While some companies won’t survive the current “crypto winter", the underlying blockchain technology will endure, the cryptocurrency billionaire said during a pre-recorded video at DIFC FinTech Week, a two-day event for key FinTech players to discuss the future drivers of growth in financial services.
“Blockchain is a proven technology. Some cryptos may drop in price, some projects may fail but the technology will stay,” Mr Zhao said on Tuesday.
“This is similar to the dotcom bubble. Many companies failed but the technology stayed.”
Mr Zhao made his debut on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in January with a net worth of $96 billion. However, his fortune has plummeted to $20bn after a massive sell-off in digital currencies across the board — from Bitcoin to Ether to Solana, Cardano and Shiba Inu, among others — and causing the sector’s total market capitalisation to fall below $1 trillion.
Bitcoin, the world's first and largest cryptocurrency, crashed below the key $20,000 psychological level last week as investors continued to steer clear of riskier assets amid concerns of rising interest rates as central banks try to rein in inflation.
The digital token has since pared back its losses and was trading at $21,018 as of 2.51pm UAE time on Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap. However, it is down more than two thirds from its peak of about $68,000 last November.
Binance has been strengthening its ties in the Middle East and Europe after receiving in-principle approval from the Abu Dhabi Global Market in April to operate as a broker-dealer in virtual assets in the capital.
Founded in China in 2017, the company also secured a virtual asset licence to operate in Dubai and regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Bahrain in March to operate as a crypto-asset service provider in the kingdom.
“This is an industry with a lot of risks, so manage risks carefully, diversify and don’t chase high returns,” Mr Zhao said.
Blockchain is fundamentally a way to transfer value, similar to how the internet is used to transfer information, he said.
“The internet has revolutionised how we live, do business and blockchain will do that further. It will change the way we think about investments, fund-raising and financial transactions that is not possible using traditional financial methods,” Mr Zhao added.
Some solutions provided by decentralised finance (DeFi) today are not offered by traditional finance, such as global fund raising.
Entrepreneurs can raise between $10 million and $40m in a matter of a weeks or days using DeFi, Mr Zhao said.
“This is not possible in the traditional financial industry. It could take you several months to years to raise a similar amount from venture capital companies.”
Artists and content creators can now also monetise their work globally using non-fungible tokens, which could not be done so easily through traditional art galleries, Mr Zhao said.
DeFi can help to provide financial services to the unbanked population, he added.
“In five to 10 years, DeFi could become bigger than CeFi [centralised finance]. That is why we are making heavy investments in this area,” he said.
There are many innovations occurring in the DeFi and cryptocurrency space that will push the industry forward, he added.
“Failures are important in this industry because they allow you to learn and improve.”
Progressive and innovation-driven banks will adopt blockchain technology in a big way, while those that do not adapt will have a “very hard time” in the future and those late in adoption will be at a significant disadvantage, Mr Zhao said.