Ray Youssef of Paxful – Cointelegraph Journal

“I’m coining this time period proper right here, proper now,” Ray Youssef declares. “Monetary Apartheid.”

The CEO and co-founder of Paxful is on a mission. “It’s what has held Africa again greater than anything.”

“How superior would the USA be should you couldn’t ship cash from New York to Florida? From New York to California? From Oregon to Washington? It wouldn’t be the USA! It will be a multitude of all these squabbling little city-states that may barely get it collectively.”

Youssef is keen about reworking the world by enabling the free movement of cash in all places. This will solely be achieved, he says, with a people-powered market.

“Cryptocurrency is only a piece. We use that as a expertise, but it surely’s the people who make it work. It’s peer-to-peer similar to Napster, Uber, Airbnb, Craigslist, all of it. That is the final piece wanted in order that expertise can really disrupt finance.”

Bitcoin by itself, Youssef says, isn’t sufficient.

Paxful values discovered on the newsstand

Youssef displays on his first job in Hell’s Kitchen within the 80’s, when New York was “a tough place.” He hauled large stacks of lots of of newspapers, delivering to resorts round Central Park. “I used to be like eight or 9 years previous, however I used to be a monster.” Lugging a hand truck of papers across the neighborhood, he would gather as much as a thousand {dollars} in money by the tip of an evening’s run. “That’s some huge cash for an eight 12 months previous boy to be carrying round!”

His mother and father labored continuous. Immigrating from Egypt, his father began out as a lowly dishwasher earlier than saving up sufficient cash for the household to affix him in America. Finally, the mother and father began a modest newsstand enterprise with a bit of assist from some pals, the place Youssef labored as a teller. “That’s the place I discovered deal with cash and deal with folks.”

Youssef discovered to attach with folks on the road. Staying linked to on a regular basis folks is a key worth that Paxful espouses, he says.

This worth continues to ring true for Youssef now, as his firm strives to construct for the wants of its customers. The tendency within the tech business, he says, is to keep away from connecting with folks on the road. However a profitable firm is open to studying in regards to the issues customers are experiencing and the place they need assistance.

One specific occasion from his childhood informs his present function. Strolling together with his mother and father in a crowded New York avenue, he remembers seeing a person drop a pockets, filled with a few thousand {dollars} in money. “A thousand bucks would have been an enormous boon to us on the time. However what did my father do? He picked up that pockets, and he ran after the man that dropped it…” The person merely thanked his father and walked away, however the second left an enduring impression on Youssef. 

“Honesty is primary. We’re within the cash enterprise. You need to have folks you possibly can belief. My co-founder, Artur [Schaback], I belief him. He’s my brother. Greater than my brother. I by no means had an actual brother however Artur is my brother. We each love and respect one another and belief one another fully. You want that on this enterprise.”

Constructing for the longer term

He wonders what the present bullish sentiment may do to new naive buyers who’re testing the waters of crypto markets for the primary time. “What’s gonna occur after [the bull run] is the query. Are all of the retail buyers gonna get burned once more?”

“Or are we really going to construct actual construction round this factor we love referred to as cryptocurrency, referred to as Bitcoin? To allow actual use-cases to occur?” Institutional cash will totally enter the scene, Youssef suggests, when use-cases are real and cryptocurrency is not only a speculative asset class.

Making that occur requires some critical hustle, he believes. Pointing once more to the legacy of his mother and father, he discovered what it meant to work laborious. “My mom and father labored so rattling laborious. Eighteen hours a day can be a straightforward day.” As a youth, Youssef watched immigrants from Greece, Colombia, and from throughout Africa working continuous to search out success in America. It was this aggressive hustle, a “maniacal drive,” Youssef says, that instilled the spirit of entrepreneurship in him.  

This similar fanatical ardour has carried over to Paxful, Youssef says, with the objective of constructing the perfect product staff on the earth, centered on customer support. Seeing how good his mother and father had been with folks, Youssef is striving to comply with of their footsteps. “They will try this in a newsstand, we will try this in monetary providers.” 

The banks, he says, have forgotten this. They merely don’t care. “So right here we’re to care. Individuals actually respect that, particularly relating to cash.”

Pondering his household’s legacy brought on Youssef to pause in a second of gratitude. “I may give thanks now for these issues.” 

Failure to launch

Youssef skilled his justifiable share of failures earlier than discovering success with Paxful. Beginning with computer systems comparatively late on the age of 19, he discovered to code in various languages. He quickly developed proficiencies round architecting techniques, constructing buildings and integrating with merchandise. Together with his newfound abilities, he started in search of issues to resolve.

His first resolution to garner consideration centered on ringtones with a startup referred to as MatrixM, “the Napster of ringtones.” Youssef single-handedly constructed a peer-to-peer service the place customers might add ringtones and ship them to different customers through SMS. 

“It blew up in a single day,” Youssef explains. The service generated 1,000,000 {dollars} in revenues after a mere six months of existence.

“It was an enormous success and I used to be the one man within the firm! I constructed the entire thing myself. All of the code.” Youssef shared the success together with his mom, shopping for her a house in New York with the cash he made. However a lingering downside remained. Music publishers weren’t too eager to see exterior events getting a chunk of the profitable motion. Even with what appeared to Youssef like a really beneficiant supply, publishers refused to cooperate, insisting on being paid each single time the ringtone would go off on a person’s gadget.

“That’s what I went up towards in my youth. It was a tough lesson.” 

Together with various different startups that fizzled out, this disappointing failure turned Youssef off expertise for some time, throughout which he says he “went insane,” working away from his troubles and turning to a nomadic way of life, boxing and fascinating in MMA in addition to touring all through Asia visiting and praying at each temple he might discover alongside the way in which.

“My one huge mistake was that I didn’t ask for assist. I used to be a one-man military and I used to be so pleased with that, and so pleased with how sensible I used to be. I used to be boastful. I couldn’t ask for assist and correctly scale.”

Since then, Youssef says, he has discovered to be extra humble and to simply accept assist. “God has damaged me,” he says. He admits he’s very cussed, so the change to a extra humble outlook took some convincing.

“Pharoah is a good instance [of stubbornness]. How lengthy did he defy the God of Moses and Abraham earlier than he lastly received the message? Solely when he was drowning. However God was extra mild on me. I got here to some extent the place I needed to ask God for assist and I received it.”

Simply six years in the past, Youssef and Paxful co-founder Schaback had been homeless for a interval of about two months, bouncing from sofa to sofa and residing on the streets. Generally, Youssef confesses, he would spend nights wandering aimlessly round city. After so many startup failures, he had burned by means of all of his life financial savings and “felt like a loser.”

Nonetheless, he was motivated to press on by the will to offer for his mom, he says, returning to the sport as a way to get his mom one other home after a divorce. Youssef returned to constructing startups, specializing in file-sharing expertise whereas additionally writing blogs on well being and pure philosophers. The lacking hyperlink in each single earlier startup, he explains, was at all times the issue of funds. Funds, Youssef says, is the final main barrier, however it may be overcome with cryptocurrency expertise.

In 2013, Youssef began listening to extra about Bitcoin and was interested in its potential for serving to folks. He notably noticed the potential for cryptocurrency as a instrument to assist folks in Africa. Bonding with Schaback at a Bitcoin assembly in Manhattan, the pair quickly began working collectively, creating some extent of sale Bitcoin service provider instrument referred to as EasyBitz. Regardless of Youssef’s newfound enthusiasm, it didn’t get a complete lot of traction, at first. It wasn’t fixing an issue anybody had on the time. 

Constructing Paxful

Youssef and Schaback ultimately created Paxful, pivoting with EasyBitz towards offering a peer-to-peer financing platform for trading Bitcoin. The objective was to make exchanging worth simpler and extra accessible for everyone, from companies to people. 

He’s grateful for the life classes which have introduced him right here. “I wanted all of that. I actually did. Each single a kind of taught me one thing. A few of them taught me about advertising. Some taught me about positioning. Some taught me about technical challenges, architecting, sharing with folks, however nearly all of them had been peer-to-peer indirectly, very a lot oriented round folks.”

Now, Youssef explains, Paxful can do one thing actual as a result of “We are able to contact cash. That’s what blockchain has given us.” 

Blockchain frees the monetary system from what Youssef sees as an oppressive and unjust regime. “That is just like the final boss. Central banks, the monetary system: it’s warped, damaged, closed off, compartmentalized, segregated. Mainly, it’s underneath a regime of monetary apartheid.”

Pax Africana

In Africa, Youssef explains, sending cash from one nation to a neighboring nation is a nightmare, as Steve Msoh demonstrated earlier this year in a characteristic for Cointelegraph Journal.

It’s simpler, in truth, to move your self, he says. This legacy of Imperialism might be traced again to the 1400’s, with forex that continues to be underneath the management of colonial powers like France. Nations all through Africa to at the present time wouldn’t have a sovereign cash system (as Akon noted, in his personal Journey in Blockchain), forcing unjust limitations on folks all through the continent. 

African cash, Youssef says, isn’t handled like cash from different components of the world. It’s closely scrutinized and rather more weak to destabilization. “They’re used to it however after I hear about it, it’s like, that is diabolical stuff. It truly is.”

“That is what we’re doing. It’s a campaign towards monetary apartheid.”



Led by Paxful, Pax Africana is an initiative funded by means of the charitable BuiltWithBitcoin Africa Fund. To advance Africa’s economies and produce them to the worldwide stage, Pax Africana embraces priorities akin to streamlining interoperability between cash networks, and enabling intracontinental funds and remittances. Thus, the initiative “reaches the lots,” providing a connection to what Youssef describes because the golden circle of finance: the West.

The initiative additionally offers for the constructing of sustainable water provides. With one challenge already in-built Rwanda and one other underway, in addition to progress on a 3rd in Kenya, Paxful plans to clone the sustainable water provide techniques throughout the continent. Youssef hopes that this may present protected, clear water to hundreds of thousands and can enable youngsters to attend college as a substitute of spending as much as six hours of their day touring to fetch water. “Wouldn’t that be an enormous boon to the GDP of Africa? That might make such a distinction.”

BuiltWithBitcoin funds may even be used to construct faculties all through the continent, with plans to assemble 100 faculties. The objective isn’t solely to construct the faculties, however to offer upkeep and upgrades akin to kitchens, clinics, sports activities fields, photo voltaic panels, and tablets. The grand opening of a college in Kenya is due for September, Youssef says.

Along with the basic financial wants of cash transferral, water and faculties, Paxful funds incubators; locations of upper studying and funding in entrepreneurs. Africa’s biggest pure useful resource, Youssef says, is its folks; their heads and their hearts. He explains the continent of greater than a billion residents accommodates hundreds of thousands of unemployed geniuses, providing an immense alternative and potential for development.

Pax Africana provides Africans the chance to hook up with the world by means of the Pax Citizen program. Youssef envisions villagers having fun with entry to telephones with free knowledge, messaging providers and verifiable identification. This “citizen package”, Youssef explains, opens the world to Africa’s folks. “That’s what you’ll want to be a citizen on this world. You want a telephone. You want knowledge. You want some sort of verification ID. When you’ve got these items, Increase! You’re on the map.”

Persevering with the campaign

There’s an expectation in life that we construct on our careers. Youssef is a chief instance of somebody who has actively constructed his character.

From the boastful one-man military behind the failed MatrixM startup to a extra humble chief who relies on the success of the folks round him, Youssef acknowledges each his previous flaws and the work he continues to place into his life.

To additional handle the problems of ‘Monetary Apartheid’, Youssef explains that Paxful is launching the Peer-to-Peer Alliance, through which members donate to BuiltWithBitcoin and share knowledge quantity. The objective of the alliance is to extend transparency in finance, notably amongst OTC, centralized and decentralized exchanges. “That is what humanity wants,” Youssef explains, “To construct collectively.”

Youssef displays on his religious life, citing a return to his religion as a key to success. “What I want each single day is, I want to hope. I pray day by day.” The thoughts grows weaker with out prayer, he says, as the burden of the world weighs us down, particularly throughout troublesome instances. Day by day, he says, your soul must recharge.

“Issues are going to get nice for us,” Youssef insists confidently, “The world goes to enter right into a golden age, however we’re going to be hit by extra of those challenges like COVID. We simply have to remain robust by means of all of it. It’s going to cross. And the purpose is, we’re nonetheless constructing by means of all of it.”


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