Started from the bottom
From being homeless in New York City to the CEO of an international crypto company, Ray Youssef shares his journey as a co-founder of Paxful, a global P2P crypto marketplace with a mission to empower the forgotten four billion unbanked and underbanked around the world to have control of their money using peer-to-peer transactions.
Ray Youssef’s story of success is one to inspire.
A son of Egyptian immigrants, Ray comes from humble beginnings; he learned the value of money from a very young age. At just 8-years-old, he was running around the streets of New York with heavy stacks of newspapers. A young newspaper boy was making decent money—up to $1,000 in a day. “Shortly after, I was working as a teller at my parents’ newsstand. I quickly learned the importance of handling money and connecting to people and the streets. These experiences definitely sparked my entrepreneurial spirit.”
Now a seasoned entrepreneur of over 15 years, he looks back at his first two startups. With the money he made from them, he bought his mother a beautiful house—a childhood dream of his that came true.
Giddy with success, Ray considered early retirement to “live my life a little” until returned to the startup scene. Seven years and eleven failed businesses later, Ray found himself in the concrete jungle of New York City with no money or a place to live. It was then he got introduced to Bitcoin by his friend, who convinced him to attend a Bitcoin meetup and see for himself. “My friend told me that you could make a 100% profit selling bitcoin for gift cards. I didn’t believe him and then I tried. It worked.” That meetup proved to be momentous, leading to the birth of Paxful, his 12th and most successful business to date.
How Bitcoin is changing lives
Paxful is a cure for the financial crisis that plagues the Global South. Financial systems in Africa are often broken and are cut off from the “golden circle” of western finance. He decided that Bitcoin can help address these issues and give access to financial services to people who are ignored by the system.
Many people in the emerging world lack the proper documentation and minimum balance required to open a bank account, so they can’t just walk into a branch and open one. “This is where Bitcoin and people-powered marketplaces come to the rescue. Everybody deserves a chance.”
Ray continues, “We created a platform that acts as a global financial passport, giving everyone access to everyday financial services. Our mission is to give that access to the forgotten billions of underbanked. Bitcoin can offer a gateway to financial services based on real use cases like payments, remittance, wealth preservation, and commerce. Our biggest market is in Nigeria—one of the countries that need access to financial services the most. They are a prime example of the real-life use cases of Bitcoin. Peer-2-peer crypto finance is the future and we’re building it.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Ray hopped on a plane and helped build one of the first schools that reopened in New Orleans. That’s how the Built With Bitcoin initiative was born. With a mission to build 100 schools, water wells, and agricultural gardens for sustainable development, Built With Bitcoin is the perfect example of how Bitcoin can be used for social good. From donation to execution, the process is entirely powered by Bitcoin. “It wasn’t easy,” Ray says. “With our first school in Rwanda we came to the realization that the builders don’t really want to be paid in Bitcoin. So we sold Bitcoin to Rwandan vendors, pumping Bitcoin into the Rwandan economy and getting local currency to kickstart the building process.”
Bitcoin paves the way for philanthropy
Slowly but surely, blockchain technology is transforming the world of giving. While crypto-philanthropy is a relatively new concept, charities existed long before Bitcoin and for years, the biggest spend for nonprofit organizations has been fundraising activities and admin costs. Now Bitcoin has the potential to not only cut the administrative costs of running a charity, but also to make fundraising frictionless.
“Bitcoin disrupted not only the world of finance, but also changed the way donations could work. Imagine being able to donate in any cryptocurrency in seconds while staying anonymous. And with the potential ability to track how the charity spends the donation, the donors would feel safer about every penny they are giving,” said Ray.
Paxful is a people-powered marketplace for money transfers with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Their mission is to empower the forgotten four billion unbanked and underbanked around the world to have control of their money using peer-to-peer transactions. The company, founded in 2015, has over 4.5 million users globally who you can instantly buy and sell Bitcoin with—using over 300 different payment methods.
As part of their mission, Paxful launched Built With Bitcoin, a social good initiative to build 100 schools funded entirely by Bitcoin all across emerging markets. Paxful was co-founded in 2015 by Ray Youssef, Chief Executive Officer and Artur Schaback, Chief Product Officer.