The Gemini Twins
Olympic rowers, internet entrepreneurs, and ‘pre-crash’ crypto-billionaires, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss make for an interesting pair in the cryptocurrency space.
So who the hell are they?
In case you hadn’t guessed, they come from a wealthy background. Their father Howard is a successful entrepreneur, founder of Winklevoss Technologies and formerly an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His sons, both of whom are aged 36 (it’s a twin thing) have a long list of achievements, ventures, and court battles – let’s get started.
The Facebook Thing
The twins were portrayed in The Social Network, a movie depicting Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to fame and infamy as the founder of Facebook – which the twins claim he stole from them. They learned HTML at age 13 and hired Zuckerberg to create their social media platform ConnectU, before he allegedly stole the code they created and ultimately used it to make Facebook.
Apparently their partner and fellow student Divya Narendra contacted Zuckerberg on behalf of the twins and himself to enlist Zucks help in creating their platform, saying:
“We’re very deep into developing a site which we would like you to be a part of and … which we know will make some waves on campus.”
Zuckerberg was given access to their material and wrote to the twins saying the task at hand was relatively simple and wouldn’t take too long to complete. However, after that he put them off with a series of emails often a week apart making excuses like
“Sorry I was unreachable tonight. I just got about three of your missed calls. I was working on a problem set.”
“The week has been pretty busy thus far, so I haven’t gotten a chance to do much work on the site or even think about it really, so I think it’s probably best to postpone meeting until we have more to discuss. I’m also really busy tomorrow so I don’t think I’d be able to meet then anyway.”
“I’m washing my hair, site soon tho promise.”
OK, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. While Mark was claiming work was going slow, seemingly the opposite was true and having realized the potential of the twins’ idea he had been working tirelessly to put it together on his own, for himself, finally releasing it under the name “Mark Zuckerberg Productions”.
The twins sued Zuckerberg, obviously, for stealing both their idea and the literal code they gave him access to. If the allegations are true, they had invented something truly innovative that went on to disrupt the world as we know it. The lawsuit wasn’t a total failure, and the twins reportedly netted a cool $65 million settlement. Great!
Facebook is now worth $69 billion though.
Life goes on though, and the while the twins missed out on their claim to creating and owning one of the most influential and profitable companies, like, ever, they carried on with their entrepreneurial endeavors, eventually turning to cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin Holdings and Gemini Exchange
The twins made what was considered a risky move at the time and invested $11 million of the settlement money in Bitcoin in April 2013 at $120 per Bitcoin. They HODL’d their way to glory and hung on to their holdings which skyrocketed to a value of $1.3 billion in 2017 when Bitcoin was worth $11,700 per coin, making them bonafide crypto-billionaires. Well… unless you count them separately. The market value has dropped significantly since then, but the twins plan to HODL some more, foreseeing the crypto-ecosystem of the future as a “multi-trillion dollar market.”
Incredibly, the twins are said to have owned 1% of the entire circulating supply of Bitcoin at one time. The New York Times reported that the twins also had $350 million in other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. They sold some of that to fund the creation of the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange, ranked 36 in the world’s exchanges on coinmarketcap.com at the time of writing.
After investing so much in Bitcoin in 2013, they understandably faced a lot of skepticism. In this intevriew, hosted by a hilariously un-hilarious and inappropriate interviewer, Tyler (Cameron?) describes how every time Bitcoin shot up in price, people laughed and commented on how it was bound to burst, nothing can go up forever, etc.
When people inevitably came to them to ask how to take out a large position in Bitcoin, they found it difficult to give advice, citing darkpool OTC trading, etc. Then came the idea for their own exchange.
Gemini was launched in 2015 and provided rapid payment options, allowing users to acquire cryptocurrency before their fiat funds were even approved. The approval is needed to withdraw funds, but the option allows users to capitalize on sudden opportunities in the crypto-market without having to wait for fund clearance.
The twins actually funded the exchange personally, unlike most startup ventures, taking a hands on approach due to the difficulty they faced in finding a team experienced in financial regulation and everything that goes along with crypto exchanges. At the moment Gemini trades Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Zcash.
The Winklevoss brothers have actually made great strides in the cryptocurrency space, winning their crypto exchange patent this year to allow ETF trading among other things. The ETF is essentially a security tied to the asset it represents, in this case cryptocurrencies, setting regulatory precedents in the US.
Their Gemini partnered with NASDAQ in April of this year. As the second-biggest exchange in the world with a market cap of over $6 trillion, NASDAQ makes a formidable partner, and the Gemini exchange will use Nasdaq’s SMARTS Market Surveillance offering to automatically detect and prevent price manipulation and other nasty business.
While we cryptotonians are a contrary bunch, the twins are generally well-regarded in the space as passionate Bitcoiners who have weathered the storms since the early days, albeit with millions of dollars to fall back on if their portfolio doesn’t go back up. They held a Reddit AMA where they seemed to embrace the crypto communities habit of referring to them as Winklevii for short, and all in all seem like pretty nice guys.
That said, you never know with twins.
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