If you saw the movie ‘The Social Network’ (2010) you may remember the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, played by Armie Hammer. While they became famous for disputing and losing ownership of Facebook to Mark Zuckerberg, they are now owners of a multi-billion dollar empire thanks to the crypto assets business, mainly Bitcoin and NFT.
In February 2008, the Winklevoss twins reached a legal settlement with Zuckerberg, who agreed to pay them $45 million in Facebook shares and $20 million in cash. Six months later, the duo represented the United States at the Beijing Olympics in the rowing competitions.
Take my money, Bitcoin!
Soon after, in 2012, Cameron and Tyler invested $10 million in a rare new digital sensation: the Bitcoin. Back then, the cryptocurrency cost just $8 per unit, a far cry from the record $63,300.
The rise of Bitcoin, along with their investments in other businesses, has catapulted the combined net worth of the brothers, to $6 billion, according to the Forbes billionaires list.
In 2012, the twins also founded Winklevoss Capital Management, a family office, to make venture investments. The duo also has invested in at least 25 digital asset startups to date.
One of their most recent investments was in Block-Fi, the fast-growing Bitcoin lending giant. The company announced that it just raised $350 million in investment and is now valued at more than $3 billion.
“We are pleased to announce that we closed a $350 million Series D funding round, valuing the company at $3 billion. The round was led by new investors including Bain Capital Ventures, DST Global Partners, Pomp Investments and Tiger Global.”
In May 2013, the Winklevosses invested $1.5 million in BitInstant, a Brooklyn-based exchange that exchanged dollars for bitcoins in minutes for a fee. It is estimated that the platform’s trades accounted for 30% of total Bitcoin purchases at the time. Unfortunately, some of these were not entirely legal and the site was shut down by the end of that year, while the CEO, Charlie Shrem, was arrested and spent a year in prison.
After this setback and suffering backlash from the Silicon Valley community, the identical twins became owners of two companies that have brought them billions of dollars in profits: Gemini and Nifty Gateway.
A fortune built on the world of cryptocurrencies
Gemini Trust Co. founded in 2014, is a cryptocurrency exchange and wallet platform, allowing customers to buy, sell and store digital assets. Two years later it became the first authorized exchange for buying and selling Ethereum, the second most popular digital currency behind Bitcoin.
In October 2015, Gemini became one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges to receive trusted bank status from the New York State Department of Financial Services. This means it is subject to the same rules as traditional banks.
Today, Gemini offers exchange and storage for 33 cryptocurrencies out of more than 300 in the market. Its trading volume was $29 billion in the last year, while its ‘trust’ scores are on par with crypto giants such as Binance and Coinbase.
In addition, the Winklevoss twins have their own digital currency, the Gemini Dollar, which is pegged to the value of the US dollar and is therefore considered stable. In other words, it is a stablecoin, just like the one Facebook intends to launch under the name Libra.
Gemini also offers its customers a Bitcoin rewards credit card and a savings account that pays 7% interest on crypto deposits.
“Gemini is the bridge that allows people to get out of centralized finance, out of their current bank, and into this new world,” Cameron said in comments quoted by Forbes. “Our business model is not based on information or privacy monetization. It’s based on marketplaces and trading fees,” he added.
The future of the Winklevosses in the digital economy.
Cameron and Taylor Winklevoss envision both companies in the long term as a marketplace and portfolio for all types of assets, including property titles, passports, commodities, collectibles, video game characters, movies, music and event tickets.
They also plan to integrate Gemini and Nifty Gateway into a single product where NFTs are used as collateral for cryptocurrency loans. This would allow users to leverage their digital assets for financing without selling them.
“There is a membrane or a chasm between the old world and this new crypto universe. And we are the conduit that helps people transcend offline to online,” the brothers commented to Forbes.