The digital asset market is an industry that is in its infancy. As hard as it is to believe, it’s still only in the developmental stages. We look at cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and assume that this particular market is at its highest point. This is a common misconception from the general public as, on the whole, cryptocurrency is constantly evolving. On top of its young age, the digital asset market does not have definitive crypto icons. An exception can be made for the legendary and mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. However, to reiterate, that is an exception.
The general consensus surrounding this topic of ‘crypto icons’ is that there is no definitive ‘icon’. The concept is entirely subjective. No matter who you ask or what community you pitch the question to, you are going to get an amalgamation of answers. Because of this, it is difficult to provide a single, indisputable answer; oftentimes you will receive a handful.
Be that as it may, a collection of differing crypto icons is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it provides variety. Furthermore, it illustrates just how vast and diverse the digit asset market is regarding the most trustworthy individuals. As it has been made abundantly clear, there are many names that could go on this list. However, we will condense the list down to five key players. Those people are Vitalik Buterin, Charlie Lee, Changpeng Zhao, the Winklevoss Twins, and Andreas Antonopoulos.
1 – Vitalik Buterin
Along with Satoshi Nakamoto, Vitalik Buterin is one of the most popular names in the world of cryptocurrency. Buterin, a college drop-out, is the creator of the famous cryptocurrency platform, Ethereum. It is the second-most lucrative crypto network behind Bitcoin when it comes to market capitalization. His involvement in the Bitcoin community as both a writer and developer has been extremely active since 2011.
In 2012, he began to attend the University of Waterloo in Canada. However, his interest in cryptocurrencies grew substantially, so he dropped out in 2013. Writing about this point in his life, he says:
“I went around the world, explored many crypto projects, and finally realized that they were all too concerned about specific applications and not being sufficiently general - hence the birth of Ethereum, which has been taking up my life ever since.”
In addition to Ethereum, he is also the co-founder (along with Mihai Alisie) and editor of Bitcoin Magazine. He accomplished this at the young age of 18. Buterin’s first writing about Ethereum was in November 2013 and gave it the name “cryptocurrency 2.0.” This is because it presents the idea of utilizing the Bitcoin Blockchain for more than just financial means.
You can learn more about Buterin in the HedgeTrade article, “Who is Vitalik Buterin?”
2 – Charlie Lee
You can thank Charlie Lee for the existence of Litecoin. In 2011, he would release it to the public after mining only 150 coins. He later went to work at Coinbase, one of the most popular digital currency exchanges, as Director of Engineering. In 2017, this crypto icon sold a majority of his LTC in order to avoid a conflict of interest. However, he still works for Litecoin, operating as Managing Director of the Litecoin Foundation.
Despite Litecoin’s structure taking inspiration from Bitcoin, Lee presents the cryptocurrency as not a competitor, but instead an alternative to Bitcoin. Lee is of the belief that Litecoin is more suitable for smaller transactions, such as online shopping.
As of this writing, Litecoin is number 5 on the list of largest digital currencies by market capitalization. Moreover, it has a circulating supply amounting to more than $63 million worth of tokens. For many steadfast supporters, Litecoin continues to be a staple of the digital currency world. Therefore, Lee garners the same reverence as Vitalik Buterin and Satoshi Nakamoto alike.
Lee would end up leaving Coinbase in June of 2017 so that he can spend more time on Litecoin. Even though Litecoin is a major success in the eyes of many, rumors began circulating in the spring of 2018. Many claim that Lee was pondering the idea of leaving his own cryptocurrency. Lee states that he will eventually leave the currency, though it is not without reason. He believes that remaining as the leader of the network will keep Litecoin from becoming completely decentralized.
In August of this year, Lee states that he will continue to fund the Litecoin Foundation.
3 – Changpeng Zhao
Binance is the largest digital currency exchange by trading volume. It is because of crypto icon Changpeng Zhao that we have this platform at all.
Zhao is a Chinese-Canadian business executive who is both the founder and CEO of Binance. He is a computer science major from McGill University in Montreal. He was previously a member of the team that was responsible for the development of Blockchain.info. Additionally, he served as chief technology officer of OKCoin.
After graduating from university, Zhao got a job at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. He was the developer of software specifically for matching trade orders. He also had a job at Bloomberg Tradebook, where he was responsible for developing futures trading software. In 2005, he would move to Shanghai and establish Fusion Systems. Starting in 2013, he was working for an array of cryptocurrency projects, including Blockchain.info and OKCoin.
In 2017, Zhao would eventually leave OKCoin in order to start the cryptocurrency exchange, Binance. The launch of the company took place in July of 2017, following a $15 million funding during an initial coin offering (ICO). In less than eight months, Binance would grow into the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world by trading volume. In February 2018, Zhao was put in third place on Forbes Magazine’s list of “The Richest People In Cryptocurrency.” As of September 2018, his net worth is roughly $1.4 billion.
4 – Winklevoss twins
The Winklevoss twins are an Internet entrepreneur duo. Their first rise to popularity was in 2008 when they were suing Mark Zuckerberg for supposedly copying their ConnectU social networking idea to create Facebook back in 2004. They would go on to settle for $65 million in that case.
These two crypto icons are actually ‘venture capitalists’ and were the leaders of a seed-funding round for Bitcoin payment processor, BitInstant. In January of 2014, the CEO of BitInstant, Charlie Shrem, was charged with money laundering. Not only that, but it was in relation to the Silk Road online black market investigation. The Winklevoss twins state they were merely passive investors in the company.
In April of 2013, the brothers claim that they own nearly 1% of all Bitcoin in existence at that time. As is, they have Bitcoin holdings whose overall worth exceeds $1 billion.
5 – Andreas Antonopoulos
Andreas Antonopoulos is the most prolific speaker and advocate of Bitcoin and open-blockchains. His various occupations include being a best-selling author, speaker, and educator. He is also popular for delivering energetic talks that combine the topics of psychology, economics, technology, and game theory.
He has a degree in Computer Science and Data Communications and Distributed Systems from University College London. Working as a partner at Nemertes Research, he conducted research on computer security. His findings led to an interesting discovery regarding what the greatest threat to computer security is. According to him, it is not hackers with experience, but instead complex systems that come from rapid change in business.
Antonopoulos is the host of the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” podcast. Moreover, he teaches the MSc in Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia. He is credited as being an author for a variety of influential books. These include Mastering Bitcoin, The Internet of Money, and Mastering Ethereum. Mastering Bitcoin has the reputation of being the best technical guide about the technology to ever exist. His second book, The Internet of Money, dove more into the “why” of Bitcoin. It would go on to become a bestseller on Amazon and would lead to the successful The Internet of Money. The publication of his fourth book, Mastering Ethereum, would occur in December of 2018.
Crypto icons honorable mentions
The above five icons are the predominant players in the digital asset market. They are innovators with their own unique skills and qualities that make them as revered as they are. Still, there are so many more out there that unfortunately could not be put on the list. However, those are mere individuals. There are two additional crypto icons that are in a category of their own.
How does that make any sense? Well, these additional icons are not singular people; in fact, they are each a collective group.
- Friends: Some people have the mindset of “why should I trust a stranger when I already have reliable peers?” A significant portion of the crypto public claim that their trust lies only in their friends. On the surface, this sounds unorthodox, but if you are an overly cautious person, you too may be finicky about who you trust. Overall, it’s not exactly uncommon for someone to only trust people who they know on a personal level.
- Nobody: Along with the top five list, this is arguably one of the most popular answers regarding crypto icons. Once again, this seems unusual, but being cautious is a recurring quality in most crypto users. “I only trust myself” is a frequent justification for those residing in this category. Many people point out that influencers and commentators have their own agendas. So, by following these crypto icons, you’re blindly going along with their agenda even if you end up not agreeing with it. Because of this, many are choosing to take the independent route.