Even before the publishing of the Bitcoin white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, a number of people have been directly and indirectly instrumental in its creation and development.
For better or worse, various events have brought Bitcoin into the spotlight, and it cannot be denied that they have in some way resulted in the wider adoption that Bitcoin is experiencing today, including its steady climb in price over the years.
Bitcoin Who’s Who – The Key People
A few candidates have been suspected of being Satoshi Nakamoto over the years, with one claiming to be him, but “his” real identity is still shrouded in mystery today.
See also, Dorian Nakamoto and Craig Wright.
Hal Finney was an early bitcoin adopter and user, and was credited as the recipient of the first bitcoin sent by Satoshi Nakamoto in January 2009. in October 2009 however, Finney was diagnosed with ALS, which had eventually affected his mobility. Prior to his illness, Finney had been an active runner, and in November 2009, he and his wife ran the Santa Barbara International Marathon to raise money for ALS research.
During the last year of his life before he passed away in August of 2014, Finney and his family became victims of swattingThe act of deceiving an emergency service and sending a police and 9-1-1 response team to another person’s address, based on the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged incidents. and started receiving anonymous calls demanding for an extortion of 1,000 bitcoin. His body is now cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
He is also the creator of the Bitcoin Faucet, a website that gave bitcoin to participants who completed small tasks online. In September 2012, together with Roger Ver, Charlie Shrem, Mark Kapeles, Peter Vessenes and Patrick Murck, he co-founded the Bitcoin Foundation as an American non-profit corporation to standardise, protect and promote the use of bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.
Ver attempted to enter politics in 2000 when he ran for California State Assembly as a candidate for the Libertarian Party. In 2002, Ver was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for selling explosives without a licence. Ver learnt Japanese on his own whilst in prison.
Formerly an American, Ver moved to Japan in 2006, and renounced his US citizenship in 2014. He is a citizen of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, and currently lives in Japan with his Japanese wife.
Ver first investment was in BitInstant ran by Charlie Shrem, and has since invested over a million dollars into other new Bitcoin-related startup ventures such as Blockchain, BitPay, Kraken and Ripple.
In June 2016, Ver was appointed the chairman of the Cryptocurrency Advisory Board for MGT Capital Investments which aims to improve cybersecurity. Ver’s strong passion, deep involvement and philanthropy within the Bitcoin community has earned him the title Bitcoin Jesus.
He was the head of the Bitcoin Foundation’s anti-poverty committee until 2014, and joined Blockchain.info as Chief Security Officer in January 2014. In September that same year, he left that position and became an advisor to the board.
Antonopoulos travels around the world to give seminars on Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. He is also known for his sessions of discussing and presenting on the case for Bitcoin with the Senates of Canada and Australia. These videos, as well as a list of other talks he has given are available on his blog at aantonop.com.
An early bitcoin adopter, he was formerly the Director of Marketing at BitInstant, and was founder of the bitcoin gambling website Satoshi Dice, which was later sold off to an anonymous investor in July 2013 for 126,315 bitcoin, then valued at US$11.5 million. He was fined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an unregulated stock offering related to Satoshi Dice.
Voorhees advocates the separation of money and state, and has suggested that there is no such thing as a “free market” when the institution of money itself is centrally planned and controlled. He believes that Bitcoin is one of the most important inventions ever created by humanity, and keeps his assets and finances in bitcoin.
Szabo is perhaps best known for the creation of bit gold, a decentralised digital currency he designed in 1998 that didn’t take off. Bit gold has been credited as a direct precursor to the Bitcoin architecture, also leading some to believe that Szabo could be Satoshi Nakamoto. Like how a subunit of a bitcoin is called a satoshi, in 2015, the blockchain Ethereum named a subunit of its value token the szabo.
In 2014, he left Google to focus on the development of Bitcoin full-time and gives talk on Bitcoin. Mike Hearn was the creator of Lighthouse, a software platform designed to crowdsource upgrades to Bitcoin’s core code, for which he received the bounty of US$100,000 offered by bitcoin millionaire Olivier Janssens.
At the start of 2016, Hearn had issued a controversial statement declaring that the Bitcoin project had “failed”, pointing that the bitcoin network was on the brink of technical collapse due to the lack of consensus on its scalability improvement. It was initially thought this was done to boost his new firm R3CEV which is involved in building distributed ledger technology with over 40 banks. However, as the chief platform officer, Hearn stated that his new firm and bitcoin are not in competition, as R3 is not a bitcoin company or a cryptocurrency company.
In April 2015, Janssens released a statement declaring that the Bitcoin Foundation had almost no money left and was effectively bankrupt due to “two years of ridiculous spending and poorly thought out decisions“.
Janssens then established a special trust fund which he donated several hundred thousand dollars as pre-payment for the following year’s wages of Gavin Andresen, Wladimir van der Laan and some other core developers. In December 2015, Janssens quit the Bitcoin Foundation.
Olivier Janssens is sometimes remembered for his offer of a $100,000 bounty in May 2014 to be awarded to members of the community to program a software platform that could replace the Bitcoin core code, which ultimately went to Mike Hearn with his Lighthouse Project in mid-2014.
Mt. Gox was at one time the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange handling over 70% of all bitcoin transactions, until it filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2014 when it was found that 850,000 of its bitcoin holdings belonging to the company and its customers were found missing, a value of about $470 million at that time.
Karpelès was found guilty of fraud when he was tried in absentia in France in 2010, and was sentenced to a year in jail but has not served his sentence. Karpelès was subpoenaed by the United States Department of Treasury’s FinCEN to appear in Washington, D.C. to provide testimony in April 2014 but responded that he did not have a lawyer and therefore declined to show up.
Karpelès was eventually arrested on 1 August 2015 by Japanese police on suspicion of having accessed the company’s computer system to falsify data on its outstanding balance, and was re-arrested and allegedly charged with embezzlement. Karpelès was released on bail in July 2016, but must remain in Japan.
In 2011, Shrem started investing in bitcoin whilst he was still in college. The bitcoin service Shrem was using crashed not long after, resulting in the loss of his bitcoin. Shrem and a friend he met online, Gareth Nelson, also shared similar frustration with the long duration it took to buy and sell bitcoin on existing exchange sites then. As a result, they started BitInstant, an exchange that charged a fee for users to purchase bitcoin at 700,000 locations, and providing temporary credit to expedite transactions. By 2013, BitInstant was processing 30% of all bitcoin transactions.
BitInstant ceased operation in July 2013. In December 2014, Shrem was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money remittance business related to the Silk Road marketplace. He was released from prison in June 2016. Shrem can be seen featured at length in the 2016 documentary Banking on Bitcoin.
Going by the name Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR on Silk Road, Ulbricht was arrested while he was using his laptop at the San Francisco Public Library branch at Glen Park. He was distracted by two FBI agents pretending to be a quarrelling couple, so that his laptop could be snatched from him and all data on his hard drive cloned on a USB flash drive (running an anti-forensic software known as USBKill) before he had time to encrypt and delete the data.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2015 for computer hacking, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. He was also charged for procuring murder, and although the charge was removed from the indictment, its evidence was taken into consideration in his sentence.
He founded the San Francisco-based software company Ripple in 2011, which is the creator and developer of the Ripple payment protocol and exchange network.
In 2014, McCaleb founded Stellar, an open-source protocol for value (money) exchange, which is now used as a financial infrastructure by several non-profits and businesses. Stellar was originally based on the Ripple protocol, but had forked after several changes were made to the code. See also, Mark Karpelès.
Although Dorian was heard to have said “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection”, he later denied that he had anything to do with Bitcoin or have heard the currency before. Most people in the Bitcoin circle believe that Dorian is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright is the founder of cryptocurrency company DeMorgan Ltd., which received AUD54 million in tax incentives via AusIndustry.
Wright is perhaps best known for his claim as the real Satoshi Nakamoto and hence, the creator of Bitcoin. This claim has been disputed within the Bitcoin community in general.
In December 2015, Gizmodo and Wired carried out similar investigations which suggested that Wright could be the creator of Bitcoin, based on evidence of documents linking him to the creator. Despite what seems to be overwhelming evidences (such as those posted here and there), the allegations remain inconclusive, as the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto can still only be speculated at best.
Casares is the founder and CEO of Xapo, a Bitcoin wallet startup believed to be the largest custodian of bitcoin in the world. He is a board member of PayPal, and also serves on the board of Endeavour, a non-profit organisation that promotes entrepreneurship in emerging markets and which had played a role in his early success.
Casares launched his home country’s first Internet Service Provider – Internet Argentina S.A. in 1994, which he later sold to fund another startup in 1997 – the Argentine online brokerage Patagon. Patagon was later acquired by Banco Santander for $750 million.
Casares co-founded Banco Lemon, a retail bank for the underbanked in Brazil, which was later acquired by Banco de Brasil in 2009. He also founded Wanako Games, developer of the game Assault Heroes which was awarded Game of the Year for Microsoft Xbox Live in 2006, later acquired by Activision.
Casares was also the founder and CEO of Lemon Wallet, a digital wallet platform which was acquired by LifeLock for about $43 million in 2013. He is an elected member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Class of 2011, and attends the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on a regular basis.
Vessenes has served as consultant and advised many groups and institutions about Bitcoin and its technology, such as the Department of Treasury, FinCEN, and the US Senate GAO. He has helped to build Bitcoin practices at major law firms like Perkins Cole, and is a trusted advisor to big accounting firms like Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Price Waterhouse Coopers, as well as to major venture capital firms like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Ribbit Capital, Pandera Capital, Cedar Hill Capital, DFJ and others.
Vessenes graduated from Brown University with an Sc.B in Mathematics and an emphasis in cryptography, and is an internationally known speaker and expert in his field.
Murck currently serves as fellow with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society where he conducts research on the law and policy implications of bitcoin, distributed ledgers and smart contracts. He also serves as President Board member for the BitGive Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on charitable giving and social impact using bitcoin.
Van der Laan believes that any code changes in a decentralised system like Bitcoin must reach consensus among other core developers before they can be implemented, an approach which former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn has deemed too conservative.
Van der Lann was also at one time quite vocal about Bitcoin scaling issues, and stated his concerns that hardforks are extremely hard to coordinate, as even if just one parameter were changed, those involved with a full node will be required to upgrade, and “changing the rules in a decentralised consensus system is a very difficult problem”.
Defense Distributed gained international notoriety in 2013 when it published plans online for the Liberator, a functioning pistol that could be reproduced with a 3D printer. In 2012, Wired Magazine’s “Danger Room” named him one of “The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World”. In 2015, Wired named Wilson “The 5th Most Dangerous Person on the Internet.
Together with Amir Taaki, he co-founded the Dark Wallet bitcoin storage technology, which endeavours to help anonymise financial transactions. In November 2014, Wilson announced that he would stand for election to a seat on the Board of Directors of the Bitcoin Foundation, with “the sole purpose of destroying the Foundation”.
Taaki (and Donald Norman) established the Bitcoin Consultancy for bitcoin project development. Together with Cody Wilson, he launched Dark Wallet, and with other developers from Airbitz, Inc. he created a prototype for a decentralised marketplace called DarkMarket in 2014.
DarkMarket was later forked to OpenBazaar by developer Brian Hoffman. Taaki was listed as Top 30 Entrepreneurs of 2014 by Forbes.
To view the historical timeline in bitcoin’s development since inception, see here.