- The meteoric growth of Bitcoin and the crypto industry as a whole has seen several early adopters attain billionaire status.
- Following Bitcoin's late 2020 price surge, the Winklevoss twins have reportedly rejoined the list of known Bitcoin billionaires.
- By some estimates, Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto may eclipse them all, with a whopping $16 billion fortune.
Since Bitcoin kickstarted the cryptocurrency revolution in 2009, the crypto space has grown dramatically; Bitcoin alone has reached a market capitalization of over $199 billion, while more than twenty other digital assets have achieved a market cap of more than $1 billion.
As a result of this staggering growth, a number of early adopters, pioneers and builders have become billionaires, joining the ranks of the world's wealthiest individuals. However, due to the volatility of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, any wealth held in crypto assets can fluctuate wildly—making it difficult to pin down exactly who is a billionaire at any one time.
The years-long bear market has dented the ranks of the Bitcoin ultra-wealthy; despite strong growth in the crypto market since the start of the year, there are just half as many known billionaires today as there were in Forbes' 2018 Richest People In Cryptocurrency list.
There are also likely a handful of anonymous Bitcoin billionaires out there; as of November 2020, there are seven individual Bitcoin addresses holding more than a billion dollars, according to BitInfoCharts, two of which are cold wallets belonging to the Binance and Huobi crypto exchanges.
Of course, it's likely that savvy Bitcoin billionaires have split their holdings up among multiple addresses, as the Winklevoss twins are known to have done.
Of course, with recent reports that Bitcoin improves a portfolio's performance it's likely that there are other billionaires who own Bitcoin beyond the ones who got rich off it—but we're specifically looking at those who made their fortunes from the cryptocurrency.
The known cryptocurrency billionaires haven't just speculated; they're also active in the crypto business space, having founded major crypto companies or exchange platforms.
5. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss
The Winklevoss twins, founders of crypto exchange Gemini, are reportedly back in the Bitcoin billionaire list as of November 2020. With the price of Bitcoin more than doubling over the course of 2020 to over $15,000, the pair have gone from being worth a combined $1.45 billion to approximately $1 billion each, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The twins, models of discretion, declined to comment on their wealth to Bloomberg.
Nevertheless, it's good timing for the Winklevoss twins, who are set to be the subject of a film titled Bitcoin Billionaires. Based on the book by Ben Mezrich, author of The Accidental Billionaires (later filmed as The Social Network), the film will chart how the twins used money from a settlement with Facebook to become early investors in Bitcoin.
4. Brian Armstrong
37-year-old Brian Armstrong is currently the youngest known cryptocurrency billionaire. He first made his entry into the world of cryptocurrency back in 2012, after co-founding the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
The exchange is currently valued at up to $10 billion, making it one of the most successful crypto companies to date. Armstrong currently occupies position #1990 on Forbes Billionaires 2020 list, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion.
3. Changpeng Zhao
As the founder and CEO of Binance, currently the world's most popular cryptocurrency spot trading platform, Changpeng Zhao has managed to amass an impressive fortune since the exchange launched in 2017.
Zhao now sits on a fortune worth an estimated $1.2 billion, the majority of which is likely formed from cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the native Binance utility coin—Binance Coin (BNB).
2. Chris Larsen
The second wealthiest crypto pioneer is Chris Larsen, a renowned business executive credited with co-founding Ripple—a blockchain-based remittance and payment settlement system that uses XRP for cross-border transactions.
Before creating Ripple, Larsen also co-founded several other multi-million dollar companies, but these only contributed to a tiny fraction of his current $2.6 billion fortune.
1. Micree Zhan
Despite being arguably the least-known name on this list, Micree Zhan is by far the wealthiest, having amassed a cool $3.2 billion net worth as of November 2020. Zhan is an electronics engineer and the co-founder of Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain.
The company has recently been the subject of a dispute between Zhan and fellow co-founder Jihan Wu, which saw Zhan hiring a squad of armed guards to forcefully seize control of the company after being ousted last October.
Honorable Mention: Satoshi Nakamoto
It should come as no surprise that the anonymous founder of Bitcoin is also one of its biggest holders. According to a 2013 analysis by RSK labs co-founder Sergio Demian Lerner, Satoshi Nakamoto could have as much as 1.1 million Bitcoin stashed away.
At the current Bitcoin price of around $15,360, that would make Satoshi worth $16.89 billion—far more than everyone else on this list combined. And so far, Satoshi hasn't moved a single cent, leading some to speculate that he (or she, or they) may have met an untimely end.