There are a plethora of similar lists of blockchain influencers just a couple of clicks away. So, why make yet another one? Firstly, the most apparent reason is that these lists attract clicks… Like any other independent media outlet, the more clicks we attract, the more revenue we generate. In addition, in our opinion, the word “influencer” carries a negative connotation, perhaps, “contributor” would have been more apt, but it’s not what people are googling for. Now, you can consider these six introductory sentences as a disclaimer.
Business reasons aside, why do we believe our list of blockchain influencers is worth exploring? – We find most of the existing lists unsatisfactory. Arguing about those lists – who should have been there versus who shouldn’t have and whether such and such should have ranked higher or lower is pointless. It is pointless because most of those lists don’t explicate the underlining criteria. And without it, any discussion becomes fruitless. So, let us begin by stating ours:
- An individual/entity has greatly contributed to the advance/adoption/development of blockchain tech historically (with the higher weight attached to the 2018 achievements).
- We don’t care how many social media followers one has, but need to be a public figure/entity, otherwise, we have no way of knowing about it.
- This is “Insider Edition” – so we wanted this list to reflect our deep industry involvement in and the level of sophistication of our readers.
- In 2018, we have given priority to the corporate sector since we believe it had a much better year than the crypto space.
- We have come up with five categories, many belong to more than one, in that we had to pick one that we believe is best suited:
- Developer  – computer scientists, coders etc., the foundational layer of the industry.
- Businessman  – this encompasses both entrepreneurs and corporate businessmen.
- Educator  – self-explanatory.
- Investor  – self-explanatory.
- Government  – because of the immature state of this industry, regulators have a particularly high impact.
30. Alena Vranova. Businesswoman. Former CEO and Co-Founder of SatoshiLabs, the company behind the cold wallets Trezor. In 2018, Alena joined Casa, one of the most talked about crypto startups. This new company for which Ms. Vranova does business strategy is responsible for the Casa Node, and claims to provide “the best personal key system on the planet”. Crypto Insider has also interviewed her in January 2019 and you may watch the video here.
29. Pavel Durov. Businessman. Pavel and his brother Nikolai is what the Winklevoss twins could have been… They founded the Russian analog of Facebook – VKontakte, later Pavel founded Telegram. Last year he launched one of the most successful ICOs, reportedly raising $1.8 billion. And although little is known about the development of Telegram blockchain, the ubiquity of the Telegram messenger in the community makes Mr. Durov hard to ignore.
28. Nitin Gaur. Businessman. Mr. Gaur heads the Blockchain Lab at IBM. In addition, in 2018 he coauthored “Hands-On Blockchain with Hyperledger” and soon to be released “Blockchain for Business”. IBM is a recognized leader in BaaS. Besides, its recent partnership with Columbia University holds a lot of potential.
27. Elizabeth Stark. Businesswoman. CEO and Co-Founder of Lightning Labs, the company that came up with the first implementation of the Lightning Protocol in March 2018. Ms. Stark has taught at Yale, she serves as a mentor at Thiel Foundation and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Stanford’s StartX.
26. Valerie A. Szczepanik. Government. Who? – She is not a household name, but this is an “Insider Edition”. Ms. Szczepanik is an Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation of the SEC. In other words, she is the one who shapes the SEC’s policy towards digital assets. Or how our trendier colleagues put it a “Crypto Czar”. (A note to our colleagues: if you intend on using this overused nomenclature, at least get your terminology right, since Ms. Szczepanik is female, “Crypto Czarina” would have been more politically and more importantly, grammatically correct).
25. The University of Nicosia. Educator. It has been offering a cryptocurrency MOOC since 2014. One of the instructors is Andreas Antonopoulos. Over 22,000 students from around the world have taken it thus far. Not only it has been a great source of knowledge for the crypto enthusiasts, but it has placed Cyprus on the forefront of crypto and blockchain adoption. Available through the University of Nicosia website. In addition, an online master’s degree is offered by the university.
24. Justin Sun. Businessman. Founder and CEO of Tron Foundation. It had been a good year for Tron. Just months after the release of its mainnet, it became amongst the widest adopted public blockchains. Then, in September, Mr. Sun was able to acquire BitTorrent for $120 million. Reportedly this was $50 million less than what had been offered by Neo. Mr. Sun has kept his project in the spotlight throughout the year. In some circles, known as the “Pump Master”, he has catapulted Tron into top ten cryptocurrency by market cap.
23. Tyler H. Winklevoss. Businessman. The Winklevoss twins could have gone down in history as the guys whose idea Mark Zuckerberg stole, but instead, they are on their way to becoming crypto moguls. This was another good year for Mr. Winklevoss with the introduction of Gemini Dollar (GSD).
22. Brian Armstrong. Businessman. CEO and Co-Founder of Coinbase. Coinbase has firmly established itself as the leading crypto exchange (at least in the Western World). 2018 was a watershed year for crypto regulation which left many unprepared, not Coinbase. In addition, the company has greatly expanded the list of supported cryptocurrencies, albeit not without some controversy. Furthermore, Coinbase paid in the excess of $120 million for an Andreessen Horowitz backed startup Earn.com which will be used to educate Coinbase users about cryptocurrencies.
21. Charles Hoskinson. Businessman. Despite Cardano’s hard fork overshadowing all the other developments of the project, Mr. Hoskinson’s research-first approach, as well as such credentials as being the former CEO of the Ethereum Foundation keeps him ever relevant.
20. Charlie Lee. Developer. 2018 wasn’t a great year for Litecoin in terms of the market dynamics. In our opinion, Litecoin is not the most exciting project out there, its mission statement of “being silver to Bitcoin’s gold” makes it sound too much like a poor man’s bitcoin. Being a Bitcoin fork, its development closely follows that of its bigger brother. Nonetheless, Mr. Lee remains one of the best-recognized faces in the community. Also, the recent news about Litecoin implementing Confidential Transactions and Mimble Wimble bring a wave of freshness and novelty to the project.
19. Jihan Wu. Businessman. This wasn’t a good year Mr. Wu with Bitmain experiencing losses due to the depreciation of bitcoin and bitcoin cash, tech problems with its products, and uncertainty over its IPO plans. In addition, Mr. Wu’s vociferous support for Bitcoin Gold and active participation in the Bitcoin Cash wars doesn’t make him the most popular figure in the industry. And now, he may lose his CEO title at Bitmain.
18. Richard Gendal Brown. Developer. CTO of R3. R3 is the company behind Corda – a distributed ledger for enterprise. Although it is still unclear how much is being done on Corda in the real world, R3 has assembled a very impressive list of partners made up of who is who in the financial industry. Prior to joining R3, Mr. Brown had spent fifteen years at IBM.
17. Jed McCaleb. Businessman. After escaping the Mt. Gox debacle mostly unscathed, Mr. McCaleb didn’t waste time. In 2011 he founded Ripple, left it three years later to found Stellar. Stellar has been making steady progress and has firmly entrenched as one of the “blue chips” of the crypto universe.
16. Jeff Garzik. Developer. One of the first Bitcoin Core developers, Co-Founder of Bloq. And although the latter positions itself as an “enterprise blockchain company”, it has recently released a software suite for cryptocurrency miners which is supposed to make mining more efficient.
15. Princeton Bitcoin Course. Educator. Another great source of knowledge about Bitcoin and blockchain technology that is always available and accessible. Since its introduction in 2015, this MOOC has been a go-to source of knowledge about blockchain technology. It should be mandatory for any aspiring cryptoneur. Available on Coursera and YouTube (videos).
13. Tim Draper. Investor. This investor-activist has been consistently bullish on bitcoin and more importantly, has put his money where his mouth is by purchasing 30,000 bitcoins back in 2014 that were auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service. Recently, he mentioned that he had increased his bitcoin holding since. He has made some boldly bullish predictions about bitcoin, some of which have come to fruition, and there are still a few years left in his $250,000 prediction… If that one comes through as well, Mr. Draper may climb to the top of our list.
12. Nick Szabo. Developer. Despite his stellar credentials – the invention of “Bit gold” and more importantly of “smart contracts” (we also must mention a dubious belief by many that Mr. Szabo is the real Satoshi Nakamoto), including him in this list wasn’t an easy decision. Those accomplishments had taken place a while back and not much is known about his more recent work. Yet his reputation in the community makes Mr. Szabo hard to ignore.
11. Don Tapscott. Educator. Co-Author of “The Blockchain Revolution” and Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute has contributed greatly to the popularization of the blockchain technology amongst the corporates. The “Tapscotts” is one of the few blockchain brands that is recognized by the main street. Reportedly, Mr. Tapscott commands a hefty $100,000 paycheck for his speaking engagements.
10. Andreas Antonopoulos. Educator. In the crypto space, Mr. Antonopoulos needs no introduction. In the absence of Mr. Nakamoto, he is the face of Bitcoin. What favorably distinguishes Mr. Antonopoulos from many of his fellow Bitcoin enthusiasts is sticking to the topic and steering away from the immature social media fallouts that plague the space. In addition, following up on the success of his “Mastering Bitcoin”, in 2018, “Mastering Ethereum” was released which coauthored with Gavin Wood.
9. Joseph Lubin. Businessman. Not a great year for Ethereum, not a great year for ConsenSys – Mr. Lubin barely makes it to the top ten of blockchain influencers.
8. Daniel Larimer. Businessman. Founder of BitShares, Steemit, and EOS who currently serves as the CTO of Block.one; inventor of DPoS consensus and graphene technology. Mr. Larimer being a three-time ICO founder has garnished much ill-repute amongst Bitcoin maximalists, more importantly, it may also eventually attract the undesirable attention of the SEC…
7. Brian Behlendorf. Businessman. Mr. Behlendorf tops the list of blockchain influencers as the Executive Director of the Hyperledger Project. He is responsible for making Hyperledger the go-to blockchain for the corporate sector. The irony about the bearish sentiment in 2018 was that not a day had passed without some positive news about blockchain adoption. Outside of cryptocurrency, most of the real world blockchain use cases involve Hyperledger. It’s unlikely that we’ll witness real adoption of public blockchain by a corporate sector anytime soon.
6. Adam Back. Developer. Inventor of Hashcash, one of the precursors of Bitcoin, founder and CEO of Blockstream, one of the cornerstone companies in the industry. This was a productive year for Blockstream with the release of the production-ready implementation of the Bitcoin sidechain – the Liquid Network and the extension of its satellite coverage to Asia-Pacific region.
5. Vitalik Buterin. Developer. One would expect Mr. Buterin (a.k.a. “the Non-giver of Ether”) to never do less than bronze in such blockchain influencers lists; however, this was a bad year all-around for Ethereum. Ether has lost more than 90 percent of its value, the ICO market has collapsed and the delays in the project development are becoming a chronic feature. 2019 will be the break-or-make year for the Ethereum Platform.
4. Brad Garlinghouse. Developer. Prior to becoming Ripple’s CEO, Mr. Garlinghouse has worked for such tech giants (although the word “dinosaurs” also comes to mind) as AOL and Yahoo. The list of Ripple partners kept on adding big names from the financial industry. Whether XRP has any utility is another question. Talking about XRP – Ripple has thrown enough into the market to settle any potential inquests from the SEC regarding its “offering of unregistered securities”.
3. Satoshi Nakamoto. Developer. He/she/they/it, despite the early departure and the pseudonymous nature, Satoshi Nakamoto remains a formidable presence. This past year marked a ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin; if Mr. Nakamoto were Odysseus, he would be on his way home from the sacked Troy. But not even wily Odysseus himself could have divined that it would be ten long years and many perils before he would reach the safe harbor of Ithaka. Until then, Mr. Wright and others may fiddle with his bow.
2. Jay Clayton. Government. Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange. The only term that has appeared more in this writeup than the acronym “SEC” is “blockchain”. This was a watershed year in terms of regulation in the U.S. Without enacting any crypto specific laws or regulations, through official statements and unofficial comments which in essence constitute what in the economics lingo called a “forward guidance”, the SEC and its leadership has made it abundantly clear that there is no such thing as “utility” token. Hopefully, this is the first and the last time that Mr. Clayton has made it to our list.
1. Bitcoin Core Developers. Developer. Few know they exist, even fewer know their names, yet they may be the most powerful stakeholders in the Bitcoin ecosystem, and absolutely deserving of the title: blockchain influencers.