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Forbes’ First List Of Cryptocurrency’s Richest People: Meet The Secretive Freaks, Geeks And Visionaries

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In the world of cryptocurrency, where billion-dollar fortunes can be made overnight, speed is everything — and CZ is the fastest of them all. From closet-size offices in Tokyo — “I would touch four people if I turned around in a circle”— the 41-year-old Chinese-Canadian coder runs Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange that has gone from a standing start to the largest on the planet in just under 180 days. CZ (born Changpeng Zhao) cut his teeth making high-frequency trading systems for Wall Street’s flash boys, and he built Binance to be a Ferrari. His exchange can process a blazing 1. 4 million transactions a second and on a peak trading day in January processed 3.5 billion new orders, cancels and trades. Speculators (some 25% of them from the U.S.) use Binance to trade 120 different coins, generating $200 million in profits for CZ’s exchange last quarter. BNB, the virtual coin CZ created in August that gives holders a 50% discount on trading fees, has a market cap of $1.3 billion. His stake in Binance and his coins give CZ a personal fortune worth as much as $2 billion.

He is hardly alone in becoming insanely and instantly rich from crypto. Chris Larsen, a longtime tech exec known for cofounding a string of fintech apps, saw his net worth flirt with $20 billion at the height of cryptomania in early January, based on his ownership of 5.2 billion XRP, the tokens of Ripple, the company he founded. XRP has since crashed 65%, but Larsen still tops Forbes’ first crypto rich list, our (necessarily inexact) accounting of the 20 wealthiest people in crypto.

There are now nearly 1,500 crypto-assets in existence, valued at an aggregate of $550 billion, up 31 times since the beginning of 2017. While the prices of individual cryptocoins continue to swing wildly — Bitcoin is down almost 50% from its peak — it’s clear that blockchain-based currency is here to stay and that these virtual assets have real, albeit volatile and speculative, value. Black-market transactions, tax avoidance by individuals and sanctions-dodging by countries like North Korea fuel part of the demand, but so does a widespread excitement over the technology and an ideological desire for money to be free from the whimsies of nation-states.

READ MORE: Bitcoin, Blockchain And Billions

The winners of this digital lottery differ from those in previous manias. The shadowy beginnings, at once anarchistic, utopian and libertarian, drew an odd lot of pioneers who ranged from anti-establishment cypherpunks and electricity-guzzling “miners” to prescient Silicon Valley financiers and a larger-than-usual assortment of the just plain lucky “hodlers” (the typo-inspired crypto jargon for “buy and hold” investors). As in any gold rush, selling the pans and pickaxes – in this case running exchanges – is proving a more reliable path to riches than speculation. And, of course, easy money — especially if it’s viewed as a bearer asset — attracts scam artists and thieves.

Banking heir Matthew Mellon, whose $2 million investment in XRP blossomed into some $1 billion, learned that firsthand in January. The morning after a big bash, the 54-year-old recent divorcé says he discovered four people rooting around his $150,000-a-month Los Angeles party pad. (He didn’t report it to the police.) The unwanted guests were probably after his XRP and they stole four laptops and two cellphones. They didn’t get Mellon’s crypto-fortune — anyone with enough assets to make our list long ago figured out how to secure it. (Sorry, thugs.) In Mellon’s case, the private keys are divided up and safely scattered in cold storage around the country in other people’s names. But the incident underscores the weirdness that separates cryptomania from bubbles past.

Identifying the biggest crypto winners and estimating the scale of their wealth is no simple task. The virtual currencies exist almost entirely outside the global financial system, and the newly minted crypto rich live in a strange milieu that blends paranoid secrecy with ostentatious display. Take CZ’s Binance exchange. It has no real headquarters: Employees are scattered across several countries, and CZ himself seems to change locales the way others change clothes. “We don’t want to be in one place right now because of regulatory uncertainty,” says CZ. Last we heard, CZ and his trademark black hoodie had just popped up in Taiwan.

And CZ is downright normal by crypto-billionaire standards. Former child actor Brock Pierce (The Mighty Ducks, First Kid) dresses like a cut-rate Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and is given to making grandiose statements from the balcony of his penthouse in Santa Monica, California. “This is an opportunity to be a trillionaire – someone who is positively impacting a trillion living things on this planet,” he tells Forbes. Pierce once raised $60 million from Goldman Sachs with the help of Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, to fund a company that sold virtual swords, chain mail and horses to role-playing videogamers. He also once got into trouble with his partners in a 1990s-era dot-com start-up after they were accused, in civil lawsuits, of sexual abuse of underaged boys. (Pierce has always denied the accusations and was never charged; one of his business partners, however, pleaded guilty to transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of sex.)

READ MORE: The Emperor’s New Coins

Pierce was early into the crypto game, first mining Bitcoin and then financing blockchain start-ups and investing in dozens of initial coin offerings. Although he publicly proclaims he is pledging a billion dollars to charity, he refuses to provide documentation that proves he has anywhere near that much money.

Given this opaqueness and crypto’s hyper-volatility, we are presenting our net-worth estimates in ranges. We based our numbers on estimated holdings of cryptocurrencies (a few provided proof), post-tax profits from trading crypto-assets and stakes in crypto-related businesses. We’ve also categorized our crypto rich list into five groups: idealists, builders, opportunists, infrastructure players and establishment investors. Many fit into more than one category.

It’s a near certainty that we’ve missed some people and that some of our estimates are wide of the mark. But this was equally true when we launched the first Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people in 1982. At the time, many people said we couldn’t — or shouldn’t — publish it. We did so anyway. And we firmly believe we made the world a better place by shining a light on the invisible rich. Just as crypto has evolved from the days of the Silk Road drug site and the Mt. Gox digital hijacking, fortunes of this magnitude should never be allowed to lurk in the shadows. – Written by 

READ THE FULL LIST OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN CRYPTOCURRENCY

Health

5 Ways To Cope With The Self During Isolation

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As Covid-19 continues to spread ruthlessly across the globe, governments have enforced lockdowns in countries to slow the infection rate. And this has meant restricted movements of people and work from home. As the globe’s population practises self-isolation and social-distancing, the lack of the familiar can lead to further stress and mental health issues. Establishing coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and depression during these times is crucial. Healthcare practitioner and counselling psychologist, Nkateko Ndala-Magoro, through the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Facebook platform, lets us in on five self-help strategies to deal with depression.

Get active: “It is hard I know to stay active while you are confined. The benefits of staying active is the release of feel good hormones that are in contrast with the hormones that exacerbate depression. Being active also helps regulate your heart beat; for people suffering from anxiety, the regulation of breathing might help with the severity of the anxiety/panic attack.”

Take time to sleep: “I know people are already feeling like they do not have any more positions of sleep because of sleeping too much during lockdown. I encourage that people get as much quality sleep as possible in this time. Sleeping has benefits on our health and wellbeing in general, let alone on our mental health on many levels.”

Read: “Keep yourself busy by reading. There is a wealth of information in books. There are many online platforms including Amazon, which have made available e-books for free. Read self-help books and fiction to escape the reality; and any other books that interest you.”

Learn a new skill: “This will also keep you interested as mastering something new takes a lot in terms of focus and energy.”

Connect with loved ones: “Connect with your loved ones via video chats. Journal and work on things you have been meaning to work on to give you a sense of accomplishment.”

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Lists

The Five Trends To Future-Proof Your Business

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Some of these fads were slowly building in the previous decade, others are still nascent, but need your full attention to prepare your business for the times ahead.

1. AI and machine learning

Key takeaway: Automate repetitive tasks, but be wary of automating inefficiencies and biases.

You’re surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: from the recommendations Netflix makes based on your viewing history to those pesky adverts that track you around the internet. As Bronwyn Williams, a trend analyst at Flux Trends in South Africa, explains, “Most of what you think is AI is actually machine learning.” Williams emphasizes that fears about AI “stealing jobs” are overrated, and most businesses will see the arduous, repetitive tasks given to machines, freeing up humans for analysis and critical thinking. She warns businesses to remember it’s the human interaction that differentiates one offering from another. “Don’t automate away your value. Look under the hood and make sure you understand why you are automating something – and be careful not to automate inefficiencies.” Looking at automated HR processes, companies have discovered that even unconscious human biases are learned by machines (for example, CVs belonging to certain genders and races are discredited. Machines are not born neutral – especially if they’re learning from humans.) Embrace machine learning, but do so with a pinch of salt.

2. Driverless cars and the supply chain

Key takeaway: Autonomous cars are still about 15 years away, but it’s best to prepare your fleet and supply chain choice now.

The automotive industry is going through some major changes: electric cars, the growth of services like Uber and Lift, and lastly, the development of autonomous vehicles. Though the first two will impact everyday consumer experiences, it’s self-driving cars that will massively alter businesses and their supply chains across Africa in the next decade. “As convenience and efficiency are the cornerstones of the fleet industry, there is no doubt self-driving vehicles will start making a play for their share of the fleet industry sooner rather than later,” explains Sudesh Pillay on fleet management company EQSTRA’s online platform. The supply chain will no longer be affected by driver fatigue and human error. Driverless cars will also dramatically impact accident rates (lowering them by 90%, according to some estimates) and supply chain efficiency. As Innovation Group’s Future Now report indicates, autonomous cars face some serious challenges across Africa before they can become a practical alternative to human drivers. “There is a vision, in the not-too-distant future, in which self-driving cars hold a lot of promise…. Others are more skeptical about the practical feasibility, especially in Africa where the infrastructural limitations (roads, electricity etc.) hold back the vision, at least in the foreseeable future. Our research indicates that self-driving cars may only become a reality in South Africa in [15] or more years and that this may spur innovative advances in infrastructure, energy services and ultimately the look and feel of roads and cities.”

3. Climate crises and

natural disasters

Key takeaway: Hire a Chief Sustainability Officer to

start building climate resilience into your business.

“Now is the time to start thinking seriously about resilience,” says Hugh Tyrrell, Director at Green Edge, a corporate mentoring initiative in Cape Town that helps businesses develop sustainably. “The big brands have Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO). This role is in the C-suite and is forward-thinking,” Tyrell explains. CSOs look at how businesses can start developing their own power, lower their eco-footprint and manage their resources better. Looking to the big corporate trendsetters, there are some major shifts in corporate strategy focusing on a sustainable business model instead of growth at all costs. Unilever, for example, is holding their suppliers to the same eco-friendly standards that they themselves are working at, says Tyrrell. Natural disasters associated with the climate crisis are already affecting African businesses too. Explains Tyrrell, “In agriculture, which is a big sector in Africa, we are seeing the effect of droughts or floods. Others have to work more closely with their suppliers to ensure supplies come in good condition and on time.” Mining is another industry heavily impacted by the climate crisis – and the push by consumers for more environmental-friendly solutions. 

4. The age of cyberattacks and data breaches

Key takeaway: Make sure your IT department includes

skilled data protection specialists.

As businesses innovate and rely less on physical hardware like servers, and start instead relying on the cloud, they can expect to see a massive uptick in cyberattacks and subsequent data breaches. This trend increased exponentially in 2019 (even the City of Johannesburg in South Africa was held by ransomware) and is set to explode in the coming decade. Added to this, businesses are collecting more data than ever before, particularly for marketing purposes and to tailor their product offerings. Because of this, businesses should prepare themselves for the onslaught by firstly, taking their online security very seriously, secondly, training their staff (employees are the weakest link in any security chain) and thirdly, putting more budget behind appropriate security measures. “The demand for narrow cybersecurity expertise is driven by a constantly changing threat landscape, as well as evolving technologies, such as cloud or IoT. As a result, we see the bigger demand in, for example, threat intelligence analysts and dedicated threat intelligence services, and experts for cloud platform protection. The call for data protection specialists is seen in both technical and regulatory and compliance aspects,” says Alexander Moiseev, Chief Business Officer at online security software Kaspersky.

5. The remote workforce

Key takeaway: Flexi-hours and working remotely are practical ways to combat challenges like loadshedding and traffic.

With intermittent power supply (particularly in South Africa), increasing traffic and less reliance on physical IT infrastructure like servers, the remote and flexible workforce is becoming a norm. Says Moiseev, “The working model is already being changed, with 40% of small and medium companies regularly allowing their employees to work at locations outside the office — from home or while traveling.” In addition, health scares like the coronavirus are amplifying these trends. “Apps that enable remote working are having a moment,” explains Williams. “You now get filters to add makeup to video conferences so you don’t have to dress up when you’re working from home.” Many employees expect the flexibility of remote working when job hunting, and businesses reap the benefits of agility.  

-Samantha Steele

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Featured

The Top 5 Emerging Crazy Tech

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A pick of some of the weirdest, coolest tech that could come hurtling our way this year.

  1. A bot that delivers toilet paper

Forgot to instal toilet paper in the loo? The Charmin RollBot is designed to carry a roll of toilet paper on two wheels. With the press of a button on your phone, the RollBot will help with your sanitary requirement.

Using Bluetooth, the bot will commence its mission; an infra-red sensor able to navigate its way to you. According to Business Insider, there’s no price or release date for RollBot, nor is it clear if it will ever be released as a consumer product. Charmin calls RollBot a “conceptual prototype”. The brand unveiled the bot last month at the CES 2020 expo in Las Vegas.

2. The Cyrcle phone

If for any reason you got bored of your rectangular handset, the circular phone is always an alternative offering a different view and take. According to the makers, the phone was designed with the Generation Z, female audience in mind. It’s round and features two headphone jacks. The device was designed by a US-based startup delivering a shape that it says is more “sensual”. The company reckons it will be ready to launch in a year’s time.

3. A smart bed

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. But it’s not always possible to have the best sleep every day. Or is it? There is a bed that’s guaranteed to give you your beauty sleep the way you want it.

Sleep Number Climate 360 has a mattress with features that warm your feet to help you sleep faster. It will also help you stay asleep by cooling your body, and balance your temperature with your natural wake and sleep cycles.

But what’s most intriguing is the fact that the bed also gives you a Sleep IQ score for personalized sleep insights. It measures your heart rate, breathing and movement, tracks your circadian rhythms and can show how your heart rate varies. The smart bed received the CES 2020 Best of Innovation award and is only expected to be available in 2021.

4. Self-changing trash can

For those who dread taking out the trash, this device is possible a no-brainer. Apart from its motion sensors to detect when you need to throw trash, when it’s full, it will automatically seal the trash bag and line the bin with a new one, all with a press of a button.

Even if the bin is overflowing, the top compartment will lift up so it can still seal the bag shut without any mess. The bin, called the Townew bin, was designed by a Canadian company, Knectek Labs.

5. Vertical TV

Just when we were getting used to wider TVs, it seems taller screens may soon be coming to your living room. Samsung’s Sero TV vertical-oriented will soon be hitting markets.

The TV can not only work in the traditional horizontal format, but is also able to turn on its side for playing vertical videos in portrait style.This might come in handy when watching videos from social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram that deal primarily with vertical videos.

It sits on a stand that prevents it hitting the floor when turning, and can be paired with a phone so that it automatically orientates it correctly based on what’s beamed from the handset. According to TechRadar.com the pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but the Sero will be leaving Korea and is headed to the US and “several global markets” later this year.

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