What made Sam Bankman-Fried launch FTX — and what he now thinks about the world (Part 1)

Episode 85 of Season 3 of The Scoop was recorded remotely with The Block’s Frank Chaparro and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX.

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Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire founder of crypto exchange FTX, joins The Scoop to close out 2021 in a two-part episode that explores the origin story of the increasingly ubiquitous trading venue, Bankman-Fried's worldview, and what he expects for the digital asset market in the year to come.

We begin with Part 1, during which the former Jane Street trader and Stanford graduate harkens back to the precious beginnings of FTX, spun out of Alameda Research, a trading firm he also founded. 

Bankman-Fried also explained why the firm was launched in the first place back in 2019. 

“What it really was, was saying, OK here’s a business [that’s] making $1 billion-plus a year collectively at the time, which we understand deeply,” he said. “They were just not well built. The number of problems they had were enormous. Losing millions of dollars a day in customer funds ... the risk engines just didn’t work. And you could see why.”

As Bankman-Fried recalled, some back-of-envelope math played a role in the decision-making process. He said he considered what the expected value of an exchange could be and figured that the odds of success were non-trivial:

"I don’t know exactly how high, but definitely not close to zero, so fuck, it let’s do it. That was basically the chain of logic there. Eighty percent chance we fail to ever get a user. If we do get users then there is a 50% chance that it goes pretty well.”

During this episode, Bankman-Fried and Chaparro also explore:

  • FTX’s marketing campaigns and the underpinning ethos of its advertising strategy 
  • How memes differentiate FTX from its competitors
  • Why FTX wants to take a very different approach to public relations than most companies 
  • The regulatory environment in crypto and why Bankman-Fried doesn’t think the conversation is partisan.

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.