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Coinbase CEO Praises Privacy While Allegedly Blacklisting Anonymous Transactions

Co-founder and CEO of major U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Brian Armstrong attracted criticism after praising private crypto transactions.

Co-founder and CEO of major U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Brian Armstrong attracted criticism after praising private crypto transactions in a tweet published on June 22.

In the aforementioned tweet, Armstrong notes that “a scalable, sufficiently decentralized, chain that supported private transactions by default (privacy coins) would be a game changer.” He then compares anonymous cryptocurrency transactions to cryptography on the web, pointing out that it is increasingly predominant. He also used messaging as an example:

“Same with messaging, end to end encryption started out fringe and is now the expected default.”

Armstrong also cited the recent news about the Electric Coin Company (ECC), the firm behind second-biggest anoncoin zcash (ZEC), intending to build a new scalable zcash blockchain as an example of privacy by default. In response, Luke Dashjr raised a question towards what he perceives to be an unclear stance on privacy on Coinbase’s part:

“Why does @Coinbase seem to blacklist people who might get their coins from certain sources, if you support privacy? I’m a bit confused…”

To which bitcoin core developer answered stating that — according to him — as long as it is possible to distinguish “dirty” coins, the exchange is forced to block them. Self-proclaimed bitcoin (BTC) maximalist Giacomo Zucco stepped in disagreeing:

“Complete nonsense. They can distinguish ‘privacy coins’ better than they can distinguish bitcoins from coinjoins. […] If they are forced to blacklist CJs, they’ll be forced to blacklist ‘privacy coins.’”

Then, when a different user asked whether Coinbase blocks CoinJoin transactions, Zucco claimed “Of course. And (the very few and low-anonymity set anyway) shielded Zcash txs.” According to a post published by the exchange in late November 2018, Coinbase does not fully support zcash shielded addresses:

“Initially, we will support deposits from both transparent and shielded addresses, but only support withdrawals to transparent addresses. In the future, we’ll explore support for withdrawals to shielded addresses in locations where it complies with local laws.”

As of press time, Coinbase, Giacomo Zucco and several representatives of zkSNACKs, the company behind CoinJoin-enabled BTC wallet Wasabi wallet, have not responded to Cointelegraph’s inquiry. As a consequence, it has not been confirmed whether Coinbase is blocking CoinJoined BTCs.

As Cointelegraph reported at the time, data provided by zkSNACKs CTO Adam Fiscor revealed at the end of April that mixed bitcoin transactions now represent 4.09% of the total after CoinJoins have risen by 300% in the space of nine months.

As a recent Cointelegraph analysis explains, bitcoin’s increasing anonymity is considered a threat to privacy-focused coins by some.

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Galaxy Digital Purportedly Recruits Former Head of OTC at Coinbase

Tim Plakas has reportedly left Coinbase to join Galaxy Digital’s OTC team.

Tim Plakas has left the major United States crypto exchange Coinbase to join the cryptocurrency bank founded by Michael Novogratz, Galaxy Digital, an anonymous source purportedly told The Block on May 28.

Plakas’ departure follows four senior executive departures from Coinbase in approximately the last seven months.

Plakas reportedly held the position of over-the-counter (OTC) trading head at Coinbase from July 2018 to January 2019, and will be joining the OTC team at Galaxy Digital.

Novogratz’s crypto bank is a member of Crypto OTC Roundtable Asia (CORA) Network, a non-profit collective of companies that want to improve the Crypto OTC sector.

As previously reported on Cointelegraph, Coinbase Custody — the custodial arm of Coinbase — recently made its first trade from cold storage with Coinbase’s OTC desk.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong discussed in February how cold storage does not necessarily sacrifice the agility of an investor’s assets that is provided by hot storage. Armstrong also notes that while hot storage security methods can be quite good, he does not think relying on them heavily as an attractive option:

“With hot storage there are a lot of details that you need to get right to keep the funds safe. Is it possible to get all those details right? Yes, and I’m comfortable using hot storage for reasonable amounts. […] Do I want to bet my entire business on all those details being right indefinitely? Probably not.”

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Brian Armstrong Says Coinbase Custody Managing $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency

Brian Armstrong Coinbase Custody Billion

Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, recently shared that his company’s custodian service is managing over $1 billion in cryptocurrency assets.

Speaking at Consensus, the Coinbase CEO revealed that the custodial portion of his U.S.-based exchange had received over $1 billion in cryptocurrency, marking a milestone development for the management of institutional and large capital investors. The comments were first reported by CoinDesk on May 15, as apart of the overall on-stage discussion that was recorded during the event.

Armstrong was asked by Wall Street Journal reporter and panel moderator Paul Vigna about the involvement of institutional investment in the industry of cryptocurrency, particularly keying in on Coinbase Custody. The CEO replied,

“We launched our custody 12 months ago, we’ve just crossed $1 billion AUM or institutions, 70 institutions have signed up, adding about $150 million AUM a month, so, to a large degree that has been a success.”

While some investors and analysts have viewed Coinbase’s custody program as a vault of sorts for the safe-keeping of cryptocurrency, Armstrong claims that investors are asking for much more. In a show of confidence for both industry adoption and education, institutional investors in Coinbase Custody have asked for an expansion in staking and voting services. According to Armstrong,

“They want to be staking and voting, doing governance on-chain. I think that will grow rapidly.”

Staking represents a dividend of sorts for Proof of Stake cryptocurrencies such as Cardano. Investors are issued payouts in proportion to the number of coins they are willing to pledge towards network resources, providing an incentive for keeping coins in a wallet as opposed to exchanges.

However, the natural question becomes how can large capital investors participate in staking, thereby gaining the benefits of interest on their coins, while still receiving the protective features of custodian programs. Coinbase is looking to support this industry development and more, by offering staking features and those related to on-chain voting and governance. Armstrong also revealed that Bitcoin remains the top asset for Coinbase Custody and institutional investors, but claims that interest in other currencies has been on the rise.

While the crypto markets are responding favorably to 2019’s market swing, the panelists as Consensus still think it will be a number of years before the massive hedge funds come into play. According to Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, who joined Armstrong on stage,

“The token funds and venture funds will make up the first two big institutional funds. For them [traditional institutions] to take their chips and go all in, I don’t see that in the next year or two.”

He further added,

“When people read in the Wall Street Journal that institutions are coming to crypto they think Goldman is coming, but in reality, maybe 100 token funds in the U.S. and 100 in Asia are all in so far.”

Nonetheless, Armstrong offered a surprising figure that 60 percent of all trading volume on Coinbase Pro–a more involved version of the user-friendly application–comes from institutions, giving a broad look at the current landscape of investment into cryptocurrency.

The post Brian Armstrong Says Coinbase Custody Managing $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong: Cryptocurrency Needs 3 Things for Mass Adoption

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong Cryptocurrency 2019

Brian Armstrong, CEO of popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and long-time Bitcoin proponent, has issued a list of what he believes cryptocurrency needs to accomplish in order to reach mass adoption.

Speaking in 45-minute Ask Me Anything (AMA) session published to YouTube on April 2nd, the CEO outlined three things that are paramount to both crypto and Bitcoin growth: volatility, scalability and usability. While Armstrong answered a number of community-submitted questions, the first and most pressing appeared to be what the industry needed to achieve mass adoption–a breakthrough that many believe to be the most sustainable route for digital asset growth.

According to Armstrong, adoption for the industry is largely being titrated through the interplay of volatility, scalability and usability–with all three currently lagging behind what would be needed to accomplish widespread adoption.

Price volatility has been a primary concern over the past year, since Bitcoin prices skyrocketed to $20,000 before plummeting to $3000. It is arguable that the extreme volatility for crypto has been the catalyst for interest into stablecoins since 2018. Compared to traditional cryptos, stablecoins provide the benefits of digital assets and alternative currencies while minimizing the risk of investment.

However, the rise in stablecoins has led to an erosion in development interest for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Investors may flock to crypto during times of bullish market behavior, but the subsequent downturn, or intermittent volatility is driving a trend towards price-stable cryptos. Armstrong highlights the rising class of stablecoins as a solution for the volatility, even at the expense of other digital assets, for providing a risk-averse alternative to interested parties.

Unsuprisingly, scalability continues to be a major issue for cryptocurrency into 2019. While coin prices may have over-extended investor expectation in early 2018, top cryptocurrency networks such as Bitcoin and Ethereum ground to a half during the massive bull run. Armstrong points to Lightning Network and the necessity of getting it operational as a priority for cryptocurrencies handling the scale of transaction required to rival a Visa or Paypal.

Finally, Armstrong criticizes the current usability of cryptocurrency, finding fault in how difficult it is to participate in the process of transferring currencies and investing. He finds the current setup to involve unnecessary steps, and instead looks to retail models such as the Chinese application WeChat as a model to be followed. The barrier for investing into cryptocurrency or buying digital currencies should be no more difficult than sending a text message, which would allow users the flexibility of paying in cryptocurrency instead of making it a burden.

Interestingly, Armstrong also took time to comment upon his relationship with Bitcoin, which has been well-documented. Coinbase’s CEO made no effort to backtrack his admiration for the original cryptocurrency, but admitted his actions became too involved in the growth of BTC around the middle of the decade. Instead, he turned his attention to the promotion of all cryptocurrencies, which led Coinbase to become a portal for the purchase of more than just Bitcoin.

The post Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong: Cryptocurrency Needs 3 Things for Mass Adoption appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Coinbase CEO Names Three Things Crypto Needs for Mass Adoption

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong believes that in order to attract more investors cryptocurrencies need to be stable, fast and user friendly.

Brian Armstrong, CEO of major United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, believes that crypto mass adoption mostly depends on volatility, scalability and usability. Armstrong made his claim during a live ask-me-anything (AMA) session on April 2.

Armstrong ran the 45-minute AMA on Tuesday, answering selected questions submitted by the crypto community. Addressing the first question, on the potential for mass crypto adoption, Coinbase’s CEO said that a cryptocurrency can achieve mass adoption by improving scalability and usability, while reducing volatility.

As per volatility, if the crypto markets keep swinging dramatically, it will be hard to get more traditional investors involved, Armstrong said. Thus the industry needs more stable prices, achieved, for example, via stablecoins, and more use cases to attract people, he concluded.

Armstrong further added that there are currently up to ten teams working on scalability solutions, such as the Lightning Network, to improve the speed of crypto transactions. Thanks to the development of these solutions, cryptocurrencies might reach 500 to 5000 transactions per second and start working at Visa and PayPal volumes.

Usability also needs to be improved, Armstrong continued. He argued that currently there are too many steps a user needs to make in order to invest in cryptocurrencies. Armstrong suggested crypto investment for retail investors should work much easily, using popular Chinese app WeChat as an example of usability.

Armstrong also commented on recent skepticism towards Coinbase in the community, evidently referring to the most recent #DeleteCoinbase movement as an example. The campaign was launched in early March as a response to Coinbase’s acquisition of a firm run by former spyware developers.

Answering another question, the entrepreneur said he loves Bitcoin (BTC) and wants it to succeed. However, he regrets being too involved in promoting BTC at some point in 2013-2014, thinking that the coin could become a scalable payment network for everyone. “I totally underestimated how controversial this idea might become in BTC community,” he confessed.

As some accused him of adding the value to the coin, Armstrong finally changed his mind to being agnostic to all of the coins and crypto protocols and support them all. Coinbase decided to support everyone instead of picking the winners, he said.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Armstrong has repeatedly acknowledged his affection towards BTC. For instance, in a series of tweets commemorating on the coin’s 10th birthday this year, Armstrong wrote that BTC was his “first love.”

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Coinbase CEO: A Billion People Will Be Using Crypto in Five Years

Confidence in crypto may be at a low point for the year but some believe we are only at the beginning and adoption will inevitably grow substantially over the next five years.

In an interview with TechCrunch Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong outlined his vision for the company and the future of the crypto industry. In that future he sees the company operating in a similar way to the New York Stock Exchange hosting a growing number of altcoins and becoming the standard for companies to create their own tokens. He stated;

“It makes sense that any company out there who has a cap table… should have their own token. Every open source project, every charity, potentially every fund or these new types of decentralized organizations [and] apps, they’re all going to have their own tokens. We want to be the bridge all over the world where people come and they take fiat currency and they can get it into these different cryptocurrencies,”

Coinbase could be host to hundreds of tokens in the near future and potentially millions looking even further ahead. Today it only supports five but the addition of new ones would obviously give them a price pump that is desperately needed in the current market climate.

Regulation is currently the hurdle preventing US companies taking full advantage of this embryonic industry. Coinbase’s billion dollar value is evidently the exception to this notion as the firm goes from strength to strength. The question over whether cryptos will be considered as securities is still a concern, one which Coinbase has already addressed with the acquisition of a securities dealer earlier this year.

“We do feel a substantial subset of these tokens will be securities. Our approach has always been to be the most trusted [exchange] and the easiest to use. So we want to be the legal compliant place where you can start to trade these tokens that are classified as securities.” Armstrong added.

He also made the internet comparison by stating that Web 1.0 was all about publishing information, Web 2.0 interaction, and Web 3.0 will be about value transfer. “Web 3.0 is going to be about value transfer on the internet because now the web has this native currency and so applications can be built that instantly tap into this global economy on the internet,” he added.

When asked about crypto adoption the exchange boss remained bullish claiming that the total number of people in the crypto ecosystem can reach a billion within the next five years. It is currently estimated at around 40 million today.

The post Coinbase CEO: A Billion People Will Be Using Crypto in Five Years appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Coinbase Isn’t Adding 50k Users Each Day, But Blockchain’s Wallet Is

Earlier this week, Ethereum World News reported that Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong explained in an interview that his cryptocurrency platform was receiving an influx of “more than 50,000 (people) a day signing up.” Many individuals saw this as a bullish sign, with many noting that this figure indicates that the market is continuing to garner the interest of individuals, despite the overall downtrend in prices.

Although many saw this proclamation from Coinbase’s CEO as a matter of fact, including Bloomberg reporters, who originally broke the topic, it was later clarified that the 50k/Day figure only applied during 2017’s astounding bull-run, where Bitcoin’s price rose by over ten-fold.

As such, skeptics thought that adoption rates of cryptocurrencies would be down across the board, but according to a tweet from Peter Smith, the CEO of the Blockchain crypto/blockchain infrastructure firm, this may not be the case.

In fact, Smith writes that Blockchain is the one who is signing up 50,000 users per day, not Coinbase. He writes:

CORRECTION: It’s actually *Blockchain* signing up over 50,000 per day in the midst of this crypto downturn. It’s delightful to see new entrants actually interested in *using* crypto. (Hi )

While this figure had some cryptocurrency proponents over the moon, some were critical that Peter Smith might have been ‘overhyping’ this figure. One Twitter user wrote that Smith may mean 50,000 new wallets each day, which is a far cry from 50,000 ‘fresh meat’ signups each day. While another critic pointed out how Blockchain doesn’t currently support a fiat on-ramp for retail investors, making such a growth statistic note entirely relevant.

Nonetheless, this statistic, regardless of how some see it, still shows that this nascent industry is alive and kicking, even after a dismal 70% decline.

Blockchain’s CEO Remains As Bullish As Ever

Although Smith may have received some flak over the aforementioned Tweet, the Blockchain executive remains as bullish as ever. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Blockchain’s CEO commented on the future of this market, in terms of price actions and fundamental indicators. Firstly, the long-time crypto proponent spoke about the value of Bitcoin, noting that the market could enter a consolidation phase within the third and fourth quarter of this year. He elaborated, drawing attention to previous ‘cycles,’ stating:

“I think over the past couple of years we’ve seen a lot of really rapid increases, and really rapid decreases, then a sort of a slow consolidation of the market. I think we are seeing another slow consolidation in the market now and we are likely to see a very sort of moderate or positive price consolidation over the next quarter.”

Speaking more on this prediction, Smith cited reasons of higher levels of regulatory clarity, which was brought about by the countless developments made over the past year as Bitcoin made a foray into the mainstream.

Secondly, the CEO of Blockchain brought attention to the current dynamic between institutional and retail investors in this fledgling market. Smith noted that the institutional “order flow” has begun to increase, with retail interest starting to die down. Although institutions are starting to show interest, he closed out this segment noting that the market will not experience the full effect of this influx of investment until mid-2019. As Peter Smith has continually noted, it may be a few years before cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology replace the legacy systems that are used by billions across the world.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


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Market Woes No Concern For Coinbase With 50k Daily Signups

Cryptocurrency markets have rebounded a little today following a week of heavy losses. Those in the industry are unfazed though as exchange giants such as Coinbase continue to grow at a staggering pace.

At an interview at the Bloomberg Players Technology Summit in San Francisco Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said that the exchange was signing up 50,000 new users last year. His comments during the interview were still extremely positive in an environment where market sentiment has been bearish all year.

As one of the world’s leading crypto exchanges with 25 million customers Coinbase can be considered a good indicator of the overall condition of the industry and its future. Looking at the exponential growth that the company has had over the past few years is a testament to that. Armstrong elaborated stating;

“This technology is going through a series of bubbles and corrections. So we’ve actually been through four or five of them now where Bitcoin made this big run up in price and there was irrational exuberance, and then it corrected back 60 or 70 percent. Each time it has done that it has reached a new plateau which has kind of matched the growth of the company. If you go back to 2012-13 when we started, we had 500 people a day signing up. After the next bubble and correction, we had 5,000 people a day sign up, and now it’s more like 50,000 a day signing up.”

He also compared things to the start of the internet when companies came and went as fast as cryptos appear to be doing today. When questioned about the SEC he said the scrutiny was justified and that they have been good to work with in weeding out bad actors while approving genuine operators.

Ethereum co-founder, Joseph Lubin, meanwhile has attributed the current market volatility purely to speculation. In a Bloomberg interview he stated;

“We’ve seen six big bubbles, each more epic than the previous one, and each bubble is astonishing when they’re happening but when you look back they look like pimples on a chart,” before adding “With each of these bubbles we have a tremendous surge of activity and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”

Lubin continued to say that traders are causing the price spikes and dips but developer activity has increased by two orders of magnitude since last year’s peak. He is not concerned about the current market slump affecting the growth of the ecosystem and its adoption and neither, evidently, is Coinbase boss Armstrong.


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Coinbase Taps Amazon Web Services Vet as Engineering VP

Cryptocurrency exchange startup Coinbase has hired Amazon Web Services veteran Tim Wagner as its new vice president of engineering.

Wagner was with AWS for five years, serving as a general manager and overseeing its API gateway, as well as various serverless services. Prior to that, he spent six years at Microsoft as director of development for Visual Studio Ultimate.

The development continues Coinbase’s 2018 hiring spree. Since the start of the year, the company has hired Tina Bhatnagar to serve as vice president of operations and technology; Emilie Choi as its vice president of corporate and business development; Eric Soto as vice president of finance; Rachael Horwitz as vice president of communications; Alesia Haas as its new chief financial officer; and Jeff Horowitz as its chief compliance officer, among others.

With Wagner, Coinbase is beefing up its engineering team, which the AWS vet will help grow, according to Coinbase.

“Engineering is central to our mission of creating an open financial system for the world. It is core to our strategy to deliver the most trusted and easiest to use cryptocurrency products and services. We have built an amazing engineering team at a Coinbase, one which Tim will now lead and expand,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a blog post announcing the hire. 

Brian Armstrong and Tim Wagner image courtesy Coinbase

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Who Are the Brightest Minds in Crypto Featured Among Fortune’s ‘40 Under 40’

The world of finance is driven by some of the greatest minds out there, but every year we see new faces pop up on the list of the industry’s most influential.

This month, Fortune released their list of ‘40 under 40,’ a compendium of the most influential figures in the global business space.

The usual suspects featured in this awe-inspiring group include Instagram’s co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and AirBNB co-founder Brian Chesky, to name but a few.

The list also features prominent leaders of some of the world’s biggest enterprises, such as Dhivya Suryadevara, who is the chief financial officer of General Motors. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is also a notable inclusion, highlighting the diverse makeup of figures under the age of 40 making a difference in the world.

This does not exclude the expanding influence that cryptocurrencies are having around the world.

Not one, but five prominent names from the crypto world graced this auspicious list of influencers, and their work in the space has clearly exceeded the bounds of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin, Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong, Telegram founder Pavel Durov and Robinhood co-founders Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev cracked the nod, and here’s a look at their respective journeys into the world of cryptocurrency and the effect they are now having on a global scale.

Vitalik Buterin

Crypto net worth: $400-500 million

Other accolades: Forbes’ Richest in Cryptocurrency, Forbes’ 30 Under 30

Vitalik Buterin is one of the most prominent figures in the cryptocurrency industry. It is at just 24 years old that he invented Ethereum, which has become the second largest cryptocurrency in the world by market volume.

While Bitcoin still reigns supreme as both the most widely used and most valuable cryptocurrency in the world, Ethereum has emerged as a leader in its own right — a blockchain platform that allows the development of decentralized applications.

Buterin’s journey into the world of cryptocurrency could be attributed to his upbringing — with his father, Dmitry Buterin, a computer programmer, credited with introducing Vitalik to Bitcoin when he was 17.

Having taken an interest in the subject, Buterin began writing about Bitcoin for online blogs before he eventually got the opportunity to launch Bitcoin Magazine alongside Mihai Alisie in 2011.

According to Wired, a trip to a cryptocurrency conference in 2013 — organized by the Winklevoss twins — provided the impetus for Buterin to explore the possibility of creating a blockchain platform that answered the many layers people were trying to build on top of Bitcoin.

Buterin told the publication that the situation needed to be rectified in a different way:

“I discovered that they were doing this sort of Swiss Army knife-approach of supporting 15 different features and doing it in a very limited way.”

Buterin then spent six months travelling around the world, picking the brains of people doing their utmost to improve on Bitcoin’s capabilities. Once he’d completed his research, Buterin returned home and wrote the Ethereum white paper, which was published at the end of 2013.

As Buterin told Wired, the community reacted in a way he had not anticipated.

“When I came up with Ethereum, my first first thought was, okay this thing is too good to be true and I’m going to have five professional cryptographers raining down on me and telling me how stupid I am for not seeing a bunch of very obvious flaws. Two weeks later, I was extremely surprised that none of that happened. As it turned out, the core Ethereum idea was good, fundamentally, completely, sound.”

While it hasn’t been smooth sailing, Ethereum has become a revolutionary blockchain platform in its own right, going far and beyond the mainly transactional capabilities of Bitcoin.

The platform is now maintained by the Ethereum Foundation, while Buterin heads up the research team that is actively involved in the maintenance and the development of the future of the platform.

Brian Armstrong

Crypto net worth: $900 million

Other accolades: Forbes’ Richest in Cryptocurrency

At 35-years-old, Brian Armstrong has also made waves in the cryptocurrency industry and the broader financial industry as a result.

Having completed three degrees from Rice University — i.e., a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a bachelor’s in economics and a master’s in computer science — Armstrong cut his teeth as a developer for some top-notch companies.

Armstrong served as an intern at IBM in 2003, before working as an enterprise risk management consultant at Deloitte. From 2003 to 2012, he founded and acted as CEO of University Tutor — a platform that links students with tutors in their area.

In 2011, Armstrong joined AirBNB as a software engineer and, a year later, in June 2012, he founded Coinbase. From its humble beginnings in 2012, Coinbase now has a global user base of over 20 million people and has facilitated $150 billion worth of cryptocurrency trades.

Hailed as the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in America and one of the most well-known in the world, Armstrong is directly responsible for millions of people being introduced to cryptocurrencies.

His company has since been labelled a ‘unicorn’ of the crypto industry, having raised $100 million in series D funding in August 2017 and being valued at around $1.6 billion.

Pavel Durov

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Known as the ‘Mark Zuckerberg of Russia,’ Pavel Durov is famous for creating Russian social networking site Vkontakte alongside his brother Nikolai. The brothers founded the platform in 2005 — with Pavel aged 22 — and it quickly became Russia’s most used social networking site. As of July 2018, the platform has nearly 500 million users.  

Durov was effectively forced out of VK’s management in 2014, due to ownership issues and pressures from the Russian government to submit user data and control content. He’d previously sold a 12 percent stake in VK for an estimated $300 million — that gave Russian internet company a majority ownership of the company.

That led to Durov not only leaving the company, but departing Russia with ‘no plans to return.’ However, it also provided him the freedom to develop Telegram. The free-to-use, privacy-focused messaging application has exploded, with over 200 million users as of March 2018. It was the first messaging app to have end-to-end encryption when it was launched in 2013.

Durov’s application has revolutionized the messaging app space due to its commitment to privacy for its users. This hasn’t gone over well with some of the world’s biggest countries — with Iran, China and Russia making moves to block the app within their borders.

Durov has gone as far as to incentivize internet service providers in his Telegram channel to work around these bans by setting up Bitcoin grants as a reward for setting up virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep users connected.

That hasn’t stopped Telegram’s emphatic growth, and interest in the platform has grown exponentially since plans to launch the Telegram Open Network (TON) came to light in early 2018.

Two rounds of a private ICO — that was registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision — raised $850 million each, netting a whopping $1.7 billion.

Durov has become an important figure in fighting against pervasive government policies, and he’s leading the way in providing a platform where people can communicate freely, with the knowledge that their everyday conversations are safe from surveillance — by governments or nefarious organizations.

In a post in March 2018, Durov reaffirmed Telegram’s promise to its users to never compromise their privacy, given that the company is not beholden to shareholders, advertisers, governments or global institutions:

“Above all, we at Telegram believe in people. We believe that humans are inherently intelligent and benevolent beings that deserve to be trusted; trusted with freedom to share their thoughts, freedom to communicate privately, freedom to create tools. This philosophy defines everything we do.”

Baiju Bhatt & Vlad Tenev

Net worth: $1 billion each (source)

This duo is being lumped together for the pure fact that they’re responsible for launching Robinhood, a zero-fee stock trading app.

Both Bhatt and Tenev are graduates of Stanford, where their friendship and business partnership was founded. Bhatt has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in mathematics, while Tenev has both an bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics.

Bhatt and Tenev founded Robinhood in 2012, whose flagship offering was zero-fee trading on traditional stock markets.

It wasn’t until 2018 that the startup launched a zero-fee cryptocurrency trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum. At the time, Tenev told Techcrunch that the support of cryptocurrency trading was an innovation that was aimed at improving their customers’ experience:

“We’re planning to operate this business on break-even basics and we don’t plan to profit from it for the foreseeable future. The value of Robinhood Crypto is in growing our customer base and better serving our existing customers.”

Nevertheless, Robinhood has definitely made its mark on the cryptocurrency exchange space, muscling its way into the industry and challenging the conventional trading fees charged by most other exchanges.

Their exploits have been met with plenty of support from investors in the cryptocurrency industry. A series D fundraising round netted $363 million to further the expansion of the Robinhood Crypto trading platform around the U.S. The company is valued at over $5.6 billion — making it the second most valuable tech startup in the country, only after Stripeaccording to Fortune.  

The Robinhood founders seem pretty intent on challenging the status quo of conventional financial trading platforms. Bhatt told the publication that users should never expect the platform to change it’s zero-fee policy:

“We plan on continuing to offer these services for free. There’s no real scenario where we would change that at all. I think we’re pretty relentlessly focused on our mission of making the markets and the financial services system more accessible to the broader population, and that’s a pretty good North Star for us.”

A sign of things to come

These five figures have left indelible marks on the cryptocurrency space for widely different reasons. However, their collective efforts have put them among an elite list of business leaders from around the world.

Their technological prowess, coupled with innovative ideas and progressive ideologies, highlight the power and potential of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

They have also blazed a trail for others to follow, challenging young creative minds to think of new ways to innovate and change the world — from finance to politics.

The prominence of cryptocurrencies has even led to Forbes creating its very own Richest in Cryptocurrency list. Among the names mentioned, it includes Binance CEO and founder Changpeng Zhao, Bitcoin foundation chairman Brock Pierce, as well as Armstrong and Buterin.

It won’t be surprising to see more cryptocurrency and blockchain figures feature among these mainstream benchmarks in the years to come.