The cryptocurrency market is currently mired in what certain evangelists of the technology would characterize as a gully, with bitcoin prices down more than 60% since the beginning of the year. After years of being wary of this new technology, governments in some of the world’s largest markets for crypto are finally beginning to impose their will, whether its an outright ban of all cryptocurrency-related activity – like in China – or the practical desire to regulate and reform markets whose opacity makes them rife with fraud and abuse.
So perhaps its fitting that, in the midst of all this upheaval, Forbes has decided to release its first-ever list of the richest people in cryptocurrency.
The list ranges from the hardcore “hodlers” who had the temerity to place big bets on bitcoin, ethereum and other popular coins while their networks were still in their infancy, to crypto miners who profit by powering the distributed ledgers that allow systems like the bitcoin network to function.
Officially, Forbes divided its crypto rich list into five groups: idealists, builders, opportunists, infrastructure players and establishment investors. Many fit into more than one category.
Of course, given crypto’s volatile nature and the difficulty of tracing wealth, Forbes relied mostly on rough estimates – though a few provided proof in the form of post-tax profits from trading crypto-assets and stakes in crypto-related businesses. Forbes‘ figures are current as of Jan. 19, though, of course, the market has erased tens of billions of dollars in market capitalization since then.
Below are a few highlights from the Forbes list (all estimated net worth includes only crypto holdings):
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Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss:
Estimated Net Worth: $ 900 million-$ 1.1 billion
After their portrayal as the antagonists to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the movie “The Social Network”, the Winklevii have staged a staggering comeback. They bought bitcoin in 2012 and held on – with their combined fortune at one point being estimated at over $ 1 billion. Their crypto exchange, Gemini, recently surpassed $ 300 million in daily transaction volume.
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 700-$ 1 billion
Novogratz’ hedge fund was an early investor in crypto. After shelving plans for a dedicated crypto fund late last year, Novogratz today revealed that he has raised about $ 250 million for his cryptocurrency merchant bank during one of the biggest routs yet in Bitcoin, according to a person familiar with the deal.
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 400-$ 500 million
Buterin created ethereum – the first cryptocurrency that wasn’t a bitcoin clone a la Litecoin. With Ethereum, Buterin introducd the idea of smart contracts operating on a blockchain. These contracts are capable of automating if-this-then-that-type systems that could someday be used in finance, real-estate and beyond.
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 400-$ 600 million
Silbert made his name as the founder of SecondMarket, which helps facilitated trading in private company shares. His second act was founding Digital Currency Group, which owns Greyscale – the operator of the bitcoin investment trust – and CoinDesk, the bitcoin news website. Silbert invested $ 100,000+ during the early days of bitcoin and, according to a recent Reuters story, he “cheerleaded his way to…riches.”
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 7.5 to $ 8 billion
For a brief period early last month, a short-lived rally in Ripple brought Larsen’s net worth to approximately $ 55 billion – more than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Of course, that wealth existed solely on paper, and Ripple swiftly spiraled lower, and, like the rest of the space, is currently trading at less than half of its peak. Larsen founded Ripple as a payments network to help facilitate global payments. But though there have been some flirtations with the app Moneygram saying it would experiment with Ripple’s software (which is separate from the digital tokens) few others have followed suite.
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 1 billion to $ 5 billion
The former Goldman executive was one of the first people to join Buterin in helping to build the Ethereum network. He later went on to found Consensys, which has partnered with Microsoft to provide the building blocks for distributed systems through MSFT’s Azure platform.
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Estimated Net Worth: $ 350 – $ 500 million
A longtime Silicon Valley VC and founder of Draper Associates was an early investor in bitcoin. Though recently he has made some high-profile missteps, investing in Tezos and Bancor – two ICOs that are bedeviled with problems. Bancor’s tokens have plummeted in value, while Tezos hasn’t yet released the tokens it promised investors who participated in its crowdsale over the summer.
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While they didn’t make the Forbes list, it’s important to remember that some of the original blocks of bitcoin are thought to be controlled by its mysterious creator, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.
When bitcoin peaked at $ 20,000 last year, it was estimated that bitcoin in the accounts purportedly controlled by Satoshi were worth some $ 20 billion.
But nearly a decade after bitcoin’s creation, Satoshi’s identity remains a mystery.
Read Forbes’s full list – complete with interactive graphics – here