Light-hearted Insights

Brandon Chez: Mysterious CMC Founder Talks About the Flexibility of Crypto and His Lessons Learned

“Crypto Titans” is a series of personal interviews conducted by CoinMarketCap with prominent and forward-thinking minds tinkering on and behind the scenes of the cryptocurrency landscape. Click here to see all the Crypto Titan interviews up to today!


Update: Brandon’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) Event is Over!

On Friday, Feb. 28 from 9:00-10:00am PST, Brandon himself answered your questions in the comments section of this blog post AND on Twitter! We asked our supporters and users to state their burning question for CMC’s mysterious CEO, either by commenting on this post at the bottom of the page, or tweeting with the hashtag #CMCAMA. To his surprise, Brandon found the AMA session quick and painless, and wouldn’t be opposed to another one in the future. Here are the highlights from the AMA!


This interview is the first in the series, featuring Brandon Chez, the little-known founder who started CoinMarketCap in his Queens apartment in May 2013. Since then, CoinMarketCap has grown to be the most referenced price-tracking source for comparing thousands of crypto assets.

What got you first interested in cryptocurrencies?

Chez

In 2011, I was on my lunch break at work. I usually read Hacker News, a news aggregator for tech and startups. I just read this article, the headline was something to the effect of “Bitcoin reaches parity with the U.S. dollar.” It got my attention because it was just really interesting, people were trading it. Some people had got in really, really early and made a lot of money. 

My first reaction was, oh, this must be some kind of scam or Ponzi scheme, all the typical initial reactions people usually get. But I was also fascinated with the technology portion of how it was open source.

From there I did a lot of research, I looked into what other people had said about it, tech people that I trust and follow. And they said, yeah, it’s open source, I don’t see anything obviously wrong with it. That gave me a little more confidence to look more into it, and after a couple of months I said, okay, I’m not going to lose all my money immediately (at least immediately!) I think it was Mt. Gox at the time, I opened up an account and did a little trading just for fun.

Did you end up losing any money in Mt. Gox?

Chez

I did not, but I know some people that did, and read a lot about people that did. I can’t imagine how painful it must’ve been. But no, I personally didn’t lose any on Mt. Gox, thankfully.

How has a failure in crypto set you up for better decision-making?

Chez

I’ve left some crypto on online services that were hacked or that disappeared without notice. It’s always a good reminder that if you don’t control the private keys, you don’t truly own the crypto.

Whenever I use online services, I try my best not to leave crypto there longer than necessary.

There’s a current debate in crypto about the benefits and drawbacks of new users keeping their crypto on exchanges, as they aren’t tech savvy enough to have control of their private keys (looking at you, Peter Schiff). Do you have an opinion?

Chez

I think it’s OK [to leave crypto on exchanges], as long as you’re aware of the risks. If you know that at any point in time this exchange can get hacked or they might die and run away with your private keys — it’s all about accepting personal responsibility.

If you’re OK with losing a hundred dollars or whatever on an exchange, that’s fine. But just don’t put more than you’re willing to lose, in either case.

If you don’t feel comfortable holding your own private keys, then don’t put your life savings in there. Only put what you’re willing to lose in a worst case scenario.

After some of the major scams like Bitconnect and major disasters like Mt. Gox, has your overall belief in crypto changed?

Chez

I think they’re unrelated. If anything, I think these events are just necessary to further the awareness. I think it’s just a natural step in the evolution. For example, when Mt. Gox collapsed, that was at a time when 80 to 90 percent of all Bitcoin was traded through an exchange. When that happened, that made sure that in the future, we don’t store all of our coins on one exchange, which gave way to competition for a lot of other exchanges. 

With Bitconnect, that taught a lot of people lessons, too. Now people are much more cautious with their funds, and they won’t be so quick to put their crypto in any product that promises them really unrealistic returns.

I think they were both really bad events, but I think some good came out of them, too.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to enter the world of crypto — be it in investment or a new job? What advice should they ignore?

Chez

The best investment you can make is in yourself. Get intimate with the technology. Start contributing to projects that interest you.

Then, when crypto inevitably goes mainstream, you’ll be in high demand for the experience and knowledge that you’ve accumulated. You should be skeptical of anything promising to make you a quick fortune.

Given how the industry has evolved, do you think the industry at large should embrace regulation or champion freedom and deregulation?

Chez

It depends on the use case. Crypto is certainly flexible enough to work within regulatory environments, but it’s also a great tool to champion freedom and deregulation. It’s similar to how we have internet that complies with regulations alongside unregulated dark web networks. I believe crypto will offer a similar paradigm.

What is your vision of what the crypto industry could become in the future?

Chez

In the short to medium term, I believe crypto will offer a truly viable alternative to fiat money. First, in countries with unstable political environments, and eventually in many other countries. In the long term, I envision that many applications and services that exist today will have viable decentralized alternatives and/or competitors. 

I think Andreas [Antonopoulos] has a good one [motto]: banking the unbanked or banking the other 6 billion people. I really resonate with that mission statement for crypto, it’s about empowering people that don’t have what we have in the Western culture. And then hopefully when that [crypto] takes over, that’ll wake up the banks and the governments to being more open to evolving our current money systems, because there’s a lot to be desired there, as you know.

That is the case in Venezuela where people have no other option but to put their money in physical goods, or if they’re lucky enough, to get it into crypto. That’s one case where I think it’s doing good, giving options. I’ve heard of some lending programs in Africa. I don’t know too much about them, but I’ve heard there’s been some success in areas of Africa.

Necessity is the mother of invention. If it’s a matter of life and death in those areas, they need something to store their wealth, store their value. 

Can you debunk some common myths in crypto?

Chez

I don’t know if these are myths or common misconceptions. The really basic ones are, you can’t split a Bitcoin, you can’t own less than one Bitcoin — many people don’t know that. 

There’s also, “Bitcoin is a scam or it’s a Ponzi scheme.” 

No, it’s not a Ponzi scheme. Just something very different from what we’ve seen before.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

About Molly CMC

Molly Jane is a content manager at CoinMarketCap. Previously the head of news at Cointelegraph, she has also contributed to Decrypt and Modern Consensus. You can find her on Twitter at @MollyJZuckerman.

61 comments on “Brandon Chez: Mysterious CMC Founder Talks About the Flexibility of Crypto and His Lessons Learned

  1. Coinmarketcap is the website we all visit multiple times a day yet the founder is very reserved working in the shadows. Interesting contrast to CZ, Roger Ver, Brian Armstrong etc. I enjoyed this quite a bit.

  2. Any chance you are Satoshi?

  3. May not be trying to build another CMC

    What were some other naming considerations before you decided on ‘CoinMarketCap’?

    • Brandon CMC

      The original name for the project was ‘Crypto Cap’. I honestly don’t remember why it was changed, but likely for a simple reason like the domain name was already taken.

  4. Mamba Forever

    You only get to ask Satoshi one question. What is the question?

    • Brandon CMC

      “Satoshi, what do you think of CoinMarketCap…?” *Nervous anticipation*

  5. Favorite crypto meme?

  6. Lina Wong CY

    What’s your spirit animal, and why is it Jigglypuff? 😉

    • Brandon CMC

      I wish I could be as charming as Jigglypuff! I’m more like a Scyther.

  7. What’s your most significant epiphany since you started CMC?

    • Brandon CMC

      There’s unlimited demand for people to create their own cryptocurrencies that fill specific niches and use cases. Ultimately, this is a good thing since it puts competitive pressure on other cryptocurrencies to innovate and better serve their target audiences.

  8. Biggest pet peeve?

    • Brandon CMC

      I literally can’t stand when people literally overuse the word ‘literally’. It’s literally my pet peeve.

  9. What’s your favorite technology item you use at home? What about outside?

    • Brandon CMC

      I actually don’t use much technology in my daily life outside of my desktop computer or cell phone. However, the Oculus Quest is very cool!

  10. Hello Mr.coinmarketcap, what do you think will happen after BTC halving?

    • Brandon CMC

      Hard to predict, but I don’t think we’ll see as big of a price reaction as we did in previous halvings since the block reward decrease is significantly less.

  11. Masha Sakharova

    hey brandon! complete this sentence with a word: Bitcoin is ____.

  12. how does one call up http://www.coinmarketcap.com to suppress the price curve thumbnails?

    • Brandon CMC

      Unfortunately we don’t have this feature yet, but good suggestion! I’ll make sure that the team knows about it.

  13. Veronika Combs

    What was the biggest challenge for Brandon in the beginning when building CMC?

    • Brandon CMC

      Trying to do everything myself: The website development, the server administration, the never-ending coin and exchange requests, monitoring of feedback channels, sales for ad spots, etc. Now we have a wonderful team that handles all of these things better than I ever could singlehandedly.

  14. Izabella Crawford

    hey Brandon, what’s your desert island book pick?

    • Brandon CMC

      This is tough choice between “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card and a ‘Desert Island for Dummy’s’ type of book.

  15. Anne-Marie Fuller

    How much do you care about Bitcoin’s price vs. the underlying technology?

    • Brandon CMC

      I care more about the technology and the impact it can make on our society. If we can unlock its full potential, then the price increases will inevitably follow.

  16. Youssef Shaw

    Hi Chez, ty for coinmarketcap. If you had to pick another field outside of crypto, where would you want to work?

    • Brandon CMC

      I’ve always been fascinated by online virtual worlds – I’d probably explore somewhere in the VR/AR field.

  17. So how did the inspiration to start CMC came about?

    • Did you have inkling of how big it could become?

      • Brandon CMC

        Not at all. I’ve built and maintained a few small hobby websites before, and I thought CMC would be a similar thing.

    • Brandon CMC

      In the early days when doing coin research, I would usually end up doing a simple market cap calculation (Price X Coin Supply) to inform my assessment. To my surprise, there was no resource reporting on this figure at the time, so I ended up creating CMC as my own personal resource to quickly check for undervalued cryptocurrencies at a glance. I was very excited to learn that other members of the community found it useful too.

  18. privacy coins like RYO are developing atomic swaps with ETH and BTC.

    so my question is, will BTC/ETH atomic swaps with privacy coins help increase the privacy of public blockchain and increase their real world usability ?

    • Brandon CMC

      Absolutely. If we can perfect atom swaps, we’ll be in a much greater position to utilize the features of other coins. There’s still too much friction to exchange coins.

  19. Why there is no Euro option, anymore? I need that!

    • Christy CMC

      Hey there! The Euro option is still available on the site. If you go to the top right-hand corner of the site, and click on the flag icon, you get a full list of currency options to choose from.

  20. Hello, how can I call up http://www.coinmarketcap.com utilizing flags such that thumbnail price graphs are suppressed and do not show up? The vast majority of the time, attempting to load all these graphs simply prevents the page from charging in my browser.
    For example: http://www.coinmarketcap.com/nopricegraphs

  21. CryptoCraig MillerMiner

    Thank you for adding each digital asset’s all time high and all time low to their statistics chart! 😁

  22. It’s positive that Brandon has been more transparent in the last few months, first at The Capital, and now opening up in an interview.

  23. Emore Peter

    It’s educative and enlightening.

  24. Great read, and seems like a very interesting person. Not many of those in the business (any business).

  25. Would love to help you guys turn this into a podcast!

    • This is what I was thinking! This is perfect podcast material, hopefully it’s the next step for the CMC Blog. Good luck!

  26. Great interview! Coin market cap is a staple in every crypteneurs bag of tools! Chez is finally coming forth and just like cmc he keeps it simple and simplicity is a necessity for mass adoption! I just wanted to add that there is so many ways to build and profit in the crypto sphere. While many are scams there is an equal amount of ways to create life changing wealth! Look into projects that you could become an affiliate for; or projects incentivizing users for building social media outreach; just make sure you always do your homework and listen to others who may be engaged in similar areas. Thank you Chez, for never selling out you are an inspiration to anyone planning on changing the world via crypto and bitcoin projects!

  27. Great news! I always read news on Coinmarketcap and check BTC price. BTC will down in short pharse. In the future, BTC will reach higher and higher.

  28. excellent way to visualize the evolution btc, it is not clear to me when you say that people cannot own less than 1 btc, greetings

    • Vincent Edward Lucas IV

      shall we??? cyrptolove@gmail.com

    • CryptoCraig MillerMiner

      Chez is stating the misconceptions/myths within the digital asset realm with that quote about Bitcoin not being divisible. Its divisible to eight decimal places, not everyone knows that 100,000,000 Satoshis equal 1 Bitcoin. Satoshis, however, are not divisible.

  29. Nice, great points, straight and to the point.

  30. Great article…. Many thanks

  31. Ezequiel melendez

    Thanks

  32. Thanks for the article, it was interesting to read. Can’t wait to see who will be interviewed next!

  33. Down to earth and honest.

  34. very truth, very good. Nice

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