Though he has had 11 business failures, today Ray Youssef is building Bitcoin-funded schools across Africa as executive director of the Built With Bitcoin Foundation and is helping millions of people buy and sell cryptocurrency as CEO of Paxful. However, Youssef also admits to looting hardware stores on behalf of a convent school after Hurricane Katrina and says he was nearly shot as a suspected CIA agent during the Egyptian Revolution.
He has just returned from El Salvador, where he spent time at Bitcoin Beach — where he says even children are using Bitcoin (BTC). Crypto payments services are important there because 70% of people in El Salvador have no bank account. For Youssef, peer-to-peer financial networks spell hope for the developing world.
All roads lead to Bitcoin
When Youssef first heard about Bitcoin in 2011, he quickly “dismissed it as nerd money.” He had more pressing things on his mind, as that year he left the relative comfort of New York to support the revolution in his native Egypt. There, he went to the core of the protests at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and “nearly died on the first night of really crazy fighting” during which he was arrested by the military as a suspected CIA agent. “I could write a book on that one night alone,” he concluded with a laugh that exuded mystery.
He’s not the first crypto leader to throw themself into a revolution — like Griff Green, who once protected polling booths in Catalonia, or Amir Taaki, who went to fight with the Kurdish YPG. After he returned home to the United States, however, he began integrating his experiences of the revolution and questioning many things about society.
The energy in Nigeria will transform the world. The youth have already begun building a pan African financial settlement layer using #bitcoin and nothing can stop peer to peer. Africa is now leading the new world of finance and crypto adoption. Let us all show them love https://t.co/kTSFDdYwUl pic.twitter.com/uufSnLKUZz
— Ray “Adewale Uwaifo” Youssef (@raypaxful) June 12, 2021
One of the rabbit holes he descended was that of money. “I started asking questions about money: Where is it? Where does it come from?” he said. Soon, he “began to see history through a very different lens.” That’s when he returned to Bitcoin, where he felt he could find answers.
It seems that crypto attracts revolutionaries, perhaps backing the idea of a technological or financial revolution brought on by blockchain. As he arrived at Bitcoin Center NYC for his first meetup in 2013, he wondered about the other Bitcoiners: “What are they like? Are they on the same journey that I am on?”
Describing the event, he sounded not unlike a pilgrim recounting a tale of a faraway shrine where they’d hoped to find other seekers of truth. The first person he met, Artur Schaback — his soon-to-be business partner — was the only other tall guy in the meeting, “So we got along, and we really bonded over the belief that Bitcoin could help the little guy.” Soon, they started working on a Bitcoin retail solution, but it was no easy ride.
“We ran out of money — we had to choose between our startup or a place to live.”
The two adventurers “ended up homeless, surfing couches.” Youssef felt he had hit rock bottom, and he needed to ask for help — he was terrified of his mother finding out about his situation. He fasted for a month, and he prayed. “I had to be truly humbled and really begged God for help — I was broken, defeated, and I got a very special night — it was the Night of Power of Ramadan,” he recalled solemnly. Whatever he experienced then, for Youssef, it represented a turning point.
Youssef initially moved to the U.S. with his family from Egypt when he was 2, and by 8, he was already working odd jobs. He studied history at Baruch College in New York starting in 1996, but his real passion lay with computers. He got his first PC at 19 and “taught myself to code…
Read More: cointelegraph.com