Sam Bankman-Fried (born 6 March 1992) is an American trader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange valued at $32 billion,[1] and of Alameda Research, a quantitative trading firm. As of early March 2022, Bankman-Fried has an estimated net worth of $24.5 billion, which makes him the world's wealthiest known crypto billionaire;[2] his fortune has been described as "one of the fastest accumulations of self-made wealth in history."[3]

Background

Bankman-Fried was born and raised in Stanford, California. He and his younger brother Gabe were introduced to moral philosophy at a young age by his parents, both  consequentialists and professors at Stanford Law School. The brothers eventually became "take-no-prisoners utilitarians".[4]

As a high school student, Bankman-Fried attended Canada/USA Mathcamp, a summer program for mathematically talented youth. There he met his future business partners Sam Trabucco (co-CEO of Alameda)[5] and Gary Wang (co-founder and CTO of FTX).[6]

During his third year as a physics major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bankman-Fried was exposed to effective altruism at a talk by William MacAskill on the ethics of career choice.[7] Back then, he was considering doing direct work for an organization focused on improving farmed animal welfare. However, he was persuaded by the argument that, for someone like him, earning to give was a career with a much higher degree of personal fit. By working in finance, he expected to donate enough money to pay for the salaries of several charity employees, each of whom roughly as impactful as he would himself be in that role. As he reasoned, "I would probably make enough money that the Humane League could hire many people and accomplish much more than it would if I went to work for them and started handing out leaflets."[8]

Upon graduating from MIT, Bankman-Fried joined Jane Street Capital, a quantitative trading firm and liquidity provider, where he worked as a trader and designed the firm's automated off-exchange trading system. After serving briefly as director of development at the Centre for Effective Altruism, he founded Alameda Research in 2017 and FTX two years later.

Philanthropic work

Bankman-Fried's fortune has been described as "the product of a long-nurtured utilitarian worldview",[9] and Bankman-Fried himself has been nicknamed "the Bentham of crypto".[10]

While working at Jane Street, Bankman-Fried gave about half of his salary to charity, primarily to animal causes.[11] In 2020, he donated $5.2 million to a committee supporting Joseph Biden, becoming one of the president's top donors.[9] More recently, he has contributed to organizations working in global povertyclimate change, AI safety, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness.[12] As of February 2022, Bankman-Fried has given away between $50 and 100 million,[13] and has stated that he intends to donate the vast majority of his fortune to longtermist causes eventually.[13][14][15][11]

The FTX Foundation donates 1% of all fees collected by FTX, and has funded projects to mitigate climate change and promote effective altruism. Alameda Research originally required all its employees to donate at least 50% of their salaries to effective charities, although the policy has since been revised to help attract more talent.[5]

In February 2022, the FTX Foundation launched the Future Fund, a philanthropic fund that makes grants and investments to ambitious projects focused on improving humanity's long-term prospects. The Fund plans to distribute at least $100 million, and potentially up to $1 billion, by the end of 2022.[16]

Bankman-Fried is a vegan, and has been a member of Giving What We Can since August 2016.

Further reading

80,000 Hours (2021) Sam Bankman-Fried80,000 Hours.

Cowen, Tyler (2022) Sam Bankman-Fried on arbitrage and altruism, Conversations with Tyler, March 10.

Ehrlich, Steven (2021) Meet the world's richest 29-year-old: How Sam Bankman-Fried made a record fortune in the crypto frenzyForbes, October 10.

Gabriele, Mario (2021) FTX trilogy, part 1: The prince of riskThe Generalist, August 1.

Harris, Sam (2021) Earning to give: a conversation with Sam Bankman-Fried, Making Sense, December 24.

Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2022) Sam Bankman-Fried on taking a high-risk approach to crypto and doing good, 80,000 Hours, April 14.

blockchain | classical utilitarianism | earning to give | FTX Foundation | Future Fund

  1. ^

    Szalay, Eva (2022) FTX valued at $32bn as blue-chip investors pile into crypto groups, Financial Times, January 31.

  2. ^

    Forbes (2022) Sam Bankman-FriedForbes, February 18.

  3. ^
  4. ^

    Fried, Barbara H. (2020) Facing up to Scarcity: The Logic and Limits of Nonconsequentialist Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. xv.

  5. ^
  6. ^

    Bankman-Fried, Sam (2020) Raising the bar, FTX Research, May 17.

  7. ^

    Gabriele, Mario (2021) FTX trilogy, part 1: The prince of riskThe Generalist, August 1.

  8. ^

    Gose, Ben (2013) A new donor movement seeks to put data ahead of passionThe Chronicle of Philanthropy, November 3.

  9. ^

    Wallace, Benjamin (2021) The mysterious cryptocurrency magnate who became one of Biden's biggest donorsIntelligencer, February 2.

  10. ^

    Doherty, Brendan (2021) Icon: The untold story of crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-FriedForbes, May 16.

  11. ^

    Faux, Zeke (2022) A 30-year-old crypto billionaire wants to give his fortune away, Bloomberg.com, April 3.

  12. ^

    Schleifer, Theodore (2022) The notorious S.B.F., Puck, February 16.

  13. ^
  14. ^

    Kavate, Michael (2021) A booming crypto platform makes its first foray into climate fundingInside Philanthropy, August 31.

  15. ^

    Chatterley, Julia (2021) "It's incumbent upon us to give back"CNN, December 16.

  16. ^

    Beckstead, Nick et al. (2022) Announcing the Future Fund, Future Fund.

  17. ^

    Chan, Michelle (2021) Hong Kong's 29-year-old crypto billionaire: FTX's Sam Bankman-FriedFinancial Times, July 4.

  18. ^

    Bambysheva, Nina (2021) Bitcoin alert: biggest private crypto deal ever is closedForbes, July 20.