Bringing the crypto payment ecosystem to the world: Ray Youssef

Although he has failed 11 entrepreneurial ventures, today, as the executive director of the Built With Bitcoin Foundation, Ray Youssef is building Bitcoin-funded schools across Africa and as the CEO of Paxful helping millions buy and sell cryptocurrencies. However, Yusuf also admitted to robbing a hardware store on behalf of a monastery school after Hurricane Katrina and said that he was almost shot as a CIA agent during the Egyptian Revolution.

He just returned from El Salvador and spent some time there Bitcoin Beach ——He said that even children are using Bitcoin (Bitcoin).Crypto payment services are important there because 70% Of Salvadorans do not have a bank account. For Yusuf, the peer-to-peer financial network offers hope for developing countries.

All roads lead to Bitcoin

When Youssef first heard of Bitcoin in 2011, he quickly “dismissed it as nerd’s money.” There are more urgent things in his mind, because he left the relatively comfortable New York that year to support the revolution in his hometown of Egypt. There, he went to the core of the protests in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, “nearly killed on the first night of the truly crazy fighting,” during which time he was arrested by the military as a suspected CIA agent. “I can write a book about that night by myself,” he concluded with a smile, his laughter exuding a sense of mystery.

He is not the first cryptocurrency leader to throw himself into the revolution-just like Griff Green, he once Protected polling station in CataloniaOr Amir Taaki who fought against the Kurdish People’s Guard. However, after returning to the United States, he began to integrate his revolutionary experience and questioned many things in society.

One of the rabbit holes he descended was money. “I started asking questions about money: Where is it? Where does it come from?” he said. Soon, he “started to look at history from a very different perspective.” At that time he returned to Bitcoin, where he felt he could find the answer.

It seems that cryptocurrency has attracted revolutionaries, which may support the idea of ​​a technological or financial revolution brought about by blockchain. In 2013, when he came to the Bitcoin Center in New York for his first party, he wanted to know other Bitcoin lovers: “What are they like? Are they on the same road as me?”

Describing this incident, he sounds like a pilgrim telling the story of a distant shrine, where they hope to find other people seeking truth. The first person he met, Artur Schaback, who is about to become a business partner, was the only other tall man in the meeting, “So we get along well, and we really believe that Bitcoin can help this. Little guy.” Soon, they began to study bitcoin retail solutions, but it was not easy.

“We are out of money-we have to choose between our startup or our residence.”

The two adventurers “finally became homeless and surfed on the couch.” Youssef felt that he had fallen to the bottom and he needed help-he was afraid that his mother would find out about him. He fasted for a month and prayed. “I must be truly humble and plead for God’s help-I was broken, defeated, and I got a very special night-it was the night of power in Ramadan,” he solemnly recalled. No matter what he went through at the time, it represented a turning point for Yusuf.

Yusuf originally immigrated to the United States from Egypt with his family when he was 2 years old. By the time he was 8 years old, he was already doing odd jobs. He has been studying history at Baruch College in New York since 1996, but his real passion lies in computers. He got his first personal computer at the age of 19, and “taught himself programming and started his own business immediately.” Before embarking on the road to entrepreneurship, he worked as a senior software engineer at the early smartphone company YadaYada for two years. The first of these was related to the distribution of coupons via SMS, but this idea failed to gain attention.

However, when he turned to downloadable ringtones, the young entrepreneur soon began to taste success. His new company MatrixM “increased its revenue from $0 to $1 million in less than six months.”

“The biggest problem is that the users who want ringtones are people who don’t have a bank account-teenagers.”

Although he started well, the next ten years did not provide a comfortable journey. Youssef best described this turbulent part of his life on LinkedIn, where he wrote his title as “entrepreneur” in “11 Failed Startups and Many Lessons.” The fact that he did not give up during that time speaks for itself. Although his initial success can be attributed to sheer luck, it did help him believe in himself despite years of failure. Regardless of whether he is a competent entrepreneur after the first success, he must have worked hard to become an entrepreneur after the 11th failure.

In MatrixM’s work, Youssef found that the peer-to-peer infrastructure, which was still in its infancy at the time, was the key to obtaining ringtones and a wide audience-users can upload ringtones or download ringtones. Today, Yusuf explained that peer-to-peer platforms like Uber and Airbnb have “become a part of our daily lives”. The same situation will happen soon in peer-to-peer finance. “Humans have been waiting for a long time,” he said. Yusuf said that although developed countries can benefit, emerging economies (such as most of Africa) have much greater demand.

He described the problems people face in transactions as “puzzling-even if they have a bank account and get a bank card, they can only spend up to $100 a month with a Visa card.” This means that money transfers in and out of Africa are fast It becomes a nightmare because merchants cannot easily buy goods from China. He explained in a statement: “They have to go through three or four jumps, turn their money into U.S. dollars on the black market, and then find a way to deposit it into a bank account that can actually be wire transferred because their personal accounts cannot Remittance.” An angry tone.


Later in 2015, someone told him a way to make money by selling BTC gift cards. Yusuf was skeptical, but out of desperation decided to give it a try. “I thought it was a scam, but it worked, so we scaled up,” he recalled, still seeming surprised. With their system running normally, Youssef and Schaback decided to build a platform for trading gift card cryptocurrency, seeing it as the “best way for unbanked people to join the cryptocurrency world.” After 72 hours of coding, Paxful is online.

Youssef recalled that he received a customer service call from a “desperate lady” who needed to buy $2.50 worth of BTC to pay for online classified ads. By her last $13, she didn’t have a bank account, and she didn’t know how to buy Bitcoin because there was no service for people like her. With the children crying, Yusuf guided her to a nearby pharmacy and bought a $10 Wal-Mart gift card.

“‘Okay, I will guide you through the whole process of converting a Walmart gift card to Bitcoin, and then actually sending the Bitcoin to that address.’ It’s two hours-it’s tough.”

This experience is formative because it illustrates the real struggle of those who cannot access the traditional banking system and try to use modern Internet services. “This is why Paxful is in a leading position-we are willing to do things that others are not willing to do, and we are willing to go to places where others are not willing to go, such as Nigeria,” Yusuf explained, referring to the fact that small transactions have almost no profit. A fact. He said that because of his roots, he felt a deep connection with Africa. “My dream has always been to help Africa,” he asserted.

Today, Paxful allows users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies through hundreds of methods. It is profitable, has more than 6 million users, and is supported by “nearly 500 people in 9 offices worldwide.” He believes that this platform will soon become mainstream, Especially in Nigeria ——This is the company’s largest market and Yusuf’s part-timer. “They are the people who will push the rest of Africa forward. Nigeria is the lion of Africa,” Yusuf said proudly, as if he was a Nigerian himself. Yusuf believes that it will soon become the Silicon Valley of Africa.

Built with Bitcoin

The Bitcoin Foundation of which Youssef serves as executive director aims to build 100 schools around the world to support local communities-an idea inspired by his experience after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in August 2005. Youssef saw the news and decided “I will go there by myself”.

On the ground, he found that various charities were of no avail. “Finally, I managed to find these five Dominican nuns in the French Quarter. They have a school, and they want me to help rebuild and reopen the school.” Yusuf looked for building materials and supplies in the city, sometimes buying himself In great danger. Once, he became friends with a truck driver, “He and I actually ended up robbing a Lowes [hardware store] Go to school for supplies. ”

“During this time, I went through a lot of adventures-I was almost killed by the police. The police saw me wandering in the city and thought I was a robber.”

Youssef believes that the opening of schools is the key to helping cities reopen after disasters, because the police and fire departments “if they can’t get their children back to school, they won’t be back.” He realized that schools are community development and civilized. pillar. “This is where I thought about building with Bitcoin-to build a hundred schools in the next five years, and we have built three of them,” he said. So far, the organization has completed three schools. In addition to schools, another focus is on sustainable agriculture and the provision of water wells to ensure that communities have access to clean water.

According to the website, 92% of the funds go directly to the project. A recent school project in Rwanda was completed in collaboration with a charity called Zam Zam Water. Although the construction of schools and wells will certainly nourish the development of communities, the idea that the proliferation of cryptocurrencies can help form a stronger local and internationally connected economy is a new idea. “I consider myself a Bitcoin optimist,” Yusuf said.


When El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele recently announced that Bitcoin is the country’s official currency, the international media expressed skepticism. Yusuf was one of the chief executives who flew to the country within a few weeks of the announcement, undoubtedly hoping to open up a new major market for Paxful.

In his opinion, the new Bitcoin law is getting all citizens to receive 30 USD BTC airdrop, benefit Ordinary peopleNonetheless, he pointed out that “the old nobles of El Salvador came out” to belittle him as a colonist because he “photographed with a group of guards who did not work for me at the airport”.

Youssef believes this is just the beginning, because the grassroots use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will “expand to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and eventually Mexico and the entire Central America-we see this very clearly.”

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