If you saw the movie ‘The Social Network’ (2010) you might remember twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, played by Armie Hammer. While they became famous for disputing and losing ownership of Facebook against Mark Zuckerberg, they now own a multi-million dollar empire thanks to the crypto asset business, primarily 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 rowing competitions.
Take my money, Bitcoin!
Soon after, in 2012, Cameron and Tyler invested $ 10 million in a rare new digital sensation: Bitcoin. Back then, the cryptocurrency cost just $ 8 per unit, a far cry from the record price of $ 63,300 that it is worth today.
Bitcoin’s rise, along with their investments in other businesses, has catapulted the brothers ‘combined wealth, now 39, to $ 6 billion, according to Forbes’ list of billionaires.
Also in 2012, the twins founded the family office Winklevoss Capital Management to undertake venture investments. To date, the pair have invested in at least 25 digital asset startups.
One of his most recent investments was in Block-Fi, the growing Bitcoin lending giant. The company announced that it just raised $ 350 million in investment and is now valued at more than $ 3 billion.
In May 2013, the Winklevoss 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 operations of the platform represented 30% of the total purchases of Bitcoin at that time. Unfortunately, some of these were not entirely legal and the site closed by the end of that year, while the CEO, Charlie Shrem, was arrested and spent a year in prison.
After this setback and suffering the rejection of 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 settled in the world of cryptocurrencies
Gemini Trust Co., founded in 2014, is a platform for exchange and portfolio criptomonedas, which allows customers to buy, sell and store digital assets. Two years later it became the first exchange authorized to buy and sell Ethereum, the second most popular digital currency behind Bitcoin.
In October 2015, Gemini was among the first cryptocurrency exchanges designated as a trust bank by the New York State Department of Financial Services. In other words, it is subject to the same regulatory requirements as traditional banks.
Today, Gemini offers exchange and storage for 33 cryptocurrencies of the more than 300 that exist in the market. Its trading volume was $ 29 billion in the past year, while its ‘confidence’ 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 stable coin, such as the one that Facebook intends to launch under the name of Libra.
Gemini also offers its customers a Bitcoin rewards credit card and savings account that pays 7% interest on crypto deposits.
“Gemini is the bridge where people can migrate from centralized finance, from their current bank, and into this new world,” Cameron said in statements quoted by Forbes. “Our business model is not based on information or the monetization of privacy. It is based on markets and commercial rates, ”he added.
Conquering the terrain of the NFTs
In November 2019, Gemini Trust Co. bought Nifty Gateway, a digital art auction platform in the form of NFTs or non-fungible tokens. At the time, the startup founded by fellow twins Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster was only seven months old.
Thanks to the fever for these digital assets, last February Nifty Gateway contributed 75 of the 91 million dollars in NFT art sales, according to data from CryptoArt.io. By the end of March, the platform had sold 132 million dollars, that is, 70.2% of the 188 million dollars that the NFT collector’s market has generated.
Today, Nifty Gateway is the world’s most exclusive digital art platform, largely because of its careful selection of artists. Another tactic is to offer the works little by little, to get the maximum benefit. Thus, the 15% commission they charge artists for each transaction is quite juicy.
Its most famous artist is Mike Winkelmann, better known as ‘Beeple’, whose work ‘ Every Day: The First 5,000 Days’ has become the most expensive NFT in history. The digital piece was sold in March 2021 at Christie’s auction house for $ 69 million.
On October 31, 2020, Beeple’s ‘ Crossroad ‘ was sold at Nifty Gateway for $ 66,666.66. The buyer put it up for sale again on the same platform and last February made 6.6 million, a profit of 90 times the original price.
Other Beeple NFTs, which were auctioned for a dollar each, are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Now we’re making $ 4 million in five minutes,” says Cameron of the works that a year ago would have brought in $ 50,000 on a good day. Tyler adds, “Basically the whole art world, the whole entertainment world, is kicking down the door .”
The future of Winklevoss in the digital economy
Cameron and Taylor Winklevoss visualize both companies’ 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 the NFTs are used as collateral for cryptocurrency loans. This would allow users to leverage their digital assets for financing without the need to sell them.
“There is a membrane or a chasm between the old world and this new crypto native universe. And we are the conduit that helps people transcend offline to online, ” the brothers told Forbes.