Less known but equally important

People behind the crypto and blockchain scene

A stock image of a crowd in the neon lights.

Those times when crypto was the domain of only a few computer geeks are long gone. Nowadays, chances are that even the least tech-savvy people have heard something about Elon Musk, Vitalik Buterin, or Pavel Durov, who are among the most well-known figures in the world of crypto. As the interest in Bitcoin grows due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the NFT art market is booming, cryptocurrencies are becoming more mainstream by the day.

Yet there are people behind the crypto scene who are barely known even to the most engaged enthusiasts. We decided to change it and write about these five people who deserve more recognition within the community.

David Chaum, a cryptography pioneer and father of cryptocurrency

David Chaum, an American computer scientist of Jewish descent, is the inventor of eCash, the first digital currency created in 1995. His 1982 dissertation contains the first known proposal of a blockchain protocol, which later became the foundation of the Bitcoin whitepaper. He is also the founder of the International Association for Cryptographic Research, a non-profit scientific initiative that organizes annual conferences in specific sub-areas of cryptography. Currently, Chaum works on his crypto project, xx network, consisting of a private encrypted messenger, xx blockchain, and xx coin.

Olayinka Odeniran, founder of the Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC)

Olayinka Odeniran is a cybersecurity expert and risk consultant. She founded BWBC in 2018 after attending The North American Bitcoin Conference that held a networking party at a strip club. It left female participants feeling like they did not belong to the predominantly male and white world of crypto, so Odeniran created a welcoming space for women of color in the blockchain industry. In 2021, BWBC launched an online program for Black women in partnership with ConsenSys, an Ethereum software company. The goal is to train half a million Black female blockchain developers to help narrow the gender gap in the field of crypto.

Sam Sun, anonymous white hat hacker

“I like challenging assumptions. I like trying to do the impossible, finding what others have missed, and blowing people's minds with things they never saw coming”, Sam writes about himself. Sam Sun, aka samczsun, is a prominent security researcher in the Ethereum ecosystem who keeps his true identity secret. Sam has found numerous bugs and vulnerabilities in Curve Finance, Ethereum Name Service, Authereum, Kyber Network, 0x Exchange, Atomic Loans, and many others. There is an old saying in the blockchain community: “If samczun hasn’t found a bug in your code, are you even on mainnet?” Sam also hosts a website where he explains every security breach he found. Currently, samczsun works for Paradigm, an investment firm focused on supporting disruptive web3/crypto companies, where he is responsible for disclosing vulnerabilities and publishing educational resources.

Manasi Vora, founder of Women in Blockchain and Komorebi Collective DAO

Manasi Vora became interested in the topic of crypto in 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned India’s largest currency bills in a desperate effort to curb corruption. It led to the rupee's sharp devaluation, which affected the most vulnerable communities. That was when Vora turned to crypto, only to discover that the industry suffers from the same systematic biases present in traditional finance. She decided to launch the Women in Blockchain initiative to educate more women about crypto and bring diversity to this male-dominated field. Vora also became one of the creators of Komorebi, the decentralized autonomous organization that invests in women-led start-ups and projects.

Amir Taaki, cryptoanarchist and hacktivist

Amir Taaki is the British-Iranian anarchist and the co-founder of Dark Wallet, an anonymous, browser-based Bitcoin app. Although it was never completed, Dark Wallet inspired many similar projects like Samourai Wallet, Electrum on Tails, and Monero. In 2014, Forbes put Taaki on their 30 under 30 list and named him one of the most influential young people in tech and a future billionaire. Yet a year later, Taaki suddenly disappeared. He left London for Syria, where he joined the Kurdish YPG military and spent several months on the front fighting ISIS. Then he worked for over a year for the economic committee in Rojava. Since then, Taaki has been actively involved in the crypto community and founded a group of blockchain activists in Catalonia to aid the Catalan Independence Movement.