May 23, 2024
Top 20 Most Influential People in Crypto in 2023 
People in Crypto

Top 20 Most Influential People in Crypto in 2023 

In a year of seismic shifts and transformative moments for the crypto and web3 industries, we witnessed the ascendance of certain individuals who sculpted the narrative, steering the industry toward innovation, disruption, and, at times, controversy. These influential figures harnessed the power of blockchain, decentralized finance (DeFi), and emerging technologies to redefine the landscape. Miami Crypto’s exclusive list of the ‘Top 20 Most Influential People in Crypto in 2023’ recognizes individuals who made their impact felt this year, primarily by catalyzing positive transformations while at times also leaving indelible marks that sparked debates and scrutiny. As we delve into this list, we unravel the stories, decisions, and innovations that have resonated throughout the year, shaping the trajectory of the crypto and web3 space. 

  1. Paolo Ardoino 
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Paolo Ardoino, Tether’s new CEO, spearheads the stablecoin giant amid a staggering $4.5 billion profit surge. Known for his tireless commitment, Ardoino’s transition from CTO to CEO in 2023 showcases his unwavering dedication, marked by over 3,000 yearly code contributions and visionary projects like Holepunch’s Keet app, redefining tech infrastructure. 

Hailing from Genoa, Italy, Ardoino’s early tech fascination fueled his journey, rooted in open-source principles and collaborative innovation. His leadership charts Tether’s foray into diverse investments, including Bitcoin mining and pioneering AI initiatives. 

Despite regulatory scrutiny, Ardoino steers Tether with a focus on technological progress, blending profitability with a commitment to societal impact. His legacy embodies a visionary leader reshaping the crypto landscape, prioritizing innovation and transparency in the face of regulatory challenges. 

  1. Gary Gensler 
Image by Third Way Think Tank on flickr

Gary Gensler, the formidable Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), emerges as the most impactful regulatory force in the crypto space in 2023. Tasked with heading the SEC in a mercurial time for the regulatory landscape, Gensler navigates the complexities of a $1 trillion crypto sector, eliciting strong reactions with his proactive stance. 

A seasoned regulator, banker, and academic, Gensler’s tenure sparks controversy and legislative pushback, with critics challenging his views and actions. The SEC’s case against Ripple saw a partial victory, and the elusive spot Bitcoin ETF remains a dream, yet hope lingers. Gensler’s vision emphasizes enforcing rules akin to traditional securities trading for crypto platforms, reflected in settlements and lawsuits against major exchanges. 

Criticism abounds for Gensler’s enforcement-centric approach, fueling industry grievances. However, supporters acknowledge his challenging role. Amid public outcry, Gensler steers the SEC, leaving an indelible mark on the evolving crypto regulatory landscape. 

  1. Sam Altman 
Image by TechCrunch on flickr

Sam Altman, the enigmatic force reshaping technology’s future, dominated 2023’s crypto landscape. Amidst a whirlwind of drama, Altman’s resurgence as OpenAI’s CEO echoed his larger-than-life impact. His AI innovation, especially with ChatGPT, propelled AI discussions, overshadowing crypto in tech discourse and sparking a surge in AI-centric investments. 

While the narrative of “AI versus crypto” prevailed, Altman’s influence bridged these realms. He catalyzed a fusion of AI with Web3, evident in numerous AI-infused projects showcased at crypto conferences and the symbiotic relationship between the two technologies. 

Altman’s brainchild, Worldcoin, merged AI and crypto, aiming for universal basic income through a biometrically verified cryptocurrency distribution. Despite skepticism, its rapid adoption, boasting 2.5 million sign-ups within months, positioned it as a landmark achievement in crypto’s adoption narrative, inching closer to a self-sovereign identity solution. Amidst speculations and controversy, Altman’s ventures heralded a transformative era, intertwining AI’s omnipresence with crypto’s decentralizing ethos. 

  1. Brian Armstrong  
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Brian Armstrong, the unwavering force behind Coinbase for over a decade, remains a stalwart figure in 2023’s crypto narrative. As the industry witnessed seismic shifts with the departure of CZ from Binance and SBF’s legal turmoil, Armstrong’s Coinbase emerged as a dominant force, unveiling its layer-2 blockchain and derivatives exchange poised to pioneer ETF launches in 2024. 

Amid regulatory challenges, notably a lawsuit from the SEC over alleged illegal operations, Armstrong’s vision portrays Coinbase as a beacon of regulatory compliance, echoing his commitment to the rule of law. Engaging in vocal opposition against stringent regulations, Armstrong spearheaded Stand With Crypto, a pro-crypto advocacy group mobilizing over 100,000 advocates to defend the industry’s interests. 

Asserting economic freedom, Armstrong’s unwavering belief in crypto’s transformative power hints at an optimistic future, with Layer 2 advancements, ETF developments, and the impending Bitcoin halving poised to shape 2024’s landscape under his stewardship. 

  1. Jeremy Allaire 
Image by World Economic Forum on flickr

Jeremy Allaire, the visionary founder of Circle Internet Financial, has steered the company to new heights in 2023, marking a pinnacle in his crypto journey. Leading the charge in stablecoin innovation, Allaire’s Circle focuses on the widespread adoption of USDC, the second-largest stablecoin by trading volume. Throughout the year, Circle achieved significant milestones, unveiling the Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol to enhance USDC’s interoperability and a Web3 Services developer platform. 

Allaire’s threefold vision for the coming year includes enhancing USDC’s usability and safety, expanding global liquidity through partnerships, and simplifying Web3 app development. Positioned against offshore giant Tether, Allaire believes USDC’s transparency, liquidity, and compliance will prove advantageous as regulatory landscapes evolve, anticipating forthcoming stablecoin legislation in the U.S. 

With a keen eye on financial inclusion, Allaire emphasizes USDC’s role in humanitarian aid and financial infrastructure in underserved regions. Envisioning Circle as a leading internet-scale utility, Allaire aims to facilitate trillions in economic activity, showcasing how stablecoins, particularly USDC, can positively impact lives globally. 

  1. Ryan Selkis 
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Ryan Selkis, the outspoken founder & CEO of Messari, earns a well-deserved spot among the most influential people in crypto in 2023 for constructing a formidable political fundraising engine poised to sway the 2024 elections. His public persona as a vehement critic of U.S. regulators, notably SEC Chair Gary Gensler, accompanies his discreet two-year effort to build a $15 million war chest for Fairshake, a PAC primed to support pro-crypto candidates. 

Selkis’s outspoken nature, railing against regulators like Gensler and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, reflects an industry-wide sentiment against perceived regulatory hostility toward crypto. His bold Twitter declaration of running for Senate in response to the SEC’s actions sparked both controversy and admiration. Despite not pursuing the Senate bid, Selkis remains committed to bolstering crypto’s representation in Washington, criticizing traditional associations’ lack of effective political engagement. 

While relinquishing some political duties to Fairshake’s team, Selkis continues advocating for sensible regulations. He remains an ardent proponent of crypto’s potential to balance governmental power and opposes overreaching regulations, aiming to establish coherent guidelines beneficial for the market’s stability. 

  1. Sergey Nazarov 
Image credits: LinkedIn

Sergey Nazarov, the co-founder of Chainlink, stands at the forefront of merging traditional finance (TradFi) with the crypto world. Chainlink serves as the conduit between digital assets and real-world applications, attracting heavyweight institutions like SWIFT, DTCC, and ANZ into the blockchain. 

Under Nazarov’s guidance, Chainlink Labs has evolved beyond a mere oracle system, pioneering Web3 services for data, computation, and cross-chain interoperability. The LINK token, powering the network, surged over 150% with an $8 billion market cap. 

Nazarov’s innovative Cross-Chain Interoperability Protocol (CCIP) holds promise for banks to transact across public and private blockchains, potentially shaping a global “Internet of Contracts.” He envisions a future where capital markets seamlessly merge with Web3. 

Nazarov foresees major financial institutions racing into the blockchain, fostering a symbiosis between public chains and traditional finance, a vision he actively drives through Chainlink’s $9 trillion transaction impact. His primary goal for 2024 is to establish CCIP as the global standard for cross-chain data exchange, propelling Web3 and traditional capital markets into a unified ecosystem. 

  1. Larry Fink 
Image by World Economic Forum on flickr

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, transformed into a leading advocate for Bitcoin in 2023, reshaping perceptions within legacy finance. BlackRock’s filing for a Bitcoin ETF, a move that rekindled interest in a long-elusive trading vehicle, underscored Fink’s influence. His endorsement marked a turning point, legitimizing the pursuit of a spot in Bitcoin ETF, captivating firms like Fidelity and VanEck to follow suit. 

Fink’s stance on Bitcoin’s potential as a global currency diverges from his prior scepticism. His acknowledgement of Bitcoin’s open, verifiable nature signals its potential to weaken the U.S. dollar’s supremacy. This shift in perspective arrives amid BlackRock’s foray into cryptocurrency trading and plans for an Ethereum ETF. 

Fink’s conviction in Bitcoin’s value echoes BlackRock’s strategy, demonstrating confidence in Coinbase’s third-party service for surveillance, possibly aligning with SEC expectations. His push for democratized access to crypto reflects a sea change in his outlook, steering BlackRock toward embracing cryptocurrencies as integral financial instruments. 

  1. Elizabeth Warren 
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Elizabeth Warren emerged as a vocal sceptic and leading adversary of the crypto industry in Washington, D.C. Her steadfast criticism, showcased in Senate hearings and legislative proposals advocating tighter regulations, solidifies her role as Congress’ prominent critic of crypto. 

Warren’s scrutiny was amplified following industry setbacks like FTX’s collapse and Silicon Valley Bank’s issues. Her bold statements during hearings, citing crypto’s use in illicit transactions by international criminals, resonate as a consistent voice against the industry. Embracing the role of leading Congress’ critique, Warren even incorporated such criticisms into her campaign advertisements. 

Beyond public statements, Warren’s direct engagements with regulators and legislative endeavours, notably the bipartisan Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, underscore her efforts to introduce stringent guardrails. Despite potential intersections between crypto’s aims and consumer protection, echoing her role in establishing the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau post-2008 financial crisis, Warren staunchly advocates uniform regulations across financial intermediaries. In this assertion, she dismisses exemptions for decentralized entities within the crypto space. 

  1. Yat Siu 
Image by Joi Ito on flickr

Yat Siu, the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands, steered the web3 gaming powerhouse through the volatile terrain of 2023 with resilience and purpose.  

 Addressing a sceptical audience at TED2023, Siu emphasized the broader significance of Web3 beyond cryptocurrency. In a transformative year, Animoca Brands shifted from a mere investment-focused entity to a dynamic combination of investment and education. Siu, the firm’s lead investor, actively engages in Web3 education, collaborating with global educators and extending the company’s reach to the Middle East, Japan, and beyond. 

 While encountering regulatory shifts, Animoca acquired Azarus, joined the Chiliz network, and invested in crypto startups, signalling resilience amid market fluctuations. Siu’s pivotal role in Hong Kong’s Web3 task force exemplifies his commitment to fostering government comfort with Web3, which is vital for mass adoption. Siu’s vision integrates Web3 across various verticals, signalling a promising convergence of crypto with real-world applications. 

  1. Jenny Johnson 
Image credits: Franklin Templeton

Jenny Johnson, the CEO of Franklin Templeton, has propelled the $1.33 trillion asset management company into crypto’s forefront, challenging traditional finance’s dynamics while embracing blockchain technology’s transformative potential. Her pivotal role in pushing the company towards Wall Street’s crypto adoption is noteworthy.  

While not entirely aligning with crypto’s fervour, Franklin Templeton’s endeavours include applying for a Bitcoin ETF, offering blockchain-based money-market funds, and participating in proof-of-stake networks like Ethereum, Solana, and Stellar, bridging a 76-year-old firm with the nascent technology. 

Johnson is a pragmatic advocate for blockchain’s potential to revolutionize finance, focusing on the technology’s broader implications beyond cryptocurrencies. Tokenization, representing real-world assets on blockchains, embodies her vision for broadening access to alternative investments, heralding democratization in the finance sector. 

Johnson’s insights reflect an evolving intersection between traditional finance and blockchain technology, hinting at substantial transformations in the finance landscape over the coming decade. 

  1. Karl Floersch  
Image credits: Linkedin

Karl Floersch, the CEO of OP Labs, stands at the forefront of advancing blockchain scalability, notably shaping Optimism’s impactful journey within the Ethereum ecosystem. Joining in 2020 as CTO, he orchestrated Optimism’s evolution, culminating in the OP Stack’s launch, a pivotal toolset enabling developers to construct their layer 2 chains. 

Floersch’s expertise spans Ethereum’s realm, with prior roles at ConsenSys as a blockchain engineer and contributions to the Ethereum Foundation. His tenure at OP Labs marked an era of innovation, spotlighting Optimism’s technology, which gained traction in 2023 through Coinbase’s adoption of their layer 2 network, “Base.” 

Describing the OP Stack as a groundbreaking step in open-source development, Floersch emphasized its modular framework, catering to various scalability solutions like zero-knowledge and optimistic rollups. His leadership and vision continue to shape Optimism’s trajectory, elevating its significance in Ethereum’s ecosystem and beyond. 

  1. Avery Ching 
Image credits: LinkedIn

Avery Ching, the CTO of Matonee and co-founder of Aptos (APT), stands at the forefront of one of 2023’s most significant blockchain initiatives. As the driving force behind Aptos, a next-gen blockchain developed by Mysten Labs, Ching navigates the competitive arena of Ethereum scaling solutions alongside projects like Base, Blast, and Celestia.  

Roted in Meta’s Diem project, Aptos endeavours to scale crypto networks to handle vast transaction volumes. Ching, with a decade-long tenure at Meta, co-founded Aptos with Mo Shaikh, embarking on a journey to revolutionize the crypto landscape.  

Aptos encountered legal skirmishes over its financing structure, eventually settling out of court. However, despite criticisms and regulatory concerns, Ching’s Aptos, named after an Ohlone word meaning “the people,” remains a significant player in redefining the crypto landscape to create a more accessible and scalable blockchain ecosystem. 

  1. Brad Garlinghouse 
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

The CEO of Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse, emerged as a pivotal figure in 2023’s crypto landscape, navigating significant legal battles with far-reaching implications for the industry’s future. Amidst Ripple’s triumph over the SEC’s lawsuit regarding XRP, Garlinghouse kept his promise to the XRP community, throwing a celebratory “Proper Party” in September that symbolized a watershed moment. The courtroom victory, where U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres ruled in Ripple’s favour, vindicated Garlinghouse, Ripple, and the broader crypto space. 

Facing immense legal scrutiny since the SEC’s 2020 lawsuit, Garlinghouse underwent a tumultuous period, investing nearly $150 million in Ripple’s defence while the XRP token faced market suppression. However, post-legal victory, Ripple showcased resilience, forging partnerships and launching innovative initiatives, propelling XRP toward potential integration within global banking systems. 

Garlinghouse’s narrative reflects a testament to resilience, community support, and regulatory clarity, cementing his place as a defining figure in reshaping crypto’s legal landscape. 

  1. Stani Kulechov 
Image by Collision Conf on flickr

Stani Kulechov, the Estonian founder & CEO of Avara, has been a beacon of innovation in the crypto space, steering DeFi protocol Aave and introducing groundbreaking projects. With Aave’s V3 upgrade, Kulechov enhanced accessibility and security, fortifying the lending platform’s position in the DeFi sphere. Avara also launched GHO, a stablecoin, and Lens Protocol, a Web3 social platform integrated into Polygon’s layer 2. 

Kulechov envisions a future where DeFi infrastructure evolves to embrace staking and tokenized real-world assets, coupled with decentralized social media, empowering users to control their online data. Additionally, he anticipates blockchain’s role in governing AI, foreseeing its potential impact beyond the industry’s current focus. Stani’s visionary strides define him as a key influencer shaping the convergence of blockchain, AI, and other future technologies. 

  1. Balaji Srinivasan  
Image by TechCrunch on flickr

Balaji Srinivasan, the former CTO of Coinbase, emerged in 2023 as a prominent and vocal advocate for startup societies and the potential of online communities to emulate nation-like structures. His book, “The Network State,” spurred conversations about decentralized governance, highlighting the erosion of traditional institutions in favour of distributed power facilitated by technologies like the Internet and cryptocurrency. 

Renowned for his audacious $1 million bet on the potential collapse of the U.S. dollar against Bitcoin, Srinivasan’s foresight on global issues, notably predicting the severity of the early 2020 pandemic, has garnered attention. While critical of mainstream media, he champions direct communication and privacy tools like Signal. 

Srinivasan’s influential ideas resonate widely, shaping discourse in California’s tech circles and beyond. He organized the groundbreaking Network State Conference, attracting over 1,000 attendees and spearheading discussions on new country formation. His 2024 vision entails establishing structured progress for the network state movement, fostering crypto-inspired new cities and countries. 

  1. Antonio Juliano  
Image credits: Linkedin

Antonio Juliano, the brains behind dYdX, orchestrated one of crypto’s most significant moves in 2023, shifting the decentralized exchange from Ethereum to Cosmos. At the height of its success on Ethereum, dYdX, under Juliano’s leadership, surpassed Coinbase in trading volumes, emphasizing its prowess in the derivatives market. Juliano’s bold decision to shift to the Cosmos ecosystem marked a daring departure, a strategic move driven by the need for enhanced scalability. 

This year, Juliano and his team successfully launched a revamped version of dYdX, overcoming challenges by recoding the platform and introducing an off-chain order book to foster scalability. Cosmos, recognized as a blockchain for blockchains, appealed to Juliano for its scalability vision, allowing customization to realize his ambitious vision for dYdX. With around 50 employees and on its fourth version, dYdX continues to navigate the complexities of the crypto landscape under Juliano’s adept leadership, securing its place as a market leader in trading volumes. 

  1. Luca Schnetzler  
Image credits: Linkedin

Luca Schnetzler stands at the forefront of NFT innovation as the CEO of Pudgy Penguins. Amidst the existential uncertainty plaguing the NFT realm in 2023, Schnetzler’s strategic prowess has guided Pudgy Penguins to emerge as a stalwart in digital collectables. 

Taking charge in April 2022 after a high-profile acquisition, Schnetzler redirected Pudgy Penguins, infusing it with a unique brand philosophy inspired by emotional connections akin to Pokémon and Hello Kitty. While other NFT projects grappled with Web3 initiatives, Schnetzler carved a different path, emphasizing a ‘Web2 approach and a real business.’ 

Under his leadership, Pudgy Penguins orchestrated a groundbreaking $9 million fundraising campaign and introduced ‘Pudgy Toys,’ bridging physical and digital realms. Schnetzler’s strategic vision encompasses not just the NFT space but also a broader Web2 presence, engaging millions across TikTok and Instagram. Schnetzler continues to redefine the NFT landscape, setting ambitious goals for future strides in the ever-evolving digital collectables arena. 

  1. Caroline Pham 
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Caroline Pham, a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner, emerged as a pivotal figure in crypto regulation amidst a tumultuous year marked by stringent regulatory actions. In contrast to aggressive enforcement stances seen elsewhere, Pham advocated for a more accommodating approach, championing innovation in the crypto sector. 

Her proposal for a “time-limited” pilot program at the CFTC aimed to regulate crypto markets while nurturing industry needs, mirroring successful approaches like regulatory sandboxes seen globally. Pham’s proactive stance filled the void in the U.S.’s regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies, emphasizing the necessity for a comprehensive framework. 

Pham highlighted the importance of aligning U.S. regulations with international standards and referenced the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) global regulatory framework for crypto-assets. She advocated for a regulatory sandbox, urging robust guardrails and a principles-based framework to foster innovation while ensuring market integrity. 

While her influence amid larger regulatory bodies might be a subject of debate, Pham’s commitment to an accommodative approach signifies a crucial step towards fostering innovation in crypto amid regulatory uncertainties. 

  1. Hayden Adams 
Image credits: Linkedin

Hayden Adams, the visionary creator of Uniswap, revolutionized the DeFi landscape with his groundbreaking contribution to Ethereum. Uniswap, the first-of-its-kind decentralized exchange (DEX), emerged as Adams’ seminal achievement. Its latest iteration, Uniswap V4, drew both acclaim and critique, securing Adams’ position among the most influential people in crypto in 2023. 

Adams’ journey into crypto began in 2018, marked by a cinematic episode where, as a 24-year-old engineer recently laid off, he flew to South Korea to showcase Uniswap’s prototype to Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. Uniswap has since evolved into one of the largest DeFi projects, boasting over $3.9 billion in total value locked and challenging traditional exchanges with substantial daily trading volumes. 

As the co-founder of Uniswap Labs, Adams steered the project through controversies, including business concessions affecting its censorship-resistant properties. Uniswap V4’s introduction, with innovative features and the controversial “Business Source License,” reflects Adams’ commitment to innovation while navigating the complexities of the evolving crypto landscape. 

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