Money as a social network. That was how a stranger first pitched Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the 6’5” twins, on bitcoin at a lavish pool party in 2008. The sibling investors, who were depicted in The Social Network as uber-jocks who found themselves thwarted in their tech ambitions by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, had never heard of cryptocurrency. But they knew an opportunity when they saw one. They began buying bitcoin in 2012, when it was worth less than $10 a coin, in what proved to be an incredibly shrewd investment. When the value of a bitcoin reached more than $11,000 in 2017, the Winklevoss twins became the world’s first verified bitcoin-financed billionaires. (Bitcoin is currently trading at around $7,600.)
The story of the Winklevoss brothers’ incredible second act is the subject of Ben Mezrich’s new book, The Bitcoin Billionaires. Mezrich, who also wrote Bringing Down the House, about a group of card counters from MIT, and The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into The Social Network, has a talent for telling cinematic tales of wealth, sex, and opportunity. And like his previous books, Bitcoin Billionaires is a colorful tale of savvy ambition, full of nerdy guys who are gobsmacked when they suddenly become the coolest kids in the room. If the Winklevoss brothers came off as outsmarted alpha Ivy Leaguers in The Accidental Billionaires, in Bitcoin Billionaires, the two are depicted as clever visionaries who got it right this time.
OneZero recently sat down with Mezrich in midtown Manhattan’s Harvard Club, to discuss why he wanted to set the record straight on the Winklevoss brothers and write about their big bet on bitcoin.
The following conversation has been condensed for length and clarity.
OneZero: How did you come to write the book?
Ben Mezrich: For the past few years, people had been telling me that I should be writing a book about bitcoin. I had no interest in it. The idea of the blockchain just makes my eyes glaze…