2 January, 2019
As Venezuela considers developing its own cryptocurrency and big banks begin adopting blockchain-based technologies in earnest, interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has never been higher. Here are ten of the biggest, and most promising, names in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
Michael Novogratz made headlines during his stint at Fortress Capital, a private equity firm, when he made it the first on Wall Street to purchase bitcoin. One of the original ‘bitcoin bulls,’ the retired military pilot and former Goldman Sachs executive has been a vocal supporter of digital currencies. “It’s almost essential for every investor to have at least 1% to 2% of their portfolio” in crypto, Novogratz argued on a recent segment of CNN’s Market Now. A pioneer when it comes to advocating for institutional investment in digital currencies, Novogratz founded Galaxy Digital Capital Management, the first merchant bank that will focus on cryptocurrencies and blockchain-related ventures.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Elizabeth Stark is the Chief Executive of Lightning Labs. A longtime advocate for an egalitarian, open internet, Stark has taught at Stanford and Yale, focusing on peer-to-peer technology, privacy, and digital culture. Lightning Labs aims to develop tools that can add new layers of capability on top of the Bitcoin blockchain and increase scalability to enable instant, high-volume transactions. Stark’s Lightning Network went live in March 2018 with a beta version of its Lightning Network Daemon. Stark has plans to make user-friendly wallets available later this year.
An alumnus of Stanford Law School, Emma Channing was the general counsel for Argon Group, the first investment bank for the crypto industry. Channing specializes in global capital markets, corporate finance, and financial regulatory issues, niches that have made her an invaluable presence in a blockchain space struggling to establish firm regulatory footing. In her capacity as the CEO and General Counsel of the Satis Group, a full-service initial coin offering (ICO) advisory firm, she helps founders launch new tokens and navigate the complicated legal waters of the burgeoning field of digital currency.
Perhaps best known to the general public for their appearance as characters in the Mark Zuckerberg biopic The Social Network, the Winklevoss twins are the founders of Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange launched in 2015. Their Winkdex aggregates data from seven exchanges, using data on daily trading volume of each exchange, to generate a bitcoin price index. Though their two applications for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) have both been rejected by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the pair reputedly own a bitcoin portfolio worth over $1 billion and have been active public advocates of digital currencies.
Kathleen Breitman founded Tezos, “a company building a self-amending cryptographic ledger that raised a record $232 million in an ICO in early 2017.” Prior to founding Tezos, Breitman was a senior strategy associate for the blockchain consortium R3, made up of more than 70 financial firms. Breitman also had stints at Accenture, Bridgewater Associates, and The Wall Street Journal. Breitman sees Tezos as “a way to facilitate innovation on chain by creating bounties to people who submit improvements, and have them earmark proposals for improvement with what they consider an appropriate token value in exchange.”
Another graduate of Stanford Law School, Kathryn Haun was the Department of Justice’s first-ever coordinator for digital assets, where she worked alongside agencies like the SEC and the FBI on fraud, cybercrime, and corporate compliance failures. She led the investigation into the Mt. Gox hack, as well as the probe into federal agents accused of corruption during the investigation of Silk Road. Haun speaks about technology and regulation and has appeared in Bloomberg, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced that it has appointed Haun to lead its $300-million dedicated crypto fund, making her the firm’s first female general partner.
From colorful fashion choices (he’s been known to don technicolor unicorn shirts) and his well-documented dance moves at EdCon Toronto, perhaps no blockchain innovator is more recognizable than Russian-Canadian Vitalik Buterin. Buterin dropped out of college at 19 when he won a Thiel Fellowship and went to work on Ethereum. Now the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world—with a market cap of around $45 billion—Ethereum is an open-source blockchain-based distributed computing platform that runs on smart contracts. Buterin remains the colorful face of Ethereum and a popular advocate for decentralization and blockchain technology. Forbes listed him on their ‘30 Under 30’ list, and he’s made Fortune’s list of ‘40 Under 40’ twice (still in his mid-twenties, Buterin is likely to become a staple on both lists).
A veteran at IBM who started doing mainframe systems architecture back in 1997, Marie Wieck hopes to drive open ecosystem growth as IBM Blockchain’s general manager. Seeing the potential of blockchain technology beyond its original purpose as a ledger for digital currency transactions, Wieck’s focus is on using the open-source Hyperledger community to build blockchain networks and, in the process, revolutionize efficiency across industries.
As we previously reported, Wieck has called upon governments around the world to adopt blockchain for public services, which would in turn boost the use of the technology in business as well. She points out that blockchain will contribute an estimated $3.1 trillion of business value-add by 2030, representing a huge boon to the global economy. Wieck is also heavily invested in helping other women succeed in technology; she was recently recognized as a STEM Champion for Women and Girls by the National Association for Female Executives.
A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Joey Krug dropped out of Pomona College in 2014 to co-found Augur, a pioneering project on the Ethereum blockchain. Augur, a decentralized prediction market platform, raised close to $5 million in its ICO. In October 2016, Augur launched its REP token, and as of July 2018, REP has a $384.1 million market capitalization. Krug received a Thiel Fellowship in 2016, and in 2017 he joined Pantera Capital as co-chief investment officer, managing Pantera’s digital asset funds. He also runs one of the top 100 (by backing) AngelList syndicates.
Jed McCaleb is synonymous with some of the biggest moments in blockchain history. In 2011, McCaleb created Mt. Gox, a now-infamous bitcoin exchange that started as a trading site for Magic: The Gathering cards and evolved into a place where bitcoin owners could exchange the digital currency for goods and services. From there, McCaleb created Ripple, a cryptocurrency aimed at eliminating mining and streamlining global currency exchange. Ripple has become the third most valuable cryptocurrency, by market cap, in the world. McCaleb then co-founded the non-profit Stellar Development Foundation with Joyce Kim to develop an open-source protocol to allow cross-border monetary transactions in fiat and digital currencies. Stellar has already won partnerships with IBM and a number of Silicon Valley startups.