $200 after his BTC purchase, he soldiered on.

While CZ may have gone all-in on Bitcoin, you don’t have to sell your apartment to buy Bitcoin. Now, you can buy on Bitcoin and other crypto tokens on Binance with as little as PHP 1,000! 

The All-in Move That Launched a Crypto Leader

After stints as a technology leader at crypto wallet provider Blockchain and crypto marketplace OKCoin, CZ ventured into building his own exchange, combining the tech performance of high-frequency trading platforms he developed with the promise of crypto. As a result, he launched Binance through a $15 million ICO. 

But the road to No. 1 is harder than it seems, especially during Binance’s early days. CZ and his early colleagues faced challenges when the value of BNB, Binance’s cryptocurrency, sank below ICO price, all in the face of industry events that required Binance to be on the move. 

In response, CZ led the effort to transform Binance into a decentralized operation with a nimble global workforce. He also spearheaded the development of Binance into an exchange that offers high volumes, low fees, and distinct advantages to users.

In just a short amount of time, the Binance product proved too compelling to the crypto world to be tethered by ongoing challenges. In just six months after its launch, Binance jumped to No. 1 in the crypto exchange rankings, and it stays in that position up to this day.

Doubling Down on Decentralization

Even with the pole position in place, CZ saw the Binance exchange as step one of a bigger crypto ecosystem that provides services and solutions to as many crypto-related needs as possible. This included important moves such as the launch of a decentralized exchange called Binance DEX and the development of the BNB Chain blockchain, as well as the launch of Futures and Margin trading on the platform, putting it in competition with more platforms.

Observers noted that the launch of Binance DEX would potentially lead to Binance to disrupt itself, but CZ and his team saw this as an opportunity to be flexible and evolutionary in the face of the ever-changing crypto landscape. 

In fact, this ethos of disruption continues to this day, with the launch of BNB Smart Chain, the emergence of Binance Futures as a leading derivatives trading platform, and many more services.

And despite all the new services over its short history, Binance remains a global leader in crypto trading, not only in the spot exchange platform that rose to No. 1 but also in crypto futures trading that is barely a year old in existence.. This is thanks to CZ’s drive, grit, and initiative, which extends to the entire team, which is now 1,000+ strong and spread out in more than 40 countries, serving 180+ territories around the world.