Influential Crypto Figures: Who is Justin Sun?

A controversial leader who straddles the East-West divide, Justin Sun has rocketed to stardom in crypto. For better or for worse, the young Chinese mogul is one of the most dynamic figures around.

Brief Introduction

Justin Sun is one of the most controversial figures in crypto. Sun is the CEO of TRON and BitTorrent, whose respective crypto tokens are the 25th and 50th largest cryptocurrencies with a combined market cap of over $6B. The young mogul has seen his career trailblaze through both China and the USA. A founder of multiple companies across tech and crypto, Sun has seen his projects banned in China, accused of plagiarism in the USA. All the while, millions follow him on Twitter, and the world tracks his every move.


Sun has seen controversy and success at nearly every crossroad, and the crypto founder certainly knows how to carry the spotlight. Early on in his career, the Chinese national faced attacks and exposure for the validity of his TRON technology, which copied code pages without citations.  According to TheVerge, his workers even mutinied at BitTorrent amidst his grandiose ambitions to bring the dark web to the light.

A graduate of prestigious universities in both China and the USA, he is a serial entrepreneur before the age of thirty. Before founding TRON in 2017, he started in Silicon Valley by working for Ripple Labs and then launched the popular Chinese chat app Peiwo. Sun even became a protege of famed Chinese mogul Jack Ma becoming the first millennial graduate of Ma’s personal business school, Hupan University. Both a dissident and a vanguard, Sun is a shining light in crypto and is a significant figure across the East-West divide.

A Glimpse of Sun 

The history of Justin Sun is rocky. In a tweet by the accomplished young entrepreneur, he summarized his life 53 days prior to his 30th birthday. 


Yet there is much more about Justin Sun than the tweet shown above. A detailed expose by Global Coin Research explained how he was born in 1990 to a middle-class family in Qinghai and grew up in the southern province of Guangdong. His mother was a local newspaper reporter, and his father worked in the city planning bureau.

His parents divorced when he was eight years old, and his mother fled to Italy and remarried. Soon after, Justin was placed in boarding school. During this time, he became estranged from his family, and he cited the loneliness and lack of love from his family he felt as his motivation to be successful. At one point, he wanted to become a master of the age-old Chinese board game GO. From early on, it was obvious he wanted to become a great success.

Sun first graduated from Beijing University with a Bachelor’s in History in 2011. In China, he led a group of underground liberals and famously criticized the school and student leadership. His experiences in China showed an apparent clash with the socialist values of the country.

In 2012, Sun began investing in Bitcoin, supposedly using large amounts of his college tuition fees. He then got his Master’s in 2013 from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Economic, specializing in East Asian Studies. He earned a reputation as a trouble-maker in school, where he did things such as purposefully answer English tests in Chinese. He managed to still do very well in school by becoming close with his teachers. 

Initially a student of humanities, Sun wanted to be a writer. At UPenn, he started an online magazine called “New Youth.” Not without controversy, his magazine received public accusations of plagiarism to which Sun vehemently denied. While in the US, he studied Ayn Rand and entrepreneurship. He initially believed that the secrets of social progress lay in the minds of historians and writers. But while in the States, Sun reflected upon these values and decided that he needed to become an entrepreneur if he wanted to change the world.


According to Sun’s LinkedIn page, he furthered his education at Hupan University, a Chinese business school founded by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Sun was one of 30 students hand-selected by Ma to be a member of the inaugural class and is the only millennial graduate of Hupan University. Justin Sun sees himself in a very similar light as Jack Ma. The Alibaba mogul has also been a controversial figure in Chinese business for quite some time and has been reprimanded by the Chinese state for his massive wealth and personal influence over the Chinese economy. Justin Sun is very much following a trail paved by men like Jack Ma. The internet has been a gateway for many Chinese to Western values, and both Ma and Sun have faced controversy within China for their actions. It’s safe to say, Sun is hungry for the spotlight wherever he goes.

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