How the Winklevoss Twins Became First Bitcoin Billionaires & Made Their Fortune

The Winklevoss brothers are famous figures from the world of cryptocurrencies and one of the richest twins in history! First, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss came up with the idea that enriched Mark Zuckerberg. Then, they decided to invest in Bitcoin after suing the owner of Facebook for their money back. 

Today, we will tell you how the story of the Winklevoss brothers began and why the twins were included in the Forbes list. Let’s get started!

Who Are the Winklevoss Brothers?

The Winklevoss brothers were born and raised in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States, Greenwich, Connecticut. Their father, Dr. Howard Winklevoss taught at the Wharton School of Business and also owned his own company. This is what Tyler Winklevoss said about their father:

Dad was a pure entrepreneur. The dinner conversations weren’t like, ‘Did the Yankees win today?’

At 15, the Winklevoss brothers organized a rowing team at their high school. In 1999, the Winklevoss participated in the Junior World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

In 2000, the Winklevoss twins attended Harvard University, where they majored in economics while practicing row. During their studies, the brothers were part of several elite student clubs. In 2004, they graduated from the university, and in the same year, they won some American competitions and went to Europe, where they participated in the prestigious regattas.

In 2007, the brothers represented the United States at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, where they won gold. Their sporting career culminated in a kayak performance at the Beijing Olympics, where they managed to reach the big final but finished sixth.

How Did the Winklevoss Brothers get into Business?

In December 2002, the Winklevoss brothers and their Harvard classmate Divya Narendra invented a social network for university students called HarvardConnection. The programmer Sanjay Mavinkurve was hired to implement the project.

The Winklevoss Twins with Divya Narendra in 2007

Still, Mavinkurve did not finish his job because, in the spring of 2003, he received a lucrative offer from Google. The partners found another programmer, Victor Gao, but he could not help them either. In the end, in November 2003, the Winklevoss brothers hired Mark Zuckerberg and provided him with the source code for HarvardConnection.

Over the next two months, Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin decided to create their own social network in secret from the Winklevoss. Thus, on February 6, 2004, the brothers found out from the university newspaper The Harvard Crimson that Zuckerberg had launched the website.

The twins appealed to the university administration with a claim for intellectual property theft, but the administration said that the case was beyond its competence. University President Lawrence Summers advised them to go right to court.

History of the Trial Against Mark Zuckerberg

The Winklevoss brothers filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, accusing him of stealing ideas and software code. Then the HarvardConnection site was launched, soon renamed ConnectU. Later, this project began to work closely with Wayne Chan’s i2hub file-sharing network. Together they launched several subsidiary projects under the brand name The Winklevoss Chang Group.

Zuckerberg denied all accusations, saying that the very first social network was not the idea of ​​the Winklevoss, but in 1999. After five years of litigation, Facebook agreed to pay the brothers compensation in exchange for dropping the lawsuit.

According to Bloomberg, in 2010, the law firm that represented ConnectU in the case against Zuckerberg announced the amount of the agreement — $65 million. It soon became clear that the amount was calculated at a significantly lower share price, and ConnectU demanded that Zuckerberg pay extra.

Lawyers urged the brothers to take the entire amount of compensation in cash, but they wanted more than half of the amount in Facebook shares. As a result, they received $20 million in cash and $45 million in Facebook shares.

To the question of whether the brothers hate Mark Zuckerberg after all this, Tyler Winklevoss answered as follows:

Hate is a strong word. It’s also very destructive, so no — I don’t hate Mark Zuckerberg.

In October 2010, the movie ‘The Social Network’ about the creation of Facebook went live, where Armie Hammer played both brothers — the directors could not find twins that look like the Winklevoss.

The Winklevoss Brothers: A Billion Dollar Fortune

Having won the trial against Facebook, the brothers decided to invest everything they earned in bitcoin. This made them the first investors to invest millions of dollars in cryptocurrency back in 2013. The Winklevoss brothers started buying bitcoins when they cost only $10. 

For several months, the brothers bought about 120K bitcoins. As a result, the fortune of the Winklevoss brothers increased to $1.13 billion at the end of 2017. At the current exchange rate of the main digital currency, the fortune of the twins is approaching $6 billion.

Having tried their hand in crypto investment, the brothers drew attention to the second-largest coin — Ethereum. Investments in ether brought them $350 million. But that’s not all! The Winklevoss brothers also founded their own digital currency exchange, valued at more than $2 billion.

Still, friends of the Winklevoss brothers state that the twins are not chasing ostentatious wealth: Cameron drives an old BMW X3, while Tyler has no car at all.

Where Do the Winklevoss Brothers Store Their Bitcoins?

Winklevoss’ bitcoins are stored in cold wallets and can only be accessed with a secret key. The brothers came up with an original system for storing their secret keys. They printed out the password and cut it into pieces, which they then put in safes located in different cities. Even if one piece is stolen, the criminal will not gain access to the wallet.

In 2015, the brothers launched their own cryptocurrency exchange under the symbolic name — Gemini. Currently, it is considered one of the most reliable cryptocurrency trading platforms and is constantly expanding its capabilities. Several signatures are required on encrypted devices with no Internet access to enter a wallet.

Gemini Crypto Exchange Interface

The main audience of the exchange is large investors. The brothers welcome the joining of hedge funds, institutional clients, and mutual funds. At the same time, private traders can also register, but access is open only to residents of a limited number of countries where Gemini operates. This is how Tyler Winklevoss explains how the Gemini exchange works:

Gemini is a spot bitcoin exchange. To use it, you sign up with and undergo the initial standard review process, similar to what you’d encounter at a traditional bank. Once you’re through, you can ACH or wire cash to the platform, then begin buying and selling bitcoin.

The daily trading volume of the exchange exceeds $18 million. One of its advantages is that there is no commission for depositing and withdrawing funds. Since May 19, 2018, Gemini has started accepting deposits in Zcash — no exchange has received such a license before.

What Else Belongs to the Winklevoss Brothers

The Winklevoss twins also launched Winklevoss IP and patented the transaction system for cryptocurrency products, including ETFs. Not all twins’ projects find support from the regulators of the US financial market, but the brothers do not stop their development in this promising industry.

In most interviews, the Winklevoss ignore ridicule about their cryptocurrency investments and admit their readiness to sell their company and all bitcoins only when its value approaches the price of all gold in the world — about $8 trillion. Tyler Winklevoss once said:

Bitcoins are like gold bars with wings. That is why I, and so many others, view bitcoin and its network as gold 2.0.

If, in the end, their predictions do not come true, they will not regret this investment, but they believe that such an opportunity should not be missed.


Today, the Winklevoss twins remain one of the largest bitcoin investors and consider it a better asset than gold. Back in 2013, the twins invested approximately $11 million in bitcoin, having bought about 1% of its supply, and in December 2017, they became the world’s first (publicly known) bitcoin billionaires!

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What other interesting facts about the Winklevoss twins do you know? Feel free to share your knowledge in the comments below!

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