For years, the world of cryptocurrency was like the wild west during the California gold rush. There were opportunities to make money everywhere, if you knew where to look. But the potential for opportunity is far from over. Blockchain technology is here to stay. Just like the internet, it will become part of society more and more as time goes on. While it has only existed for a decade, there are already plenty of people who have become multi-millionaires and billionaires off of this new tech. These are the 20 richest people in cryptocurrency.
20. Satoshi Nakamoto
Everyone has heard of Bitcoin, but no one actually knows the true identity of the man (or group of people who invented it. The Bitcoin white paper was created by someone going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. He corresponded with coders over email in order to build blockchain technology, but he was careful never to reveal any of his personal information, or even speak over the phone. There are several theories online about the possible identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, but there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove it.
Nakamoto was a genius in more ways than one. He was smart enough to know that people would fight against his invention, and that the FBI would be searching for him. By keeping his identity a secret, he has avoided potential legal repercussions. Since he was the inventor, he owns the biggest amount of Bitcoin. In the very beginning, mining Bitcoins was very easy, and their value was less than one cent. In December 2017, when one Bitcoin was worth $20,000, Satoshi Nakamoto would be worth $19.4 billion. This made him number 44 in the top 100 richest people on the planet.
19. Brad Garlinghouse
Harvard alumni Brad Garlinghouse had plenty of experience working in tech at AOL and Yahoo before he became the CEO of Ripple. Finding revolutionary technology was always in the front of his mind, and when he learned about the potential to integrate Blockchain to traditional banking and business, he was on board.
Garlinghouse is composed, likeable, and intelligent, making him a great face to the company. Many Bitcoin enthusiasts have felt threatened by Ripple, because they are working to bring blockchain technology to traditional banks and corporations, instead of trying to use Bitcoin to overthrow them. Garlinghouse has gone above and beyond to be an advocate for Blockchain technology in the mainstream media, and he never tries to claim that Ripple should replace any of the other cryptocurrencies. On multiple occasions, he has said that he holds an “All boats rise” mentality. If one coin succeeds, so do the others.
With that being said, Ripple’s XRP settles within a matter of seconds, instead of hours, and it is currently the most under-valued currency on the market. Considering that Brad Garlinghouse has a nearly 7% stake in Ripple, his current net worth is $9.5 Billion, and it may rise in the future as the company grows.
18. The Winklevoss Twins
If you have ever seen the movie The Social Network, you might remember the twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who started a website called Harvard Connection. They later sued Mark Zuckerberg after he created Facebook, which was very similar to the social network they started and shared with him beforehand. Anyone who saw the movie already knows that they lost the lawsuit, and their social network would never compete with Facebook’s explosion in popularity.
However, the Winklevoss brothers continued to keep their eye out for the next big thing. After they graduated from Harvard University, they learned about Bitcoin, and they could see the potential in cryptocurrency. In 2013, they founded the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust in New York City. They strive to educated traditional investors to put their money in cryptocurrency. Their trust fund moved $300 million per day, and they are worth between $900 million and $1 billion. While they may have lost the case against Mark Zuckerberg in the battle over Facebook, it looks like the Winklevoss twins will have the last laugh. In July of 2018, Facebook lost $15 billion in a single day, breaking records in massive falls in the history of the stock market.
17. Vitalik Buterin
If you look up “boy genius” in the dictionary, you’ll see Vitalik Buterin. He was born in Russia, and his family moved to Canada, where he attended a private school for boys. He excelled in mathematics and computer science. He got involved in Bitcoin at a the age of 17, after hearing about it from his dad.
This was years before mainstream media was writing about cryptocurrency, and the only place people could go for their information was Bitcoin Magazine. Buterin wrote articles and took his payments in Bitcoin. After learning how to code on the blockchain, he had a lot of ideas on how Bitcoin could be improved. He wrote a white paper for his own cryptocurrency, Ethereum, in 2013. At this point, he had already networked with a lot of coders through Bitcoin Magazine who wanted to be involved with the Ethereum project.
Ethereum is faster than Bitcoin, and it also has the ability to have other coins built upon it. It became much easier for independent companies to make their own “ICO’s” or “Initial Coin Offerings” off of the Ethereum platform. Suddenly, billions of dollars were being poured into Ethereum so people could create their own cryptocurrencies easily. He has an estimated net worth of $175 million.
16. Chris Larsen
Chris Larsen has a long track record of taking a new financial technology and having the vision to see how it can change the future. In 1997, he created a company called e-Loan, which was one of the first ways that people could apply for a mortgage online, instead of going to a bank. Today, the company is worth $1 billion. With years of experience in online banking and lending, he saw the potential of how the underlying blockchain technology from Bitcoin could improved and used as a way to do global bank transfers at lightning speed.
He co-founded Ripple, and they created their own cryptocurrency called XRP. It is the fastest cryptocurrency in existence, and over 100 banks and major corporations have agreed to begin using it very soon. Chris Larsen is currently valued somewhere between $7.5 and $8 billion. If the value of XRP increases in the future, and his net worth will be even higher.
15. Song Chi-Hyung
When he was in college, Song Chi-Hyung majored in computer science and economics. He began earning his MBA in the 1990’s, but dropped out when he got involved in the booming dot-com industry. In 2012, Song Chi-Hyung founded the South Korean crypto exchange called Upbit, and within just a few months, it quickly jumped to having some of the highest trade volumes in the world. While the western world is skeptical to accept cryptocurrency into their lives, South Korea and Japan are already willing to incorporate it into their daily lives with open arms.
Chi-Hyung partnered with a US-based company to create an American trading platform called Bittrex, which currently has a market trading platform that supports hundreds of cryptocurrencies. In December of 2017, Upbit was moving upwards of $11 Billion in assets every single day. His net worth is estimated to be anywhere from $350 to $500 million.
14. Tim Draper
Tim Draper started off making money as a traditional venture capitalist, and he was very successful. He started a business and entrepreneurship school in Silicon Valley, California called Draper University. Draper had a “lightbulb moment” when he watched a father in South Korea struggle to turn cash into digital currency to help his son buy a digital item on a video game. Of course, PayPal existed back then, but for people who still use traditional bank accounts, there is still a lot of processes to go between middle men to move money on a digital platform. This is when he learned more about Bitcoin.
In 2014, he surprised a lot of people by purchasing a large quantity of Bitcoin at a government auction that had been seized by the FBI. Authorities had taken large caches of Bitcoin from drug dealers on the dark web, but they didn’t know what to do with it, so they got rid of it. Not only did Draper purchase his Bitcoin at a discount, but the value of each coin was still a tiny fraction of what it is today. By 2017, he had an estimated net worth of $1 Billion, and half of his money came from cryptocurrency.
13. Barry Silbert
As a kid, Barry Silbert was already obsessed with money. At 13, he started a business selling baseball cards, and instead of buying himself games with his Bat Mitzvah money, he put the cash into the stock market. When he was 17, he became the youngest person in history to pass the Series 7 stockbroker’s exam.
In 2005, Barry Silbert created an online trading platform called SecondMarket, where people could trade non-liquid assets that were not normally traded on the stock market. During the financial crisis, many investors used SecondMarket to unload their bad mortgages. This platform has been very successful, and he became a millionaire. In 2013, he could see the potential in adding Bitcoin to SecondMarket. At the time, he saw this as being one of the biggest opportunities he could jump on, but few people believed in the vision. In 2015, he sold SecondMarket to NASDAQ. He was very smart to start accepting Bitcoin, because now, his net worth is hovering around $500 million.
12. Charles Hoskinson
Charles Hoskinson had a great job as a consultant, and everything was going fine, until he learned about Bitcoin and blockchain technology. He became so excited to find out about this tech so early in the game, he dropped everything to create a new business called The Bitcoin Education Project. His family and friends thought he was crazy. Through this project, he met Vitalik Buterin while he was working at Bitcoin Magazine.
As one of the eight co-founders of Ethereum, Charles Hoskinson helped Vitalik Buterin build the platform. They got into a disagreement, because Hoskinson wanted to bring in venture capitalists and traditional bankers, but Vitalik was very idealistic, and wanted to keep the project a non-profit organization. After leaving Ethereum, Hoskinson started a new company called IOHK. They specialize in helping companies start up their own cryptocurrency. When Bitcoin hit its peak at $20,000, he sensed that the bubble was about to burst, and he liquidated everything he owned, making roughly $500 to $600 million.
Today, he is working on a new project called Cardano, which aims to fix all of the issues with Bitcoin and Ethereum to make a better user and community. experience.
11. Valery Vavilov
Valery Vavilov was born in Latvia during the 1980’s, so he experienced life under the regime of the USSR. During this time, paper money became worthless, and his family lost everything they owned. This is why, when he heard about Bitcoin, he could see the potential in having an international digital currency.
In 2011, he co-founded a company called BitFury that focused on mining Bitcoin. When he was first starting the business, one Bitcoin was only worth $30. He would mine the coins on computers, and sell them to make money to fuel the company. They eventually mined over 800,000 Bitcoin. At the currency’s peak in 2017, they were worth $20,000 each, which made Bitfury worth $1.6 billion. Of course, the value has declined since then. Today, he has an estimated net worth of $500 to $700 million.
10. Dan Larimer
Born in Colorado, Dan Larimer went to college at the Virginia Polytech Institute to earn a degree in computer science and engineering. In 2017, he co-founded a company called SteemIt, which is a blogging and social media website specializing in people who are enthusiastic about blockchain.
He founded yet another company called BitShares, where he has come up with a concept called a “Decentralize Autonomous Organization” or “DOA’s” where smart contracts can be exchanged. It’s very possible that in the future, more and more corporations will be using DOA’s. He is also the CEO of a company called Block.one. His companies are worth over a billion dollars, and according to Forbes, his personal net worth is somewhere between $500 to $700 million.
9. Brendan Blumer
As a teenager, Brendan Blumer was working at Starbucks and playing MMORPG’s online after work. He knew that people made real-life money by selling items from the games, and he wanted to start a business from it. His grandmother trusted his abilities, and he was able to make some money from online games between the ages of 15 and 18. When he graduated from High School, Brock Pierce’s video game company called Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) purchased Blumer’s company, GameCliff, and helped sponsor him to move to Hong Kong and become a pro gamer.
Since he was so involved in the online community and friends with crypto-enthusiast Brock Pierce, he heard about Bitcoin very early on, and invested. He went on to create his own coin, called EOS.EOS was not allowed to be sold in the United States or Mainland China, and it is mainly used in Hong Kong, South Korea, and other parts of the world. Despite this, they still raised just over $1 billion during their “ICO” or “Initial Coin Offering” when their currency first went up for sale.
8. Michael Novogratz
Michael Novogratz already made a fortune on Wall Street long before Bitcoin existed, and he became the CEO of a company called Galaxy Digital Capital Management. In 2008, Forbes already declared him a billionaire, after succeeding in his hedge fun. In 2013, Novogratz invested $7 million of his own money in Bitcoin when it was just $100 per coin. If he kept all of that Bitcoin by the time it ballooned to $20,000 per coin, that’s $1.4 trillion dollars. Of course, the value has gone down since then, but it’s safe to say that Michael Novogratz must be a billionaire. He lives in New York City and continues to monitor the progress of the cryptocurrency market.
While his hedge fund is buying and selling Bitcoin as the market moves, he still holds at least 25% of his total financial portfolio in cryptocurrency. During a conference in May of 2018, Novogratz said that for investors, it would be “almost irresponsible” not to invest some of their money into crypocurrencies like Ripple, Bitcoin, and Ethereum.
7. Brock Pierce
There is a stereotype that child actors end up having complicated adulthoods, and many of them fall into the trap of drugs and partying. For Brock Pierce, he played in the much-loved 90’s movie The Mighty Ducks. Scrolling through his IMDB page, we can see that he starred in several movies and stopped in 1997. In 2007, Pierce joined the world of professional e-sports, and he attributes much of his success today by seeing the world as one big video game. Opportunities arise, and if you want to win, you have to grab hold of them. He started stocking up on Bitcoin when it was valued at less than a penny, and he held onto it for years. His estimated net worth is unknown, but it’s over a billion dollars.
He is a chairman for The Bitcoin Foundation, and one of the co-founders of a firm called Blockchain Capital. Pierce wears a suit when it’s totally necessary, but his personal style is like a gypsy meets Indiana Jones. Instead of driving a fancy car, he drives a replica of the Delorian from Back to the Future with a license plate that says “SATOSHI” after the Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto.
He lives a nomadic lifestyle, and he owns very few material things. The Rolling Stone followed him around Puerto Rico for 10 days in the summer of 2018, and noted that he has no problem living out of a suitcase and falling asleep in the back of cars. Puerto Rico’s economy plummeted after being hit back-to-back with hurricanes Irma and Maria, and they are in desperate need to a makeover. Pierce sees this as an opportunity to build a cryptocurrency community there. He is co-founding a Puerto Rican bank that uses blockchain technology. Since Puerto Rico is an American territory with great tax incentives. Investors do not have to pay an tax on capital gains, which makes it a perfect place for crypto-millionaires to live. It could become the next big “crypo-paradise”, like the new Cayman Islands or Silicon Valley for people in the world of Blockchain.
6. Anthony Di Iorio
When he was in his 20’s and 30’s Anthony Di Iorio was going to college in Toronto and helping his father with the family patio business. After the financial crisis in 2008, he became passionate about economics. He wanted to know why the stock market crashed, and what could be done to prevent it again in the future. Through all of this self-motivated research, he learned about Bitcoin in its infancy.
In 2012, he started a Bitcoin Meetup Group in Toronto, which is where he met young Vitalik Buterin. Di Iorio became one of the first founding members of Ethereum, which is where he made his biggest fortune, and he could leave the patio business behind him. He founded a company called Coinsquare, which is a Canadian Bitcoin exchange. Di Iorio’s net worth is anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion.
5. Matthew Roszak
In 2013, Matthew Roszak became one of the founding partners of Blockchain Capital. He started his own firm, called Tally Capital, which invested in some of the biggest companies in cryptocurrency today, like Coinbase and Kraken. He also founded a company called Bloq, which helps businesses incorporate themselves into the blockchain.
He was very early in the game, buying, selling, and trading crypto-assets before their prices exploded. Roszak attributes his success to his non-stop networking, rather than the fact that he got his crypto gains early in the game. He gave away Bitcoins to celebrities like Bill Clinton and Richard Branson in order to get the word out about cryptocurrency. In 2018, his net worth was estimated to be roughly $1 billion.
4. Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong began taking coding classes at his High School in San Jose, California. He started a business building websites, and went on to double-major in Computer Science and Economics in college. Before getting into blockchain, he interned at IBM and started a company called UniversityTutor.com. In 2012, he could see the potential of blockchain, and helped to create Coinbase.
As the CEO of Coinbase, Brian Armstrong is the leader of one of the most powerful companies in the cryptocurrency space right now. At the moment, the only way to quickly purchase Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, or any of their other available currencies is through Coinbase. They accept debit cards, PayPal, and bank transfers, so most people’s first stop before they transfer anywhere else is Coinbase.
3. Matthew Mellon
Matthew Mellon came from a long line of successful people in finance. He is a direct descendent of the founder of Mellon Bank and Drexel University. He served as the Republican chair of the New York Finance Committee. He invested in Bitcoin early, but family and friends thought he was truly making a mistake, and convinced him to pull out his investment. However, when the price was going up, he realized he needed to trust in his own research and stop listening to people who were uninformed.
He moved on to the next big thing- Ripple’s XRP. He started by investing $2 million. When asked why he put so much in XRP, he said that it is the one and only currency that is willing to work within the confines of the current financial system, so it was the only one that made sense to him. His investment paid off, because his $2 million investment ballooned to over $1 billion in 2018. Tragically, he was not able to enjoy his success for very long, because he passed away of a heart attack in April of 2018.
2. Changpeng Zhao
Changpeng Zhao is a truly hardcore Bitcoin believer. His parents were teachers living in China, and they moved the family to Canada. Growing up, he worked at McDonalds to help his parents pay the bills. In 2014, he sold everything he owned- his car, and even his house in Shanghai, China, in order to have as much money as possible to put it all into digital currency. His investment paid off in a big way, when the value of Bitcoin kept rising.
In 2017, Chanpeng Zhao founded a company called Binance. Unlike many of the other cryptocurrency exchanges that came before him, the website could handle far more transactions at faster speeds without any crashing or down time. In less than a year, Zhao was able to make over $1 billion.
1. Joseph Lubin
Originally from Toronto, Joseph Lubin began his career in software engineering and robotics. He moved to New York City and began building trading software for some of the biggest investment firms, like Goldman Sachs. In a very interesting turn of events, he spent some time living in Jamaica to try his hand at music management, but he was much better off staying in the field of finance and technology.
After reading Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper, he was intrigued. After setting up software for banks and investment firms, he could see very early on that there was potential for this new blockchain technology. When he heard about the birth of Ethereum, he saw this as an opportunity to buy the currency in its infancy, when it still cost less than a penny. This investment paid off in a big way.
He eventually founded a corporation called ConsenSys, which helps launch startups that have incorporated the blockchain into their business model. ConsenSys is valued at $10 billion. While his exact net worth is unknown, Joseph Lubin is worth anywhere from $1 to 5 billion.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are the sources:
Note that additional sources have been linked throughout this article.
Zuckerberg Loses More Than $15 Billion In Record Facebook Fail. Reuters. 2018.
Brock Pierce: The Hippie King of Cryptocurrency. Neil Strauss. Rolling Stone. 2018.