If you had purchased $10,000 worth of bitcoin after its crash in 2011, it would be worth about $678 million as of June, 2017. Though bitcoin’s value grew by about 1000% in 2017, it wasn’t even in the top 10 cryptocurrency performances last year. Ripple, for example, showed a gain in its value of 36,018%, followed by NEM at 29,842%, and Ardor at 16,809% which rounded out the top three. That’s simply astronomical. The credit for much of this goes to the fascinating individuals who worked day and night to transform a once-ignored and untrustworthy business into one that is now credited with leading the digital revolution and has the potential to transform both financial markets and many social institutions around the world.

The pioneers who have lead the cryptocurrency breakout come from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. They are comprised of dreamers, hard-workers, and those who have suffered many setbacks throughout their life before arriving at their current exalted status. They come from a range of professions including academia, engineering, journalism, business, etc. However, they all have one thing in common — their intense focus on driving the crypto-currency industry forward. The people who have made this list have made some of the most significant contributions to the crypto-community.

  1. Vitalik Buterin: He is the inventor and founder of Ethereum, a blockchain-based technology that acts as a platform for decentralized applications. Several cryptocurrencies other than Ether currently reside on the Ethereum blockchain. Its cryptocurrency, Ether, rose in profit and popularity in 2017 and doubled the company’s market value to over $40 billion. He also publishes and writes for Bitcoin Magazine. Buterin is also a dedicated philanthropist, having donated millions in Ether to non-profits and other organizations.
  2. Charlie Lee: Born in the Ivory Coast, he is known for being the creator of the successful company Litecoin, and also worked for a while as the Director of Engineering for Coinbase. Now full-time again at Litecoin, he still manages to find time to focus on other coin-specific projects. Before his entry into the crypto-currency world, he worked in engineering positions at Google and Guidewire Software. Perhaps his greatest contribution to cryptocurrency, Litecoin, was developed in response to his recognition of the flaws inherent in Bitcoin and other pioneering currencies. He designed Litecoin to be faster, have a greater supply of coins, and use a scrypt-based hashing protocol that made it extremely popular.
  3. Brian Armstrong: He is the co-founder of Coinbase, an open financial system and the largest exchange for trading digital currency in the world. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then obtained a second bachelor’s degree in economics, and finally a master’s degree in computer science from Rice University. He was also portrayed in the 2014 film “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin”. He may be the one person most responsible for introducing cryptocurrency to the world.
  4. Roger Ver: He’s considered to be one of the masterminds behind the rise of cryptocurrency by becoming the first investor in cryptocurrency startups such as Bitcoin.com, Blockchain.com, Z.cash, etc. He’s now a regular speaker at cryptocurrency events worldwide. He strongly believes that cryptocurrency is the key to promoting true economic freedom. Considered to be somewhat of a rogue spirit, he moved to Japan after his release from prison on a charge of selling explosives, then renounced his U.S. citizenship after obtaining a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport. He calls himself a libertarian, an anarcho-capitalist, a peace advocate, and strong supporter of individualism and voluntarism.
  5. Andreas M. Antonopoulos: He is the author of several successful books such as “Mastering Bitcoins” and “The Internet of Money” which have taught many investors how to make better decisions regarding bitcoin investments. Antonopoulos is also a well-known public speaker and is regularly featured at bitcoin events around the world. He is also sought out to testify at criminal trials regarding topics such as security and technical details of the cryptocurrency world. He’s a host on the Let’s Talk Bitcoinpodcast, and teaches about digital currencies at the University of Nicosia on the island of Cypress.
  6. Nick Szabo: He is a blockchain and cryptocurrency pioneer and is widely acclaimed as the inventor in 1994 of the concept of smart contracts, which have provided cryptocurrency and blockchain with some immediate and vital relevance to commerce. He is also credited with designing “bit gold”, a decentralized precursor to bitcoin fully 10 years before bitcoin came to market, and initiated the construction of Bitcoin’s basic architecture.
  7. Don Tapscott: Known as the best-selling author of “Blockchain Revolution” which addresses the impact that cryptocurrencies and blockchain will have on the world. He is also the co-founder and executive director of the Blockchain Research Institute, which is responsible for creating policy and governance strategies for bitcoin.
  8. Olaf Carlson-Wee: He was the first employee of Coinbase, and has since started his own cryptocurrency hedge fund, Polychain Capital, which has over $200 million under management. Perhaps his greatest achievement is in the development of a model which serves as a bridge between institutions/large investors and the crypto market.
  9. Brad Garlinghouse: He’s worked at a number of well-known tech legacy companies such as AOL, Yahoo, Flickr, and others. However, his current role is the CEO of Ripple, the highest-performing cryptocurrency in 2017. Ripple serves as a platform optimized for banks to move currency, and it is able to finalize international transactions quickly and efficiently.
  10. Naval Ravikant: He has moved his focus from companies such as Uber and Twitter to the cryptocurrency space, becoming an investor in several blockchain startups. He is a huge supporter of ICOs, and his backing of them has lent great credibility to this vehicle in the eyes of skeptics and others.

Written by:

Parul Gujral, CEO-Snowball