BitMEX was founded in the Seychelles, a move that allowed the startup to move forward quickly and minimize its tax exposure while Western governments struggled to understand – let alone – the new financial instruments and market that BitMEX was building because to rule. In a 2015 investor presentation, Hayes pointed out that “Bitcoin derivatives are completely unregulated worldwide…. Regulators are still trying to tackle the fiat and bitcoin exchanges. “

That could have been magical thinking. “In the beginning there were no rules, and [governments] I wasn’t interested in formulating the rules, ”Chu recalled. “You would go to [them] and ask for guidance and get nothing. “Is that illegal?” No answer. “It was only afterwards that cryptic restrictions on police crypto emerged – usually in response to a violation that had not previously been articulated by regulators. But where Chu saw chaos, Hayes saw opportunity.

Almost a year after its inception, BitMEX’s business was flat. “Some days we didn’t have any trades,” recalled Hayes. “Nobody bought or sold.” The fees for trading on the platform barely covered the server bill that Reed paid with his credit card. While Hayes and Delo stayed in Hong Kong, Reed married and moved back to the United States. He settled in Milwaukee, where he operated outside of the coworking space. The time zone difference worked in their favor, however: Reed and Delo were alternately “on call” and dealt with customer support questions around the clock.

The company’s net worth changed when it began offering its clients 100x in late 2015 – five times as much leverage as its closest competitor. Political volatility in the following year with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump increased the volume of Crypto trading. In 2017, BitMEX had to hire 30 employees to deal with the explosion in retail. The company moved into new office space from which it would soon grow.

By 2018, BitMEX had become a high-stakes bazaar moving billions every day. During one of our meetings, Hayes stated, “We are the largest trading platform in the world by volume. This is anyone who trades a crypto product. “BitMEX is one of the” most liquid exchanges “[s] in the world regardless of the asset class. “With this move, it was in the same league as NASDAQ and the New York, London and Tokyo stock exchanges. Within four short years, Hayes’ seedy casino had become playfully home. (BitMEX has had great success since the indictment was unsealed in October. Market share and trading volume have plummeted.)

Sharks and lambs

In May 2018, on the opening day of Consensus – the equivalent of the crypto world to the Consumer Electronics Show – Hayes drove an orange Lamborghini to the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan and tweeted: “Did you see my ride today at # Consensus2018?”

A close friend insisted he just mocked the thousands of attendees who had gathered at the hotel – investors who were talking a big game about cashing in crypto but really only made it, millions of venture capital with goofy programs and ICOs (initial coin) to burn offers). In retrospect, the Lambo game might have been the moment, more than any other, when Hayes painted a porthole on his back.

The company’s partners had different approaches to their image and their booming business. Hayes, who didn’t mind ruffling feathers, reveled in the role of the financial renegade. Most Inconspicuous Sam Reed, a secret billionaire (on paper) who walked the streets of Milwaukee. However, Ben Delo appeared to be starving for mainstream acceptance. When BitMEX was named the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in 2018, it was dubbed “Britain’s youngest self-made billionaire” by a number of British newspapers. In October of that year he donated £ 5 million to Worcester College, Oxford and a few months later signed the Giving Pledge he designed bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett as “an open invitation for billionaires … to make a public commitment to devote most of their wealth to philanthropy.” In a letter explaining his decision, he wrote: “As a high school student in the UK at the age of 16 I was asked to list my ambitions for the future. I replied briefly, ‘Computer programmer. Internet entrepreneur. Millionaire.’ I have been incredibly lucky to exceed these goals and I am grateful to have been able to sign that pledge. “

Two years ago, BitMEX rented the 45th floor of the Cheung Kong Center, the most expensive property in Hong Kong, which is home to Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Bloomberg and Bank of America. Hayes, Delo and Reed literally moved into the establishment. Always keen to make a statement, BitMEX outfitted its office with an accessory that none of those clumsy companies owned: a large aquarium that is home to live sharks.


By the summer of 2019, the amount of money flowing through BitMEX was staggering. On June 27, the company announced that it had set a new daily record of $ 16 billion. Two days later, Hayes tweeted, “A trillion dollars were traded in a year; The statistics don’t lie. BitMEX is nothing to fuck with [sic] With. @Nouriel See you on Wednesday. “

The man he tweeted on was Nouriel Roubini, a respected NYU economics professor – and BitMEX’s fiercest critic. Roubini, called Dr. Doom, sat on it President ClintonCouncil of Economic Advisers and has served in the Ministry of Finance, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In other words, he was about as established as Hayes was contrary. On July 3, the two faced each other on stage at the Asia Blockchain Summit as part of the “Tangle in Taipei” and took their seats when the subject of Rocky boomed overhead.