Presenting CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2021

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.

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

Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX

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

Artist: Pindar Van Arman

NFT auction at: SuperRare

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

Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs

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

Charity: Ocean Clean Up

Bitcoin’s Taproot developers

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

Artist: Stellabelle

NFT auction at: Foundation

Charity: Sloth Conservation Foundation

Jack Mallers, founder and CEO of Strike

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

Charity: The Giving Block Disasters and Conflict Cause Fund

Elon Musk, entrepreneur

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

Artist: Federico Solmi

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Charity: The Giving Block Children & Education Cause Fund

Trung Nguyen, CEO of Axie Infinity

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

Artist: Matias Romano Aleman

NFT auction at: Foundation

Charity: The Giving Block Mental Health Cause Fund

Cynthia Lummis, U.S. Senator of Wyoming

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

Artist: Gisel X Florez

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Charity: The Giving Block Children & Education Cause Fund

Gary Gensler, Chair of U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission

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

Artist: Skygolpe

NFT available for purchase at: Known Origin

Charity: The Giving Block Mental Health Cause Fund

Do Kwon, CEO of Terraform Labs (COMING FRIDAY, DEC. 10)

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

Artist: Jake the Degen

NFT auction at: Open Sea

Charity: Chicago Community Bond Fund

Katie Haun, General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz

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

Artist: Sasha Katz

NFT auction at: SuperRare

Charity: Too Young to Wed

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.

Gavin Wood

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.

We’ll recognize more figures from the industry over the next few days. 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.

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