The best 10 persons 2020

  1. Changpeng Zhao

CEO of Binance


Changpeng Zhao (aka “CZ”) launched Binance in July 2017 and has since grown it into the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange for retail investors. It’s a long way from when he was flipping burgers while studying at McGill in Montreal. In addition to steering Binance, CZ has also become a social media personality in his own right with his trademark “funds are safu” launched into the crypto-meme hall of fame.

Changpeng Zhao’s 2019:

Throughout the year, Binance introduced several new financial services for its clients, namely futures, margin trading, lending and staking. The firm also launched four fiat-to-crypto platforms in regions around the world, including the U.S., Singapore, Uganda and Australia. April saw the launch of the firm’s proprietary, black-box blockchain, Binance Chain, along with the launch of Binance Decentralized Exchange.

At the time of writing, the code for Binance Chain is still closed-source. The firm launched eleven successful token sales on Binance Launchpad, raising a total of $56 million. Binance Charity raised over $3 million for various social impact initiatives. All the while, the company has managed to quickly adapt to changing regulatory climates, even moving operations multiple times on short notice.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

We don’t expect Binance’s pace to slow down significantly in the new year given its unceasing track record of rapidly building new products and expanding services through strategic partnerships around the world. However, the regulatory landscape is starting to shift in a direction where some regions may not be as accommodating to Binance’s regulatory arbitrage tactics.
The exchange’s fraught relationship with China, for example, could come to a head, with the country having targeted the exchange in the media in the past. In a way, CZ’s approach to building Binance out into many different business lines around the world gives it a unique resilience that few exchanges or companies in the crypto space can share.

2-   David Marcus

Head of Calibra at Facebook


Paris-born and Geneva-raised David Marcus has operated in executive roles for global-scale tech ventures, including PayPal and Facebook. Before his professional foray into the crypto industry, Marcus long had a reputation among the Silicon Valley elite as an early proponent of Bitcoin. While heading operations for Facebook Messenger, Zuckerberg tapped Marcus to lead Facebook’s research and development in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, resulting in the highly controversial Libra project.

David Marcus’s 2019:

While there were many rumors circulating around Facebook’s quiet cryptocurrency project, details didn’t emerge until mid-June 2019, with the reveal of Libra — a cryptocurrency backed by reserve assets maintained in concert by a consortium of companies around the world. The news triggered immediate pushback by the U.S. government for fear of Facebook’s track record with user data, influence on world affairs, and the possible upending of the U.S. dollar’s status as a global reserve currency.

In July, Marcus was called to testify before the House Financial Services Committee to answer questions regarding the currency’s design, privacy measures, and other topics, tactfully fielding a barrage of questions. While the Libra testnet and Calibra wallet are live, the project is stalled out given the massive regulatory pushback and uncertainty.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

The reveal of Facebook’s Libra project spurred an international debate on the role of digital currencies in society. In the announcement’s wake, some of the most powerful countries have taken the initiative to research and develop frameworks for central bank digital currencies or even proceed building their own, as is the case with China.

While Libra itself is in a state of limbo, assessing and adapting to the U.S. regulatory climate, in January 2020, the World Economic Forum in Davos revealed the formation of the Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance, an alliance consisting of world leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs that included Marcus. The new consortium is dedicated to constructing sustainable and transparent policies for digital assets in the global economy. With governments and corporations entering the fray, the digital currency space is about to get really interesting. We expect Libra and Marcus to be at the center of it all.

3-   Kelly Loeffler

Former CEO of Bakkt, U.S. senator for Georgia


Loeffler entered the crypto industry when she became CEO of Bakkt after her 15-year-long career at Intercontinental Exchange, an operator of large, regulated exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange. She supervised Bakkt’s delayed launch, which, albeit showing underwhelming results at first, proved to be efficient and therefore crucial for the crypto market. By the end of 2019, she became the first Republican woman to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Congress, where she is expected to support crypto-friendly regulation.

Kelly Loeffler’s 2019:

Early in the year, ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher announced that the firm’s new digital asset exchange platform would launch later in 2019. Since its announcement, Bakkt has caught the attention of the crypto industry, as it marks a serious effort by the world’s largest exchange to onboard institutional investors into the burgeoning crypto asset class.

In September, the firm launched its much-anticipated BTC futures trading platform. While the initial launch was underwhelming with relatively low volume given the hype, Bakkt announced additional products in the following months such as fully regulated BTC options trading, cash-settled futures, and a partnership with Starbucks. In December, on top of Bakkt’s release of two major trading products, CEO Kelly Loeffler was appointed to a seat in the U.S. Senate by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

While Loeffler is no longer at the helm of Bakkt, the firm is taking advantage of its momentum by promising a consumer mobile app made in collaboration with Starbucks sometime in 2020. While Loeffler is now committed to her political career, it is all but certain that the newly appointed senator will fight for policies beneficial to the cryptocurrency community. Her new political office positions her as one of crypto’s highest-placed proponents in the U.S. government. This year will reveal how much the new senator wants to claim that mantle.

4-   Pavel Durov

Founder and CEO of Telegram


Pavel Durov’s first major business, VK, permanently changed social networking throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. After exiting the company, Durov and his brother Nikolai launched encrypted messaging app Telegram in August 2013. The app currently boasts a 200 million monthly user base. Now, Durov is making crypto headlines for his company’s embattled launch of its Telegram Open Network blockchain, which raised $1.7 billion in a pair of private token sales in early 2018.

Pavel Durov’s 2019:

For much of 2019, there were sparse updates on the TON blockchain’s development. In September, early testnet code for TON was released, allowing the more technically savvy to set up full nodes, validator nodes, and blockchain explorers. While the launch of TON and the distribution of the Gram token was set for Oct. 31 (the anniversary of the Bitcoin white paper’s release), the SEC halted the launch with an emergency restraining order, citing a concern that the network launch would flood the U.S. market with unregistered securities via the Gram token. For the rest of the year, the project was in a state of limbo.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

More details arose at the start of the new year regarding the SEC halting of the TON blockchain and its Gram cryptocurrency. The U.S. financial watchdog deemed the Gram token sale an unregistered securities offering. A core accusation by one SEC official was that the entire TON project and ambitious funding event was a means to fund Telegram’s development after Pavel had sunk much of his fortune from the sale of VK into the messaging service. Durov refuted the accusation, saying that the token sale was intended to fund and bootstrap a secure proof-of-stake blockchain network without resorting to traditional equity fundraising, which he claimed could have affected “the company’s integrity and its values, and change the company’s ethos and what it stands for.”

Both the Chamber of Digital Commerce and the Blockchain Association — two high-profile blockchain advocacy groups — have filed an amicus curiae, or “friend-of-the-court” brief, supporting Telegram’s position. Amid the regulatory uncertainty, the TON wallet and cryptocurrency will not be integrated with Telegram’s existing messaging service, virtually eliminating the one market advantage that attracted investors in the first place. The case is still ongoing.

5-   Vitalik Buterin

Co-founder of Ethereum


A Russian-Canadian writer and programmer, Vitalik has been involved in the Bitcoin community since 2011, co-founding and writing articles for Bitcoin Magazine. He is primarily known as the inventor of Ethereum, a global blockchain network designed to run smart contracts and decentralized applications and currently the world’s second-most valued and recognized cryptocurrency platform behind Bitcoin. Currently, Buterin is focused on researching scaling solutions for Ethereum that would enable it to become a more ubiquitous computing and settlement platform.

Vitalik Buterin’s 2019:

The past year, Buterin focused on researching and proposing privacy and scaling solutions for Ethereum, as the blockchain network struggles to handle a modest 15 transactions per second. While the next long-awaited phase of Ethereum (dubbed Ethereum 2.0) is projected to come in 2021 or even later, Buterin drew ire from much of the blockchain community for suggesting a short-term solution by integrating with Bitcoin Cash (BCH) — a cryptocurrency hard-forked from the original Bitcoin that provides plentiful data throughput compared to Ethereum.

In March, he argued that for the crypto industry to evolve and create significant social impact, it must abandon the strict individualist philosophies of the cypherpunks to thinking more about the realities of an egalitarian society. In October, Buterin conducted a Twitter poll asking the community how much ETH would need to be at stake to support a reversion of chain activity to undo a large hack, with 61% choosing “Intervention never ok.” In December, Buterin proposed a method for implementing an early transition from Ethereum 1.0 to Ethereum 2.0 before the network hard-forked days later, postponing the transition for approximately 611 days.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

2020 will be a critical year for Ethereum’s development, as researchers and developers rush to prepare the network for the long-awaiting transition to a more scalable and less energy-intensive decentralized computation network. In reality, Ethereum 2.0 is the original vision for Ethereum: proof-of-stake consensus, state sharding, high transaction throughput, etc. Ethereum currently has the mind and market share of smart contract developers, but as contenders enter the DApp development space, Ethereum could see a migration of talent if the network fails to evolve and scale within a reasonable timeframe. However, Buterin and a host of researchers are committing to solving the daunting engineering challenges of an open, permissionless computation network that can compete with incumbent institutions.

6-   Brian Armstrong

Co-founder and CEO of Coinbase


Brian Armstrong is a software engineer, consultant, risk manager and crypto entrepreneur. Armstrong’s Bitcoin career started in 2012, when he became a co-founder and CEO of Coinbase — one of the largest and most popular cryptocurrency trading platforms, valued at over $1.6 billion. While mostly known for running Coinbase, he is also a co-founder for the GiveCrypto foundation, a charity that has raised $4 million in cryptocurrency donations for people living in poverty.

Brian Armstrong’s 2019:

2019 was a steady year of growth for Coinbase, with the exchange revealing that it had added 8 million new users over the past year and generated nearly $2 billion in trading fees since launching in 2012. In October, Armstrong criticized U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Sherrod Brown for pressuring payment processing giants Stripe, Mastercard and Visa into leaving the Libra Association — a governance consortium for the proposed cryptocurrency — calling the action “very un-American.”

Later that month, on the 11th anniversary of the Bitcoin white paper’s release, Coinbase released a report that concluded Bitcoin has continued to outperform the S&P 500 since 2013. In late December, after Google and Apple began to delist various crypto wallets and decentralized application browsers, Armstrong expressed concerns that Apple could delist the Coinbase app, starting a trend that could have negative impacts on the crypto industry. Earlier that month, Armstrong was announced as one of the instructors at Andreessen Horowitz’s seven-week crypto startup school program.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

Coinbase is perhaps one of the most popular exchanges for newcomers in the crypto economy. In many cases, entrants in the space purchase their first cryptocurrency on Coinbase. With this success comes an incredibly high level of scrutiny and pressure from regulatory authorities. As such, we expect Coinbase to continue its path to becoming an S&P 500 for the crypto markets through purely custodial services. Even if the exchange were to pivot to a trust-minimized business model where users could own their private keys, the regulatory pushback would revert them to a traditional, centralized business model.

7-   Joseph Lubin

Co-founder of Ethereum, founder of ConsenSys


A former Wall Street technologist and music management executive, Joseph Lubin has become one of the most influential people in the blockchain space. Formerly the chief operating officer at Ethereum, Lubin went on to found ConsenSys, a startup incubator, or “venture production studio,” consisting of a network of projects and teams building applications and infrastructure primarily for the Ethereum blockchain.

Joseph Lubin’s 2019:

The end of 2018 saw ConsenSys downsize considerably during a sustaining bear market (also called the “crypto winter”), laying off an estimated 16% of employees. This year saw a focus on spinning out projects not working on critical Ethereum infrastructure into separate ventures and securing various strategic partnerships. In September, Lubin announced that ConsenSys would become a member of Hyperledger’s consortium of projects to work on interoperable solutions and bridges between Hyperledger’s permissioned blockchains and Ethereum.

In June, when the industry was abuzz around Facebook’s Libra reveal, Lubin criticized the design of the Libra cryptocurrency, calling it “a centralized wolf in a decentralized sheep’s clothing.” In November, when China began early talks of its central bank digital currency, Lubin expressed hopes that the new currency would be designed to allow interoperability with more open and permissionless blockchains such as Ethereum.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

With 2019 being a year of reorientation and adaptation for ConsenSys, we expect the company to continue focusing on funding and contributing to infrastructure and protocol development rather than incubating numerous projects without self-sustaining business models. We also anticipate Lubin and ConsenSys will work to secure strategic partnerships centered on enterprise blockchain development and interoperability with other blockchain networks.

8-   Elizabeth Stark

CEO of Lightning Labs


Elizabeth Stark is a blockchain​ entrepreneur, educator and open-internet advocate. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she is a fellow at the Yale Information Society Project, a lecturer in computer science at Yale University, an adjunct associate professor at NYU and was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Stanford StartX. As a leader in the global free culture movement, Stark played an instrumental role in the internet freedom effort that defeated SOPA/PIPA, engaging 18 million people globally. Back in March 2018, the public beta Lightning Network was released, where she has been building a programmable financial layer for the internet through fast, scalable blockchain transactions.

Elizabeth Stark’s 2019:

In April, Lightning Labs announced the alpha release of its Lightning Network client for the Bitcoin network. While initially aimed at testers and developers, the tech had already been implemented with crypto payments processing startup, Moon, to power an e-commerce browser extension allowing shoppers to purchase goods on sites like Amazon using LN payment channels.

By September, it was reported that the number of active BTC Lightning Network nodes had reached 10,000, producing a total of 36,246 payment channels. This year also saw the LN Trust Chain experiment, also called the lightning torch, a sort of relayed sequence of LN payments “invoiced” and passed around the world. Started by anonymous Twitter personality “Hodlonaut” early in the year, the torch has been passed around the world by many crypto luminaries, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. This first Lightning Torch reached its final destination in April, where it was set to be donated to humanitarian aid in Venezuela.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

We expect strong development and adoption of the Lightning Network on Bitcoin throughout the year as the technology matures in terms of speed, security and scalability. The second round of the Lightning Torch began in January, so we expect another successful experiment in relayed, global, permissionless payments throughout the year. With Lightning Network potentially making Bitcoin a viable means of facilitating smaller, high-frequency payments, we will see how willingly BTC investors and hodlers will use the asset as intended: as an electronic cash system, rather than predominantly as a store of value akin to “digital gold.”

9-   Brad Garlinghouse

CEO of Ripple


Since 2015, Brad Garlinghouse has been the CEO of Ripple and also sits on the firm’s board of directors. Prior to working at Ripple, Garlinghouse was the CEO of file collaboration service Hightail. Garlinghouse also served in senior positions at Yahoo and AOL and holds degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard University. In addition to leading Ripple, Garlinghouse is also an angel investor in several firms including AI firm Diffbot and staffing platform Wonolo.

Brad Garlinghouse’s 2019:

Throughout the year, Ripple has engaged in strategic partnerships with various financial services companies to broaden adoption of the RippleNet blockchain network for cross-border payments, settlement and remittances, including high-profile firms such as PNC, Moneygram and Finastra.

In an interview with Fortune in October, Garlinghouse commented on Facebook’s Libra project, saying that the social media giant won’t launch the digital currency before 2023 due to significant regulatory pressure and pushback. Amid controversies around Ripple’s business model and relationship to the XRP asset, Garlinghouse responded by saying that Ripple’s transparency had “opened them to attack.” Many have criticized the firm’s business model as simply selling XRP to institutional and retail investors periodically rather than the asset being intrinsic to its suite of software services.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

We expect the new year to be similar to 2019 in that Ripple will continue securing strategic partnerships for its global payments system while periodically selling a percentage of its XRP holdings to sustain the business. In January 2020, Garlinghouse hinted at the possibility of Ripple conducting an initial public offering later in 2020.

10- Justin Sun

Founder of Tron, CEO of Bittorrent, Inc.


Tron was launched in September 2017 by a Singapore-based nonprofit organization called the Tron Foundation. Tron is headed by CEO Justin Sun, who holds a master’s in East Asia studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s in history from Peking University. Tron has grown to become one of the largest cryptocurrencies in the world.

Tron acquired BitTorrent in June 2018 to run the BitTorrent token, BTT. Sun has become one of the most controversial figures in the blockchain space, known for his elaborate marketing tactics. He recently announced a contest on Twitter to giveaway a Tesla, where he switched back and forth between winners. Sun also made headlines for scheduling and then later canceling a lunch meeting with billionaire Warren Buffet.

Justin Sun’s 2019:

Sun has earned a reputation in the space for being a perpetual marketing machine. In June, Sun placed the highest bid on eBay for a charity lunch meeting with billionaire and Bitcoin critic, Warren Buffet. The lunch finally happened in January of 2020. In October, nearly 12% of Tether’s (USDT) USD stablecoin supply was transferred from Ethereum to the Tron network.

In November, Sun admitted to being one of the investors who purchased cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex from crypto finance firm, Circle. While Sun clarified that this investment was entirely separate from Tron, the exchange promptly listed TRX after the acquisition. Near the close of the year, Sun riled the crypto community when he revealed that he had donated $1 million to climate activist Greta Thunberg’s initiative.

What Cointelegraph expects for 2020:

It’s been incredible witnessing Sun essentially market Tron into existence, and we don’t expect the founder’s controversial tactics to cease in the new year. After the recent acquisition of Steemit, we anticipate more acquisitions and strategic partnerships throughout the year. With the competitive space of smart contract platforms becoming more crowded, Tron will have to make a concerted effort to attract more developers to build applications beyond gaming and gambling DApps.