Justin Sun

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Who is Justin Sun?

Justin Sun is a Chinese tech entrepreneur best known as the founder of Tron (TRX), a popular blockchain platform with smart contract functionality. He is a widely recognized figure in the crypto space and has also served as Permanent Representative of Grenada to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

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Sun has been involved in the crypto space since at least 2013 when he joined Ripple Labs as chief representative and adviser. He is also known for launching Peiwo, an app aspiring to become China’s Snapchat that matches and connects users by analyzing 10-second voice samples as well as interests.

The crypto and tech entrepreneur has also achieved numerous grants and honors. In 2015, he was named CNTV’s most noteworthy new entrepreneur. He was included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list from 2015 to 2017.

Justin Sun’s Early Life and Education

Sun was born in the year 1990 in Xining, China. His educational journey began at Peking University, where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history. After graduating from one of China’s most prestigious institutions, Sun decided to further expand his knowledge and understanding of East Asian studies. 

With this goal in mind, he joined the University of Pennsylvania, where he successfully obtained a Master of Arts degree in East Asian studies. This academic achievement provided him with a deeper insight into the region’s culture, history, and emerging trends.

During his time at the University of Pennsylvania, Sun became interested in the world of cryptocurrency. With the meteoric rise of Bitcoin (BTC), he recognized the immense potential and disruptive power of this emerging technology and, therefore, made early investments in Bitcoin.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Sun also had the opportunity to study at the prestigious Zhejiang Hupan Entrepreneurship Research Center. Founded by Jack Ma, the visionary behind Alibaba Group, the center is known for fostering entrepreneurial thinking and innovation. 

Sun’s Crypto Initiatives

Sun has made significant contributions to the industry through his various ventures. One of his notable accomplishments includes the launch of Tron, a blockchain-based operating platform, in 2017.

At the time, the crypto veteran launched the TRX token as the native token of Tron through an initial coin offering (ICO). The ICO took place just before the Chinese government implemented a ban on such offerings. Reports suggest that Sun was aware of the impending ban and thus rushed to offer the sale. 

Following the ICO, Sun relocated from China to the United States. Tron managed to raise approximately $70 million during the ICO despite the challenging regulatory environment.

In a move to expand his crypto empire, Sun acquired BitTorrent in June 2018 for a sum of $140 million. Under Sun’s leadership as CEO, BitTorrent, known for developing the BitTorrent protocol, launched its utility token called BTT. 

Continuing his expansion in the cryptocurrency exchange sector, Sun made another notable acquisition by taking over the crypto exchange Poloniex. However, in 2021, the exchange was fined $10 million by the SEC for operating an “unregistered online digital asset exchange,” 

Sun’s crypto ventures extended beyond acquisitions and ownership.

In October 2021, Sun participated in a $65 million funding round for Animoca, a Hong Kong-based company known for developing crypto and blockchain video games like The Sandbox. 

Moreover, there have also been speculations that Sun is the real owner of Huobi. In December last year, Huobi founder and controlling shareholder Leon Li Lin announced that he was selling his entire stake in the Seychelles-based crypto exchange to About Capital Management, a Hong Kong-based assets management company.

Sun, who reportedly spearheads the management firm, confirmed back then that he would be joining the Global Advisory Board of Huobi Global. However, China-based journalist Colin Wu claimed that Justin Sun was the core investor in About Capital, suggesting that he was the real buyer of the stake (which the report estimated to be around $1 billion). 

SEC Sues Justin Sun Over Sale of Securities

Earlier this year, the SEC unveiled fraud and unregistered securities charges against Sun and three of his wholly-owned companies, Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd., and Rainberry Inc., for the sale of their TRX and BTT tokens. 

The SEC also alleged that Sun and the companies paid celebrities with vast social media followings to hype TRX and BTT and directed them not to publicly disclose their compensation. 

The lawsuit further alleged that Sun tried to show high trading volume in the TRX token by directing his employees to conduct more than 60,000 so-called wash trades across two trading platforms. Wash trades are trades where the same party acts as both the buyer and the seller, and they are usually made to artificially inflate trading volumes.

“This case demonstrates again the high-risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure,” SEC chair Gary Gensler said in a statement. He added:

“As alleged, Sun and his companies not only targeted U.S. investors in their unregistered offers and sales, generating millions in illegal proceeds at the expense of investors, but they also coordinated wash trading on an unregistered trading platform to create the misleading appearance of active trading in TRX.”

The Bottom Line

Justin Sun is a Chinese tech and crypto mogul best known for founding Tron. He has made significant contributions to the industry through his various ventures, including BitTorrent, Poloniex, and numerous investments and partnerships.

However, his involvement in the crypto space has not come without controversies. Earlier this year, the SEC unveiled fraud and unregistered securities charges against Sun for the sale of their TRX and BTT tokens. 

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Ruholamin Haqshanas
Cryptocurrency journalist
Ruholamin Haqshanas
Cryptocurrency journalist

Ruholamin is a crypto and financial journalist with over three years of experience. Apart from Techopedia, he has been featured in major news outlets, including Cryptonews, Investing.com, 24/7 Wall St, The Tokenist, Business2Community, and has also worked with some prominent crypto and DeFi projects.  He holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechatronics. Ruholamin enjoys reading about tech developments, writing, and nature-watching