The first time Gabriel Trompiz heard about the FTX Student Ambassador Program was through a LinkedIn post.
He had been identified as someone who could represent and promote the crypto exchange in his college. Trompiz quickly applied through the link sent to him and became an FTX Campus Ambassador soon after.
No contract has been signed and Trompiz says he hasn’t been paid. But he was given a task: to promote the company to his fellow students to help him grow his user base in Europe.
FTX was already management of a campus ambassador program in Africa, with the same aim of making the exchange known to other students. Calls for students to get involved and become campus ambassadors were shared on the FTX Africa Twitter account.
Fortunate Atueyi, who attends the University of Nigeriawas one of them and frequently held events and workshops on FTX.
“They expect to see around 500 to 1,000 or 1,500 students in attendance, so you teach them about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and most importantly, the benefits of using FTX,” he said. to CNBC’s Make It.
Unlike Trompiz, Atueyi says he was paid – as long as he completed certain tasks and achieved goals. The role was not limited to providing education on the exchange. Instead, he said referring people and getting them to sign up, and making sure they start trading and depositing money, is a crucial part of that.
Documents seen by CNBC confirm Trompiz and Atueyi’s involvement with FTX as student ambassadors. Neither FTX nor the law firms representing the struggling crypto exchange, Sullivan & Cromwell and Landis, Rath & Cobb, responded to a CNBC request for comment on this article.
In Europe and the United States, FTX was best known for trading cryptocurrencies. But in Africa, the platform has also been used to exchange local currency for U.S. dollars and store funds for individuals and businesses – effectively using FTX as a de facto bank.
As an ambassador, you preach using it
Former FTX Student Ambassador
FTX has filed for bankruptcy and halted the withdrawal of funds by clients in November 2022. Many had attempted to withdraw their investments after rival exchange Binance has sold all of its holdings of FTX’s native token FTT and concerns about the company’s liquidity spread quickly.
A a bankruptcy case is pending in the United Statesbut it remains unclear what amount of assets can be recovered and when clients can regain access to any of their investments.
Elsewhere in Nigeria, Imran Yahya was an FTX campus ambassador at Bayero University. “As an ambassador, you preach using it,” he told CNBC’s Make It.
In addition to promoting the exchange on campus, he publicized it to his wider local community and created content for FTX.
“There’s nothing fishy about me,” he said. He gave people information about FTX without any obligation to spend money, and they trusted him and his advice, he explained. Many of these people lost money in the collapse of FTX.
Like investors and other FTX employees, Student Ambassadors were blindsided by FTX’s bankruptcy. Atueyi first noticed rumors about the company’s financial situation on Twitter, but more senior employees reassured him that FTX was “bigger than that” and that the rumors were spread by competitors.
“I just saw it as normal business strategies,” he said.
Trompiz and Yahya were also surprised, and all three lost money. This is partly because as college students they only had limited disposable income to invest, but Trompiz also once stored most of his crypto investments in a wallet rather than with FTX. .
Picking up the pieces and looking forward
Despite the losses, the three student ambassadors are not ready to give up crypto and digital assets. Although they learned some lessons from the experience, their outlook did not change significantly.
“The one thing the collapse of FTX taught me is that there is no business too big to fail,” Yahya said, adding that the one thing he would do differently in the future would be to be more careful.
I kind of trusted them. I was like, I was one of the people that said FTX was too big to fail
Former FTX Student Ambassador
Atueyi has a similar view: “I’ll just have to play it extra safe,” he said.
For him, it is about trust and understanding that even though exchanges may say they are decentralized, they still control your money.
“I kind of trusted them. I was like, I was one of the people that said FTX was too big to fail,” he said. “I don’t think it’s wise to leave your money there, and they have full control over your money. So like any bank,” Atueyi explained.
Trompiz shares his perspective on decentralization. “The more I get into crypto and the more I learn about it, I see the real goal is decentralization,” he said.
He thinks exchanges like FTX are helpful for the wider industry and for the growing adoption of digital assets – but using them is “like contradicting yourself”. Going forward, therefore, he plans to rely less on them and refocus his investments on other areas of digital assets like DeFi.
So while the collapse of FTX has cost them money, caused them feelings of guilt, and impacted their personal relationships, they come to terms with it. As Atueyi says, “I personally love cryptocurrencies…Things like this are going to happen.”