There are a ton of stories that have been passed off as the 'origin story' for Changpeng Zhao (re: how he came to be aware that there was such a thing called, 'Bitcoin').
But this piece will focus on what can be publicly confirmed (rather than conjecture) in hopes of providing a reliable, evergreen 'reference point' for those looking to learn more about Changpeng Zhao.
From the Beginning
As far as Changpeng Zhao's 'origin story' for blockchain, there is no source that goes into explicit detail about it, but nearly all reliable reference points indicate that CZ was lured into blockchain by his good friend, Ron Cao.
This information is corroborated by a CoinDesk article from 2014 as well (see below):
According to CoinDesk, CZ's fascination with Bitcoin manifested out of conversations that he had with Ron Cao shortly before seeking employment in the blockchain space.
Curiously, this is where we also see one of (the many) guest appearances of 'Bobby Lee' in this compendium.
Fun Fact: Bobby Lee, the former owner of now-defunct BTCC, is the brother of Charlie Lee ; confirmed via NYT journalist Nathaniel Popper's book titled, 'Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin'
'Who is Ron Cao?'
Ron Cao is the founder & partner of Sky9 Capital (currently).
Curiously, his ties to BTCChina (now defunct), are rarely mentioned.
However, in Binance's whitepaper (for the exchange, not their subsequently created 'exchange token', $BNB), Ron Cao (one of the seed investors in Binance) is listed as having had ties with BTCChina:
more on this whitepaper in the very near future
Quick Look at Ron Cao's Prior Work Experience
The VC firm that Ron Cao was heading at the time that he had met Changpeng Zhao is still a signicant force in the VC space to this day
A closer look at Ron Cao's background and resumé shows that Ron Cao appears to serve as the 'bridge' between China and the United States (in either direction) for both investments and investors.
Changpeng Zhao and Blockchain.com
As stated prior, Changpeng Zhao made his first official 'splash' in the blockchain space by onboarding with 'blockchain.com' as its "CTO".
Unfortuantely, this is where things become a bit confusing, because there are multiple sources that have been attributed to CZ's foray into blockchain.
In the prior section, we noted that Ron Cao has been labeled as the door holder for Changpeng Zhao and blockchain.
However, another powerful relationship that Changpeng Zhao forged early on in his blockchain career (circa 2013), is the one that he (still) has with Roger Ver.
Roger Ver and Changpeng Zhao
Fortunately, retelling this story does not require us to venture too far away from our primary task at hand - exploring CZ's first official "job" in blockchain - because Roger Ver is intuitively connected to this endeavor via his relationship with the project and, more specifically, the co-founder of blockchain.com, Nicolas Cary.
Wired.com's Feature Article on Blockchain.com Told Us a Lot
Back in 2017, blockchain.com was the subject of a huge profile piece by 'Wired.com', an online publication that covers a wide array of issues (notably, they were deeper down the rabbit hole of Satoshi's identity than most other publications had ended up at - or were willing to go to).
In that piece, they laid out the relationships among leadership at blockchain.com in explicit detail, stating:
"[Nicolas] Cary had come highly recommended by Erik Voorhees, an old college friend who was himself a Bitcoin pioneer, and hwo in turn had given Cary an earful about Roger Ver. Talking to Ver over Skype, Cary had liked what he'd heard enough to hop on a plane from Seattle the following weekend to continue the conversation in person."
Following this conversation, Cary was named the CEO of blockchain.com (a website ran by an individual named, Ben Reeves). Apparently, Ben Reeves was the 'brains' of the site, responsible for its design and the subequent iPhone / Android apps that were created for it.
Nicolas Cary ('college friend' of Erik Voorhees), was later chosen to be the CEO of blockchain.com by Roger Ver and...Changpeng Zhao? While there are some differing accounts for how he ended up at blockchain.com, one claim in particular is worthy of attention.
Brock Pierce Claims He's the One That Gave CZ His "First Job"
In an article published in 'Hackernoon', titled, "What I Learned from 71 Minutes with Brock Pierce [Inteview]" (2019), Brock Pierce directly took full responsibility for landing Changpeng Zhao his "first job" in blockchain.
A direct quote of the referenced statement is re-published below:
"Before Blockchain Capital, I was cranking out startups like an incubator. I started a payments company called GoCoin, an exclusive distributor of top mining equipment called KnCMiner, took over exclusive distribution rights for the first Bitcoin ATM for all of Asia called Robocoin, gave CZ of Binance his first job in crypto, started [Puerto Rico’s] Noble Bank which was the first crypto bank in the world, started Expresscoin. I was one of the founders of Mastercoin and created the first ICO in the summer of 2013, then started Tether which now does $2 trillion a year in transactions, is the second most traded token after Bitcoin, and was the first real world asset to be put on the blockchain."
What's interesting here is that Brock Pierce claims to have began Tether (USDT) the very same year that he "gave CZ of Binance his first job in crypto."
For readers that are skeptical of the veracity of these claims, it is worth noting that they are yet to be contested by any individual in the blockchain space.
Why Brock Pierce's Claims May Be Legitimate:
- Brock Pierce was (somehow) elected head of the 'Bitcoin Foundation' in 2014 ; so there is no question that he had a substantial amount of influence in the blockchain community at the time that Changpeng Zhao was allegedly onboarded to blockchain.com
- Every other claim that Brock Pierce made in the excerpt above is verifiable fact. He is one of the founders of Tether, involved in the creation of 'Robocoin' (a series of failed Bitcoin ATMs), listed as a founder of Mastercoin (alongside the fictitious, 'William Quigley'), and was also at the head of a payment processor named, 'GoCoin' (listed in the Backpage indictment as one of the preferred vehicles for laundering money gained from sex trafficking as well as child prostitution by the site admins).
What's interesting here is that Brock Pierce's involvement with blockchain.com has never been stated publicly, which is strange when considering that such information certainly would have made news if knowledge of such were more widespread.