Everyone's heard of Satoshi Nakamoto, even if no one knows the real identity of the mystery founder of Bitcoin. But the world of cryptocurrency is filled with entrepreneurs, visionaries and computer whizzes who have staked their careers on digital money. They're no different to the giants of the Internet such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Jack Dorsey. Here are five crypto name names that you should know.
The founder of Ethereum, Buterin was born in Russia but moved to Canada at the age of six. In 2013 and aged just 19, he published a white paper describing a blockchain that could be used to track not just the movement of tokens but enforce smart contracts. The following year, he dropped out of the University of Waterloo, took Peter Thiel's $100,000 grant for entrepreneurial dropouts and created the Ethereum Foundation.
With a market capitalization of $68 billion, Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency and the technology that underpins many ICOs.
He's on Twitter as @vitalikbuterin.
Born to Chinese parents living in Ivory Coast, Charlie Lee only arrived in the United States at the age of thirteen. He studied Computer Science at MIT, completed a graduate degree then spent seven years at various software firms before reaching Google in 2007. It was while he was at the search giant that he came across Bitcoin. He started mining, then struck up a relationship with Mike Hearn, one of the cryptocurrency's first developers.
Lee's first attempt at creating his own cryptocurrency wasn't a success. Fairbix, launched in 2011, had too much pre-mining and was vulnerable to attack. His second attempt was much more successful. Litecoin has been described as the silver to Bitcoin's gold. Lee himself regards it as a convenient way to send small amounts of money for ecommerce while leaving large transfers for Bitcoin. It's currently the fifth largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash.
Follow Charlie Lee's tweets @satoshilite.
Most cryptocurrency pioneers bring to the industry a genius for programming and a desire to overturn traditional ways of doing business. Elizabeth Stark brings a law degree from Harvard. She's also taught at Stanford and Yale but it's her belief in the future of cryptocurrencies and her determination to unlock the power of the blockchain that singles her out. In 2016, Lightning, a company she founded and now manages, released its first code on Github.
The company isn't launching a new token or competing with Blockchain. Instead, it's creating a new protocol on top of the blockchain. If it works, it should do for cryptocurrency what the World Wide Web did for the early Internet.
Her Twitter name is @starkness
Roger Ver is one of the most controversial figures in cryptocurrency--the Peter Thiel of Bitcoin. The former CEO of computer firm MemoryDealers.com, he served time in jail for selling firecrackers on eBay. On his release, he moved to Japan and renounced his US citizenship. A libertarian who once ran for the California State Assembly on behalf of the Libertarian Party, Ver began investing in cryptocurrency ventures, hoping that a decentralized digital coin could compete with national fiat currencies. His investments include Kraken and Ripple but he is best known for his support of Bitcoin Cash, a Bitcoin fork with greater capacity. For Ver, cryptocurrency in general and Bitcoin in particular, need to work as a currency and not as a speculative asset.
Find him on Twitter @rogerkver.
With much of the growth in cryptocurrency taking place in China, it's no surprise that many of the current wave of pioneers are emerging from behind the Great Chinese Firewall. Da Hongfei first heard of Bitcoin in 2011 and started working full time in cryptocurrency in 2013. The following year, his company, OnChain, launched Antshares, a Chinese rival to Ethereum. The coin has since rebranded as NEO and, with the support of the Chinese government, has grown to become the sixth largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.
NEO has had issues with stability and security but Da Hongfei could well turn out to be cryptcurrency's Jack Ma.
Da Hongfei is on Twitter (though it's blocked in China) @dahongfei.