Bitcoin is a digital asset and payment system with a market capitalization of around $180 billion as of September 2019. It is considered by many to be one of the most successful digital currencies ever created. Its atmospheric rise since launching in 2009 left billions of dollars up for grabs for virtually anyone, so it was only natural that the game-changing cryptocurrency created such a diverse—and surprising—field of millionaires.
Of course, nobody knew it at the time - indeed it was, and still is, a risky asset class to get involved in - although a few in the list below were not only early adopters but also predicted its economic opportunity.
- Launched in 2009, Bitcoin is the first and remains the most successful blockchain-based cryptocurrency in the world.
- The price of Bitcoin is volatile, ranging from under $10 in 2010 to just under $20,000 in early 2018. The price now hovers around $10,000 per bitcoin.
- This overall price increase has produced a handful of Bitcoin billionaires. These are the early adopters who recognized a lucrative opportunity and started accumulating or mining in the early days and held on.
Barry Silbert is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Digital Currency Group. The company's mission is to accelerate the development of the global financial system, and it accomplishes this mission by building and supporting Bitcoin and blockchain companies. In a recent transaction, Digital Currency Group acquired CoinDesk, a leading source of Bitcoin news, which runs the annual Bitcoin industry conference. The firm has invested in more than 100 Bitcoin-related companies and is the world's leading firm for investing in Bitcoin-related companies, landing Barry Silbert the enviable nickname "The King of Crypto."
Silbert's company also owns Genesis, a trading firm focused on digital currencies, and Grayscale, a company focused on digital currency investing. Silbert also started the Bitcoin Investment Trust (OTC: GBTC), an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the price of Bitcoin.
Blythe Masters is a former Managing Director at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM). Currently, she is the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings (DAH). The company builds encryption-based processing tools that improve the efficiency, security, compliance, and settlement speed of securities trading, specifically Bitcoin. In May of 2018, DAH entered into what appears to be a lucrative partnership with Google Cloud, bringing her company's tools to developers so they will not have to code them from scratch.
Digital Asset Holdings seeks to apply the blockchain technology to the typical activities of Wall Street. The company has raised over $150 million in funding and, interestingly, its first client is J.P. Morgan Chase, which has tested its own blockchain technology as a possible way to settle transactions more quickly. Many people think Masters gave bitcoin a lot of legitimacy with Digital Asset Holdings, considering her past, illustrious reputation on Wall Street, where she rose to Managing Director of J.P. Morgan Chase at the age of 28. As of October 2018, her company operates six offices on three continents.
Dan Morehead is the founder of Pantera Capital, the world’s first investment focused exclusively on cryptocurrencies. In 2013, Pantera launched its first crypto fund and, as of late 2018, was one of the largest institutional owners of cryptocurrencies. The fund has delivered a more-than-24,000% return for investors since its debut. Their investments in cryptocurrency-related companies range from exchanges and investment firms, such as Polychain Capital and Bitstamp, to coin trading services, such as Augur.
A former Goldman Sachs trader, Morehead was also head of macro trading and CFO at Tiger Management. Morehead is on the board of Bitstamp, a cryptocurrency trading exchange that is used by CME as an input for spot prices.
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss parlayed the millions they earned after settling their Facebook lawsuit into cryptocurrencies and became the first billionaires from a late-2017 surge in Bitcoin prices.
They claim to own approximately 1% of all Bitcoins in circulation and have devised an elaborate system to store their private key for their assets.
The Winklevoss twins are focused on building an ecosystem to attract institutional investors and day traders to the cryptocurrency. To that end, they launched Gemini, the world’s first regulated exchange for cryptocurrencies. The exchange is used to set Bitcoin spot prices for futures contracts at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). The Winklevoss brothers also applied to set up a Bitcoin ETF to make the cryptocurrency accessible to retail investors, but, as of mid-2019, have been denied by the SEC for the second time.
Billionaire Michael Novogratz has invested approximately 30 percent of his fortune in cryptocurrencies. He began investing in 2015 and announced a $500 million cryptofund, which includes $150 million of his own fortune, in 2017. Novogratz has also become a prominent pundit on Bitcoin’s price movements, having forecast a (missed) price target of $40,000 for the cryptocurrency by the end of 2018.
Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns 0.001 bitcoin.