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Movers and shakers: the people pushing value and investment in blockchain

Spandan Sharma
19th Dec 2017
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Since being conceptualised by Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchain tech has grown by leaps and bounds. From being first used for cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, today more and more innovators are looking at ways to use the distributed computing technology for various applications, from distributed cloud storage to decentralised voting. But all these innovations are possible chiefly thanks to the large amounts of investment and capital pumped into the ecosystem by forward-thinking investors and venture capitalists.

Of course, this interest is not wholly altruistic. With the huge amount of potential growth in the blockchain sector, especially in cryptocurrency, investors are flocking to it in ever-growing numbers to capitalise on early mover advantage. We take a look at some of the key figures who pumped funds and/or drove value through investments and positive commentary to enable the innovation and growth in blockchain.

Clockwise, from top left: Brendan Eich, Brock Pierce, Fred Wilson, Joshua Morgan Brown, Michael Novogratz, Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss, Ted Livingston, Mark Cuban, and Vinny Lingham.

Joshua Morgan Brown, Investor

Well-known investor and financial blogger Joshua Morgan Brown caused a bit of a flutter earlier this year when he announced that he had finally made his first investment in Bitcoin. While not a huge monetary commitment at the time, Joshua’s decision to enter the fray marked an important mainstream endorsement of the cryptocurrency at a time when opinion on the future of the tech was still sharply divided. While Joshua has since expressed doubts about the sustainability of ICOs, he continues to be a Bitcoin investor closely involved with the ecosystem’s developments.

Mark Cuban, Investor

Mark Cuban famously said a few weeks ago that he thinks of Bitcoin as more of a “collectable” than a currency. Calling himself a “spectator” in the space, the Shark Tank panellist advised people to approach the cryptocurrency cautiously. However, he has been openly supportive of the underlying blockchain technology; Radical App, a company that Mark advises, announced plans to launch Mercury Protocol, a messaging technology built on the blockchain, in August this year. Mark labelled the technology as “transformative”, saying “it allows any application or network, social or otherwise, with the opportunity to generate revenue from participation rather than making its users the product.”

Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave Software

Creator of the JavaScript programming language, Brendan Eich is also the CEO of Brave Software, the startup behind the open-source blockchain-enabled Brave Browser. Brendan also co-founded the Mozilla project, the creators of the popular Firefox web browser. Through Brave, he hopes to disrupt the online advertising space, especially the monopolies of Facebook and Google. While not directly investing cash into the blockchain ecosystem, Brendan continues to drive innovation and growth through his company’s novel product.

Vinny Lingham, CEO of Civic

Internet entrepreneur Vinny Lingham is the Co-founder and CEO of Civic, an identity management startup. He has also been one of the most vocal proponents of bitcoins and blockchain, making news in November 2016 when he invested in a company on Shark Tank South Africa using bitcoins. Vinny recently joined the board of BnkToTheFuture, a global fintech, bitcoin, and blockchain online investment platform, saying, “Investors in today’s burgeoning ICO landscape are seeking more professionalism, accountability, and compliance, while equity investors are seeking greater liquidity and trading.”

Ted Livingston, Founder of Kik Messenger

The founder of Kik Messenger Ted Livingston is a well-known proponent of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. He raised about $98 million using an ICO earlier this year to invest in Ether. Originally hosting the Kin tokens on Ether, Ted recently confirmed plans to shift them to the Stellar ecosystem. Calling Ethereum the “dial-up era of blockchain”, Ted cited congestion and limited bandwidth on the Ethereum ecosystem due to applications like CryptoKitties as the reason for the shift.

Michael Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners

The former macro hedge fund manager at Fortress Investment Group, Michael Novogratz is a well-known early supporter of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Now the CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners, an investment firm betting on cryptocurrencies and related businesses, Michael has been among the most vocal supporters of the cryptocurrency ecosystem. In September, he revealed that 20 percent of his net worth is in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Fred Wilson, Co-founder of Union Square Ventures

Union Square Ventures co-founder Fred Wilson is a major investor in the blockchain sphere but has consistently advised caution in investments in the space. He is a firm believer in the potential of blockchain and is a big proponent for expansion of the technology into applications other than cryptocurrency.

Brock Pierce, Founder of Blockchain Capital

Brock Pierce, a Co-Founder of Blockchain Capital, is one of the most well-known investors in the cryptocurrency space, having invested in over 30 companies. These include GoCoin, Tether, ZenBox, Blade Financial, Expresscoin, Noble Markets, BitGo, AirSwap, and ChangeTip.

The Winklevoss Twins, Entrepreneurs/Investors

American rowers and Internet entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss were one of the earliest proponents of Bitcoin, leading a 2013 seed funding round for New York-based bitcoin trading startup BitInstant. It was estimated that the two owned about 1 percent of all Bitcoins in existence at the time. They have since launched their own Bitcoin exchange, Gemini, and their continued prominent support of the cryptocurrency has paid off well for them, with recent reports that they are now worth $1.3 billion in Bitcoin alone.

Apart from these, other major high-rollers from the blockchain ecosystem include Coinbase Co-founder Fred Ehrsam, Author Chris Burniske (of Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor's Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond fame), BK Capital Management’s Brian Kelly, CEO of Bitstamp Nejc Kodric, and Founder of 1confirmation Nick Tomaino, among others.

As the blockchain ecosystem expands and piques the interest of more investors, one can definitely expect to see more names join this club. What do you think of this list? Are there any other major names we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!

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