From the founders of major crypto exchanges to basic investors and hedge funds that have been on the right side of the fence, these individuals have all struck it rich through their involvement with cryptocurrencies.
The industry has introduced some fundamental changes to the concept of wealth creation, offering ordinary individuals opportunities to amass unparalleled fortunes in a relatively short amount of time.
Whether through investing in early digital currencies like bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) or through launching their own successful blockchain-based platforms, these crypto millionaires and billionaires have reshaped the financial landscape and have become influential figures in the industry.
This article delves into the backgrounds, stories, and meteoric rises to wealth of 11 such individuals who have leveraged the disruptive power of cryptocurrencies to secure their place among the world’s elite.
1. Changpeng Zhao (CZ)
Changpeng Zhao, commonly known as CZ, is a Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trading volume.
CZ’s journey to wealth began in the early 2000s when he started working in the tech industry. He held various positions at companies like Bloomberg Tradebook, Fusion Systems, and Blockchain.com. His experience in these roles gave him a deep understanding of trading systems, matching engines, and blockchain technology.
CZ’s wealth primarily stems from his success with Binance and its affiliated tokens. He founded the company in 2017 and spearheaded it to become one of the most popular and influential cryptocurrency exchanges globally.
Through Binance, CZ introduced binance coin (BNB), which gained widespread adoption as the exchange grew in popularity. BNB has since appreciated significantly in value, further contributing to CZ’s wealth.
CZ: "Blockchain will be successful enough that we don't have to use that word anymore."@cz_binance recently joined the Asian Leadership Conference virtually, where he shared his thoughts on a number of topics, including the future of blockchain.
Here's what he had to say 👇 pic.twitter.com/dMEsB8CNhB
— Binance (@binance) May 27, 2023
It is important to note that CZ’s estimated net worth is not publicly available, as Binance is a privately held company. However, Forbes estimates CZ’s wealth at $10.2 billion. Some analysts believe that the crypto billionaire is much wealthier, but these claims are nothing more than speculation. The media also declares that the crypto boss was worth $65 billion in 2022 before the crypto meltdown.
2. Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong is an American entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, the largest US-based cryptocurrency exchange.
In 2012, Armstrong co-founded Coinbase. Courtesy of its easy-to-use interface and robust security measures, the platform found increasing popularity among both novice and experienced crypto enthusiasts.
Coinbase’s success has been closely intertwined with the surging popularity of cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin. As the value of cryptocurrencies soared, Coinbase benefited from the increased trading volumes, transaction fees, and exchange commissions, all of which contributed to Armstrong’s wealth.
Furthermore, Coinbase became the first cryptocurrency exchange to go public. In April 2021, the company’s shares were listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange through a direct listing, making Armstrong a billionaire as his stake in the company gained significant value.
2/ As we've grown as a company, we sometimes haven't had the best reputation for being on the cutting edge of crypto. This makes sense – we grew so quickly, that a lot of time went into just scaling and operationalizing the existing products we have, which was existential for us.
— Brian Armstrong 🛡️ (@brian_armstrong) August 27, 2021
According to Forbes, Armstrong is now worth $3.8 billion. The crypto veteran’s wealth reached an all-time high of $6.6 billion last year before the crypto market downturn.
3. Barry Silbert
Barry Silbert is an American entrepreneur and investor who is best known as the founder and CEO of Digital Currency Group (DCG), a venture capital firm focused on the cryptocurrency industry.
Silbert began his career in finance working at the investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey, focusing on distressed debt. In 2004, he founded SecondMarket, an online marketplace for illiquid assets, including private company shares.
Silbert recognized the potential of Bitcoin early on and founded the Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT) in 2013, which offered accredited investors the opportunity to invest in bitcoin without needing to directly hold the digital currency. BIT became the first publicly traded BTC investment vehicle, and it played a significant role in bringing bitcoin into the mainstream.
In 2015, Silbert rebranded SecondMarket as Digital Currency Group (DCG), expanding the company’s focus to include not just Bitcoin but also other cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based technologies.
DCG has since become a major player in the cryptocurrency industry through its diverse portfolio of investments and its subsidiary companies, including Grayscale Investments, Genesis, CoinDesk, and more.
Through his successful ventures in cryptocurrency and blockchain-related investments, Silbert has amassed significant wealth. According to Forbes, Silbert’s wealth is estimated at $3.2 billion.
4. Chris Larsen
Chris Larsen is an American entrepreneur and business executive known for his involvement in the creation of cryptocurrency companies. He co-founded Ripple Labs, the company behind the controversial blockchain-based payment protocol called Ripple.
Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency quickly gained popularity and became one of the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. And through his involvement with Ripple, Larsen accumulated significant wealth.
Forbes has recognized him as one of the richest people in the cryptocurrency industry. At the peak of XRP’s value in early 2018, Larsen’s estimated net worth reached $4.6 billion. His current net worth is estimated at $2.6 billion.
5. Jed McCaleb
Jed McCaleb is an American programmer and entrepreneur. He is best known as the co-founder and former CTO of Ripple, a digital payment protocol, and the creator of the decentralized cryptocurrency stellar lumen (XLM).
In 2010, McCaleb became interested in Bitcoin and founded the first major Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox. The platform grew to handle over 70% of all bitcoin transactions at its peak. However, it faced security issues and was eventually hacked, resulting in the loss of a significant amount of BTC. McCaleb sold Mt. Gox to Mark Karpeles in 2011 and distanced himself from the platform.
Following his experience with Mt. Gox, Jed McCaleb turned his attention to creating a new decentralized cryptocurrency. In 2014, he co-founded Ripple and served as the CTO of Ripple until 2013.
After leaving Ripple, McCaleb focused on creating Stellar. Launched in 2014, the project aims to connect financial institutions and facilitate cross-border transactions for the unbanked population.
Through his ventures, particularly the creation and development of Ripple and Stellar, Jed McCaleb has accumulated a massive fortune. Forbes estimates that he is currently worth $2.4 billion.
6. Devin Finzer
Devin Finzer is the co-founder of OpenSea, one of the largest marketplaces for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital assets. OpenSea gained significant popularity with the rise of NFTs, which are unique digital assets verified by blockchain technology.
Prior to OpenSea, Devin Finzer worked as a software engineer at Pinterest. He teamed up with Alex Atallah in 2017 to launch OpenSea, which quickly became a prominent platform for buying, selling, and trading NFTs.
The marketplace gained significant attention in 2021 as NFTs became mainstream, attracting high-profile buyers and sellers. OpenSea has also reported billions of dollars in transaction volume on its platform, taking a small commission on each sale.
As a result, Finzer has amassed significant wealth through his role as co-founder of OpenSea. He is currently estimated to have a net worth of $2.2 billion.
7. Alex Atallah
Alex Atallah is a technology entrepreneur and another co-founder of OpenSea. Atallah has a diverse background, beginning his career in investment banking at J.P. Morgan before co-founding a couple of startups.
He co-founded a mapping technology start-up called Sensopia in 2010, which developed the popular MagicPlan app that allows users to create floor plans using augmented reality. The app gained traction and became successful, contributing to Atallah’s early success.
In 2017, Atallah shifted his focus to the emerging field of blockchain technology and NFTs. Alongside Devin Finzer, he co-founded OpenSea, which would go on to become the leading marketplace for trading digital assets, particularly NFTs.
The company’s success has positioned Atallah as a prominent figure in the NFT space. Similar to Finzer, Atallah’s net worth is estimated at $2.2 billion.
8. Kim Hyoung-nyon
Kim Hyoung-Nyon is a well-known South Korean fintech entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and executive vice president of Dunamu, which operates South Korea’s dominant cryptocurrency exchange.
Hyoung-nyon launched Dunamu with Song Chi-hyung in 2012. Since then, the company has become the most popular crypto exchange in South Korea and has attracted substantial investment from notable firms, including Kakao Ventures and Altos Ventures.
Through his involvement with Dunamu, Hyoung-Nyon has become one of South Korea’s first crypto industry billionaires. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.95 billion.
9. Nikil Viswanathan and Joe Lau
Nikil Viswanathan and Joe Lau are co-founders of Alchemy, a technology company that provides infrastructure for blockchain developers. They started Alchemy in 2017 with the aim of providing developers with tools and services to build decentralized applications (dApps) on the blockchain.
Alchemy offers a range of solutions to help developers improve the performance, scalability, and user experience of their dApps. Both Viswanathan and Lau have backgrounds in technology and engineering, and they have been instrumental in driving the growth and success of Alchemy in the blockchain industry.
In February last year, the company raised $200 million at a $10.2 billion valuation, making Viswanathan and Lau billionaires. According to Forbes, Viswanathan and Lau are each worth $1.8 billion.
10. Winklevoss Twins
The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, are American entrepreneurs and investors renowned for their involvement in the early development of Facebook and their significant investments in the cryptocurrency industry.
In 2012, the Winklevoss twins discovered bitcoin and began investing heavily in the coin, purchasing around 1% (approximately 100,000 BTC) of the total circulating supply at that time. This early investment helped them amass a substantial amount of wealth as the value of the coin skyrocketed.
Additionally, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss co-founded Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange, in 2014. Gemini has become one of the leading exchanges in the United States. Their involvement in the exchange further contributed to their overall wealth.
Crypto never sleeps. We don’t either. https://t.co/ZyMQVp1FvZ
— Cameron Winklevoss (@cameron) July 10, 2023
Forbes currently estimates their net worth at $1.5 billion each. Their net worth reached an all-time high of around $4 billion last year.
11. Fred Ehrsam
Fred Ehrsam is an American entrepreneur and investor known for his involvement in the cryptocurrency industry. He co-founded Coinbase with Brian Armstrong in 2012.
Ehrsam’s journey toward wealth began when he joined Goldman Sachs as a trader in the firm’s foreign exchange (forex) division. However, his interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology led him to leave Goldman Sachs and co-found Coinbase.
Under Ehrsam’s co-leadership, Coinbase experienced rapid growth and became one of the most prominent players in the cryptocurrency industry. It attracted millions of users and facilitated billions of dollars in cryptocurrency transactions.
While Ehrsam left Coinbase in 2017, he still managed to make a fortune from his involvement in the exchange. According to Forbes, Ehrsam is currently worth $1.3 billion.
The Value of Taking Smart Risks Is Clear
All in all, the rise of cryptocurrencies has undeniably created a new wave of millionaires and billionaires. While they might have earned their fortunes in different ways, they all had something in common: they saw the potential in this emerging technology and were willing to take on some risks.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone who entered the crypto market experienced the same success. Furthermore, the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies and the ever-changing regulatory landscape make it essential for potential investors to proceed with caution.
Nonetheless, the stories of these crypto billionaires serve as a testament to the potential for wealth creation that lies within this disruptive technology. As cryptocurrencies continue to evolve and gain mainstream acceptance, there may be more success stories on the horizon.
Before you decide to invest in any cryptocurrency, always make sure to do your own research first.