Binance is betting big on M&A and VC deals

The exchange’s chief business officer talks about investments, BD and the future of the exchange

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume, is going big on M&A this year, with a particular focus on geographic gaps and customer base. And helping the exchange there is the company’s chief business officer, Yibo Ling.

He joined Binance nearly seven months ago, after stints at Bird and Uber. Ling’s role at the company focuses on VC investments, strategic M&A, and business development. And there’s a lot to look at there; Binance Labs, the exchange’s VC arm, currently has a portfolio worth about $9 billion, Ling shared. “That’s more than a 10x return.”

I sat down with Ling at Consensus 2023 to learn more about Binance’s investment focus, layer-1 blockchains, geographic and product growth for the company, among a host of other things.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

I know you only recently started, but what are the profitability metrics that Binance is looking at as its North Star? What are the most impressive or important stats? And how has the performance been?

In my role as chief business officer, my primary focus is not on running the exchange, but on the deal work we do. So all outbound VC investments that are focused on strategic M&A, bringing capabilities into the core exchange, and I’m focusing on our commercial business development relationships. So I’m probably not the right person to talk about that, but yeah, the business seems pretty healthy. Obviously the market is having a meaningful impact, but the company is doing quite well.

Looking at VC investments and strategic M&A, what areas is Binance focused on and most interested in?

Our VC arm, we call that Binance Labs, and the mission there is basically the idea that a tide lifts all boats. So the investments that we’re making are basically across the board. That’s why it’s actually good for me to be in places like this [at the conference], because there are so many projects working on different things. And we’ve invested in almost everything very broadly. So let me get more specific on that, but we also invest upstream and downstream.

So we invest in the growth stage, we invest in the early stage, seed and [Series] A. Our preference and focus is on seed and [Series] An early stage, because that is where we think we can add the most value. But all of that is just to zoom back to the broader thing that we’re focusing on from a Labs perspective. We think there’s so much potential for growth, for disruption, for improvement in many aspects of how people live their lives. And so that can be made possible by web3 and blockchain technology. And so ROI and return metrics are important to us over there on that side of the house. The value of our portfolio is currently approximately $9 billion. That’s well over 10x return. Again, mostly early stage, some later stage investments.

For the most part, we don’t leave our investments because the mission allows us to buy and hold them for a very, very long time. Right now, we probably have over 200 portfolio companies on every continent except Antarctica. We also have incubation, not just kind of direct investment. And so about a quarter of those portfolio companies come out of our incubation programs.

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