- Changpeng Zhao is the CEO and founder of Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges.
- Growing up, Zhao worked several jobs to support his family, including returning burgers to McDonald’s.
- Today, as a crypto billionaire, Zhao told Insider about his career advice for ambitious young people.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
As a Forbes-ranked crypto billionaire, Changpeng Zhao is surprisingly jaded by his wealth.
“I really don’t care what the Forbes rankings are. I think that’s kind of a trivial metric once you get to a certain point, ”Zhao, the founder and CEO of Binance, said in an interview.
But that doesn’t mean financial freedom isn’t important to Zhao, who immigrated from China with his family to Canada at the age of 12.
Today, Zhao, who goes through “CZ,” is “a little beyond” being financially free, but he is far from worry-free, he said.
Binance, which grew to become the largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume in just 180 days, has grown into a monster with multiple divisions preying on charities, investments, and acquisitions, as well as a non-fungible token market which is expected to launch in June.
“We’re still a lot poorer than most of the big organizations in the world, but we have enough money to do what we want to do at our current size,” Zhao said. “Our bottleneck is not money. Our bottleneck right now is people. “
Almost four years after its initial $ 15 million offering, Binance continues to grow at a breakneck pace that is sometimes under pressure from the limited speed at which it can hire talent to take on new projects.
“Our bandwidth constraints are a lot more on the people front and a lot less on the money front,” he said. “So even though we have 10 times the money, that doesn’t speed us up at all in terms of the significant impact we can make. “
A “typical” day in Zhao’s life
Indeed, Zhao, who no longer manages Binance’s day-to-day operations, spends most of his time trying to hire the right people for his business these days, he said.
“From a high-level strategic perspective, I think a CEO usually wants to spend most of their time on three things: getting funding, setting the right direction, and recruiting the right people,” he said. declared. “Fortunately, I don’t have to spend a lot of time on the first two. I only spend most of my time on the last one. “
Due to Binance’s financial strength and its clear goal of providing infrastructure in the crypto space, Zhao said it has largely left the teams free to explore projects such as launching the NFT market and providing tokenized versions of certain US stocks.
Though no longer tied to the finer details of running a business, Zhao’s schedule is nothing like a four-hour work week or cryptic morning routines that force him to get up at 4 am and meditate for an hour.
“I sleep late and leave late, so I start around 9 am and then continue until around midnight,” he said. “There are random breaks during the day. If I’m tired I’ll even take a nap, but I would average about 15-20 meetings and calls each day. “
During the pandemic-induced lockdown, those calls could sometimes reach 25 to 30 per day, a sign of Binance’s skyrocketing growth spurred by last year’s roaring crypto bull market. Sometimes the dangers of growing too fast can lead to “internal management problems, internal coordination problems and internal communication gaps,” which Zhao would come to solve, he said.
“At the start of this year, I actually said we wanted to slow down the hiring because I felt our problems were attributed to the fact that we were growing so rapidly in numbers of employees,” he said.
“But then our business and the number of users is growing like crazy, and all of our teams are stressed, so we have to keep increasing the workforce at a very phenomenal rate,” he added.
The intersection of 3 things
As the global cryptocurrency surge continues unabated, Binance is unlikely to slow its recruiting pace anytime soon. Zhao said the firm is looking for professionals in all fields, from technology and finance to marketing, human resources and legal.
The 44-year-old billionaire, who founded six startups and hired thousands of people, urged ambitious young people to pursue “the intersection of three things.”
“It should be something they’re good at. It should be something they like. And it should be something that is of value to others, ”he said. “You have to find the intersection of these three things. Once you’ve done that, if Binance needs it, we want to hire you. “
Due to the “chaotic environment” that accompanies Binance’s rapid growth, Zhao said the company is looking to hire people who are not only technically competent, but also passionate about what they do.
“We have a lot of issues internally, and I think Binance has been able to overcome them to a sufficient level so far because our employees are very passionate about what they do,” he said. declared.
“They push things on their own. They are pushing very hard to get things done in this chaotic environment, to get things done, ”he added. “I think that’s the # 1 criterion I look for when we hire people. ”