On the topic of ‘big names in blockchain’, the first names to come to mind are likely those of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, and the father of smart contracts Nick Szabo. Yet, there are many important players in the industry who go largely unnoticed for reasons that range from deliberately maintaining a low profile (apologies, Roger Ver) to simply not getting the recognition and credit that they deserve.
The following names are set to support and grow blockchain and cryptocurrency for decades to come even more than the aforementioned figureheads of the industry. These individuals lead not only through technical innovation but also by increasing the awareness of the general public of these revolutionary new ideas.
Lack of transparency is damaging blockchain companies. Without proper regulation, investors and users have little visibility as to whether blockchain networks and startups are acting in a prudent and financially viable manner. In fact, the majority of ICOs and blockchain-based companies are considered to be fraudulent by the general public. Ryan Selkis and his company Messari are doing their best to change this narrative.
At Messari, Selkis has developed a platform on which blockchain companies can provide transparency to investors, regulators, and the general public. His company builds data tools that can enable everyone in the industry to make informed decisions.
Selkis has a robust resume, which includes time on the founding teams at CoinDesk and Digital Currency Group, as well as being heavily involved with Joseph Lubin’s brainchild, ConsenSys.
Ironically, the Bitcoin Core developer is a savior to the entire community of its competitor, Bitcoin Cash. In 2018 Fields anonymously disclosed a vulnerability to Bitcoin Cash which, if left unchecked, could have meant the end of the cryptocurrency as we know it. Not only did Fields apply considerable skills and knowledge in this encounter, but he also brought to light the need for collaboration between blockchain projects, even those seen as threats to one another.
In a post that followed the incident, Fields notes the conundrum he encountered on whether to report the bug in the first place. “I began to question whether it was worth the trouble at all,” recalls Fields. “I had no obligation to report anything, after all. But if someone had discovered an equally nasty bug in Bitcoin Core, I would hope that person would bring it to our attention as discreetly and securely as possible. So I decided to do exactly that: create the report I would want to read and deliver it as I would want to receive it.”
These days, Fields works at the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab where he helps to develop and maintain Bitcoin Core.
Laura Shin is active on a variety of forms of media and plays a powerful role in educating and informing the general public on the latest in the blockchain space. Shin previously worked at the media giant CBS and also freelanced for major technology and finance publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and ZDNet.
Her work in blockchain began four years ago as a columnist at Forbes where she was tasked with covering the entire cryptocurrency and blockchain industry. While she continues to write for Forbes, Shin has also developed two podcasts, Unconfirmed and Unchained, both of which are big hits across the sector. Every week, Shin brings on industry experts, analysts, and thought leaders to discuss the most important aspects of blockchain and how it is affecting the world. Shin’s ability to attract the top crypto names and create a platform for them to share their knowledge with the world make her a significant and positive force in the industry.
Emin Gün Sirer
The Turkish-born Sirer is a computer scientist who has made significant contributions to the fields of computer networking, peer-to-peer systems, and operating systems. Sirer applies his expertise working deep in the underbelly of blockchains, attempting to build scalable solutions for Bitcoin and other networks.
His company, Bloxroute Labs, is comprised of developers and cryptography professionals who utilize the latest in encryption and cryptography techniques to propagate blocks faster on all blockchains, significantly improving transaction times. Sirer was also part of the team which invented Falcon Relay, a method to increase speed on the Bitcoin blockchain by increasing network efficiency and reducing latency between miners.
Sirer is currently the co-director at the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts, an organization of academic professionals working to build new cryptographic protocols in the industry.
Peter Van Valkenburg
Van Valkenburgh is likely best known for his appearance last year in front of Congress where he attempted to explain the inner working of blockchain technology to the Senate Banking Committee, all the while battling the pessimistic viewpoints of economist Nouriel Roubini.
Van Valkenburgh is remarkable in his ability to explain blockchain to the uninitiated with humor, grace, and authority. This outreach is extremely important in the face of government regulators with little to no knowledge on the subject. If Van Valkenburgh can spread blockchain knowledge to those in positions of power, it will go a long way to paving the industry’s road to success.
Van Valkenburgh’s contributions to the industry go beyond public advocacy: he also is a board member at the ZCash Foundation and the Director of Research at the nonprofit cryptocurrency research institution Coin Center.
Bonus Names: Luis Cuende
Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are forging a new paradigm when it comes to creating and building organizations. Luis Cuende and Aragon are leading the charge in providing the best resources to make DAOs the new, global organizational standard.
Aragon has the potential to completely revolutionize the way that organizations and businesses function. According to the company, it allows users to, “freely organize and collaborate without borders or intermediaries. Create global, bureaucracy-free organizations, companies, and communities.”
Still only 23 years of age, Cuende has already been lauded for his accomplishments and skills many times. This includes being listed as the youngest member on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list, named as the best programmer in Europe under 18 by HackFwd at the age of 15, and acting as an advisor to the European Commissioner of Digital Agenda.
Important Blockchain Advocates
There are many more advocates at work furthering blockchain than just those whose names regularly feature in the news headlines. Developers like Cory Fields or media pundits like Laura Shin play a extremely important roles in establishing the industry and orienting it for success. These people strive to progress the validity, security, and positive public sentiment of the industry, and deserve to be widely acknowledged for their efforts and contributions.