Meet the next generation of ultra-wealthy Americans. For the first time, seven billionaires who made their fortune in the world of cryptocurrencies make the list of the country’s wealthiest—six of whom are newcomers.
The crypto septet on this year’s Forbes 400 list is estimated to be worth $55.1 billion. Almost half of that fortune, $22.5 billion, is owned by one man, Sam Bankman-Fried, the 29-year-old CEO of crypto derivatives exchange FTX. Bankman-Fried built what is now one of the industry’s largest trading platforms in two years, processing $13.8 billion in daily volume. In July, FTX closed a $900 million Series B fundraise, the crypto industry’s largest venture capital round to date, at a $18 billion valuation.
Other first-timers include Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, whose exchange made its public market debut in April with the largest direct listing in history ($86 billion), Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, owners of Coinbase competitor Gemini, Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, and Jed McCaleb, co-founder of Ripple, a San Francisco-based company that uses blockchain technology to facilitate international financial transactions.
They join Chris Larsen, another Ripple co-founder, on the list with a net worth of $2.7 billion last year. His net worth is now estimated to be $6 billion.
The rise in the number of crypto billionaires is largely due to unprecedented mainstream interest in the space, led by institutional investors, as digital currencies have set new price records across the board. Since the release of last year’s list in September 2020, the price of Bitcoin has risen from $10,128 to $50,078, the price of the second-largest cryptocurrency, Ether, has risen nearly 1,000%, and the total market cap of cryptocurrency has crossed $1 trillion for the first time, peaking at $2.4 trillion in May.
But this may be just the beginning. Ripple, Kraken, Circle, BlockFi, and eToro are among the startups that have announced or hinted at plans to go public. Furthermore, venture capital firms, led by Andreessen Horowitz’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, are poised to drive the value of the industry’s leading private companies into the stratosphere.
However, the volatile nature of cryptocurrency, which has seen the price of Bitcoin ping-pong between $29,000 and $64,000 this year alone, can dramatically influence the fortunes of crypto-preneurs. Furthermore, as the industry evolves and matures, regulators around the world are paying closer attention to it. Though these concerns are frequently dubbed FUD within the crypto community for the “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” they sow, they have the tendency to move the market downward and, by extension, much of the wealth accumulated by the most astute.
Still, one thing is certain: the booming economy is churning out billionaires at breakneck speed.
$22.5 billion in net worth
With the completion of FTX’s $900 million deal, crypto’s richest billionaire saw his fortune nearly double. The majority of his wealth is invested in FTX’s stock and tokens (FTT).
$11.5 billion in net worth
The CEO and co-founder of Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the United States, has steadily increased his wealth since the company’s ‘watershed’ public debut in April. Armstrong owns an estimated 19% of Coinbase.
$6 billion in net worth
$2.7 billion was spent last year.
The only veteran on the list, Ripple co-founder and chairman grew his fortune by $3.3 billion as the XRP token rose in value, despite an ongoing legal battle with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which accuses Ripple of violating securities law.
Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss
Each has a net worth of $4.3 billion.
The twin founders of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini graced the cover of Forbes 2021 World’s Billionaires issue in April, which was sold as a non-fungible token. It was titled “Merchants of the Metaverse” and sold for $333,333 in an auction on their digital art platform Nifty Gateway.
$3.5 billion in net worth
Ehrsam and Armstrong co-founded Coinbase in 2012. He left the company in 2017, but he is still a board member and the CEO of the crypto-focused investment firm Paradigm.
$3 billion in net worth
McCaleb was a blockchain pioneer who helped launch three well-known crypto firms, including Ripple and Mt. Gox, the first major bitcoin exchange, which he sold before it was famously hacked. The majority of McCaleb’s fortune stems from his XRP stake as a Ripple co-founder.