In brief

  • 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 $40 billion fortune.

Since Bitcoin kickstarted the cryptocurrency revolution in 2009, the crypto space has grown dramatically. In the recent bull run, which saw Bitcoin's price reach a high of nearly $42,000, Bitcoin alone has reached a market capitalization of over $692 billion (peaking at over $758 billion). More than thirty 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.

There are also likely a handful of anonymous Bitcoin billionaires out there; as of January 2021, there are 25 individual Bitcoin addresses holding more than a billion dollars, according to BitInfoCharts. Of those, five belong to crypto exchanges: CoinCheck, Bittrex, Binance, Bitfinex and Huobi.

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. 

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 focusing on those who've 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. 

8.
8.
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss

Winklevoss-led crypto custodian Gemini Custody announced today that it will allow customers to store Filecoin when the network is ready.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are big into Bitcoin. Image: Shutterstock

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 surging in the recent bull run to over $37,000, the pair have gone from being worth a combined $1.45 billion to approximately $1.4 billion each, according to Forbes. The twins, models of discretion, haven't commented on their newfound wealth.

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.

7.
7.
Matthew Roszak

The co-founder of blockchain infrastructure provider Bloq, Matthew Roszak was an early convert to the world of cryptocurrency, buying his first Bitcoin in 2012. Now, his crypto net worth is estimated to be around $1.2 billion, according to Forbes—up from around $300 million in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, he's an enthusiastic advocate of Bitcoin, describing it as "one of the greatest technological, financial, industrial and humanitarian inventions of our time."

6.
6.
Brian Armstrong

Brian Armstrong, CEO de Coinbase. Imagen: Coinbase
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong. Image: Coinbase

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 the Forbes Billionaires 2020 list, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion.

5.
5.
Tim Draper

Tim Draper
Tim Draper, founding partner of venture capital firm Draper Goren Holm (Image: JD Lasica)

Tim Draper was already well-known as an investor with the golden touch, having bought into the likes of Hotmail, Baidu, Skype and Tesla in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Then, in 2014, he scooped up nearly 30,000 Bitcoin in a sale arranged by the US Marshals Service to auction off the assets of the Silk Road dark web marketplace. It's proven to be one of his cannier investments; at the time of the auction, he paid $632 per Bitcoin; now the price of Bitcoin has ballooned to over $37,000, and his crypto stash is worth an estimated $1.1 billion.

Still, Draper thinks there's room for Bitcoin to grow. In December 2019, he claimed that Bitcoin would be worth $250,000 in 2022. Assuming he's held on to all his Bitcoin from the Silk Road auction, that would make Draper's holdings worth an eye-watering $7.4 billion.

In December 2020, he reiterated his view that Bitcoin would go up "tenX" from its then-current price of around $25,000, "by end of 2022 or early 2023." The clock is ticking.

4.
4.
Changpeng Zhao

Changpeng Zhao sitting on a sofa
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao. Image: Decrypt

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 as of April 2019, the last authoritative measure of his wealth. The majority of it is likely formed from cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the native Binance utility coin—Binance Coin (BNB).

Given that the price of all of those crypto assets has surged since then, it's likely he's worth significantly more now, assuming he's taken his own advice and HODLed. 

3.
3.
Michael Saylor

Michael Saylor MicroStrategy CEO
Michael Saylor MicroStrategy CEO, pre-Bitcoin. Image: Michael.com

Okay, we'll admit this one's a bit of a stretch. While MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor only holds an estimated $600 million in cryptocurrency, he also holds a $1.2 billion stake in MicroStrategy, which has been buying up Bitcoin at a frantic pace over the last year. So you could make a case that $1.8 billion of his fortune is dependent on cryptocurrency.

Saylor is something of a late convert to Bitcoin, having dismissed it back in 2013 (at the time, he said its days were "numbered"). Since then, he's become something of a Bitcoin zealot. As well as overseeing MicroStrategy's Bitcoin buys, which amounted to $1,000 a second at one point, he's memorably described the cryptocurrency as "a swarm of cyber hornets serving the goddess of wisdom."

2.
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 $2.7 billion fortune.

Larsen has recently been in the headlines for a less cheerful reason, however; the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought a $1.3 billion lawsuit against Ripple, its CEO Brad Garlinghouse and Larsen, in his capacity as Executive Chairman of Ripple. The suit alleges that Ripple engaged in unregistered securities sales of the XRP cryptocurrency; exchanges raced to delist XRP, while its market cap plummeted.

1.
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 January 2021. Zhan is an electronics engineer and the co-founder of Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain.

The company was recently the subject of a dispute between Zhan and fellow co-founder Jihan Wu, which at one point saw Zhan hiring a squad of armed guards to forcefully seize control of the company after being ousted in October 2019.

The feud ended in December 2020, when Zhan bought Wu out of the company for $600 million. Zhan has promised that under his leadership, Bitmain will complete its planned IPO by the end of 2022.

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 $37,130, that would make Satoshi worth over $40 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.