Business magazine Forbes, which publishes an annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, has turned its attention to newly-minted cryptocurrency billionaires. The “First List of Cryptocurrency’s Richest” lists several familiar faces from the industry — but they’re likely just the tip of the crypto wealth iceberg.
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The magazine itself admitted “It’s a near certainty that we’ve missed some people and that some of our estimates are wide of the mark”. The off-the-books nature of cryptocurrency holdings and wild price fluctuations mean estimates of crypto wealth are guesses at best.
Which raises the question: how many crypto billionaires are there that we don’t even know about? Are they names we know, or not? The answer is: you’ll probably never know. In all likelihood, the richest people in crypto are probably people who… never talk about crypto.
Who’s on Forbes‘ List Anyway?
Forbes cover for the list issue, which it billed “Crypto’s Secret Billionaire’s Club”, featured a photo of Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao — dressed according to mainstream hacker stereotype in a black hoodie. Zhao, or “CZ” as he’s better known, is a 41 year old former exec at OKCoin and Blockchain, who Forbes claims has a crypto net worth of $1.1 to $2 billion.
Topping the rich list with Zhao are former Ripple CEO Chris Larsen with his ~$7.5 billion crypto stash, The Winklevoss twins at ~$1 billion (why are they always counted as one person?) and Ethereum and Consensys co-founder Joseph Lubin.
Then there’s a parade of high-profile names that appear regularly in the industry and mainstream media. It includes investors like Tim Draper, Michael Novogratz, Brock Pierce, Barry Silbert and Matthew Mellon.
Crypto company founders and celebrity developers on the list include Matthew Roszak (Bloq), Vitalik Buterin, Anthony Di Iorio (Decentral), Charles Hoskinson (Ethereum, IOHK), Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum), Brian Armstrong (Coinbase) and Dan Larimer (Block.one, EOS).
The complete list with details and wealth estimates is here.
Try Moving $1 Billion in Fiat Without Anyone Noticing
Forbes was also somewhat dismissive of crypto’s economic foundations in its intro piece, calling list members “winners of this digital lottery”, and noting that black market transactions and tax avoidance are a large part of its appeal. In fact, Jon Matonis wrote about bitcoin’s appeal to the “System D” economy for the same publication as far back as 2012 — in a now-famous column that likely onboarded hundreds of crypto’s early adopters.
While cryptocurrency fans groan at the media’s spotlight on crime and price, it’s a fact that the technology does make holding, hiding and transferring large amounts of wealth relatively easy.
If you need to move $5 million USD around the world in actual dollars, you’ll need to perform an electronic transaction that can be traced and identified — or try your luck with airport security with cash strapped under your clothes.
There are other valuable non-cash assets, but few that have no physical form (like gold and diamonds) or leave no paper trail (like businesses and real estate).
Conversely, you could carry $5 billion or more in cryptocurrency anywhere you like, simply by memorizing a 12-word recovery phrase. Cryptos are essentially electronic bearer assets with little or no official record, largely outside regulators’ control.
There Will Never Be a Full List of Crypto Billionaires
All this means there’s probably a huge pool of crypto and blockchain billionaires out there that you’ve never heard of. Seeing the potential bonanza crypto was offering years before anyone else, they also took the prudent path of staying off the radar — some so much as to never publicly mention their interest in cryptocurrency at all.
Local tax authorities in need of revenue sources are likely doing their best to uncover their identities — which may only be possible to a certain extent. Then — as we’ve warned here before — there’s the potential for criminals to target not only the billionaires, but even naive millionaires. And crypto has produced plenty of them, too.
The smart hodlers are the ones you don’t know, and the technology helps them stay that way. They may also be the wealthiest.
Should any bitcoin or cryptocurrency holder talk about it in public? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Forbes, Kickvick.com