Bitcoin has been in the news lately for its soaring valuation. And the world just got its first set of Bitcoin billionaires. Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss — the twin brothers who claimed in 2006 that Facebook was their idea plagiarized by Mark Zuckerberg — have earned that distinction. The brothers had received $65 million in settlement from Facebook in 2009. Four years later, they invested $11 million of it to buy 1 percent of all currently mined Bitcoins, according to reports.
Since then, Bitcoin has surged in valuation by nearly 10,000 percent, making billionaires out of the 36-year-old twins. Their ascent was hastened by Gemini, a bitcoin exchange they launched in 2015. Gemini was among the first “regulated and licensed digital currency exchanges” in the developed world, according to FT. The brothers had stated that they wanted to develop a NASDAQ or NYSE equivalent for digital currencies. “We wanted something that both Wall Street and Main Street felt comfortable with,” they said.
And sure enough, they did. In 2016, Gemini became the world’s first licensed digital currency exchange. Until then, such activities were considered illegal and dangerous. In 2014, Mt Gox, then the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, went bankrupt after hackers had stolen $460 million from the firm’s online systems. However, unlike Mt Gox, Gemini got granted a “trust charter” by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It heralded a new era for Bitcoins and gave it a validation of sorts. On Gemini, people could swap dollars and other cryptocurrencies for Bitcoins and vice versa.
As Bitcoins rose in value, the wealth of the Winklevoss twins swelled too. At the start of 2017, one Bitcoin was trading at $1,000. Now, it has scaled an all-time high of $11,700. Despite concerns of volatility, this year Bitcoins have managed to grow 12-fold fueling serious interest in cryptocurrencies across the globe. While Bitcoin’s rise has made millionaires out of many of its early backers, the Winklevoss twins, who interestingly went to Harvard with Zuckerberg, are believed to be the first to have had their investment cross the $1 billion-mark.