“Bitcoin is nerd’s money,” said Ray Youssef as he boarded a plane to support the revolution in Egypt against its corrupt government. It was 2011 and the Arab Spring was in full bloom. High hope and noble ideas permeated the air. Ray went straight to the epicenter of the protests – Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. He said that he nearly died on the first night of really crazy fighting because the military arrested him thinking he was a CIA agent.

Who the hell is Ray Youssef?

Picture a 2-meter-tall, adventurous hands-on guy who dabbled in MMA when he was young. That is Ray Youssef. At least, in part……

Let’s go back and start at the beginning. His family emigrated from Egypt to New York when he was just 2 years old. As a self-starter, he started working odd jobs already when he was 8. He went on to study history at Baruch College in New York. But when Ray was 19 he got a computer and it was love on the first website. Straight away he taught himself how to code and later on got a job as a senior software engineer at early smartphone company YadaYada. But his entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t be contained for long. Then after a 2 year stint, he started on his own.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Ray’s entrepreneurial journey was peppered with a bit of early success followed by years and years of struggle, sleeping on other people’s couches, and “lessons learned”.

His 1st business dealing with coupons over text messages didn’t get anywhere. His 2nd business with ringtones on the other hand got a meteoric start from $0 to $1 million in revenue in less than six months.

But his early luck didn’t last long. After this initial success, Ray went a DECADE with 11 failed businesses where he learned a lot but didn’t have much to show for it.

It was during this period that he boarded a plane to Egypt to join the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and nearly got himself killed. It takes guts to leave the comfort of New York City for the streets of Cairo filled with protesters and the military requires having a good heart and high ideals.

Alas, the Egyptian revolution didn’t bring much change. But on the positive side, it made Ray ask deep questions about life and society. One of the rabbit holes he dived into was money – where does it come from, why does it have value, and so on. Then just like a magnet attracts iron filings, Bitcoin drew him back in.

Bitcoin = People’s Money = Successful Revolution

These were probably the thoughts that led Ray to that faithful first meetup at Bitcoin Center in 2013. As luck would have it, the first person he met was Artur Schaback, his soon-to-be business partner. They clicked straight away because both believe the idea of how Bitcoin can help the little guy.

 As they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. And ever since Ray stumbled across Bitcoin he got tested to his limits – being homeless, surfing coaches, fasting for one month and praying for guidance. The turning point came on Night of Power of Ramadan where things clicked for him.

In 2015 he found a method to profit by selling gift cards for BTC. Initially, he thought it’s a scam. But being desperate and having nothing to lose is a VERY strong motivation. So he tried it out and it worked. Then together with Artur they started scaling it up. The best way to do this was to create a platform where people could trade BTC for gift cards. And after 72 hours of coding, Paxful was born.

Introduction to Paxful

It was here that Ray could bring to fruition all the experiences he learned over the years. Together with Artur they built this company from scratch. One by one they added customers and different ways how you can buy BTC.

Ray recalls an intriguing story when he picked up a customer service call from a lady who needed to get $2.5 in BTC to pay for classified ad:

“‘Okay, I’ll walk you through the whole process of turning a Walmart gift card into Bitcoin, and then actually sending the Bitcoin to that address.’ It was two hours — it was rough.”

This just shows you how hard it is for people without a bank account to access the many services many of us take for granted. And it was this mission of “banking the unbanked” that drove Ray and Paxful upwards to new heights.

Big Money & Business Partnership Doesn’t Always Go Together

Two of the biggest problems in life are having too little money or having too much money. Of course, most of us want the second option. But sometimes it can bring extra pressure on your partnership. It’s one thing when both you and your 50/50 business partner are broke. But when your company starts to make millions of dollars of profit every year, things sometimes change and insecurities and character differences might pop up.

Unfortunately, this was the case with Paxful. The co-founders Ray and Artur had a 50/50 split of the company’s shares. Meaning that they had to both agree on ANY major company decision. The more Paxful became successful, the more their relationship deteriorated and the fewer things they could agree on. Disagreements led to fights and fights finally led to court filings.

Who’s to Blame?

Reading about it reminds me of a bad marriage breakup – you speak with both parties and you hear two completely different, yet plausible stories. But just as with a bad marriage, the best thing is to recognize as soon as possible, accept that it’s not going to work, settle, and move on. For Ray, the Paxful journey ended in April 2023 when he resigned as CEO.

[Editor’s Note & Disclaimer: Ray was the public face of Paxful for many years. We love p2p trading between individuals and what these ideals stand for. That said, Ray does not endorse the use of Paxful now for safety and security reasons and you should understand what those risks are before you use it]

Results Matter

Conflicts aside, what matters most for us here in crypto is mainstream adoption. And here Paxful does an amazing job – founded in 2015, it grew to employ more than 200 employees in four offices around the world, with $5 billion traded on Paxful by more than 12 million users throughout its existence as of 2023.

The Mission Continues

For Ray, the mission always stayed the same – end economic apartheid and unleash the power of the Global South. Because even today, billions of people are shut out of the world’s financial system. Serial doers like Ray couldn’t stay in retirement and watch the flowers grow for too long. Not surprisingly just 2 weeks ago the news came out that he’s joining NoOnes as CEO.

NoOnes To Bring 1 Billion People Into Crypto

I know, I know! Big numbers and big promises. At the same time, if you’re a visionary, you always have a dream that seems impossible until someone does it. Just like inventing an airplane. And once it flies, your dream becomes a part of accepted reality.

Ray was already able to sign up 12 million people with Paxful. Bringing it to 1 billion is a 80X stretch. Very hard indeed, but not impossible.

How is NoOnes Different?

First of all, it’s not incorporated in the US. And if you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that USA is as friendly to crypto as the North Korean border patrol is to people crossing their fence. This spells much lower expenses for compliance and faster go-to-market execution. It seems like that’s already the case. They started only in 2023 and according to their website, they already have 10 million users, $100 million in monthly volume and $25 million in reserves.

The second good thing is their drive for full transparency. I mean we’re in crypto, so high levels of transparency such as Proof of Reserves are a great business practice. We can see the breakdown of their reserves here. At the same time, I hope they will bring some third-party attestation for these reserves soon.

Thirdly, I feel that Ray is one of the best people to lead a platform like this. His experience as Paxful CEO connects 100% with what he will be doing at NoOnes. Plus he’s bringing in all his business network he built over the last eight years flying around and onboarding people into Bitcoin. He also looks like a very smart guy. I assume that he learned his lesson about the pitfalls of business partnerships. So I believe that in this case, he negotiated a deal where he will have the full decision-making power to make his vision come through.

Their Bitcoin P2P platform has all the 3 most important parts in place:

  • Marketplace – users from 190 countries can buy or sell Bitcoin and stable coins with over 400 payment methods available.
  • Wallet – to send and receive transactions.
  • Chat – to help people do P2P transactions.
Don’t Keep All Your Funds On Exchange

If you’re new to crypto this might be the most important advice you will hear. Despite all the assurances exchanges are just normal businesses and they can go out of business from time to time. So never keep all your money on an exchange. Keep just the amount that you need for trading (no more than 25% of your portfolio) and keep the rest of your savings in a hardware wallet. To his credit, Ray Youssef gives the same advice.


Despite all the roadblocks the governments are trying to put in our way, crypto adoption is growing. I’m happy to hear and report inspiring stories just like this one with Ray Youssef. I sincerely wish him the best of luck at NoOnes. May he be able to bring the next billion people into Bitcoin.

Remember – life is much more fun and meaningful when you have a dream and take tiny little steps everyday towards it.

The information discussed by Altcoin Buzz is not financial advice. This is for educational, entertainment, and informational purposes only. Any information or strategies are thoughts and opinions relevant to the accepted levels of risk tolerance of the writer/reviewers and their risk tolerance may be different than yours. We are not responsible for any losses that you may incur as a result of any investments directly or indirectly related to the information provided. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are high-risk investments so please do your due diligence. Copyright Altcoin Buzz Pte Ltd.


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