In the “long” history of Bitcoin since even before it began with publishing of the white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, a number of people have been instrumental in its development and implementation. Due to abuse of the system, some characters have also played roles which had led to the infamy of Bitcoin at some point in its history.
For better or worse, these incidences have led to Bitcoin being in the spotlight, and it cannot be denied that they have in some way resulted in the wider adoption that Bitcoin is experiencing today, or in its steady climb in price over the years.
For reasons of fame or notoriety, we introduce to you, in no particular order of importance (ok, maybe some…), the famous people in Bitcoin circles that you may want to know.
Bitcoin Who’s Who – The Key People
is the creator of Bitcoin who published his white paper in October 2008. Nakamoto’s identity is still unknown, as “he” has remained anonymous from the very beginning, and may be a male, female, or representative of several people, consisting primarily of programmers. A few candidates have been suspected of being Satoshi Nakamoto over the years, with one claiming to be him, but “his” real identity is still shrouded in mystery today.
See also, Dorian Nakamoto
and Craig Wright
, full name Harold Thomas Finney II
, was a developer known for his work at PGP Corporation and was the second developer hired after Phil Zimmermann, who is best known as the creator of Pretty Good Privacy
(PGP) – the most widely used email encryption software in the world. Hal Finney was an early bitcoin adopter and user, and was credited as the recipient of the first bitcoin sent by Satoshi Nakamoto
in January 2009. in October 2009 however, Finney was diagnosed with ALS, which had eventually affected his mobility. Prior to his illness, Finney had been an active runner, and in November 2009, he and his wife ran the Santa Barbara International Marathon to raise money for ALS research. During the last year of his life before he passed away in August of 2014, Finney and his family became victims of swattingn.b.
and started receiving anonymous calls demanding for an extortion of 1,000 bitcoin. His body is now cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
n.b. Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service and sending a police and 9-1-1 response team to another person’s address, based on the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged incident.
, born Gavin Bell
is credited as the core developer who took over the lead role in maintaining Bitcoin over from creator Satoshi Nakamoto, leading to the development of the client software now known as Bitcoin Core for the bitcoin network. Andresen recognised the brilliant design of bitcoin when he first discovered it in 2010, and remarked that “bitcoin is designed to bring us back to the decentralised currency of the people”. He is also the creator of the Bitcoin Faucet, a website that gave bitcoin to participants who completed small tasks online. In September 2012, together with Roger Ver
, Charlie Shrem
, Mark Kapeles
, Peter Vessenes
and Patrick Murck
, he co-founded the Bitcoin Foundation as an American non-profit corporation to standarise, protect and promote the use of bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.
is an early Bitcoin adopter and investor in Bitcoin-related startup ventures. Born in San Jose and lived in Silicon Valley, Ver became a millionaire by the time he was 25, a success attributed to his computer parts business MemoryDealers.com where he was CEO from 1999 to 2012. MemoryDealers.com was eventually to be the first company to accept bitcoin as payment, in 2011. Ver attempted to enter politics in 2000 when he ran for California State Assembly as a candidate for the Libertarian Party. In 2002, Ver was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for selling explosives without a licence. Ver learnt Japanese on his own whilst in prison. Formerly an American, Ver moved to Japan in 2006, and renounced his US citizenship in 2014. He is a citizen of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, and currently lives in Japan with his Japanese wife. Ver first investment was in BitInstant ran by Charlie Shrem
, and has since invested over a million dollars into other new Bitcoin-related startup ventures such as Blockchain, BitPay, Kraken and Ripple. In June 2016, Ver was appointed the chairman of the Cryptocurrency Advisory Board for MGT Capital Investments which aims to improve cybersecurity. Ver’s strong passion, deep involvement and philanthropy within the Bitcoin community has earned him the title Bitcoin Jesus
Antonopoulos is an information security expert, tech-entrepreneur and author of a number of books on Bitcoin viz. Mastering Bitcoin and The Internet of Money. He is also a host on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin podcast, as well as a teaching fellow for the Master in Science (Digital Currencies) at the University of Nicosia – one of the few universities currently accepting bitcoin payment for tuition and other fees. He was the head of the Bitcoin Foundation’s anti-poverty committee until 2014, and joined Blockchain.info as Chief Security Officer in January 2014. In September that same year, he left that position and became an advisor to the board. Antonopoulos travels around the world to give seminars on Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. He is also known for his sessions of discussing and presenting on the case for Bitcoin with the Senates of Canada and Australia. These videos, as well as a list of other talks he has given are available here.
is co-founder of the bitcoin company Coinapult, a company that transfers bitcoin via SMS and email, and is the creator and CEO of the bitcoin and altcoin exchange ShapeShift.io. An early bitcoin adopter, he was formerly the Director of Marketing at BitInstant, and was founder of the bitcoin gambling website Satoshi Dice, which was later sold off to an anonymous investor in July 2013 for 126,315 bitcoin, then valued at US$11.5 million. He was fined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an unregulated stock offering related to Satoshi Dice. Voorhees advocates the separation of money and state, and has suggested that there is no such thing as a “free market” when the institution of money itself is centrally planned and controlled. He believes that Bitcoin is one of the most important inventions ever created by humanity, and keeps his assets and finances in bitcoin.
is a computer scientist and cryptographer known for his research in digital currency and digital contracts. Szabo developed the phrase and concept of smart contracts with the aim of bringing “highly evolved” practices of contract law and practice to the design of electronic commerce protocols between strangers on the Internet. Szabo is perhaps best known for the creation of bit gold, a decentralised digital currency he designed in 1998 that didn’t take off. Bit gold has been credited as a direct precursor to the Bitcoin architecture, also leading some to believe that Szabo could be Satoshi Nakamoto. Like how a subunit of a bitcoin is called a satoshi, in 2015, the blockchain Ethereum named a subunit of its value token the szabo.
is a software developer, who was previously a senior software engineer and tech lead at Google where he worked for about 7.5 years on Google Maps and Google Earth, Gmail anti-spam, signup abuse and login security. Prior to that. he worked on the Windows emulation technologies and did various small contracts in the software industry. In 2014, he left Google to focus on the development of Bitcoin full-time and gives talk on Bitcoin. Mike Hearn was the creator of Lighthouse, a software platform designed to crowdsource upgrades to Bitcoin’s core code, for which he received the bounty of US$100,000 offered by bitcoin millionaire Olivier Janssens
. At the start of 2016, Hearn had issued a controversial statement declaring that the Bitcoin project had “failed”, pointing that the bitcoin network was on the brink of technical collapse due to the lack of consensus on its scalability improvement. It was initially thought this was done to boost his new firm R3CEV which is involved in building distributed ledger technology with over 40 banks. However, as the chief platform officer, Hearn stated that his new firm and bitcoin are not in competition, as R3 is not a bitcoin company or a cryptocurrency company.
is an early Bitcoin adopter and tech entrepreneur who obtained all his bitcoin through mining in 2010 when Bitcoin was in its early stages and when the price was still very low. Based in Monaco and now a bitcoin millionaire, he was an active member of the Bitcoin Foundation and was critical of its management and transparency of its actions. In April 2015, Janssens released a statement declaring that the Bitcoin Foundation had almost no money left and was effectively bankrupt due to “two years of ridiculous spending and poorly thought out decisions
“. Janssens then established a special trust fund which he donated several hundred thousand dollars as pre-payment for the following year’s wages of Gavin Andresen
, Wladimir van der Laan
and some other core developers. In December 2015, Janssens quit the Bitcoin Foundation. Olivier Janssens is sometimes remembered for his offer of a $100,000 bounty in May 2014 to be awarded to members of the community to program a software platform that could replace the Bitcoin core code, which ultimately went to Mike Hearn
with his Lighthouse Project in mid-2014.
was a founding member of the Bitcoin Foundation, and CEO of Mt. Gox when he acquired 88% of the company from Jed McCaleb
in 2011. Mt. Gox was at one time the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange handling over 70% of all bitcoin transactions, until it filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2014 when it was found that 850,000 of its bitcoin holdings belonging to the company and its customers were found missing, a value of about $470 million at that time. Karpelès was found guilty of fraud when he was tried in absentia
in France in 2010, and was sentenced to a year in jail but has not served his sentence. Karpelès was subpoenaed by the United States Department of Treasury’s FinCEN to appear in Washington, D.C. to provide testimony in April 2014 but responded that he did not have a lawyer and therefore declined to show up. Karpelès was eventually arrested on 1 August 2015 by Japanese police on suspicion of having accessed the company’s computer system to falsify data on its outstanding balance, and was re-arrested and allegedly charged with embezzlement. Karpelès was released on bail in July 2016, but must remain in Japan.
, a founding board member of the Bitcoin Foundation, is an American entrepreneur and bitcoin advocate, and co-founded the investment company Intellisys Capital, and also the bitcoin startup BitInstant, which is now no longer in operation. In 2011, Shrem started investing in bitcoin whilst he was still in college. The bitcoin service Shrem was using crashed not long after, resulting in the loss of his bitcoin. Shrem and a friend he met online, Gareth Nelson, also shared similar frustration with the long duration it took to buy and sell bitcoin on existing exchange sites then. As a result, they started BitInstant, an exchange that charged a fee for users to purchase bitcoin at 700,000 locations, and providing temporary credit to expedite transactions. By 2013, BitInstant was processing 30% of all bitcoin transactions. BitInstant ceased operation in July 2013. In December 2014, Shrem was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money remittance business related to the Silk Road marketplace. He was released from prison in June 2016. Shrem can be seen featured at length in the 2016 documentary Banking on Bitcoin.
, full name Ross William Ulbricht, was best known for being convicted of creating and operating the darknet marketplace known as Silk Road. In 2009, Ulbricht had come up with the idea of building an online black marketplace to evade law enforcement by using Tor and bitcoin. He developed this marketplace in 2010 as a side project while also working on Good Wagon Books. Going by the name Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR on Silk Road, Ulbricht was arrested while he was using his laptop at the San Francisco Public Library branch at Glen Park. He was distracted by two FBI agents pretending to be a quarrelling couple, so that his laptop could be snatched from him and all data on his hard drive cloned on a USB flash drive (running an anti-forensic software known as USBKill) before he had time to encrypt and delete the data. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2015 for computer hacking, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. He was also charged for procuring murder, and although the charge was removed from the indictment, its evidence was taken into consideration in his sentence.
is an American programmer who created the peer-to-peer technologies eDonkey and Overnet, but is perhaps best known as the person who founded Mt. Gox, at one time the biggest bitcoin exchange in the world, and probably also the biggest fiasco in the history of bitcoin, after it was sold to Mark Karpelès
in 2011. He founded the San Francisco-based software company Ripple in 2011, which is the creator and developer of the Ripple payment protocol and exchange network. In 2014, McCaleb founded Stellar, an open-source protocol for value (money) exchange, which is now used as a financial infrastructure by several non-profits and businesses. Stellar was originally based on the Ripple protocol, but had forked after several changes were made to the code. See also, Mark Karpelès
is a Japanese-American man living in California who was the subject of a high-profile article in Newsweek magazine which identified him as the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto. Leah Goodman, who was the journalist for that article, wrote that Dorian was actually Satoshi Nakamoto based on a misinterpretation of what Dorian had said in an interview. Although Dorian was heard to have said “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection”, he later denied that he had anything to do with Bitcoin or have heard the currency before. Most people in the Bitcoin circle believe that Dorian is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
, full name Craig Steven Wright
, is an Australian businessman and computer scientist. Wright was the CEO of the technology firm Hotwire Preemptive Intelligence Group, which planned to launch Denariuz Bank, the world’s first bitcoin-based bank. However, it encountered regulatory difficulties with the Australian Tax Office and failed in 2014. Wright is the founder of cryptocurrency company DeMorgan Ltd., which received AUD54 million in tax incentives via AusIndustry. Wright is perhaps best known for his claim as the real Satoshi Nakamoto and hence, the creator of Bitcoin. This claim has been disputed within the Bitcoin community in general. In December 2015, Gizmodo and Wired carried out similar investigations which suggested that Wright could be the creator of Bitcoin, based on evidence of documents linking him to the creator. Despite what seems to be overwhelming evidences (such as those posted here
), the allegations remain inconclusive, as the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto can still only be speculated at best.
is an tech entrepreneur specialising in financial and technology ventures. As a strong and early advocate of Bitcoin, he believes that Bitcoin will be bigger than the internet. Casares is the founder and CEO of Xapo, a Bitcoin wallet startup believed to be the largest custodian of bitcoin in the world. He is a board member of PayPal, and also serves on the board of Endeavour, a non-profit organisation that promotes entrepreneurship in emerging markets and which had played a role in his early success. Casares launched his home country’s first Internet Service Provider – Internet Argentina S.A. in 1994, which he later sold to fund another startup in 1997 – the Argentine online brokerage Patagon. Patagon was later acquired by Banco Santander for $750 million. Casares co-founded Banco Lemon, a retail bank for the underbanked in Brazil, which was later acquired by Banco de Brasil in 2009. He also founded Wanako Games, developer of the game Assault Heroes which was awarded Game of the Year for Microsoft Xbox Live in 2006, later acquired by Activision. Casares was also the founder and CEO of Lemon Wallet, a digital wallet platform which was acquired by LifeLock for about $43 million in 2013. He is an elected member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Class of 2011, and attends the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on a regular basis.
is a co-founder of the Bitcoin Foundation and served as its first Executive Director and Chairman. In 2011, he launched CoinLab, Inc, the first venture-backed bitcoin company. He has served as consultant and advised many groups and institutions about Bitcoin and its technology, such as the Department of Treasury, FinCEN, and the US Senate GAO. He has helped to build Bitcoin practices at major law firms like Perkins Cole, and is a trusted advisor to big accounting firms like Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Price Waterhouse Coopers, as well as to major venture capital firms like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Ribbit Capital, Pandera Capital, Cedar Hill Capital, DFJ and others. Vessenes graduated from Brown University with an Sc.B in Mathematics and an emphasis in cryptography, and is an internationally known speaker and expert in his field.
is a co-founder of the Bitcoin Foundation where he served as General Counsel and Executive Director. With a deep understanding of the fintech industry, he has engaged regulators and policymakers in the US and Europe on bitcoin and the emerging digital economy, and was named America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel for 2014 by the National Law Journal. Murck currently serves as fellow with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society where he conducts research on the law and policy implications of bitcoin, distributed ledgers and smart contracts. He also serves as President Board member for the BitGive Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on charitable giving and social impact using bitcoin.
Wladimir van der Laan
is a Bitcoin Core Developer and the Lead Maintainer of the Bitcoin repository on GitHub. He took over the position of Lead Maintainer from Gavin Andresen in April 2014, who formerly held that responsibility since mid-2010. Van der Laan believes that any code changes in a decentralised system like Bitcoin must reach consensus among other core developers before they can be implemented, an approach which former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn
has deemed too conservative. Van der Lann was also at one time quite vocal about Bitcoin scaling issues, and stated his concerns that hardforks are extremely hard to coordinate, as even if just one parameter were changed, those involved with a full node will be required to upgrade, and “changing the rules in a decentralised consensus system is a very difficult problem”.
is an American free-market and crypto-anarchist and gun-rights activitist who is best known as the founder of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organisation which develops and publishes open-source gun designs called wiki-weapons which are suitable for 3D printing. Defense Distributed gained international notoriety in 2013 when it published plans online for the Liberator, a functioning pistol that could be reproduced with a 3D printer. In 2012, Wired Magazine’s “Danger Room” named him one of “The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World”. In 2015, Wired named Wilson “The 5th Most Dangerous Person on the Internet. Together with Amir Taaki
, he co-founded the Dark Wallet bitcoin storage technology, which endeavours to help anonymise financial transactions. In November 2014, Wilson announced that he would stand for election to a seat on the Board of Directors of the Bitcoin Foundation, with “the sole purpose of destroying the Foundation”.
is a British-Iranian computer programmer and bitcoin enthusiast who played a leading role in the Bitcoin project who also pioneered many open-source projects. He made his living as a professional poker player in 2009 and 2010, and the online gambling experience led him to the Bitcoin project. He founded the UK bitcoin exchange Britcoin
, followed by another British exchange called Intersango
where he was a principal developer. Taaki (and Donald Norman) established the Bitcoin Consultancy
for bitcoin project development. Together with Cody Wilson
, he launched Dark Wallet, and with other developers from Airbitz, Inc. he created a prototype for a decentralised marketplace called DarkMarket
in 2014. DarkMarket was later forked to OpenBazaar by developer Brian Hoffman. Taaki was listed as Top 30 Entrepreneurs of 2014 by Forbes.
To view the historical timeline in bitcoin’s development since inception, see here.