Right and Wrong

Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential: Who got it right and who got it wrong

The good guesses, the triumphs, the screw-ups and the downright disasters of 2020

In an industry as young and volatile as crypto, and especially with all the money sloshing around in it, the triumphs and tragedies—or at least successes and screw-up—can be be enlightening and sometimes funny.

It’s also a good preview to The Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential People in Crypto 2021, which went live today.

So, here’s a look at 10 crypto people who got it right, and 10 who got it wrong, over the past year.

Getting it right

  1. Charlie Shrem. Advising the crypto community to double down on Bitcoin at $4,000, because it’ll be your last chance to buy it under $5,000. Another “0” later, well, yeah.
  2. Michael Saylor. His decision to invest $250 million (to begin with) of MicroStrategy’s corporate treasury into Bitcoin before it hit $11,600 was even better for Bitcoin than it was for him. Which is a pretty high hurdle.
  3. Changpeng “CZ” Zhao. There’s a lot of reasons, but we’ll stick with Binance Coin. BNB has advanced to the No. 3 largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, with $43 billion, after migrating from clogged and expensive Ethereum to his own DApp-capable, decentralized exchange (DEX) friendly Binance Smart Chain. This time last year it was under $20. Today? $282.
  4. Brian Armstrong. Coinbase is going to be the first crypto-native company to go public, with estimates of a valuation as high as $100 billion. And other that say that’s far over the price it’ll get. But still. 
  5. Tether/Bitfinex. After staring down a potentially catastrophic fraud lawsuit by New York’s attorney general, the stablecoin issuer and crypto exchange got off with a comparatively paltry $18.5 billion settlement.
  6. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). I suppose it should be her for winning a senate seat, but really its crypto that won, with the election of a very knowledgeable, pro-Bitcoin hodler with a son-in-law in the business who’s already shown a willingness to push the industry’s issues at a national level.
  7. Beeple. The digital artist formerly known as Mike Winkelmann sold an NFT artwork at Christie’s for almost $70 million.
  8. Chainalysis. After a year full of participating in high-profile criminal cases that hinged on tracing Bitcoin transaction, Michael Gronager’s blockchain intelligence firm’s latest funding round valued it as a $1 billion unicorn.
  9. David Rutter. Pivoting from a struggling cross-border payments tool to making R3’s Corda a financial services-focused enterprise blockchain platform has paid huge dividends, with win including a partnership with IBM—champion of competing Hyperledger Fabric—and CBDC contracts with Sweden and South Africa.
  10. Joe Lubin. A bad start full of layoffs and restructuring ended with two key partnerships: First with JPMorgan, which turned over its Quorum enterprise blockchain, and then with China’s government-controlled Blockchain-based Service Network—which puts Quorum front and center with every Chinese DApp developer.

Getting it wrong

  1. Jay Clayton. The SEC chairman went out with a bang, tossing a legal hand grenade at Ripple—and really the entire industry—on his very last day in office. By filing a $1.3 billion lawsuit accusing the international payments processor of illegally selling an unregistered security—XRP—for more than seven years. The case has the potential to set a precedent for a very broad definition of when a cryptocurrency is a security. It not only left the mess in the hands of his replacement, it crashed the price of XRP, hurting a lot of investors.
  2. David Marcus. Facebooks’ now largely behind-the-scenes frontman for the Libra stablecoin did such a bang-up job with regulators and elected officials that the association had to change its name to Diem.
  3. Micran Zhee and Jihan Wu. The two Bitmain founders spent almost the entire year feuding, with reports claiming actual physical takeovers of facilities. Attention would have been better spent elsewhere, like handling the big Bitcoin halving without having to resort to substantial layoffs.
  4. Chef Nomi. The pseudonymous founder of DeFi protocol Uniswap’s “vampire” hard fork, SushiSwap, sucked a fortune away from its parent by incentivizing liquidity to jump ship. Which worked right up until Chef Nomi decided he’d had enough and departed—taking $14 million in ETH with him. The outraged cries of “rug pull” scam convinced him to return the ether with an abject apology. 
  5. Arthur Hayes. The founder and ex-CEO of crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX is reportedly negotiating a surrender to U.S. authorities that accuse him of having anti-money laundering controls so weak it violated the Banking Secrecy Act.
  6. Justin Sun. The $4.6 million Warren Buffet lunch pales in comparison to the Steem debacle, which caused user to decamp en masse to the specially created Hive.
  7. Brian Armstrong. His tone deaf corporate neutrality position to the Black Lives Matter protests pushed more than 60 employees out the door, and led to a pair of bruising articles in the New York Timesleveling accusations of discrimination against black and female employees. 
  8. Uniswap Socks. The SOCKS token is currently around $95,000, down from an all-time-high of $164,000. The tokens can be exchanged for a pair of socks. No seriously, socks. Like, wear-on-your-feet socks.
  9. Craig Wright/Ira Kleiman. The self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto presented laughable “information” in court, convincing two judges and Andreas Antonopoulos to call him a liar. Then there’s Ira, for believing there are actually billions of dollars to collect.
  10. Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). The former head of the Bakkt derivatives exchange may have been able to give a worse response to accusations of using insider information given to Senators about the coming pandemic to buy and sell stocks than my husband and I are too rich to know what’s happening with our investments. But Georgia voters sure couldn’t come up with one. 

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.