Most Influential 2023

How CoinDesk chose 50 people who defined the year in crypto.

AccessTimeIconDec 4, 2023 at 5:21 p.m. UTC
Updated Jan 26, 2024 at 3:41 p.m. UTC
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It was a year of retrenchment and transition for the crypto industry. After 2022’s scandals, including FTX, Three Arrows and Celsius, asset prices had gotten crushed and the industry was in hunker-down mode: building, retooling, sharpening up compliance. Regulators went on a warpath, launching major investigations against Coinbase, Binance, Kraken and others. Long-standing, and potentially momentous, legal cases, like Ripple’s with the SEC over the sale of XRP, reached a conclusion.

THIS POST IS PART OF COINDESK'S MOST INFLUENTIAL 2023. SEE THE FULL LIST HERE.

By year-end, the industry’s prospects seemed more clear. Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of massive securities fraud in November and everyone, proponents and critics alike, was ready to move on. The industry had hopes for greater regulatory clarity going forward, with several bills on Congress’s agenda and MiCA’s comprehensive legislation going into force in Europe, covering 450 million users.

At the time of writing, bitcoin (BTC) has more than doubled in price since this time last year and many other cryptocurrencies are rising, too. TradFi is looking at digital assets ever more seriously, getting involved with staking and the tokenization of real-world assets as never before. With spot bitcoin ETFs likely to be approved early next year, millions more people are set to join crypto markets and the industry has finally, properly, joined the mainstream.

CoinDesk’s “Most Influential” package tells the story of the year in crypto, profiling 50 people we think define the main stories and themes. It features a lot of names from regulation, lawmaking and policy-advocacy, as you would expect. SEC Chair Gary Gensler is in our top 10, for instance, as is Ryan Selkis, the Messari CEO who became a leading advocate for crypto in Washington, D.C., this year.

Also in the top 10 are Casey Rodarmor, the creator of the controversial Ordinals Theory, which brings data inscription (and digital collectibles) to Bitcoin; Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, who launched the Base layer 2 and moved strongly in derivatives; and Jose Fernandez da Ponte, who led fintech powerhouse PayPal's initiative for its own Ethereum-based U.S. dollar stablecoin. Similarly, Paolo Ardoino, the new Tether CEO, gets a nod for his resilience in leading arguably the most successful crypto (after bitcoin), despite criticism of its stablecoin business.

Michael Kutsche's image of Caroline Ellison for Most Influential 2023.
Michael Kutsche's image of Caroline Ellison for Most Influential 2023.

The rest of the list includes names from across the wide range of industry sub-sectors, from NFTs and DeFi to hardware and central bank digital currencies. The list is a mix of familiar names (like Ledger CEO Pascal Gauthier) and new faces from TradFi, reflecting the increasing convergence of the two. Larry Fink, the BlackRock CEO and chairman who once dismissed bitcoin, gets a mention because his company is now looking to launch a bitcoin ETF along with other major names from Wall Street. Also honored, last but so not least, is CoinDesk’s own Ian Allison, who broke the story of Bankman-Fried's Alameda Research’s dodgy balance sheet, setting off the collapse of FTX and SBF's trial that culminated (jaw-droppingly) in November. If nobody believed it before, journalists were influencers in crypto this year.

CoinDesk asked 10 leading artists to create 10 pieces of original artwork for the series. These pieces will now be available as NFTs during an auction set to begin after 12 p.m. ET (17:00 UTC) on Dec. 4. It will run for 24 hours following the execution of the first bid on Transient Labs’ sales platform. Part of the proceeds from the NFTs will go to The Hunger Project, a New York non-profit that works to reduce hunger around the world. Check out all the art here and make your bid. It’s the 10th year CoinDesk has been proud to publish its “Most Influential” list, our annual appraisal of what moved on crypto that year. Looking back, many names from earlier years are still prominent (Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has made three appearances on the list as has prominent crypto intellectual Balaji Srinivasan). Names like Blythe Masters, Theymos and Adam Ludwin, who were honored in 2015 and 2016, are less prominent these days.

We’re aware that a list like this won’t please everyone. There are many names who might have deserved to be on this year’s roster and aren’t – for which we are sorry. Most Influential is meant, above all, to represent industry trends and themes (and the people associated with those themes). It can never be comprehensive in actually tracking brute influence! It’s meant more as a snapshot, and it’s definitely not a ranking. Outside of picking the top 10, we don’t order the names; they appear randomly, more or less.

We hope you enjoy the profiles and artwork here and that you will offer feedback on the choices we made. Please do check out the NFTs and make a bid: the artists and the Hunger Project will appreciate your generosity.

Coldie's depiction of Pascal Gauthier, CEO of Ledger
Coldie's depiction of Pascal Gauthier, CEO of Ledger

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The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.

Ben Schiller

Ben Schiller is CoinDesk's managing editor for features and opinion. Previously, he was editor-in-chief at BREAKER Magazine and a staff writer at Fast Company. He holds some ETH, BTC and LINK.


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