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One of America's youngest billionaires details his biggest financial mistake

Sam Bankman-Fried may have made his fortune by founding crypto exchange FTX, but there are still some aspects of crypto that he is just beginning to understand.

In fact, the 29-year-old billionaire told Yahoo Finance that his biggest financial mistake was waiting too long to jump into the crypto frenzy.

“The biggest mistake I made... is not getting involved sooner,” Bankman-Fried said at the Crypto Goes Mainstream conference.

Bankman-Fried detailed some of the areas that he wished he had learned about earlier, from overarching themes dominating the crypto space to some of the more nuts and bolts aspects of operating an exchange.

“I think that there's a lot of opportunities in the space that did not gel to me until the last year,” Bankman-Fried said. “I think one of them is thinking about what the consumer financial experience would look like, what a comprehensive one could look like.”

A screenshot of Sam Bankman-Fried at the Crypto Goes Mainstream virtual event.
Sam Bankman-Fried discussed what's next for the crypto exchange FTX, blockchain projects, NFTs, and more at the Crypto Goes Mainstream event.

Bankman-Fried described one missed opportunity that occurred around 2013 when he took a vague interest in the bitcoin arbitrage bot his friend Gary Wang developed.

“I checked it out," Bankman-Fried said. "It was kind of cool. Nothing came of it. Five years later, we would get into crypto together and end up founding FTX together. So imagine what would happen if we chased down that rabbit hole much earlier.”

Another area of potential, he added, “is just understanding some of the regulatory regimes that we see.”

“There's a lot of opportunity to offer new innovative products in a licensed manner, and I think I'd been underestimating that earlier," he said. "And I think that was certainly a mistake, and we could have begun on some projects earlier I think than we did."

FTX, which was founded in 2018, raised $900 million earlier this year in a funding round that valued the exchange at $18 billion. (Bankman-Fried also founded Alameda Research, a trading firm, in 2017.)

Bankman-Fried noted that FTX's user registration process annoyed him at times.

“Every time that I try and walk myself through it, I'm annoyed at something,” he said.

Miami, FL, USA - September 25, 2021: FTX Arena Downtown Miami FL formerly American Airlines Stadium
Miami, FL, USA - September 25, 2021: FTX Arena Downtown Miami FL formerly American Airlines Stadium

He pointed out how inefficiencies in the registration process create speed bumps that lead potential new users to abandon it altogether and hinder adoption.

“It is not that hard to at least do a decent job of this,” he said. “I think we're starting now to. We've made a number of changes in the last couple of weeks, but I sort of wish that we had taken that seriously earlier, and a lot of people had brought this up to us.”

Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.

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