At a time when many people are vilifying Musk and his takeover of Twitter, crypto’s richest entrepreneurs are publicly backing the controversial billionaire. Their interests are both ideological and financial.
It’s been a tough year for crypto billionaires, who saw their net worths plummet during the spring and summer sell off. But Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has them smiling once again.
In Musk and his promises to bring “free speech” to Twitter, crypto’s libertarian-leaning leaders see a kindred spirit. And in Musk’s on-again-off-again enthusiasm for crypto (including his love of meme token dogecoin), some see glimmers of hope that Twitter will build crypto payments features or incorporate other ‘Web3’ elements.
“I think Elon is awesome and we are so lucky to have him on our planet,” venture capitalist and bitcoin investor Tim Draper wrote to Forbes in an email. (Draper fell out of the billionaire ranks earlier this year as bitcoin prices tumbled). “I believe he wants to save the planet with Tesla, make sure we can get off it with SpaceX, and now allow everyone free speech with Twitter, and he does it all profitably, so he can do it successfully. I hope he lives forever.”
Another one of Musk’s other biggest cheerleaders is Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance. The crypto exchange invested $500 million this month to help Musk take Twitter private at a wildly high $44 billion valuation (which Musk agreed to, in part, because he saw an opportunity to make a weed joke).
“Twitter is a free speech platform, which is global [and] very important,” CZ, as he’s known, told CNBC earlier this week. “We want to support strong entrepreneurs; Elon Musk is a very strong entrepreneur.”
CZ, who Forbes estimates is worth $17.4 billion, has other reasons for supporting Musk’s takeover of Twitter. “We want to make sure crypto has a seat at the table for free speech,” CZ told CNBC. “We want to help bring Twitter into Web3 when they’re ready.”
According to Owen Lau, an equity analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., Binance’s investment gives CZ a headstart on influencing Twitter’s future crypto forays. “CZ definitely has an advantage here,” says Lau. “Who [else] can write a $500 million check?”
CZ did not get into the specifics of how Binance, which faces numerous probes from various U.S. authorities over allegations of enabling money laundering and other financial crimes, plans to work with Twitter. CZ and Binance could not be reached for comment.
Brian Armstrong, the billionaire cofounder and CEO of Coinbase, is another fan of Musk’s vision. “Elon buying twitter is a great win for free speech, and probably changes the trajectory of the world more than most people realize,” Armstrong tweeted in April, when the deal was first announced. “Twitter is upstream of media and culture in many ways, and it was trending in a very dangerous direction on censorship,” added Armstrong (who famously banned political discussion at his company in 2020).
It doesn’t appear Armstrong has changed his mind in recent months. “Nothing to add beyond Brian’s tweets,” a Coinbase spokesperson wrote to Forbes when asked for an update on Armstrong’s opinion. Armstrong has not issued any statements since Musk took over Twitter.
More emboldened are bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Cameron slammed those companies that have already pulled advertising dollars from Twitter due to Musk’s takeover, and said that Musk “plans to cure” the platform’s ills, such as its “politically-motivated censorship.” And his brother took a swipe at those complaining about Musk’s plans to charge $8 per month for a blue check, saying that the previous cost of getting a blue check was by becoming “drinking buddies with someone who went on to work at Twitter and who you could call on for a favor.”
Michael Saylor, bitcoin investor and founder of MicroStrategy, a software company that also holds 130,000 bitcoins on its balance sheet, also endorsed Musk’s blue check fee, tweeting, “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” Saylor also tweeted an image of Musk freeing the blue Twitter bird from a cage, which has been reshared over 7,000 times.
Meanwhile, Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of FTX (a Binance rival), is less optimistic that Musk will make Twitter a crypto haven. In fact, Bankman-Fried turned down the opportunity to invest in Twitter for that very reason, he told a crowd of Forbes Iconoclast Summit conference goers this week.
“We ended up passing because ultimately, we were checking if he wanted a crypto partner to help with Web3 payments,” Bankman-Fried said, adding: “Is it the case that our visions here are complimentary, and that there’s something I can add to it? I didn’t feel like that was the case.”
In any case, Bankman-Fried insists he’s still “very excited” by Musk’s takeover. “There’s a lot of upside in what he’s doing,” the FTX founder said. “I trust him to run with his vision and I’m super excited about it.”