The increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has yielded a number of interesting applications over the years. Their continued proliferation has been at the helm of a few talented individuals that have worked tirelessly to push the entire industry forward, either in terms of adoption or technological evolution.
In an effort to recognize their efforts, the following is a list of ten people that have managed to leave a definitive mark on the industry through their actions. In the absence of even a single one of them, it is unlikely that the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem would be able to reach its current state.
1. Andreas Antonopoulos
Best known for his podcast Let’s Talk Bitcoin, Andreas Antonopoulos is actually one of the most prominent advocates in the the entire cryptocurrency industry. In 2017, the collective bitcoin community donated around $1.6 million worth of bitcoin to him after he tweeted that his debts rendered him unable to capitalize on the currency in its formative years.
In his continued endeavour to introduce the mainstream to cryptocurrencies, Andreas also makes frequent appearances at technology conferences and events around the world.
2. Vitalik Buterin
Cofounder of the blockchain platform Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin is perhaps the most recognizable developer and personality in the blockchain space. Originally associated with the online publication Bitcoin Magazine, he spent several years researching cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology before releasing his implementation in the form of Ethereum.
Buterin has several technical accomplishments to his name and pioneered several key features of the Ethereum platform, including the successful implementation of smart contracts and decentralized applications. He has also been one of the few developers actively pushing and working on unique multi-layer scaling solutions such as sharding, Plasma and Casper.
3. Nick Szabo
Nick Szabo is regarded to be first individual to come up with a cryptography-based monetary system. He authored a paper for a concept named Bit gold in the late 1990s, which later turned out to be the spiritual predecessor to modern day cryptocurrencies. At one point, the creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, even confirmed to have referenced Szabo’s Bit gold proposal during the creation of the digital currency.
Surprisingly enough, Szabo was also the first to coin and define the term ‘smart contract’ way back in 1995 to be a set of promises, including protocols within which the parties perform on the other promises.” The full text involving his vision for the protocol has been since archived and was likely what enabled others like Vitalik Buterin to build functional models of the technology.
4. Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong is the co-founder and CEO of the American cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. Shortly after he introduced the startup at the annual TechCrunch Y-Combinator event in 2012, it exploded in popularity, enabling it to sell over $1 million worth of bitcoin per month by within only a few short months.
Under Armstrong’s leadership, Coinbase has pioneered several advancements in the blockchain industry over the years, including the acceptance of Bitcoin as a payment method and the introduction of institutional money to the asset class. In recent months, his company has gone on an acquisition spree, picking up several crypto startups for hundreds of millions of dollars.
5. Charlie Lee
Creator of digital currency Litecoin, Charlie Lee envisioned a cryptocurrency that was faster than Bitcoin, while still staying technically true to its roots. His dedication to the craft is evident from the fact that he sold his entire LTC holdings to focus on its development alone.
Lee also makes routine public appearances at cryptocurrency events around the world to talk about the many challenges faced by the industry. Dubbed ‘Satoshi Lite’, he is known to have a moderate, yet progressive stance on several issues, including the blockchain scalability debate that prevailed through most of 2017.
6. Winklevoss Twins
After winning $65 million in their lawsuit against Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg in 2012, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss doubled down on their belief that Bitcoin would be here to stay. Not only did they invest millions of dollars in various cryptocurrencies, but also founded the cryptocurrency exchange Gemini.
In the past year, the Twins have amassed a number of technology and cryptocurrency related patents, presumably for their exchange. A few months ago, they also unveiled their plan to create the Virtual Commodity Association in order to help regulate cryptocurrency trading.
7. Roger Ver
As one of the first cryptocurrency investors, Roger Ver played a pivotal role in the early days of the industry, funding various startups and evangelizing the currency. Ver’s influence in the crypto ecosystem even earned him the title “Bitcoin Jesus” at one point of time.
Notably, Roger Ver attracted a great deal of criticism from Bitcoin enthusiasts after he began promoting the Bitcoin Cash fork and claimed that it was better suited for microtransactions and everyday usage. He also owns the news and wallet website Bitcoin.com that features BCH as its flagship cryptocurrency.
8. Chris Larsen
Cofounder of the real-time gross settlement system Ripple, Chris Larsen was named the richest person in cryptocurrency by Forbes in early 2018. His blockchain platform has managed to turn many heads since its release in 2012. While other cryptocurrencies at the time of its release thrived on the principles of peer to peer usage and decentralization, Ripple was the first to make blockchain technology accessible to the finance industry.
Today, Larsen continues to play an important role at the company, serving as its executive chairman. With a market cap of over $21 billion and affiliations with several Fortune 500 companies, Ripple’s XRP token is today the third most valuable crypto asset, beaten only by Bitcoin and Ethereum.
9. Patrick Byrne
Patrick Byrne has been at the helm of e-commerce website Overstock.com ever since he launched it in 1999. In more recent years, his company has made numerous investments in cryptocurrency and blockchain and as a result, owns a number of subsidiaries deeply rooted in the ecosystem. Byrne has shared his commitment to the technology on numerous occasions, even stating that crypto can eventually replace Wall Street.
Byrne’s Overstock is one of the few large companies that accepts cryptocurrencies as a payment method. His commitment to the industry has even had him consider selling the billion dollar company to focus entirely on the cryptocurrency revolution.
10. Jihan Wu
Wu is a Chinese entrepreneur and the cofounder of mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain. In what can only be described as a controversial move, he partnered with the aforementioned Roger Ver in 2017 to promote Bitcoin Cash. With his company’s Antminer series of miners taking up a rather large portion of the total mining hardware market share, his opinions are regarded to be rather important in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.