The Winklevoss Twins – The Crypto Billionaires Who Sued Zuckerberg

The Winklevoss twins are famous crypto entrepreneurs born in 1981. Cameron and Tyler hail from Southampton, New York, but grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Referred to humorously as the collective Winklevi, the brothers are American rowers who competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and co-founded HarvardConnection with Divya Narendra at Harvard, later named ConnectU.

The brothers sued Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, alleging he stole the ConnectU idea as the basis for Facebook – Zuckerberg paid $65 million (£56 million) in a settlement.

Today the brothers own the Gemini crypto exchange, the tenth largest exchange globally, and are venture capitalists, including providing seed funding for BitInstant, a Bitcoin payment processor.

Who Are The Winklevoss Twins?

Cameron and Tyler were born to parents Howard and Carol Winklevoss. Their father is a well-known US academic and owner of Winklevoss Technologies and Winklevoss Consultants.

Howard has a net worth of $200 million (£172 million), which, although lower than the estimated $3.3 billion (£2.84 billion) net worth of each of his sons, is a wealth built up through his businesses, and through publishing over 20 books around actuarial science, pension mathematics and numerical illustrations.

The Winklevoss family are devout Christians, and although the twins purport to come from humble beginnings, their father’s fortune and home in an affluent New York City suburb put this into question.

The twins first hit the public consciousness when they were embroiled in a legal battle with Mark Zuckerberg over ownership of the intellectual property behind the Facebook model. The story was adapted into the movie The Social Network.

From rowing crew members at Harvard, the twins finished sixth in the men’s pairs at the Beijing Olympics and used their settlement from Zuckerberg to invest heavily in Bitcoin.

As millionaires, the twins launched Gemini as a crypto exchange that has expanded several times over the years.

Education And Career,

The twins attended Greenwich Country Day School, where George HW Bush is among the alums. Next, the brothers studied Latin and Ancient Greek at the Brunswick School, one of the 50 most exclusive private schools in America, where they started the rowing programme in their junior year.

Both twins attended Harvard University, belonging to several clubs and teams, and awarded BAs on graduation. They went on to enrol at Oxford University and Christ Church and won the Oxford Blue trophy in the historic boat race between Cambridge and Oxford.

Cameron and Tyler both graduated with MBA degrees from the Said Business School.

Business Profile

HarvardConnection was the original social networking idea, which the Winklevoss twins launched in December 2002 with Divya Narendra. Students could add friends, send messages to each other, and create personal profiles.

Zuckerberg was a student at the same time and had created FaceMash as another social site, allowing students to rank each other based on attractiveness – the university later banned the platform.

The twins allege that Zuckerberg stole the idea and used it to build Facebook, imitating the design and replicating some of the code he had been paid to write. They had asked him to help develop the site as a well-known coding prodigy.

After a protracted legal battle, Zuckerberg paid the Winklevoss brothers $65 million (£56 million) in compensation after emails revealed that Zuckerberg claimed he could not finish the work because he was too busy launching Facebook.

In 2012 they launched Winklevoss Capital, which provides angel investment for early-start enterprises, and now has a portfolio comprising crypto services and funds.

Between 2012 and 2013, the brothers invested in Bitcoin, with reports suggesting they brought some tokens for around $10 (£8.61). BTC is today worth approximately $17,545 (£15,101) a coin. Winklevoss Capital reported owning about $11 billion (£9.47 billion) in Bitcoin in 2013.

The brothers claimed at the time to own one per cent of all Bitcoin in circulation, which promoted a fall in value as the start of a series of pricing dips.

BitInstant was one of the original Bitcoin trading exchanges. The Winklevoss twins bought it in 2013 after the first CEO was sentenced to prison for two years after being prosecuted for running an unlicensed financial business.

Having amassed a large fortune, the twins founded Gemini in 2014, which is regarded as one of the most reliable exchanges. It was licensed in a groundbreaking move and is one of few platforms legally permitted to operate in New York.

In 2021 Gemini recorded revenue of $3.8 billion (£3.27 billion).

While the Winklevoss twins may have been successful in their legal battle with Zuckerberg, they have also been on the receiving end of allegations of impropriety.

In October 2021, the NY Post reported that Amir Soleymani had filed legal papers against Nifty Gateway, the NFT trading platform linked with Gemini.

Soleymani, a British art dealer, says the company froze his digital wallet, which contained digital art worth over $1 million (£860,000), and refused to release it unless he paid for artworks he unintentionally bid for at an auction.

Nifty Gateway responded by stating that the auction rules were clear.

Gemini ran into further trouble in June 2022 when the IRA Financial Trust, a retirement savings company, sued the exchange, saying that it had not taken adequate steps to safeguard customers from cyber theft.

Hackers had stolen $36 million (£31 million) of Bitcoin and Ethereum tokens in February of the same year. The IRA Financial Trust alleged that Gemini did not freeze accounts to prevent further theft or take enough action to mitigate the risk of hacking.

The exchange rejected the claims, which centred around the master key owned by the claimant, and advised that they had shared the private keys in email exchanges.

Although there appeared to be a security flaw that further facilitated the theft, the exchange claims that the trust was primarily responsible for the loss.

Winklevoss Twins FAQ

Do the Winklevoss twins have a band?

The 40-year-old twins, crypto entrepreneurs, and billionaires have a rock band called Mars Junction. They have been touring the US and play covers of songs by bands such as Pearl Jam, Blink-182 and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

While the band has not been showered with positive reviews, they remain popular due to the reputation preceding the brothers. People who attend a live show receive a free NFT in return.

What are the Winklevoss brothers worth?

The brothers are worth $3.3 billion (£2.84 billion) each, or $6.6 billion (£5.68 billion) collectively.

Their Gemini exchange processes transactions worth $200 million (£172 million) daily, and Cameron and Tyler act as President and CEO, respectively.

Today the twins are thought to own around 70,000 Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency assets within a broader portfolio. They have seeded capital in over 100 crypto-related projects and startup enterprises.

Did Mark Zuckerberg admit to stealing the Facebook idea from the Winklevoss brothers?

Not directly, no. The Facebook court case was settled with a payment of $65 million (£56 million); although this was an agreement rather than a court directive.

The payment was made in a combination of cash and Facebook shares after the brothers alleged that Zuckerberg had stolen the idea while working on the coding for a similar social media concept they had launched at Harvard.

Zuckerberg has never said that he stole the idea, but the main crux of the court case centred on the fact that he deliberately stopped working on the projects the Winklevoss brothers had paid him for a while he developed and launched Facebook.

How much Bitcoin do the Winklevoss twins own?

At one point, the Winklevoss brothers claimed that they had bought one per cent of all the Bitcoin in existence, and although this is not verified, they own a significant amount.

The brothers are thought to have 70,000 Bitcoin in their current portfolio, worth roughly £1,205 million at today’s valuation.

They invested in the digital currency in the early days, buying some tokens for as little as $10 (£8.61) each, using the settlement funds they received from Mark Zuckerberg.

Why are the Winklevoss twins famous?

The Winklevoss brothers have led an extraordinary life as Bitcoin billionaires, crypto entrepreneurs and Olympic rowers linked with some well-known public figures.

As co-founders of Gemini and some of the largest owners of Bitcoin globally, they were the first Bitcoin billionaires aside from Satoshi Nakamoto.

They continue to acquire multiple tech platforms and providers through Gemini, buying Omniex, a crypto trading platform, and BITRIA, a digital asset management tool, so far in 2022.

The 2010 movie, The Social Network, was publicised as a biographical film about the origins of Facebook, with controversial actor Armie Hammer playing both twins, with his face superimposed on Josh Pence as the second brother.

Neither brother has ever married, although Cameron is rumoured to be dating a Brazilian model called Natalia Beber. They are notoriously secretive about their private lives, and little is known about their relationships.

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