In 2016, Tyler Winklevoss, one half of the infamous Winklevoss twins who may be the world's first bitcoin billionaires, told The Financial Times, “We see bitcoin as potentially the greatest social network of all."
As the urban legend goes, identical twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss first met Chairman, CEO and creator of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg in 2003, when all three were students at Harvard University. In 2004, the brothers and their friend Divya Narendra sued Zuckerberg for intellectual property theft, claiming he'd stolen the idea for his world-changing social media giant, Facebook, from their own social networking site, first known as HarvardConnection and later renamed ConnectU.
In 2008, the twins signed a settlement agreement granting them $20 million in cash and 1.253 million shares in Facebook stock, which at the time amounted to a handsome $65 million total value.
All of which was captured on screen in (see Tyler's not-so-veiled reference above) The Social Network, the Academy Award-winning 2010 film based on the story of Facebook's creation and the subsequent lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg by the twins, Narendra, and Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's former friend who claimed that "his shares of Facebook were unfairly diluted when the company was incorporated."
As it turns out, the pair was not content to rest on their laurels. In 2013, the twins used $11 million of their settlement earnings and invested in bitcoins.
If you're not yet in the know about cryptocurrencies, a bitcoin is a form of online, untraceable currency that fluctuates in value. Cameron and Tyler's personal stash of bitcoins is reported to now be valued at over $1 billion following the recent surge over the past few months, officially making the Winklevoss twins the first bitcoin billionaires... perhaps.
In case you haven't been keeping up with the lives of the men sometimes "affectionately" referred to as the Winklevi or Winklevii, we rounded up the following facts about what they've been up and how on Earth they managed to became so. stinking. rich.
Here are 6 facts that answer the question, "Are the Winklevoss twins the first bitcoin billionaires?" as well as what they do with their time when they're not seeking vengeance on Mark Zuckerberg.
1. They were the first bitcoin billionaires — kind of.
When Facebook went public in 2012, the twins combined shares of stock were worth around $300 million, their rowing careers were over, and they were looking for something new to keep them busy, so they began dabbling in bitcoins with an initial investment of $11 million. At the time, the price of one individual coin was below $10 and few people in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street had publicly expressed interest in the virtual currency.
What's even more interesting is that the twins’ investment was responsible for sending bitcoin’s market capitalization North of $1 billion for the first time in 2013. Noticing that bitcoin was close to this crucial point, Cameron Winklevoss made a small order on the now defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox to buy bitcoin for at least $91.26, pushing bitcoin's value into the 10-figure range, according to Nathaniel Popper’s 2015 book on bitcoin, Digital Gold.
In early December of 2017, Business Insider proclaimed the Winklevii the first bitcoin billionaires, as the value per coin hit a record high of approximately $17,800.
There are just two minor details that present a bit of a challenge to their crowning title.
- As Thornton McEnery pointed out in a headline that summed it all up on DealBreaker, "The Winklevii, Who Are Two People, Are Not A Bitcoin Billionaire, Because They Are Two People."
- And just today, January 23, 2017, news broke that the twins "have lost around $443 million each as a result of the falling value of the cryptocurrency and have fallen out of Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index."
Such is the nature of the beast.
2. Not to worry, they have profited from additional virtual currencies.
In addition to their bitcoin collection, Cameron and Tyler have amassed an additional $350 million in earnings from similar cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum.
The two have told sources they may consider selling once bitcoin's value equals that of gold, which is somewhere around $7 or $8 trillion world-wide, as they believe Bitcoin is on track to replace gold as a rare commodity.
However, Tyler has questioned whether they would even sell at that point. Let's hope the two see eye to eye when/if the moment arrives.
3. They maintain a low-key lifestyle — kind of.
Despite the astronomical rise in value of the currency they have amassed, the twins are reported to have sold a small percentage of their coins to created their own virtual currency exchange — known as (what else?) Gemini — but other than that transaction, are believed to have no other plans to sell more in the near, or even far, future.
That should not lead you to believe, however, that the two are cash-poor, by any means.
While the former Olympic athletes, who finished 6th when they rowed for Team USA in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, like to describe their lives as not being entirely luxurious, emphasizing often that Cameron drives an older SUV, while Tyler doesn't even own a car, the New York Post points out, "Vanity Fair reported in 2011 that they shared a BMW M3. They co-own a home in the Hollywood Hills as well as an apartment in Soho. (A rep for the brothers said they have separate apartments in the city but had no comment on anything else.)"
In the same article, their old friend Narendra says, “'They have multiple really nice houses. They don’t live together,' said Narendra. He paused before adding: 'Well, it depends on the day.'”
4. The security system protecting their fortune consists of a torn-up paper key.
Although the twins have endured their fair share of ridicule for both their Facebook troubles and their bitcoin obsession, Tyler recently told the New York Times, "We've turned that laughter and ridicule into oxygen and wind at our back."
As explained in detail on Business Insider, they guard their new found fortune in what's known as a "cold wallet" system.
"Because bitcoin is a digital currency, it can be stolen in a hack. Earlier this month, for example, one cryptocurrency-mining service said hackers had taken $80 million in bitcoin... Bitcoin resides in electronic 'wallets,' and each has a private key. If someone has that key, they can take your bitcoin. Printing the key — and keeping it off the internet — helps protect it from people trying to steal it.
The Winklevoss twins take it one step further — they cut up a paper printout of their private key, then stored the pieces in banks around the country. Here's how The Times explains it: 'The Winklevosses came up with an elaborate system to store and secure their own private keys. They cut up printouts of their private keys into pieces and then distributed them in envelopes to safe deposit boxes around the country, so if one envelope were stolen the thief would not have the entire key.'"
5. Not only do they have similar tastes in women, they date them TOGETHER.
In 2012, the brothers were photographed together while on a date with Brazilian models Marina Theiss (near left, with Tyler) and Amanda Salvato (near right, with Cameron). While the two women are not related, it's not difficult to see that the brother's certainly shared similar preferences when it comes to their taste in women.
Another report from Page Six in 2015 spotted Cameron taking his girlfriend at the time, Natalie Bieber, yet another Brazilian model, to the Top of the Standard for a date that included his brother Tyler.
The two are both believed to be single at the moment, as women have also told reporters that they've seen the twins' profiles on dating apps, include Hinge, Bumble, and by-invitation-only Raya.
6. Their closest friends and family have a hard time telling them apart.
Tyler and Cameron have always had a close relationship with one another, with one source reporting that they always preferred to dress alike. Even now as filthy rich grown-ups on the red carpet, they can typically be found wearing complimentary outfits, and they purposely maintain the same exact haircut.
Many say the twins simply appear more powerful and interesting when they are together rather than apart.
One unnamed friend from their college says says, “It’s like a shtick... They become more interesting together than they intrinsically are [on their own] — they’re twice as powerful as they are alone. That’s why you never see them alone... They’re [like] something out of Greek mythology... If one died, the other would die within 12 months.”
Hannah Kern is an avid writer with a passion for delving deep into interpersonal relationships. When she isn’t researching new information for YourTango, you can find her making frappucinos at Starbucks or planning her next escape to the mountains.For more, follow her on Instagram.