The cryptocurrency industry has broken into the modern economy and is becoming harder to resist by the day. Within the past year, the crypto markets have gone from $315 billion to over $2 trillion in valuation.
This decentralised financial system has helped several people gain financial freedom. Data from Forbes’ 2021 billionaires list reveals that there are 12 crypto billionaires, up from just four last year.
Apart from these individual billionaires, the cryptocurrency market has seen an influx of institutional investors who are looking to grow their wealth in the cryptocurrency market as a hedge against the global inflation crisis. Companies such as MicroStrategy, Square and Tesla are putting Bitcoin on their balance sheets at an accelerating rate and with on-chain analytics data suggesting a net accumulation for Bitcoin, it can be inferred that more institutions are investing in the space.
Central Banks around the globe are now looking into digital versions of their currency in other to keep up with the ever-evolving digital world. They are well known as Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). Nigeria plans to run a pilot program of its CBDC, known as the e-Naira, on Independence Day, the 1st of October 2021.
Here are the top 3 billionaires who made their fortunes from cryptocurrencies:
3. Chris Larsen – $3.4 billion
Chris Larsen is a co-founder and chairman of Ripple, created in 2012 to facilitate international payments for banks using blockchain technology. Ripple’s native token XRP is the 6th most valuable cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $51.3 billion.
Larsen was born 1960 in San Francisco, California. He attended San Francisco State University, where he earned a degree in International Business and Accounting in 1984. He began working for Chevron after college, doing financial audits in Brazil, Ecuador, and Indonesia. He graduated with an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1991.
He is a business executive and angel investor best known for co-founding several Silicon Valley technology startups, including one based on peer-to-peer lending. In 1996, he co-founded the online mortgage lender E-Loan and during his tenure as CEO, E-Loan became the first company to freely provide consumers’ FICO credit scores.
By 2000, E-Loan’s market value was estimated at $1 billion. In 2005, Larsen left the company when it was sold to Banco Popular. In 2006, he co-founded Prosper Marketplace and he served as CEO until 2012. Later in 2012, he co-founded the company Ripple Labs, Inc., which developed Ripple and its native token XRP.
Ripple is software that enables the instant and direct transfer of money between two parties. Ripple counts American Express and Santander among its 100-plus customers.
Larsen stepped down as Ripple CEO in December 2016 but remains Executive Chairman. He holds over 3 billion XRP tokens and a 17% stake in Ripple Labs. XRP currently trades at $1.07 as of the time of this writing.
2. Brian Armstrong – $6.5 billion
Brian Armstrong is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Coinbase Global, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States and the only cryptocurrency exchange to be listed on the NASDAQ exchange. He was formerly an AirBnB software engineer.
He was born on January 25, 1983, near San Jose, California. He attended Rice University in Texas and earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and Computer Science in 2005, followed by a master’s in Computer Science in 2006.
Armstrong cofounded Coinbase in San Francisco in 2012 with former currency trader, Fred Ehrsam. He owns a stake of about 19% in Coinbase and when the company got listed on the NASDAQ, its market capitalization briefly hit $100 billion. His wealth majorly comes from his Coinbase equity. COIN is currently trading at $243.21 as of the time of this writing. Armstrong is ranked #404 on Forbes’ billionaires’ list.
1. Sam Bankman-Fried – $8.7 billion
Sam Bankman-Fried is the founder and CEO of FTX cryptocurrency exchange. He also manages $2.5 billion worth of digital assets through Alameda Research, a quantitative cryptocurrency trading firm he founded in October 2017. He was born in 1992 in Stanford, California. From 2010 to 2014, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2014, he graduated with a degree in physics.
He started his career at Jane Street Capital, a proprietary trading firm. Afterwards, in October 2017, he founded Alameda Research, a quantitative trading firm. In April of 2019, he founded FTX, a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange. As of 2021, FTX owns approximately 90% of Alameda Research.
Sam Bankman-Fried made headlines when he was named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Finance list in 2021. He also made headlines in 2020 with his $5 million donations to a super-PAC that supported Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, making him one of the president’s biggest donors.
Most of his wealth is in FTX’s equity and the native token of the FTX exchange FTT, which currently trades at $62.52 as of the time of this writing. He is ranked #274 on Forbes’ billionaires’ list.