Since the cryptocurrency industry first blossomed into existence in 2009, the market has experienced its ups and downs. Throughout this period, however, many cryptocurrencies have experienced phenomenal growth, while Bitcoin itself has rocketed from practically nothing to over $20,000 a piece at its best.
Throughout this time, hundreds of early adopters and crypto pioneers became fabulously wealthy, risking their time and fiat currency in an industry that had barely gotten started.
Some of these early adopters went on to become key players in the industry, shaping it as it grew and helping to direct the efforts of the growing crypto community. A select few of these are now what can be considered crypto elites, having a net worth in excess of $500 million while wielding considerable influence in the space.
However, since 2018, almost the entire cryptocurrency industry has been on a downtrend, with most digital assets experiencing staggering losses throughout the year.
Though many of the crypto-elite have shown a knack for making profitable investment decisions, did this hold up across 2018? Let’s find out below.
Charlie Lee is a well-known figurehead in the crypto community and made his claim to fame by founding Litecoin (LTC), a lightweight cryptocurrency that aims to become the silver to Bitcoin’s gold.
Launching as a fork from the Bitcoin protocol in 2011, Litecoin quickly exploded in usage, primarily due to its fast confirmation times and low transaction fees. At the height of its popularity, each Litecoin was worth as much as $375, bringing the total market capitalization to well over $20 billion.
In December of 2017, Lee notoriously sold or donated all of his Litecoin (LTC), netting him an unknown amount. Despite selling his entire position of LTC “to prevent a conflict of interest,” Charlie Lee is still the chairman of the Litecoin Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the Litecoin cryptocurrency.
LTC was about 10% of my net worth. I bought and mined every single LTC that I owned just like you or anyone else. Unlike other coins, I didn't just print coins for myself. That's why I'm not a billionaire like all these other founders.
— Charlie Lee [LTC
] (@SatoshiLite) June 24, 2018
Although he no longer holds much LTC, Lee is still thought to hold considerable sums of other cryptocurrencies, most notably Bitcoin (BTC). The only thing that is certain is that Charlie Lee is not a billionaire, but is almost certainly well off at the very least.
As one of the co-founders of Ethereum, Lubin understandably attained a significant net worth as a direct result of its popularity.
Besides Ethereum, Lubin is involved in a whole host of other crypto-related ventures and is also the founder of ConsenSys, a company that develops solutions for the Ethereum blockchain.
In February 2018, Forbes estimated that Lubin was worth between $1 to $5 billion. Since the majority of his worth appears to have come from his status within Ethereum and his rumored early investments in the project, it is likely that his net worth has diminished since this estimation.
However, with a majority stake in the 600-plus employee ConsenSys, it is likely that Lubin is still doing very well financially, and almost certainly worth in excess of $200 million as of early 2019.
Perhaps one of the more recognizable names on this list, Vitalik Buterin became crypto-famous in 2014 after co-founding the distributed computing platform known as Ethereum.
After raising $18 million in just days, the Ethereum ICO became one of the first successfully crowdfunded blockchain projects and kick-started an entire industry of initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Buterin is currently considered one of the most influential people in crypto and has been recognized by both Forbes and Fortune for his achievements in finance and technology.
The Ethereum Foundation only ever owned ~3m, and now has ~660k; the rest was spent on development.
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) October 10, 2018
While his exact net worth isn’t known, based on his recent Tweet, it is known that the Ethereum Foundation owns around 660,000 Ether. On top of this, it appears likely that the following two addresses are directly owned by Buterin;
With a combined balance of more than 360,000 ETH, and at a unit value of ~$124 each, that places Buterin’s net worth at somewhere around the $44 million mark, down from as much as half a billion in 2017.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Although Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are technically two different people (despite being identical in almost every way), for the purposes of this list, we are going to consider them a single entity as the vast majority of their ventures were completed together.
In 2017, the 36-year old Winklevoss twins became known as the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires. The two are also famous for founding Gemini — a licensed digital asset exchange and custodian launched in 2014.
Heading up a cryptocurrency exchange in 2018 made for a hard year for the twins, as trade volumes reduced and profits dwindled. The same year, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ Bitcoin ETF proposal was rejected twice by the U.S. securities and exchange commission.
In 2017, the Winklevoss twins were worth an estimated $1 billion each, after claiming to own around one percent of all Bitcoins in existence, however, more realistic estimates place their stash at around 100,000 BTC. If this statement is true, then the twins are now worth approximately $367 million in Bitcoin alone.
As CEO of one of the most successful cryptocurrency exchanges, it would not be a reasonable expectation to believe that Brian Armstrong is wealthy. However, wealthy may not do it justice, as according to the Forbes richest list, Brian Armstrong had a predicted net worth of up to $1.1 billion in 2018.
Most prominently known founder and CEO of Coinbase, it is likely that Armstrong was largely unaffected by the bear market as Coinbase completed three funding rounds in 2018, seeing its market valuation reach $8 billion.
As a major shareholder in Coinbase, it is highly likely that Armstrong’s personal wealth grew considerably in 2018, and he is likely sitting on upwards of $1.1 billion in early 2019.
However, Armstrong may not be a billionaire for much longer, having recently signed the giving pledge — a campaign that sees the world’s most wealthy donate much of their net worth to philanthropic causes targeting medical research, poverty, and environmental reform to name just a few.
Armstrong became the first crypto billionaire to register for the list, joining other generous billionaires including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and David Rockefeller.
As the co-founder of Ripple and a venture capitalist associated with several successful startups, Chris Larsen has managed to amass a significant fortune over his extensive crypto career.
Currently the second most popular cryptocurrency beside Bitcoin (BTC), Ripple has seen extraordinary success since its release in 2012. After securing deals with financial institutions and several exchanges, Ripple had what can be considered a relatively strong 2018.
Larsen’s worth has previously been estimated as high as $20 billion in January 2018 as the Ripple cryptocurrency reached meteoric heights. Since the Ripple market capitalization fell from its $150 billion peak in early 2018, losing over 91 percent of its value, it appears likely that Larsen saw significant losses also.
Chris Larsen is arguably the wealthiest entrant on this list, with an estimated net worth in excess of $1.9 billion. Much of Larsen’s worth is thought to be in the form of cryptocurrency, or more specifically in XRP, with Larsen thought to own around 5.2 billion XRP.
Larsen recently made the 2018 Forbes 400 list as the first billionaire made almost entirely from cryptocurrency.
[bctt tweet=”On the whole, the crypto-elite have come out of 2018 relatively unscathed by the bear market, having cashed out at the height of the 2017 boom. ” username=”beincrypto”]
Just three years ago, Changpeng Zhao was just a pretty successful, and intellectually gifted guy working at OKCoin.
After selling his house to go all-in on Bitcoin in 2014, Zhao then made the bold move of launching an ICO for a next-generation trading platform, claiming itself to be much faster and more secure than other exchanges at the time.
Following a $15 million sell-out funding round, Zhao launched his next generation to the world, shortly after which it quickly exploded in popularity, achieving almost 6 million users in just six months, and quickly climbed the ranks to become the number 1 cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume.
The exchange in question is none other than Binance, the crypto behemoth that regularly achieves over half a billion dollars worth of daily trade volume.
Being the CEO of Binance has its perks, Zhao is frequently cited as being perhaps the first person in history to earn a billion dollars in a single year.
Owning a significant chunk of the company, Zhao is still exorbitantly rich, with a current net worth of $1.4 billion, due to the continued success of the exchange even in a bear market.
Like Chris Larsen, Brand Garlinghouse made much of his fabulous fortune through his involvement with Ripple. Prior to Ripple, Garlinghouse held senior roles at various tech companies including AOL and Hightail, a cloud file-sharing service that was recently acquired by OpenText.
Ripple currently holds an estimated 59 percent of the Ripple total supply in its treasury accounts, currently totaling almost 59 million XRP. At a peak unit value of $3.84 in January 2018, this places the companies holdings at $226.5 billion.
Although this value has fluctuated over time, the total number of XRP held by the company always remains around 60%, which at the current value gives the company a $19 billion valuation.
As one of the major shareholders at Ripple, Brad Garlington owns a reported 6.3 percent of the company, giving him a current net worth of at least $1.2 billion — not bad at all, despite being $13 billion down since its peak value last year.
Like many early investors that managed to stay in the game, Matthew Roszak experienced extraordinary returns on his investments, providing him a handsome sum to leverage.
Roszak reportedly began investing in cryptocurrencies in 2011 and participated in his first initial coin offering (ICO) two years later. Since then, Roszak has relentlessly promoted and invested in blockchain-based projects of all sorts and can be considered one of the major forces in the industry.
Recently, Roszak along with Jeff Garzick co-founded Bloq inc, a company that delivers enterprise-grade blockchain solutions to firms looking to expand their presence in the sector.
In early 2018, Roszak was worth an approximate $800 million, much of which came from his prolific investment activity in the early days of the industry.
Like many savvy investors, Roszak is thought to have cashed out the majority of his digital assets at the high of the 2017 boom, leaving his net worth relatively intact. As of January 2019, Roszak is currently worth closer to $750 million, losing just $50 million over the past year.
If there is one name that is almost ubiquitously known within the crypto community, it’s Satoshi Nakamoto.
As the originator of Bitcoin, the very first blockchain-based cryptocurrency, Satoshi Nakamoto is widely considered to be the founder of the entire industry and is somewhat revered in the blockchain community.
Although the person behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym remains unknown, several possible candidates have come to light including Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, and Dorian Nakamoto.
Hal Finney and Dorian Nakamoto, in particular, share a suspiciously coincidental link as it seems. Dorian Nakamoto was originally named Satoshi Nakamoto, while he and Hal Finney, the second known user of Bitcoin, reportedly live just blocks away from one another.
Craig Wright is another self-proclaimed potential candidate, but as of yet has not provided any indisputable proof of his status, despite several supposed attempts.
Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto is, it can be safely assumed that if they are still in possession of an estimated 980,000 BTC, then they are doing very well financially. At the 2017 peak, Nakamoto would have been worth almost $20 billion in Bitcoin, though at today’s rate he would still be worth a princely $3.5 billion.
Who do you think suffered the biggest crypto losses in 2018? Did we miss anyone from the list? Let us know in the comments below!