From Homeless To Success, Using Crypto For Good, Ray Youssef’s #BuiltbyBitcoin

Jillian Godsil
5 min readDec 22, 2017


There is a new class of money out there and the latest millionaires are not just buying Lamborghinis, they are building primary schools in Africa.

Ray Youssef, co-founder of Paxful, is one such dude. The hashtag ‘BuiltbyBitcoin’ is his baby. Eight years ago his IT startup had failed, his life savings were gone and he was homeless on the streets of California. He met his fellow co-founder, Estonian native Artur Schaback, in similar circumstances. Both were trying to rebuild their lives and the opportunity that is Bitcoin offered them an idea. Paxful was born, a peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace for people to swap gift cards, currency and alt coins without the need for banks or intermediaries. Paxful is like the uber of banking, or rather for the unbanked.

‘It’s hard to imagine but there are lots of people surviving in the States without bank accounts,’ Youssef says from Estonia where he is now based. ‘Without a bank account, it is impossible to buy goods, secure rented accommodation, to live a normal life. Paxful allows the value to be input from more than 300 forms of payment and then traded, peer-to-peer, out into whatever format of value is needed.’

As a marketplace, users are rated like on eBay, so that scams are minimised. There is also a large customer support function that keeps everything ticking along.

But back to #BuiltByBitcoin. Youssef went from homelessness to success. Previously he had not been someone who donated to charity often viewing it from a jaundiced view, in particular being sceptical about where the proceeds actually went. ‘Too many glitzy charity balls’ is his view on traditional charities.

Then one day he happened on a video where children in Afghanistan were filmed after a well was installed. The joy on the children’s faces was infectious and Youssef began to do background research on the video maker.

It turned out to be a project called run by a fellow American. Ostensibly a water project, the aim of the project was to build relationships. In addition, one hundred percent of all monies raised went directly to the charity.

This touched a chord in Youssef. ‘It was like awesome, man,’ he says in his Californian accent. ‘It reminded me also of a startup — lean and mean.’