Coming up with a list of the 100 most influential people in crypto and blockchain is hard in any year. But doing it in 2020 is particularly rough. That’s because the industry didn’t just advance last year, it went mainstream.
That’s a sea change. And it also makes “influence” a lot harder to define.
It’s no longer just looking at who’s getting funded by VCs, developing breakthrough technology, or building companies that are successfully delivering a product. Or who is a billionaire, has more Twitter followers, or is simply someone whose words carry weight with people whose words carry weight. How does someone developing a blockchain that may change finance compare with the blockchain lead at one of the world’s largest banks? How does a VC whose seed round brings potential partners and investors flocking weigh up against the person directing the blockchain arm of a big four consulting firm?
One answer is that instead of looking just at who’s creating a nascent industry, you should consider who is actually doing something with that technology on the ground. Examples we saw include using blockchains to track conflict minerals, Romaine lettuce suppliers, or shipping containers; sending money around the world in an instant; creating smart contracts that can pay an invoice or settle an auto insurance claim without human intervention; and helping people invest in bitcoin the way they would invest in Apple.
Another is that you have to do a lot of research, gather a lot of names, and come up with a process that looks at things like assets under management, the potential impact and reach of projects, the way solutions are actually solving problems or disrupting industries, and the impact that thought leaders can have on determining whether an industry that claims it can change the world actually does it. A team of Modern Consensus writers and contributors—Amy Castor, Michael Hillmeyer, Brendan Sullivan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman—pitched in. Names and rankings were discussed and a list slowly emerged.
As is the nature of this type of list—which is fairly subjective—influence often shifts dramatically over the course of a year. On this second annual list of the Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential People in Crypto, you’ll see a lot of new names, a lot of absent names, and a lot of people whose place on the list moved way up or down. And you won’t agree with them all.
But one thing did not change, sadly, and so I’m going to lift a paragraph, verbatim, that our now-departed founding editor Lawrence Lewitinn wrote for the introduction to 2019’s list:
“Before continuing, we feel we must point out a somber fact: Despite all the promise of the democratization of technology that is being promised, there remains a woeful lack of diversity among its leaders. For example, there are a few, very powerful women on this list but nowhere near as many as there should be. For there to be a revolutionary change in technology and finance, there will have to be a revolutionary change in who’s making the key decisions.”
With that, we bring you the second annual Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential People in Crypto.
No. 1. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
Before June 18, 2019, cryptocurrencies were a topic discussed largely by regulators, law enforcement, and a few interested legislators. By the next day, Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency project was on the lips of central bank presidents, finance ministers, and even the President of the United States. Newspaper pundits and television anchors across the political spectrum and around the globe were boning up on “stablecoins,” and the phrase “central bank digital currency” exploded in the political and financial lexicon. Mark Zuckerberg did that.
While Facebook’s CEO was smart enough to give the project a frontman (David Marcus, No. 22) and build a governance system (the Libra Association), so that he and his much-distrusted company theoretically wouldn’t control it, the scope and ambition of the project was immediately clear to anyone with a real knowledge of how the world financial system actually works. With 2.7 billion customers using Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, Zuckerberg’s private currency would be in the hands of more than one-third of the world’s population.
That’s enough to move whole economies and overpower central bankers’ ability to fight off recessions. And that is what’s known as a wake-up call. Even if Libra is faltering — and we’re being polite here— its impact on the U.S. and international legal framework under which cryptocurrencies eventually operate will be enormous.
No. 2. Xi Jinping, President, China
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies had captured the mind of Chinese entrepreneurs and investors long before the most powerful man in the country lit a rocket under the industry by saying he wanted China to become the world’s blockchain leader. Then came word that China has been working on a central bank digital currency. While lower-level authorities immediately labored to make clear that President Xi wasn’t talking about other cryptocurrencies, his call to action will have a huge impact for years to come. By saying China will become the world’s blockchain leader, President Xi might well have made it so.
No. 3. Jay Clayton, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission
Jay Clayton is top gun at the SEC, the financial watchdog that has been coming down hard on blockchain companies, such as Kik and Telegram, that raised a boatload of money in initial coin offerings during the peak of the crypto bubble. He is certainly one of crypto’s biggest roadblocks, having pushed back hard on a bitcoin ETF as he considers market manipulation rampant. We’ll likely be seeing more of him in the year ahead as the regulator goes after more cryptocurrency companies that raised funds in initial coin offerings—or unregistered security offerings, according to Clayton.
No. 4. Vitalik Buterin, Co-founder, Ethereum
At the tender age of 19, Russian-born Vitalik Buterin, known for his cat t-shirts, dropped out of Waterloo University in Canada. Packing a light backpack, he set out on a six-month adventure to travel the world and learn more about bitcoin, his latest obsession. After working on Mastercoin and Colored Coins projects, he came up with an idea to launch a new blockchain with its own scripting language for smart contracts. Ethereum was born and its native ether token (ETH) has since become the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap. At 24, Vitalik’s next big challenge is moving Ethereum from its current proof-of-work consensus algorithm to the faster, more energy-efficient proof-of-stake model, while keeping the blockchain decentralized.
No. 5. Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter and Square Crypto
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been a vocal Bitcoin advocate since 2017. But when he jumped into cryptocurrency and blockchain with both feet in March 2019 with Square Crypto—the crypto-focused part of his payments company—he immediately became one of the loudest voices in the space. A Bitcoin supporter, he brings more than just investments (although he’s bringing a lot of those). Dorsey also brings credibility and Silicon Valley clout, as well as a link to politicians he has courted at Twitter and a massive platform whose influence is keenly followed in crypto world.
No. 6. Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO, Binance
Changpeng Zhao—better known as CZ—created one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing cryptocurrency exchanges. His is a rags-to-riches story. Having left China for Canada as a child after his father was exiled from the country, CZ has since gone on to amass astounding wealth. But to get there, Binance has become adept at moving to where regulations are most favorable, from greater China to Japan to Malta.
More recently, Binance exited the U.S. market after announcing the creation of a separate Binance.US. It also added support for lending to margin traders, launched stablecoins, and overcame a $40 million hack thanks to CZ’s frankness, huge Twitter following, and willingness to punch hard. He also spearheaded a feud against Craig Wright in early 2019 that led to both Binance and Kraken delisting BSV, the bitcoin hard fork that Wright characterizes as the “real” bitcoin.
No. 7. Brian Armstrong, Co-founder, Coinbase
In 2012, Armstrong, along with Fred Ehrsam, started one of the biggest and most important exchanges and has been the CEO ever since. Coinbase went through the Y Combinator startup incubator program and raised seed capital from Adam Draper, Garry Tan, and several other angel investors. Tim Draper’s DFJ (Draper Fisher Jurvetson) and Fred Wilson’s Union Square Ventures were also prominent venture capital investors in the company in subsequent years. (Both Drapers, Tan, and Wilson are also featured elsewhere in this year’s “Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential People in Crypto.”)
Coinbase began as a platform for average Joes dipping their toes into crypto for the first time and later created an exchange for professional traders. The San Francisco company has expanded its offerings over the years including the formation of its early-stage venture fund, Coinbase Ventures, in 2018. That’s become a big business now, with very substantial 2019 investments, according to CrunchBase. It’s recently became the first pure-play crypto firm permitted to directly issue Visa debit cards, bypassing banks.
No. 8. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO, Ripple
In 2019, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse saw real progress in the company’s goal of disrupting the cross-border payments industry and middleman Swift. More than 300 banks and financial institutions have signed on to its RippleNet real-time cross-border payment network. And Ripple’s On-Demand Liquidity product got a big boost in June, when Ripple invested $50 million in MoneyGram, which in turn began using ODL for remittances, starting with the US-Mexico corridor. As of the beginning of November, XRP was used in 10% of those transactions. In terms of real-world use cases – a pursuit in which blockchain has struggled — Ripple is making real progress.
On the other hand, Garlinghouse spent much of the past year being hammered by all the other holders of the XRP, many of whom blamed Ripple’s huge quarterly sales of the cryptocurrency for its poor price performance. Ripple has more recently cut sales and XRP is up nearly 50% this year. And while Galaxy Digital’s Mike Novogratz’ prediction that XRP will underperform in 2020 caused a big stir, he noted that Ripple’s huge holdings—and sales—were the cause. He also tweeted that he remains a big Ripple investor. Then there’s the class-action lawsuit calling XRP sales an unregistered securities offering, which Ripple is aggressively fighting.
Shortly after Ripple raised $200 million in a Series C funding round in December, Garlinghouse came fairly close to saying that Ripple will go public with a traditional IPO this year. If it comes off, that could give it a big enough war chest to fund its goal of expanding RippleNet’s banking network while still limiting quarterly sales. He’s also a big influencer on Twitter, with 240,000 followers, including a hard-core group nicknamed the XRP Army.
No. 9. Mike Novogratz, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Galaxy Digital
As a partner at Goldman Sachs in the 1990s and as CIO of Fortress Investment Group’s Macro Fund in the 2000s, before each of the company’s respective IPOs, Mike Novogratz was an on-again, off-again billionaire.
He made at least three fortunes and lost two. In 2013, he put $7 million of his own money in crypto when bitcoin was selling at around a hundred dollars a coin. Four years later he went on to found Galaxy Digital which calls itself “the bridge between the crypto and institutional worlds.” Galaxy Digital’s business lines include trading, asset management, principal investing, and advisory services.
A noted bitcoin bull, Novogratz’s views are among the most widely respected in the industry. Novogratz studied economics in university and spent a few years in the NJ National Guard afterward. He was also Ethereum cofounder Joseph Lubin’s roommate at Princeton.
No. 10. Naval Ravikant, Co-founder and CEO, AngelList
Naval Ravikant is CEO and a co-founder of San Francisco-based AngelList, a platform that enables investors, startups, and job seekers to connect. He was also an early investor in Twitter, Uber, and Yammer.
Spinoffs from AngelList include Republic, a startup equity crowdfunding platform for regular investors, and CoinList, which provides a platform where digital asset companies can sell their tokens. Raivikant is an advisor to Republic, which recently created Republic Crypto, described as a “full-stack fundraising solution in the crypto space.”
Ravikant is also a backer and advisor to early-stage startup Bitwise Asset Management, which created the first cryptocurrency index fund. Bitwise also put solid facts and numbers—an eye-watering 95%—behind a widely known reality that an enormous percent of all bitcoin trades are fraudulent last year in an SEC filing. Ravikant’s academic background is in computer science and economics
No. 11. Elizabeth Stark, Co-founder and CEO, Lightning Labs
Lightning Labs’ goal is to speed up cryptocurrency transactions by creating a superhighway on top of the bitcoin blockchain. Although Bitcoin-centric, it works on other blockchains, too. This means the Lightning Labs team doesn’t don’t have to choose sides to focus on great tech. Even before the bubble, Stark prophesied that Lightning would become “the HTTP of bitcoin and blockchains.”
Stark’s leadership on this team comes from an academic background at Stanford and Yale. Back then when universities were complaining about how to keep Limewire from slowing down their networks, she and her students took peer-to-peer technology seriously. This year she and her team hope to see that careful study pay off as they get Lightning to scale to human levels. On Feb. 5, the company announced its beta of Lightning Loop, describing it as “an on and off-ramp” between the Lightning Network and Bitcoin blockchain.
No. 12. Wences Casares, Founder & CEO, Xapo
Known as “patient zero” of bitcoin among Silicon Valley VC firms, because he infected them with an obsession for the virtual money, Wences Cesares is a serial entrepreneur and a board member of both PayPal and the crypto research and advocacy non-profit Coin Center. His current project is Xapo, a bitcoin wallet, which he says combines convenience with the security of cold storage. The startup has heavyweight advisors, including a former secretary of the Treasury and chairman and CEO of Citibank.
Casares is bullish on bitcoin, obviously. He likens the crypto space to the early days of the internet and believes it is the biggest step forward in the democratization of money. A native of Argentina, Wences’ past ventures include video game maker Wanako Games, Brazil’s Banco Lemon, mobile payment firms Bling Nation and Lemon Wallet, and Latin American online brokerage Patagon, which Banco Santander bought for $750 million.
No. 13. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.); Former CEO, Bakkt
When we started drawing up this list, newly appointed Senator Loeffler was a lot higher up. And while she could prove a pivotal voice in the senate for cryptocurrencies and FinTech, she has to win re-election in a special election in November—and President Donald Trump may well support an opponent. Having put $20 million of her own funds into the Senatorial campaign, she likely won’t have time to do a whole lot more than toe the party and presidential line until then.
Loeffler had plenty of influence before that as CEO on Bakkt, the Bitcoin futures exchange run by Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the NYSE. She’s also married to the CEO of ICE.
No. 14. Joe Lubin, Founder, ConsenSys
ConsenSys, the Brooklyn-based incubator started by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, just suffered another round of layoffs. But it seems to be evolving into a more normal company, rather than the original sprawling playground of goalless startups—or “venture production model.”
Actually, it is now two companies, one that will focus on software, mainly of Infura, PegaSys, MetaMask, and Codefi, which provide tools and services to Ethereum developers and decentralized finance companies. And an investment arm that will focus on “early-stage equity, liquid digital assets, and strategic opportunities.”
Then there’s JPMorgan. Reuters just reported that the banking giant is in talks to merge its Quorum stablecoin with ConsenSys. If it happens—and “if” has been called the longest word in the English language—it would be a massive boost for Lubin’s company. And, it would go a long way to explaining the break-up: banks value normalcy.
Lubin, a Goldman Sachs veteran who may or may not be a billionaire thanks to his vast ETH holdings, remains an articulate and in-demand spokesperson for the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry as a whole.
No. 15, 16. Brad & Bart Stephens, Co-founders & Managing Partners, Blockchain Capital
In an interview with Modern Consensus last year, Brad told us he got introduced to the crypto space through video game currencies and none other than Brock Pierce. In 2013, Brad and his brother Bart founded Blockchain Capital with Pierce. They had already been funding a bunch of startups through Stephens Investment Management Group, their family office, and wanted to invest in a VC fund specific to blockchain.
They are now two of the most active investors in the blockchain space. They have funded more than 72 companies across the crypto ecosystem with a portfolio that includes BitGo, BitFury, BitPesa, BlockOne, Blockstream, Chain, Civic, Coinbase, Filecoin, Harbor, Kraken, Messari, Orchid, Radar Relay, Ripple, Securitize, and 0x.
No. 17. Gennaro “Jerry” Cuomo, VP blockchain technologies, IBM Blockchain
An IBM Fellow who has more than 50 patents for Big Blue, Cuomo is a founding member of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project.
IBM Blockchain is behind some of the most advanced, on-the-ground enterprise blockchain projects, among them IBM Food Trust, which tracks produce from farm to supermarket shelf and TradeLens, an enterprise blockchain consortium in the cargo shipping industry.
If blockchain is going to change the world to the extent that many believe it will, it’s not enough to run corporate proof of concepts. It’s got to be real, running programs. And IBM is ahead of the curve in that.
No. 18. David Marcus, Calibra
More or less everything we said about Mark Zuckerberg applies to Calibra wallet head David Marcus, Facebook’s frontman on the Libra project. Except that his job was to get it done, and that’s not looking good. Among the eight dropouts from the Libra Association—PayPal , Mastercard, Visa, Mercado Pago, eBay, Stripe, Booking Holdings, and recently Vodafone—were the only U.S. payment processors backing Libra. And the political pressure got so bad Zuckerberg was forced to promise Congress Facebook wouldn’t launch Libra without regulators’ approval. He did get a win in late February, when e-commerce site Shopify joined the Libra Association.
No. 19. Jihan Wu, Co-Founder, Bitmain
It’s kind of hard to justify putting Bitmain in the top 20 this year, considering the string of disasters and self-inflicted wounds it suffered in 2019. On the other hand, with Coinshares estimating that Bitmain’s share of the bitcoin hashrate has fallen to “just” 66% (TokenInsight puts it at 63%), it’s hard to justify putting it any lower. Disastrous investments, terrible sales forecasts for some of its ASIC miners, the sudden ouster of co-founder Micree Zhan, plans to lay off half (!) of its staff, a U.S. Justice Department investigation, lawsuits, and a canceled IPO add up to a landslide. Basically, Bitmain hasn’t had a plague of locusts. Oh wait, there’s the May 2020 halving, when the reward for mining bitcoin blocks drops 50%.
No. 20, 21. Tyler Winklevoss, Co-Founder & CEO, and Cameron Winklevoss, Co-Founder & President, Gemini
Rowing Olympians Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss took a good chunk of the money they made from suing Mark Zuckerberg for stealing Facebook and invested it into bitcoin, turning themselves into bitcoin whales in the process. Now they are working to bring legitimacy into the market, positioning themselves as the responsible exchange. The twins are behind the New York City-based digital asset exchange Gemini and the Gemini dollar (GUSD) stablecoin launched in 2019. As a New York trust company, Gemini is regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services. And just this year, the firm launched its own in-house captive insurance firm to protect client cold storage funds against loss. But one of Winklevoss’s biggest crusades has been trying to get the SEC to approve a bitcoin ETF. So far, they’ve had no luck.
The Winklevii also run Winklevoss Capital, which has invested in AngelList, Tezos, and Xapo, as well as Gemini.
No. 22. Marc Andreessen, Co-founder & General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz
Marc Andreessen was a major player in the Silicon Valley VC market long before embracing Bitcoin and blockchain in 2013. The billionaire cofounder of Netscape made his fortune during the 1990s internet bubble. Later, he switched to venture capital, eventually co-founding Andreessen Horowitz. The firm invested in Facebook and Twitter among other highly successful start-ups. In mid-2018, it announced a16z crypto, a new $350 million fund focused solely on the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
No. 23. Joseph Poon, Plasma + Lightning Network
In China he is known as 闪电神—aka “Lightning God.” That’s only hype if you can’t back it up. Poon co-authored the original Lightning whitepaper and is the brains behind Plasma—a layer 2 solution for Ethereum smart contracts.
No. 24. Andreas Antonopoulos, Author, Speaker, and Bitcoin evangelist
Author of the seminal 2017 book “Mastering Bitcoin,” which has launched countless adventures in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, Andreas Antonopoulos is a well-known technology expert and early bitcoin evangelist. An incredibly influential figure in the cryptocurrency community, he has founded several blockchain companies, consults extensively on emerging technologies, and is also a mainstay on the conference circuit.
With an academic background in computer science and distributed systems security, Antonopoulos was a pioneer of open-source software, having worked on very early versions of Linux. That led him to be a passionate supporter of the original decentralized ideals of Bitcoin. He’s also a fierce opponent of bitcoin-based exchange-traded funds, saying they are antithetical to the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, as they remain in the central control of a custodian.
While “Mastering Bitcoin” is primarily a book for developers, in our opinion, its early chapters provide the best and clearest explanation of how blockchain and bitcoin work and are accessible for the non-technical reader.
No. 25. Fred Wilson, Partner, Union Square Ventures
Fred Wilson is a pundit in the crypto investing space with a long-running blog and over half a million Twitter followers. He has been called a loudmouth at times—and some have found his Bitcoin maximalism short-sighted and off-putting. As the co-founder of New York City-based VC firm Union Square Ventures, his portfolio includes Coinbase, Blockstack, Polychain Capital, and Autonomous Partners. As well as non-blockchain companies like Twitter.
No. 26. Tim Draper, Founder, DFJ
If you spot a guy with ludicrous eyebrows and a purple bitcoin tie singing really bad rap songs about the digital currency, it’s sure to be Tim Draper. The storied VC has had a long and storied career in Silicon Valley, investing in all sorts of technologies from email (Hotmail) to VoIP (Skype) to search engines (Baidu) to micro-blogging (Twitter) to electric cars (Tesla) to private spacecraft (SpaceX), and of course, cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin) and cryptocurrency exchanges (Coinbase).
Draper, whose father and grandfather were also venture capitalists, founded the influential VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1985 and has since gone on to found Draper Associates, the Draper Venture Network, and the Draper University of Heroes. He is also featured on the unsurprisingly named reality television show, “Meet the Drapers.”
Draper is an advocate for cryptocurrencies (obviously), blockchain, and decentralization, and in fact, bought around 30,000 bitcoin from a 2014 U.S. government auction of the seized assets of Silk Road. On Monday, he declared on CNBC that bitcoin would hit $250,000 by the end of 2022 or early 2023. Aside from blockchain, his other recent investments have focused on artificial intelligence and computational genomics. Draper has also been a longtime proponent of dividing the state of California into several smaller states, which has been less successful thus far than his technology investing.
No. 27. Peter Thiel, Founder, Founders Fund
Peter Thiel is Silicon Valley’s legendary digital money merchant prince. Alongside Elon Musk, Max Levchin, Reid Hoffman, Ken Howrey and others in the PayPal Mafia, he birthed the era of fast, secure ecommerce. Founder of Palantir and early investor in Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp and other Silicon Valley giants, Thiel was a billionaire many times over before investing in bitcoin. His partners at Founders Fund include Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker. The fund has billions under management with a portfolio that includes SpaceX and Airbnb.
There are countless stories from Silicon Valley CEOs of how Thiel changed their lives. His Thiel Foundation gives a small number of young entrepreneurs $100,000 over two years to skip college and pursue their business dreams. One of those Thiel Fellows was Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin. Not without controversy, the man also funded the lawsuit that killed Gawker. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His cryptocurrency and blockchain investments include Block.one, Layer1, and bitcoin.
No. 28, 29. Alexis Ohanian & Garry Tan, Co-founders, Initialized Capital
Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan have wide-reaching influence in Silicon Valley’s venture community through their close relationship with Y Combinator, which is a storied seed investor. Their portfolio companies have generated more than $20 billion in market value and they just closed their fourth fund of $225 million. Reddit co-founder Ohanian has brought his wife, tennis star Serena Williams into the crypto investing sphere. He also became a big backer of paid paternity leave after taking one to care for his wife and daughter after dangerous complications during childbirth. Expect to see more investment in building the blockchain coming from the dynamic duo. Their portfolio includes Coinbase, Polychain Capital, and Cointracker
No. 30, 31. Pavel Durov, CEO, Telegram; Ted Livingston, CEO, Kik
In 2019, plans for cryptocurrencies associated with two large global messenger applications—Telegram’s gram and Kik’s kin token—were halted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for roughly the same reason: the SEC believes that both projects are unregistered securities that could hurt U.S. retail investors. Both companies say they are utility tokens to be used as a currency on their blockchains, rather investment tokens that would qualify as securities.
Telegram’s Pavel Durov convinced gram investors to approve a new April 2020 launch, after the SEC scuttled its Oct. 2019 plan. Durov and Telegram are still fighting the SEC, asking the organization to withdraw their allegedly unwarranted claims that Gram is a security, and thus far not turning over financials for their $1.7 billion ICO.
Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik, has also been fighting the SEC over claims that Kin’s $100 million ICO was an unregistered security for far longer than Durov. In September 2019, Livingston announced—and then quickly reversed—a closure of the millions-of-users-wide Kik messaging app in order to focus on Kin and the SEC battle.
Win or lose, these two suits will set a precedent for future crypto projects.
No. 32. Kathleen Breitman, Co-founder & CEO, Tezos
Along with co-founder and husband Arthur, Kathleen Breitman started Tezos, a smart contracts platform. Similar to Ethereum, it is designed to fix several weaknesses its designers saw in ETH’s governance and technology. The proof-of-stake protocol is on a roll lately, with XTZ breaking past $2 for the first time in February.
Launched in July 2017, XTZ became one of the richest ICOs, pulling in $232 million, more than 11 times its $20 million goal. It was also among the most controversial initial coin offerings, with the Breitmans vilified after a feud with Tezos Foundation Chair Johann Gevers. After a long delay that threatened to kill the project, the Tezos Mainnet went live in June 2018 and the project appears to be on a solid footing. Tezos is still battling an ongoing, consolidated class-action suit over whether its ICO was an unregistered securities offering. It recently launched a Tezos faucet, with a small stream of XTZ tokens for testing purposes, to attract developers.
No. 33. Olaf Carlson-Wee, Founder and CEO, Polychain Capital
A Silicon Valley star who long sported a mullet, Olaf Carlson-Wee became the first Coinbase employee after graduating from Vassar. Three years later, he headed off to start his own hedge fund to manage digital assets. During the cryptocurrency mania, San Francisco-based Polychain Capital vaulted to prominence as it racked up investments from backers such as Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. In late 2017, the firm boasted more than $1 billion in assets under management. The following year, those assets plummeted by 40%. These days Polychain is partnering with the Web3 Foundation to launch a new investment fund for projects building atop the Polkadot network. Investments include Algorand, CoinList, MakerDAO, and Dfinity.
No. 34. David Schwartz, CTO, Ripple
One of the original developers of the Ripple consensus network, Schwartz also calls himself an “architect” of the XRP ledger. As CTO, he’s built a rare thing in crypto—a payments network that is actually being used in the real world.
Designed specifically as a “frictionless” means of transferring money globally at very low cost, Ripple’s technology claims to have several benefits over rivals Bitcoin and Ethereum, notably the speed at which transactions can be settled. That’s important, considering that the company’s RippleNet software aims to take over the old-fashioned business of interbank money transfers by knocking the traditionally days-long process down to a few seconds. Schwartz also commands respect under his @JoelKatz persona on Twitter, where his nearly 150,000 followers value his humor as much as his crypto insights.
No. 35. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)
A smart, politically savvy opponent of cryptocurrency, Rep. Sherman called for an outright ban on Bitcoin in May 2019. During a House Financial Service Committee oversight hearing of the Securities and Exchange Commission in September, Sherman told SEC Chairman Jay Clayton that cryptocurrencies meet the needs of four markets: tax evaders, terrorists, sanctions evaders, and drug dealers. A month later, he told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that “for the richest man in the world to come here and hide behind the poorest people in the world and say, that’s who you’re really trying to help….” He trailed off before finishing with something like “is obscene,” which sounded like where he was heading. Now that Libra has focused Sherman’s attention on the cryptocurrency as a potential threat to the world’s economic order, he’s a bad enemy to have.
No. 36. Chris Dixon, General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz
American internet entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon is one of the most prominent venture capitalists focusing on blockchain. He joined Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) in 2013 and co-leads its $350 million crypto fund. Since then, he has led the firm into investments that include cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase, decentralized marketplace OpenBazaar, and blockchain data solution Mediachain. Other investments include Chia, CryptoKitties, Dfinity, Filecoin, Harbor, MakerDAO, Orchid, and Polychain. Dixon co-hosts the a16z podcast and has an impressive 575,000 followers on Twitter.
No. 37. Tom Jessop, Head of Corporate Business Development, Fidelity
Jessop spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs focused on creating and investing in tech platforms for capital markets. In the mid-2010s, he helped put together Goldman’s investments in fintech startups, including Circle Internet Financial. He became enthralled with bitcoin long before the virtual currency was talked about in investment circles, and in 2017, moved on to join Chain, a vendor of blockchain technology to enterprises. Now working for Fidelity, he is the face behind Fidelity Digital Asset Services, a trading platform for institutional investors that launched in 2018. To date, FDAS represents one of the boldest moves into the cryptocurrency industry by an incumbent financial institution. Fidelity was important to bitcoin and really cryptocurrency as a whole, providing proof that a major financial institution considered it a serious asset at a time when it badly needed Wall Street credibility. In December, it announced plans to expand into the U.K. and EU.
No. 38. Dan Morehead, CEO, Pantera Capital
Dan Morehead is the founder and CEO of Pantera Capital, a 17-year-old investment firm focused exclusively on cryptocurrencies and companies utilizing blockchain technology. Given that the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper was published only twelve years ago, one might be tempted to think that Morehead and Pantera were the John II and Portugal of the cryptocurrency era, visiting the Americas before the Spanish bumped into some Caribbean islands on their way to Asia. Alas, the reality is less exciting. Morehead founded Pantera as a global macro hedge fund in 2003 and transitioned its focus over the years. Since 2014 Morehead has also been chairman of Bitstamp, a Luxembourg-based cryptocurrency exchange. Before striking out on his own, Morehead was CFO and head of macro trading at Tiger Management. His academic training is in civil engineering.
No. 39. Barry Silbert, Founder and CEO, Digital Currency Group
Barry Silbert started buying up bitcoin in 2012 and soon became an active investor in the cryptocurrency space. Three years later, he founded Digital Currency Group. Today the New York-based VC backs over 140 companies, including Coinbase, Ripple, and Circle. It is also the parent company of cryptocurrency asset manager Grayscale Investments, crypto trading and lending firm Genesis Trading, and media and events firm CoinDesk. Prior to leading DCG, Silbert founded SecondMarket, a technology company that was acquired by Nasdaq. He cut his teeth in the investment world as an investment banker.
No. 40. Jesse Powell, CEO, Kraken
Jesse Powell is the outspoken CEO of cryptocurrency trading platform Kraken. Now based out of San Francisco, Kraken left New York State over the BitLicense regulations in 2015. In April 2018, when the New York Attorney General’s office sent out a voluntary questionnaire to 13 exchanges as part of a “fact-finding inquiry,” Kraken was among four who chose not to respond. “If you want to talk to us, ask us for a phone call, fly yourself out to San Francisco, invite us for lunch at your office,” Powell said in a later media interview. He recently hired CoinDesk’s founding editor Pete Rizzo as editor-at-large to drive content related to new products and services.
No. 41. Leon Li, Founder, Huobi Group
Leon Li was a computer engineer at Oracle before he went on to cofound Huobi, a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong 2013, and later received backing from well-connected ZhenFund and Sequoia China. After China tightened regulations on cryptocurrency activities, the company relocated its headquarters to the more crypto-friendly Singapore in 2017. Huobi Global now has offices in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and the U.S. It has since expanded into other upstream and downstream businesses in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. In January, it launched a licensed brokerage platform for institutional and high-net-worth investors.
No. 42. Heath Tarbert, Chair, Commodity and Futures Trading Commission
Crypto Dad Christopher Giancarlo’s successor at the helm of the CFTC seems to be bullish on cryptocurrency as well. CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert said in January that bringing digital assets under the purview of his agency would help “legitimize” them.
Tarbert agrees that bitcoin is a commodity and in October said that he believes ether, the second-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, is a commodity, too. And he has said he “absolutely” believes ether futures could trade sometime in 2020. Which doesn’t mean he’s scrimping on enforcement. In FY 2019, the agency’s enforcement division paid for 80% of the CFTC budget, it said in December.
No. 43: Justin Sun, CEO, Tron
Mega marketer Justin Sun’s Tron has enough detractors that it’s easy to question the wisdom of his recent joke to Peter McCormack that TRX is a “shitcoin”—albeit one superior to Ethereum, in his not-so-humble opinion. His decentralized, entertainment industry-focused blockchain and TRX token have had a good year, and with its recent purchase of streaming platform DLive on top of 2018’s much larger BitTorrent (with it’s Tron-based BTT token) is certainly gaining a lot of attention. So did his recent purchase of the once-mighty Poloniex exchange from Circle, which he initially denied.
Once the chief representative of Ripple in China, Sun has mastered the “be heard” part of marketing, although not it’s “be careful” warning. The biggest example of this was his famous-then-infamous charity purchase of lunch with Warren Buffet for nearly $4.6 million. Hyped to the stars, it crumbled at the last minute after angering Chinese authorities—for reasons that aren’t entirely clear—to the point where he had to cancel, claiming kidney stones. An abject apology on Weibo and a video stream show he was in San Francisco and not detained in China rounded out the debacle. While it recently came off, it was a far more subdued affair the Sun only publicized two weeks later.
No. 44. Jeremy Allaire, Co-founder, Chairman & CEO, Circle
Jeremy Allaire has not had a good year. Goldman Sachs-backed Circle shut down its flagship peer-to-peer global payments firm Circle Pay. In October, the Boston-based firm spun out Poloniex, the once-dominant (but now minor) crypto exchange it bought for $400 million in 2018 to an “Asian investor group” that turned out to include Tron’s Justin Sun. Then in December, Circle sold its over-the-counter cryptocurrency trading platform CircleTrade to Kraken. And in February, Circle Invest went to Voyager. Circle co-founder and co-CEO Sean Neville stepped down after the Poloniex sale, and its CFO and chief legal officer departed after Circle Trade. Now, the company is focused on growing its USDC stablecoin market. Allaire is still a big name, and he had a star turn before Congress this summer, appearing before the Senate Banking Committee about crypto regulation in the wake of Facebook’s Libra project. But how many more will he have?
No. 45. Roger Ver, Investor, Bitcoin Cash Evangelist, and CEO, Bitcoin.com
An early investor in bitcoin and bitcoin startups, Roger Ver has long been known as “Bitcoin Jesus” for his promotion of the virtual currency. His presence in the space goes way back. In June 2011, when a hack took early bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox offline for several days, Ver, who lives in Tokyo, along with now-Kraken CEO Jesse Powell were on the scene to help the company respond. The exchange later became insolvent. Where others might care only to acquire and expand, Ver brings a sense of contemplation to his moves, such as in 2018 when he split from (and beat) self-proclaimed Bitcoin creator Craig Wright in the middle of the BCH fork. He now promotes Bitcoin Cash. A libertarian at heart, Ver is also behind a project aimed at buying land and creating a free society.
No. 46. Nick Szabo
Current court cases aside—we’re looking at you, Craig Wright—Nick Szabo is considered among the most likely candidates to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto, or at least part of the group concealed behind that pseudonym. He came up with the idea of smart contracts in 1997. His “Bit Gold” proposal, which appears to have been published in 2005 or 2008 and possibly designed as early as 1998, contained most, if not all, of the features that ultimately went into Bitcoin. Although the solution to the double-spending problem ended up being different. Szabo has publicly denied being Satoshi Nakamoto, but even if that’s the case, his contributions to the creation of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology remain foundational. Szabo’s academic background is in both computer science and the law. His writings in recent years have focused on the evolution of collectibles which comprise non-fungible treasure and fungible money.
No. 47. Anthony Pompliano, Co-Founder & Partner, Morgan Creek Digital Assets
Anthony Pompliano’s investment firm that focuses on blockchain technology and digital assets. MCDA is part of the much larger Morgan Creek Capital Management, which in 2018 purchased Pompliano’s previous company, Full Tilt Capital, an early-stage VC firm. As Full Tilt Capital’s Managing Partner, Pompliano had announced just before the tie-up with Morgan Creek that its next fund would invest entirely in cryptocurrency-related businesses.
With 300,000 Twitter followers and a host of speaking engagement, “Pomp” is a voice that’s hard to ignore. Pompliano also writes the daily “Off the Chain” newsletter on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for institutional investors and hosts the “Off the Chain” podcast.
Before becoming an investor, Pompliano worked briefly at Facebook and Snapchat, and founded a tech company that he ultimately sold. He spent more than six years in the U.S. Army after university where he studied economics and sociology.
No. 48. Brendan Blumer, CEO, Block.One
Brendan Blumer’s Block.one developed blockchain platform EOS.IO as a challenger to Ethereum. The company raised $4.1 billion in a year-long, record-breaking ICO from 2017-2018. There was a problem, though. Weak measures to block U.S. persons from participating in the coin offering failed, and the SEC ordered the company to pay a $24 million penalty for an unregistered ICO—widely considered one of the best settlement deals in crypto. Still, the EOS coin—the seventh-largest by market cap—saw its total market value soar to $11 billion at one point with Blumer owning 15% of Block.one.
Gaming is how Blumer got into crypto. While he was in high school, Blumer was selling swords, armor, shields, and other little assets of value inside games. When he was 15, he started Gamecliff, a company that sold avatars. That soon drew the attention of Brock Pierce who bought the company and relocated Blumer to Hong Kong. In 2016, Blumer met Dan Larimer and the pair started working on Block.one, which Pierce also got involved in. Despite its early promise, EOS is said to suffer from performance issues. Critics argue it isn’t a blockchain, just a glorified cloud computing service. And it is also at risk of centralization.
No. 49. Paolo Ardoino, CTO Tether & Bitfinex
Paolo Ardoino became a prominent feature in social media in May 2019 when he started defending Bitfinex against the New York Attorney General, who was suing the company for fraud. Since then Ardoino has become the de facto frontman of Bitfinex, a controversial British Virgin Islands-registered crypto exchange. Turns out Ardoino has been with the company since 2014, first as a software developer and, starting the following year, as its CTO working out of London. He is also the CTO of Bitfinex’s sister company Tether, which issues a stablecoin by the same name.
Both Tether and Bitfinex have been surrounded in controversy over the last year. ever since the NYAG claimed the exchange was hiding the loss of $850 million from its customers, and borrowing hundreds of millions from funds that were thought to be backing tethers to fill the gap. Then there’s that whole thing about not having the fiat cache backing tether audited, and the $1.4 trillion class-action suit blaming it for the entire crypto winter.
Over the past few months, Bitfinex added Lightning deposits and transactions to the exchange and created a new gold-backed cryptocurrency, Tether Gold. Frontman Ardoino remains passionate about building things and evangelizing the future of the platform. While Tether’s stablecoin has its detractors, it is the main way bitcoin (and other) transactions are made on exchanges—in fact, it is more widely traded than BTC.
No. 50. Hester Peirce, Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission
In publicly dissenting from the SEC’s refusal to overrule its staff and approve a proposal by Gemini-founders Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss for a Bitcoin-tracking exchange-traded fund in mid-2018, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce suddenly found herself the darling of the cryptocurrency community. Dubbed “Crypto Mom” as a result, Peirce in her dissent wrote, “the Commission’s interpretation and application of the statutory standard sends a strong signal that innovation is unwelcome in our markets, a signal that may have effects far beyond the fate of bitcoin ETPs.” (Exchange-traded funds are a type of exchange-traded product, or ETP.) On Feb. 6, Peirce, known for her libertarian leanings, unveiled a proposal for a “safe harbor” under which cryptocurrency projects could launch ICOs with a three-year grace period free from SEC regulations. Her term expires on June 5.
No. 51. Adam Draper, Co-founder and managing director, Boost VC
Former Bitcoin maximalist Adam Draper wants to create an Iron Man suit, a real one, not like those found at the local Walgreens in October. After a brief foray on Wall Street and with some experience in entrepreneurship, Draper founded Boost VC in 2012 just a few years after graduating from UCLA. He has described its mission as investing in founders making science fiction a reality. Recent college grads don’t usually get to start VC funds. Venture capital investing is an apprenticeship business. New VCs learn how to invest well by observing more senior investors and absorbing lessons from them. They also learn from their own investing successes and failures. But coming from a family with three generations of venture capitalists before him including his father Tim (No. 26), Adam Draper was able to extend the family business to a fourth generation. Boost VC’s investments in startups include Coinbase, Ledger, and Polychain Capital. Its cryptocurrency investments include Bitcoin, Ether, Monero, and Zcash.
No. 52. Rahul Pathak, General Manager, Amazon Web Services Blockchain
Rahul Pathak is Jeff Bezos’ man in blockchain, and that alone means he’s someone to watch. Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) at Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides access to blockchain networks through both Ethereum and the Hyperledger Fabric. AMB was launched in April 2019, with participants including AT&T Business, Nestlé, and Accenture.
No. 53. Allen Day, Science Advocate, Google
Allen Day describes his role at Google as “customer zero” for the search giant’s cloud computing efforts. It’s his job to anticipate demand before a product even exists, and he thinks making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing. Just as Google helped make the internet more usable 20 years ago, the tech giant’s next billions may come from pointing the spotlight on blockchains. If Day is successful, the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.
No. 54. David Treat, Senior MD & Global Blockchain Lead, Accenture
Consulting firm Accenture has been very active in blockchain over the past several years, even getting a 2018 mention in Forbes as advertising the most blockchain-related job openings during the previous year. The company has gained the most traction in blockchain for financial services and has partnered with Crypto Dad’s Digital Dollar Foundation to advance an eventual U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency.
David Treat is a senior managing director and co-lead of Accenture’s Blockchain Business. He is also Accenture’s Lead for the New York Fintech Innovation Lab, a joint project between Accenture and the Partnership Fund for New York City. In addition, Treat is on the board of directors of the Linux Hyperledger project, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and several other industry organizations. He holds several blockchain-related patents.
No. 55. Linda Pawczuk, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Linda Pawczuk is a Principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is Deloitte’s U.S. consulting blockchain leader and its global consulting blockchain co-Leader. She has spearheaded Deloitte’s global blockchain surveys over the past couple of years.
The Big Four accounting and consulting firm offers a full range of services, from corporate and consortium strategy to platform architecture and design, to use case design, build, and management. A November study found it listed more blockchain jobs than any other company.
Last year Deloitte introduced its mobile “Blockchain in a Box” demonstration platform in order to help clients understand blockchain’s capabilities and its current limitations. A platform like BIAB could be quite valuable in educating firms about how blockchain works and if it could be valuable in their businesses.
No. 56. Steve Davies, Global Blockchain Leader, PwC
A veteran of more than two decades at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Davies became the firm’s first global blockchain lead in 2017. PwC’s focus at this point remains on helping other companies—in many, many different industries—understand blockchain technology and figure out how it could work for them, before assisting with development and roll-out. This can be traditional companies looking for supply chain and trade finance issues, as well as newer companies looking to disrupt industries.
No. 57. Arun Ghosh, U.S. Blockchain Leader, KPMG
As head of Big Four firm KPMG’s blockchain practice, Ghosh oversees a full-service, strategy-to-implementation offering. KPMG has partnered with Microsoft on its blockchain businesses. Projects include an intercarrier settlement solution for telecom firms’ forthcoming 5G offerings. In a VentureBeat guest column, Ghosh advised scrapping a blockchain project if you can’t prove it “is useful and cost-effective in 12 weeks or less.”
No. 58. Paul Brody, Blockchain Lead, Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young (aka EY) is one of the largest accounting firms in the world, dubbed the “Big Four.” Last year, EY released into the public domain its still-under-development Nightfall hybrid public-private blockchain protocol, which the firm intends as a way to put private and secure transactions on public blockchains, in this case, Ethereum.
Nightfall was spearheaded by Paul Brody, a principal and the global innovation leader for blockchain technology at EY. Brody has previous experience in supply chain and the “internet of things,” both industries would greatly benefit from being able to record private transactions on public blockchains. Its EY OpsChain tokenizes assets and EY Blockchain Analyzer facilitates audits.
No. 59. Frank Xiong, Group VP Blockchain Development, Oracle
Speaking at a conference last year, Frank Xiong predicted that between “50% and 60% of companies will use blockchain in the next few years.” That is about what you would expect to hear from the VP of blockchain development at Oracle. The database and business software giant has been pushing hard into the space. It has created an entire blockchain platform with all the tools and building blocks for enterprises to build their own blockchain applications. At last count, the software maker has more than 100 customers using its blockchain platform to track items for purposes such as ensuring the Italian olive oil you’re buying was really made in Italy or that a manufacturer isn’t buying minerals that support armed conflicts.
No. 60. Rune Christensen, Founder & CEO, Maker Foundation
Decentralized finance is a big part of blockchain’s move into the mainstream, and MakerDAO and its DAI stablecoin is one of the biggest parts of DeFi—a term they invented. And Rune Christensen is at the heart of MakerDAO—both as CEO of the Maker Foundation, and by being the person who brings some kind of order to a decentralized system simply by being someone people listen to. The Foundation recently transferred its intellectual property to the newly created Dai Foundation, which it plans to dissolve in two years. Christensen’s name is conspicuously absent from the new foundation’s board.
The Ethereum-based decentralized lending platform works using the Dai stablecoin. Unlike other stablecoins, such as Tether and Facebook’s planned Libra, which are backed by fiat assets, Dai is backed by another cryptocurrency. As such, it relies on a complex system of smart contracts to keep the value of the coin stable. And while Christensen is CEO, the MakerDAO protocol is community-governed by holders of MKR tokens. In November, MakerDAO added the ability to use tokens other than ether (ETH) as collateral.
No. 61. Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Hyperledger
Who knew that the man behind SFRaves, the place to get info about what was going on in the rave scene in the 1990s, would still be killing it 28 years later? He was also an early participant in Burning Man. While it is fun to see different companies in blockchain duke it out for headlines, Behlendorf has spent the last 17 years at the LINUX foundation searching for common ground. Now he brings that to Hyperledger. The blockchain framework—particularly in its Fabric flavor, which reached a milestone with the release of version 2.0 at the end of January. Hyperledger Fabric has been adopted by major Cloud Service Providers including Alibaba, AWS, Azure, Baidu, Google, Huawei, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Tencent. Other members include Accenture, American Express, JPMorgan, BBVA, Aetna, and FedEx.
No. 62. Rhomaios Ram, CEO, Fnality International
As CEO of the company that was formed to create the Utility Settlement Coin, or USC, Ram’s ambitions are huge: Create a fiat-backed digital token that will allow banks to settle transactions with each other without having to involve a third-party intermediary. It will provide instant liquidity by running international payments through central banks. Then again, its backers are huge. The current list includes: Banco Santander, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, CIBC, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, ING, KBC Group, Lloyds Banking Group, Mizuho Bank, MUFG Group, Nasdaq, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, State Street Bank & Trust, and UBS. Of course, it has to get the central banks to agree to participate, but the company says it believes it will sign at least one on this year to pilot the system. Plans are to release five flavors of USC coin to start—the U.S. dollar, pound sterling, euro, yen, and Canadian dollar.
No. 63. David Rutter, CEO, R3
R3’s open-source Corda is not quite a blockchain, but rather built on the distributed ledger technology that underlies blockchain. Its cut-the-middleman cross-border payments platform was launched with great fanfare in 2017, supported by some top names in banking, but it’s been struggling.
However, a partnership with legacy payments processing middleman Swift—the company behind the slow and expensive messaging service that blockchain is supposed to cut out of cross-border payments—gives it a potential leg up. It also teamed up with Mastercard in September for a cross-border payments solution, but that’s to build a new one. And R3’s trade finance-focused Marco Polo Network recently completed a big test with ABN Amro and SBI Holdings banks. Other members include ING and Bank of America.
The Corda Enterprise platform has struggled with delays and, reportedly, discontent from its engineering ranks, and complaints that leadership had lost focus. Still, Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service and Amazon Web Services’ Quantum Ledger database are working on development projects with Corda, as are Accenture and SAP.
No. 64. Umar Farooq, Head of Blockchain Initiatives, JPMorgan
Umar Farooq, JPMorgan’s head of blockchain initiatives, is also in charge of channels, analytics, and the treasury services department at the bank. Having been with JPMorgan since 2009, he has also held leadership positions in the fields of small business and business banking.
In his current role, Farooq supervised the launch of the JPMCoin, a stablecoin for instantaneous payments in early 2019. That was the first time a large U.S. bank created its own cryptocurrency. At the time of the announcement, Farooq told CNBC that “the applications are frankly quite endless; anything where you have a distributed ledger which involves corporations or institutions can use this.”
The public announcement was seen as something of an about-face for JPMorgan, whose CEO Jamie Dimon is known for his aggressively anti-crypto commentary—although he has spoken positively of blockchain. However, the JPM Coin is considered by most to not be a true “cryptocurrency” in the cypherpunk understanding of the term, as it is pegged to the U.S. dollar and will only be used for internal use by JPMorgan’s institutional clients.
JPMorgan has said it will use Quorum, its homegrown Ethereum-based platform to issue the coin. And recently, the bank has reportedly been in talks to merge Quorum with Ethereum venture studio ConsenSys to run its Interbank Information Network, with more than 300 members.
No. 65. Puneet Singhvi, Managing Director, Citigroup
Puneet Singhvi is managing director and head of financial markets infrastructure for Citi’s institutional client group. He also leads the company’s blockchain initiatives for the markets and securities services business working actively with FMIs, FinTech, and institutional clients on identifying and delivering solutions. Citigroup has been investing aggressively in the blockchain space, although last year it ditched plans for a Citicoin cryptocurrency that it had been working on since 2015.
No. 66. Ken Moore, EVP, Mastercard Labs
As the head of Mastercard Labs since August 2016, Ken Moore leads the firm’s research and development initiatives. That includes expanding the company’s portfolio with technologies such as blockchain, AI, and machine learning. Mastercard may have pulled its support of Facebook’s Libra project in late 2019, but the payments giant still maintains a strong foothold in the crypto world. It claims to hold the third-largest number of blockchain patents. And remains true to principals to expand financial inclusion with several public and private crypto initiatives, including a partnership with R3 focused on cross border transactions.
No. 67. Kevin Phalen, head of global business solutions, Visa
A former managing director for Bank of America, Phalen is now spearheading Visa’s push to expand its reach beyond credit card payments, where it is one of the dominant players worldwide. “We’re also going to be instrumental in breaking down geographic barriers that no longer need to exist in the B2B payment ecosystem,” he said in one interview. In mid-2019, the company launched a new network to help financial institutions process cross-border payments globally on behalf of corporate clients faster and at a lower operational cost. The Visa B2B Connect network initially covered 30 trade corridors globally and is built in part on Hyperledger Fabric. (Visa is notable for being one of the large payments companies that pulled out of Facebook’s Libra project in October 2019.)
No. 68. Jonathan Johnson, Interim CEO, Overstock.com
After Patrick Byrne stepped down following bizarre admissions of a deep state conspiracy theory, long-time Overstock employee Johnson took over as the company’s CEO. He also retained his title of president of Medici. That wholly-owned subsidiary of Overstock wants to “change the world by advancing blockchain technology.”
Johnson has admitted he is a “hodler,” someone who holds onto Bitcoin as an investment, believing that someday cryptocurrency will be as common a form of payment as government-backed fiat currency is today.
No. 69. Charlie Lee, Creator, Litecoin; Managing Director, Litecoin Foundation
Ex-Google engineer Charlie Lee is the creator of Litecoin, often billed as “the silver to bitcoin’s gold” and the managing director of the Litecoin Foundation.
He created Litecoin—currently the sixth largest coin by market capitalization, according to Messari’s Real Volume, in 2011 as a fork of the bitcoin code by tweaking a few variables and adding a different hashing algorithm. The altcoin rose to prominence only after getting listed on popular crypto trading platform Coinbase in May 2017.
This was while Lee was working at the exchange as its director of engineering. Despite stepping down from his post shortly after, he could not escape accusations of insider trading. Lee received even more criticism months later when he liquidated his entire LTC holdings at the top of the market in December 2017, claiming a “conflict of interest.”
No. 70. Katie Haun, Andreessen Horowitz General Partner
Katie Haun is a former federal prosecutor who led investigations into both Mt. Gox and Silk Road and created the government’s first cryptocurrency task force in 2015. She is the first female general partner at Andreesen Horowitz, also known as a16z, an influential venture capital firm headquartered in Silicon Valley with over $10 billion in assets under management. Haun is co-head of a16z’s $350 million crypto fund, one of the largest VC funds dedicated to cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
Last summer Andreesen Horowitz joined Facebook’s Libra digital currency project as a founding member with Haun a key part of the effort. Haun is on the board of directors of Coinbase and HackerOne and also teaches at Stanford University.
No. 71. Meltem Demirors, CSO, CoinShares
Meltem Demirors, is currently chief strategy officer at crypto asset manager CoinShares, having previously worked for over two years as vice president at Digital Currency Group. Beyond her activity on crypto Twitter, where she has almost 100,000 followers, Demirors also co-hosted a podcast in 2019 on the crypto world—“What Grinds My Gears”—along with tech investor Jill Carlson. And of course, she is known as a crypto insider asked to define “shitcoin” by a congressman during a House Financial Services Committee.
In her role at CoinShares, which has over $1 billion in assets under management, Demirors is in charge of developing ways for institutional investors to gain access to the crypto market. Outside of her day job, Demirors has focused on the wider issue of bringing crypto to the masses through education by lecturing on blockchain at Oxford Saïd Business School and the MIT Media Lab, and is also a member of the World Economic Forum Blockchain Council.
No. 72. Mark Russinovich, CTO, Microsoft Azure
A Spanish-born American software engineer, Russinovich serves as CTO of Microsoft Azure. He believes that blockchain technology will become mainstream tech outside of crypto, and Microsoft is backing that. Last May, the tech giant announced the Azure Blockchain Service, a tool that helps developers and companies create, deploy, and manage blockchain networks. According to Russinovich, Microsoft’s own enterprise customers, such as Starbucks and Xiaomi, led to the development of the service as many were “overwhelmed” in developing their own blockchain platforms.
No. 73. Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics, New York University
Crypto’s Dutch uncle is an Iranian who speaks with an Italian accent. Nouriel Roubini, the NYU economics professor and head of Roubini Macro Associates, made his name (and earned the moniker “Dr. Doom”) predicting the severity of the 2007 financial crisis. He now has a new favorite target—cryptocurrencies. His public appearances and Twitter feed feature incessant attacks on the industry. Naturally, this has made him a popular speaker at crypto-related events.
No. 74. Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, CEO, Electric Coin Company
Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn is known in the crypto space as a cypherpunk and the designer of several decentralized systems. He is also one of the founders of Zcash, a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency that is leading the use of zk-SNARKS.
That stands for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge” which tells the vast majority of us absolutely nothing. Basically, it’s a way of getting security while adding privacy to transactions. And it’s gaining a lot of advocates in the cryptocurrency developer space, notably Wilcox’s Electric Coin Company—the main Zcash development firm—and Tezos, which is adding ZK-SNARKS to its protocol. Zcash is notable because its privacy features can be turned on or off (they’re off by default).
Wilcox was caught up in some controversy in 2018 after he released information on just how much Zcash’s creators were earning from a rewards scheme that ends in October 2020. And last year, there was an uproar after Wilcox suggested allocating block rewards for this purpose. Because Zcash is decentralized that required a Zcash community vote, which succeeded earlier this year.
No. 75. Arthur Hayes, Co-Founder and CEO, BitMEX
Hayes has a taste for the good life. At the annual Consensus conference in midtown Manhattan in 2018, he pulled up in an orange Lamborghini to proudly display his success. As an equity trader at Deutsche Bank and Citigroup in the early 2000s, Hayes learned early on that the most profitable products a bank offers are derivatives because you never have to actually own the underlying asset.
Bullish and bearish, Hayes recently predicted that Bitcoin might rise as high as $20,000 in 2020, or drop as low as $3,000. But in the derivatives market, you make—or lose—money either way.
In 2014, working out of Hong Kong, he launched cryptocurrency exchange and derivative trading platform BitMEX with partners Ben Delo and Sam Reed. The Seychelles-registered company rakes in huge profits with a perpetual swap product that tracks a bitcoin-dollar index with a leverage of up to 100x. It doesn’t allow American traders though. U.S. citizens are banned to avoid a tangle with U.S. regulators.
No. 76. Christopher Giancarlo, Director, Digital Dollar Project
Crypto Dad didn’t turn his back on digital currencies after leaving his post as Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair for greener pastures, notably the white-shoe Manhattan law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Following up on the Oct. 15 Wall Street Journal editorial in which he called for the creation of a digital dollar, Giancarlo said, “We sent a man to the moon. We can send the dollar to cyberspace.” He doubled down on the central bank digital currency drive in January, announcing the creation of the Digital Dollar Project. It seeks to “catalyze a digital, tokenized U.S. currency that would coexist with other Federal Reserve liabilities and… meet the demands of the new digital world and a cheaper, faster and more inclusive global financial system,” he said. He also joined the advisory board of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a cryptocurrency industry lobbying group.
No. 77. Valerie Szczepanik, Senior Advisor for Digital Assets, SEC
The SEC still doesn’t seem any closer to approving a cryptocurrency ETF than it was in 2019. And its war on initial coin offerings, or ICOs, has picked up steam with a growing number of big lawsuits and settlements, such as Block.one (settlement) and Telegram and Kik (litigation war).
As the first “Crypto-Czar,” Szczepanik said her mission is “to facilitate capital formation, promote fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and protect investors, particularly Main Street investors,” in the announcement of her appointment when she took up the role. Most notably, the agency issued a few “no action” letters to small startups, giving examples of what it considers a cryptocurrency a utility token rather than a security. And while its long-awaited “plain English” guidance was widely panned as not saying anything new, baby steps are still steps. Its Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (FinHub), was created in an effort to create a place for FinTech.
No. 78, Tuur Demeester, Founding Partner, Adamant Capital
Tuur Demeester’s Adamant’s Fund 1 is described as a Bitcoin alpha fund whose goal is to “responsibly outperform Bitcoin in a tax-efficient manner.” In May, he tweeted that Bitcoin exchanges and custodians are “too big to bail”—meaning that they could fail because there is no lender of last resort. Prior to Adamant Capital, Demeester was editor in chief of Adamant Research, which focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Before starting firms named after an English New Wave singer, Demeester’s Macro Trends newsletter was among the first to add Bitcoin to its basket of recommended currencies in 2012.
No. 79. Tim McCourt, Managing Director & Global Head of Equity Index and Alternative Investment Products, CME Group
Sure it’s CEO isn’t married to a senator, but CME has been winning its fight with ICE’s Bakkt over the bitcoin futures market and, since Jan. 13, the options market. Tim McCourt is bullish on cryptocurrency as an investment product. And with the owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, among others, behind him, McCourt is one of the bigger names in the financial markets who are actually doing something in cryptocurrency investing.
No. 80. Arianna Simpson, Founder & Managing Director, Autonomous Partners & Deal Investor, Andreessen Horowitz
Arianna Simpson is an early-stage investor backed by hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen of Cohen Private Ventures (twice) as well as other leading investors, including Union Square Ventures. She got another huge stamp of approval in February when she was appointed a deal investor by one of the most storied Silicon Valley VCs, Andreessen Horowitz. A veteran of Facebook and BitGo, and an alumnus of Y Combinator alum, Simpson is frequently sought out as a pundit by the media to comment on the state of blockchain and cryptocurrency investments.
No. 81. Silvio Micali, Founder, Algorand
The cryptocurrency space first learned about Micali in 2017, back when he started talking about Algorand, a new proof-of-stake blockchain protocol that its founder said would give Ethereum and Bitcoin a run for their money. The Italian-born, Turing-award winning cryptographer and MIT professor was late to bitcoin, but he grasped the concept immediately. After all, he had spent his entire career researching technologies that form the bedrock of blockchains today: public-key cryptosystems, digital signatures, pseudorandomness and multiparty computations.
Micali is also the co-inventor of a crypto method known as zero-knowledge proofs, which is gaining more and more favor in blockchain privacy circles. Zcash, for instance, uses a variant of the protocol to validate transactions without revealing which wallet a payment came from, where it was sent, or how much currency changed hands. As for Algorand, the project has raised $66 million from the likes of Union Square Ventures and Pillar. In mid-2019, it raised another $60 million in an initial coin offering out of Singapore. Its main offices, though, are in Boston.
No. 82. Michael Arrington, Partner, Arrington XRP Capital
A securities lawyer who was the editor of TechCrunch, Michael Arrington’s history with VC investing includes stakes in Uber, Airbnb, and Pinterest. In late 2017, he founded Arrington XRP. The $100 million fund chose XRP, the coin that powers Ripple’s RippleNet software, as its base denomination. Last year, Arrington XRP acquired ByteSize Capital, after raising an additional $30 million.
No. 83. Craig Wright, Chief Scientist, nChain
He is also the father of Bitcoin Satoshi Version (BSV)—No. 5 by market cap, despite dismal volume—a cryptocurrency he says is faithful to “his” original vision of the first cryptocurrency.
Wright spends his days creating patents at nChain, except for when he’s tormenting the attorneys of Ira Kleiman, the brother of his late partner Dave Kleiman, who is suing Wright for half of the 1.1 million bitcoins the real Nakamoto mined, as well as half the intellectual property of Bitcoin. Which Kleiman assumes is Wright’s to lose.
No. 84. Ryan Selkis, Co-Founder & CEO, Messari
A former managing director of CoinDesk, Ryan Selkis’ latest venture, Messari, is adding some much-needed unbiased data and research in the industry. Not the least of this is Messari’s Real Volume, which adds a refreshing dose of reality to the flights of fancy that are the reported cryptocurrency trading volumes. Sharp and timely analysis, as well as a growing twitter presence, are building Selkis’ brand quickly.
No. 85. Mike Blandina, CEO, Bakkt
New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, has jumped into the bitcoin futures and options markets in a big way with Bakkt. And while it has not been able to get the traction of CME Group, newly appointed CEO Mike Blandina is someone everyone is looking at. And it can’t hurt that he ascended to the top spot after Kelly Loeffler turned into Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler. There aren’t many higher places in which to have friends. The firm’s abortive attempt to buy eBay led to speculation that it would bring bitcoin payments into the firm, which had been a member of Facebook’s Libra before joining the October exodus. But it is still looking to get into payments in a move that includes acquiring loyalty program provider Bridge2 solutions.
No. 86. Jed McCaleb, Founder, Stellar & CTO, Interstellar
Jed McCaleb has a long history in the cryptocurrency industry, having co-founded Ripple before leaving to fork Ripple’s blockchain and create competitor Stellar. He is also the founder of Mt. Gox, but sold the early cryptocurrency exchange to Mark Karpeles long before it collapsed following a record-setting hack.
A lot of people were surprised when IBM selected Stellar’s lumen as the currency for its IBM World Wire payments settlement network. Both the independent Stellar Development Foundation and McCaleb’s firm Interstellar have a lot riding on the partnership, as Big Blue brings a strong record of making blockchain platforms work. It’s also one of the oldest and most storied names in technology, and banks tend to put a lot of faith in track records. But IBM’s Jesse Lund, who selected the lumen, has left the firm, leaving Stellar’s support in question.
And then there’s the big burn. In November, the foundation shocked (and pleased) lumen owners by announcing that it had destroyed 55 billion lumens—more than half the total supply of 105 billion and just shy of two-thirds of its own holding of 85 billion—deeming them unnecessary to the project. As an attempt to raise the price of the 14th-largest cryptocurrency, it failed dismally, as the foundation burned what was then $3.5 billion worth of lumens that led the holdings of other lumen-holders rising by a comparatively paltry $260 million. Then there’s the question of what it means that more than half of a payment network’s tokens weren’t necessary.
No. 87. Alice Lloyd George, Principal, RRE Ventures
As principal at New York-based VC firm RRE Ventures, Alice Lloyd George focuses on emerging technologies including blockchain, machine intelligence and computer vision, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and NewSpace. A veteran of Bridgewater Associates, the Brookings Institute, and the Wall Street Journal, she works with RRE blockchain portfolio companies including peer-to-peer digital cash transfer app Abra and secure cryptocurrency app development platform Gem (formerly BitVault). She also works with non-blockchain companies like VR firm 8i and small satellite launch access firm Spaceflight. She is also the host of the Flux Podcast, where she has interviewed tech visionaries on subjects ranging from crypto futures to 3D printing to neural computing interfaces.
No. 88. Donna Redel, Board Member & Co-Chair, Blockchain Committee, New York Angels
Donna Redel is a board member of NY Angels where she co-chairs the Blockchain Committee, leveraging her experience as managing director of the World Economic Forum, chair of the New York Commodity Exchange (COMEX), and CIO of Prudential Securities.
No. 89, 90, 91. Michael Gronager, CEO, Chainalysis; Dave Jevans, CEO, Ciphertrace; Dr. James Smith, CEO, Elliptic
Blockchain intelligence is becoming big business, and as law enforcement and intelligence agencies get more sophisticated about the ways blockchain and bitcoin transactions can be traced, big criminal cases will emerge—the shutdown of a major child pornography site, Welcome to Video, was a taste of what’s to come. That will have a number of effects, among them changing the perception that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are anonymous when they are actually pseudonymous. There are a number of firms operating in this field, but the leaders are Chainalysis, Ciphertrace, and Elliptic.
A former COO and co-founder of cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, Chainalysis’ co-founder and CEO Michael Gronager’s firm made its bones on Mt. Gox, when co-founder James Levin told a congressional panel that his firm had located 650,000 bitcoins stolen from the failed exchange. The company has by the most contracts with the U.S. Government Coindesk reported, with agencies ranging from the FBI, DEA, and ICE to the SEC and IRS. The latter’s criminal investigations division chief publicly credited Chainalysis with assisting in the Welcome to Video investigation.
A self-described Cypherpunk with 17 patents in the cybersecurity field, CipherTrace’s Dave Jevans “went down the rabbit hole” with bitcoin in 2011 after working on blockchain predecessors such as e-gold. Before that, his first encryption company, Receipt.com, created the secure messaging tools used by Swift, through which nearly every cross-border bank payment passes. The firm’s focus is banks and exchanges, and more than 700 cryptocurrencies can be traced via its tools.
Elliptic co-founder and CEO Dr. James Smith, an alumnus of both Oxford and Cambridge, recently raised $23 million for the UK-based firm and is reportedly eyeing expansion into Asia. Elliptic’s focus is on helping banks understand their exposure to cryptocurrency, anti-money laundering software, forensics, and analysis and training. It recently told congress that cryptocurrency exchanges that take privacy coins like monero and zcash should be subject to stricter AML regulations.
No. 92. Perianne Boring, President, Chamber of Digital Commerce
Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency has now caught the attention of the U.S. Treasury Secretary and G7 finance ministers, leading central bankers, international regulatory bodies like the Financial Action task Force, and Fortune 50 companies. Now more than ever it is more important than ever that the industry have someone who can not only speak, educate, and lobby for it, but be spoken to when the powers that be have questions or demand answers. Boring is a blockchain policy advisor to the OECD and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, where she teaches a class on fintech and blockchain. Starting out as a legislative analyst for the House of Representatives, Boring was a financial television program host before founding the CDC in 2014.
No. 93. Brock Pierce, Entrepreneur
The controversial former child star of Disney’s “Mighty Ducks” fell into bitcoin in its early days, accumulating enough of it to make him a wealthy man. A serial crypto entrepreneur, he co-founded RealCoin in 2014, which was later renamed Tether. He also invested in Coinbase, Ethereum, and Block.one’s EOS, as well as Blockchain Capital. He was an EOS advisor up until John Oliver criticized him on “Last Week Tonight,” and the project kicked him off. In early 2018, Forbes pegged him at No. 9 in cryptocurrency wealth with holdings of about $1 billion—an amount he has pledged to give to charity. At the moment though, he is tied up trying to build a “crypto utopia” in Puerto Rico.
No. 94. Marc Hochstein, Executive Editor, CoinDesk
When long-time editor-in-chief Pete Rizzo departed CoinDesk amid a consolidation of power under Wall Street Journal alumnus Micheal Casey in September, Marc Hochstein took over day-to-day operations.
Initially brought in by Rizzo, Hochstein joined the outlet in September 2017 as managing editor in the thick of the crypto hype cycle. In January 2020, he became executive editor. And now, he is helping to lead the digital media startup’s next phase of expansion. A veteran business journalist, Hochstein spent 15 years at American Banker, the last three of those as editor-in-chief, where he was responsible for some of the earliest mainstream news coverage of bitcoin and the innovations it later inspired.
No. 95. Charlie Shrem, Co-Founder Crypto.IQ; Host, Untold Stories Podcast
Charlie Shrem is a Bitcoin OG—literally as well as figuratively—and now he’s preserving the history of the early days of the Bitcoin project via his podcast, Untold Stories, which focuses on bitcoin’s beginnings as recalled by people who were there. He also started up Crypto.IQ, a membership-based cryptocurrency trading advisory and news site based in Sarasota. He emerged victorious in his latest legal battle, fighting off a lawsuit by the Winklevoss twins (who really don’t seem to have a lot of luck in court) claiming he owed them 5,000 bitcoins. He didn’t do as well against authorities, who jailed him for selling $1 million in bitcoins to Silk Road users $1 million through BitInstant, his early-days-of-crypto exchange.
No. 96. Jay Cassano, Editor in Chief, Cointelegraph
Cassano is an investigative reporter with experience in mainstream media, including covering tech at Fast Company. It was in 2014 at Fast Company that he started reporting on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. He subsequently left for Newsweek’s International Business Times, and later went on to join crypto news site Cointelegraph in late 2019. The unabashed Cassano has been known to call employers to task (on Twitter, where else?) for things like not paying $300 in expenses. He also famously chewed out blockchain media company Civil for paying journalists mostly in magic beans (CVL tokens). Civil never got off the ground.
No. 97. Michael del Castillo, Reporter, Forbes
When Michael del Castillo, a talented writer and in-demand moderator for crypto panels, jumped from CoinDesk to Forbes in 2018, it immediately raised the publication’s standing in the community. And it was a perfect place for the pony-tailed MDC, a journalist whose specialty is covering the business side of blockchain technology. He’s broken some big stories and built the Forbes 50 list of the biggest corporations embracing blockchain technology.
No. 98. Mike Dudas, Founder, The Block
A veteran of Google and PayPal who later headed business development for Venmo, Mike Dudas has more than a passing interest in digital currency. He raised seven figures and put together a team of young go-getters to form a new publication, The Block. Thanks to its knack for regularly breaking stories, the news site has quickly become required reading—for those who don’t mind paying, that is. While its Genesis subscription is $1,000 year, more recently, it announced a more affordable product, The Block Daily, for $19 a month. It also raised $1.75 million this year from investors. The Block isn’t afraid of controversy or upsetting potential advertisers, forfeiting a deal with Binance to cover a story of a police raid on a Shanghai office (which turned out to be inaccurate).
No. 99. Laura Shin, journalist, Forbes & podcast host, “Unchained”
The “Unchained” podcast host and Forbes Magazine contributor is not only a prominent voice in crypto, but also a no-coiner. With excellent access born of a strong reputation, she covers the fascinating characters of the blockchain world the same way she would investigate government spending projects without being in the infrastructure business.
No. 100. Andrew Yang, former Democratic Presidential Candidate.
A poor showing in Iowa and New Hampshire primaries finally knocked Andrew Yang out of the Democratic presidential primary, but he was a serious presidential candidate that had cryptocurrency and blockchain proposal at the core of several planks on his platform. When Yang released his Crypto/Digital Asset Regulation and Consumer Protection platform in April—roughly two months before Facebook’s Libra proposal—he was one of the highest-profile U.S. politicians talking seriously about these issues. The proposal was a serious call for a legislative framework for digital assets that didn’t begin with “stop Facebook,” and the way his Modernize Voting policy would, well, modernize voting is by making it a blockchain-based mobile system. And he has gained enough of a following among the crypto faithful to retain his influence in this space longer than he ran his campaign.
Editor’s note: Modern Consensus founder Ken Kurson sits on the board of Ripple.
Updated at 1:00 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2020 to reflect Circle’s intention to sell SeedInvest.
Updated at 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2020 to reflect Adam Draper’s investments, and correct reference to his father’s position on this list.
Updated at 5:00 p.m. on April 3, 2020 to resize and add images.