The cryptocurrency industry has come a long way since a pseudonymous genius known as Satoshi authored the Bitcoin whitepaper, changing the world as we know it forevermore. And if you thought the 2010s were a crazy decade, the 2020s are set to be even wilder.
From dipping below $4k in March ‘20 to charging past $63k little over a year later, and subsequently tumbling amid a bear market, digital gold has remained the industry’s White Whale, captivating, bewildering and exasperating a legion of investors. These days though, the industry’s much bigger than BTC. It’s a fast-growing, always-moving ecosystem that encompasses endless altcoins and dazzling metaverses, lucrative DeFi protocols and gamified NFTs. Pronounced dead more times than Rasputin, it’s an industry that just keeps truckin’.
With so much going on, keeping one’s finger on the pulse can be a full-time job. Which is why it pays to monitor the activities of the industry’s movers and shakers, the key investors and influencers who almost always seem to be ahead of the curve. Whatever happens in crypto between now and 2030, we’re betting the following pioneers will be at the forefront.
1. Charles Read, Web3 Investor
The co-founder of crypto-focused VC fund Rarestone Capital, Charles Read is across the web3 space in a major way, from bootstrapping promising blockchain gaming ventures like Alien Worlds and FOAD to buying up exclusive NFTs from Mike Tyson and DJ Premier. An avid gamer and crypto-art collector, 28-year-old Read is currently developing his own podcast and will be the subject of an upcoming documentary about the world of web3.
2. Cobie, Trader/Influencer
Cobie (formerly Crypto Cobie) is one of the biggest personalities on Crypto Twitter. A major league bag holder, arch memelord, and insightful analyst/commentator, he also co-hosts the UpOnly podcast series alongside good pal Ledger (Vitalik Buterin was a recent guest). A font of knowledge with a wicked sense of humour, Cobie will amass a million followers this decade (current number: 723k) irrespective of the industry’s performance.
3. Banteg, Yearn Finance OG
One of the few DeFi influencers who hasn’t sold their soul, Banteg has yet to be caught shilling vaporware or promoting dubious ponzis. After making his name with Yearn Finance, the pseud-anon has demonstrated a penchant for decoding onchain data and reading the tea leaves swirling around the ETH merger. As opinionated as he is principled, Banteg is that rare thing: a flickering flame of hope that suggests DeFi hasn’t lost its way.
4. Elena Nadolinski, Iron Fish Founder
Given authorities’ ongoing assault on privacy (see the recent Tornado Cash sanctions), the founder of decentralised privacy platform Iron Fish, will have her work cut out in the years ahead. Thankfully, the Russia-born Elena Nadolinski is committed to countering the hawkish actions of our surveillance-obsessed overlords – and for that we should be thankful. A software developer and engineer by trade, Elena was recently recognised for her talents with a berth on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.
5. Hasu, Angel Investor
A prolific investor, researcher, writer and podcast host (Uncommon Core), Hasu is one of CT’s most technically-minded accounts: a guy who can wax lyrical about liquid staking, block subsidies, MEV, EIPs and everything in between. Currently working as a Strategy Lead for research and development org Flashbots, with a research side-hustle for web3 investor Paradigm, Hasu appears destined to be in the thick of things as the 2020s wears on.
6. Martin Köppelmann, Gnosis CEO
As the founder and figurehead of decentralised prediction market platform Gnosis, the first dApp to go live on Ethereum, Martin Köppelmann wields enormous influence in the cryptosphere. He is also heavily involved in the blockchain-based Universal Basic Income (UBI) project Circles, which aims to evolve into a “living democratic economy.” Köppelmann recently predicted that price-finding for global forex markets, including the Ruble, Yuan, and Rupee, will happen on Ethereum. Whether that forecast comes to pass, Köppelmann’s always worth listening to.
7. Agustin Mendez, Decentraland CTO
Virtual playground Decentraland was one of the prime movers in the metaverse space, and with a patch of real estate selling for $2.4m last year, many investors believe it has the legs to keep on running. As the platform’s Chief Technology Officer, and having worked on the project since 2018, Agustin Mendez will be a major taste-maker as the metaverse matures. The programmer might maintain a low profile on socials, but he could just be our best hope of seeing off Meta/Facebook’s plans for VR domination.
8. Pentoshi, Trader
The market analyst and trader who goes by the pseudonymous moniker Pentoshi must be doing something right: he has amassed nearly 600k followers in just three years, many of whom depend on him for sage portfolio advice. A team member of the web3-focused Merit Circle DAO, Pentoshi made headlines in 2021 after revealing that he’d sold the Bitcoin top in April, cementing his status as a cool head in a hot kitchen.
9. Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs CEO
Elizabeth Stark is the big boss at Bitcoin scaling layer Lightning Labs, and with scaling being the complaint most often lobbed at crypto’s dominant digital asset, she has a massive role to play in the future of the currency. Earlier this year, the California-based firm she heads up raised $70m in a funding round led by Valor Equity Partners and Baillie Gifford, as it seeks to turn Bitcoin into a network capable of transacting billions in volume each year. If you’re not already following Stark, what are you even doing?
10. Benyamin Ahmed, NFT Wunderkind
Benyamin Ahmed earns a berth on this list by dint of becoming a millionaire before hitting his teens. The 12-year-old’s entrepreneurial moxie shone through when he created a range of Minecraft characters then put them up for sale on OpenSea. Though that venture proved a nonstarter, the school kid soon moved onto a new project: Weird Whales. These nifty NFTs sold like hot cakes, with Benyamin’s first drop netting him $160k. A talented computer programmer, he’s already lectured on NFTs at Oxford University.
What do you think: will these ten figures be the decade’s trend setters? Or have we failed to pay homage to a trailblazer that casts a shadow over all of them? Have your say in the comments below.