Presenting CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2021

The 50 people who defined the year in crypto.

AccessTimeIconDec 7, 2021 at 2:08 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:16 p.m. UTC
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It was a massive year for crypto: Twelve months when long-held theses were validated and many once sci-fi concepts became relatively mainstream.

Celebrities embraced NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) became a thing. The U.S. Congress taxed crypto (but accepted it more and more). And the markets ... well, they were nuts.

“Crypto” today means more than it did a year ago and much more than it did a decade ago. It takes in the future of money, the future of culture, perhaps the future as we know it.

Most Influential is CoinDesk’s recognition of this wide-ranging field of innovation. The following names were selected first by readers in a survey and then by staff over two rounds of (intense) meetings.

The top 10 are recognized for outstanding contributions across development, business building, regulation, gaming, art and investing. CoinDesk commissioned 10 artists to create portraits of these influencers, with NFTs of the works available at platforms like SuperRare and Foundation. Up to 20% of the sales will go to charities of the artists’ choice.

The “honorable 40″ (listed below the top 10) are recognized for their ongoing work. We’ll roll out more profiles and interviews over the course of this week.

Most Influential 2021: The Top 10

(Pindar Van Arman/CoinDesk)
(Pindar Van Arman/CoinDesk)

Why: For naming stadia “FTX” and becoming crypto’s richest and cleverest twentysomething. Read the full profile.

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Charity: The Giving Block for art therapy at a local hospital.

Why: For leading NBA Top Shot and bringing tokens to sports (including the NFL). Read the full profile.

Artist: Panter Xhita

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Why: For contributions to the biggest Bitcoin upgrade in years. Read the full profile.

Artist: Stellabelle

NFT auction at: Foundation

Why: For his work in El Salvador with President Bukele and development of the Bitcoin Lightning Network. Read the full profile.

Artist: The Last Confirmation - a Norman X Robness collaboration

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Why: For his Dogecoin advocacy - and showing the dangers of influencers on crypto markets. Read the full profile.

NFT auction at: SuperRare

(Federico Solmi/CoinDesk)
(Federico Solmi/CoinDesk)

Why: For making crypto fun and catalyzing a “play to earn” juggernaut. Read the full profile.

NFT auction at: Foundation

Whisper to Bulls
‘everlasting technological adaptation’
Cynthia Lummis.
Whisper to Bulls ‘everlasting technological adaptation’ Cynthia Lummis.

Why: For leading pro-bitcoin discourse in the U.S. Senate. Read the full profile.

NFT auction at: SuperRare


Why: For grasping the nettle of crypto regulation. Read the full profile.

Artist: Skygolpe

NFT available for purchase at: Known Origin

Why: For his contributions to Cosmos and the multi-chain future. Read the full profile.

NFT auction at: Private auction

Why: For leading policy discussions and notable investments. Read the full profile.

Artist: Sasha Katz

NFT auction at: SuperRare

(Sasha Katz/CoinDesk)
(Sasha Katz/CoinDesk)

The Honorable 40

The following are recognized for their ongoing contributions to the crypto industry.

All Seeing Seneca – The creative lead behind Bored Ape Yacht Club.

Naveen Jain – He created a global identity solution using emojis.

Polynetwork Hacker – For educating us on the difference between “hack” and “exploit.”

Roneil Rumburg – Audius’s CEO on growing a Web 3 Spotify to nearly 7 million monthly listeners.

Michael Shaulov – A DeFi powerhouse finds a balance between decentralization and compliance.

Francis X. Suarez – Miami’s Mayor: “I’ve learned how extensive the network of crypto stakeholders truly is.”

Camila Russo – The Defiant founder: “We are just learning how powerful cryptocurrencies and smart contracts can rally people globally.”

Tim Beiko – By 2030, Ethereum’s economy will be [at] “top 10 country” scale, says this Ethereum developer.

Mark Cuban – Crypto “will have the same impact on business and consumers as the internet did, if not more.”

Willy Woo – For building a 21st century media empire.

Isaiah Jackson – The “Bitcoin & Black America” author continues to inspire.

Stani Kulechov – The founder of Aave has teased coming ideas, including a debit card and fashion line, for the decentralized money market.

Ryan Selkis – Messari’s CEO was a force behind crypto’s political awakening this year.

Charles Hoskinson – Cardano’s founder brought smart contracts to one of the largest “Ethereum killers” this year.

Andre Cronje – Will 2022 be the year Yearn becomes the “back office for yield?”

Gavin Wood – Following the first batch of parachain auctions, Polkadot will solidify its place as a key proof-of-stake blockchain.

(Adam Levine/CoinDesk)
(Adam Levine/CoinDesk)

Arianna Simpson – The a16z general partner is investing in the future of the internet, Web 3.

Paolo Ardoino – Tether’s unofficial hype man is willing to argue online with critics of the stablecoin.

Vitalik Buterin – The founder of Ethereum still holds sway over the most used blockchain network.

Antonio Juliano – Decentralized exchange dYdX was one the first to experiment with an innovative layer 2 solution.

Jeremy Allaire – The Circle CEO hopes to take his firm toward a $4.5 billion exit.

Danny Ryan – The Ethereum Foundation programmer took lead on the much anticipated London hard fork.

Michael Saylor – The MicroStrategy CEO will buy the dip and the top. He’s in the market for bitcoin.

Elizabeth Warren – The progressive Massachusetts senator has brought the fight against crypto to Washington.

Jerome Powell – The Federal Reserve chairman is likely the most influential man in crypto, as he is in all markets.

Barry Silbert – The founder of Digital Currency Group sees Standard Oil as an inspiration.

Serey Chea – Project Bakong stands apart from other nation digital currency experiments. Chea brought Cambodia’s moonshot into being.

Ray Youssef – Peer-to-peer bitcoin trading is a powerful force.

President Xi Jinping – When the Chinese Communist Party banned mining, it only proved the resilience of Bitcoin’s distributed network.

Bitfinex’ed – Some of the pseudonymous account’s suspicions about Tether’s backing were vindicated this year.

Changpeng Zhao – The Binance CEO took a more practical approach to regulation this year.

Robert Leshner – The Compound founder expects the bridge between DeFi and traditional finance to narrow next year.

Devin Finzer – OpenSea was most recently valued at $10 billion.

Matt Hall & John Watkinson – Larva Labs, the creator of CryptoPunk, is working with a Hollywood powerhouse to expand the NFT brand.

Brian Armstrong – Coinbase CEO took the U.S.-based exchange public this year, in a historic direct listing

Jack Dorsey – The former CEO of Twitter and Square, now CEO of Block, is building for a world where bitcoin is the native currency of the internet.

Kristin Smith – The Blockchain Association’s executive director is one of crypto’s staunchest advocates on Capitol Hill.

Beeple – Digital artist Mike Winkelmann brought NFTs into the limelight.

Anatoly Yakovenko – Solana, a distributed network Yakovenko co-founded, saw massive growth this year.

Random Celebrities Who Discovered Crypto – From Paris Hilton to Jimmy Fallon, crypto was brought into the limelight

CoinDesk has partnered with SuperRare and Foundation to auction off the NFTs here and with The Giving Block to offer the artists the ability to donate to more than 1000 charities and causes.

(Kevin Ross/CoinDesk)
(Kevin Ross/CoinDesk)


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies 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 with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

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