These five people may not be widely known within the crypto community, but their impact on the industry's growth is hard to underestimate. While the crypto scene seems to favor CEOs over engineers, idolizing people like Elon Musk, Pavel Durov, and Sam Bankman-Fried, the lower-rank builders and founders remain practically unnoticed. It’s time we give them proper credit.
Note that this is the second part of the article about the less famous people in the crypto and blockchain industry. Check out the first part if you want to know more about them and their projects.
Camila Russo is one of the most prominent and prolific crypto journalists who has been covering the field of decentralized finance for three years. Initially, Russo was a Bloomberg News reporter writing about emerging markets, European stocks, and digital assets from Buenos Aires, Madrid, and New York City. However, in 2019 she masterly identified the emerging niche within the growing crypto market, DeFi. After realizing that the industry doesn’t receive enough coverage, Russo launched a daily newsletter dubbed “The Defiant,” which provided subscribers with a roundup of major DeFi events.
Over the years, one that initially started as a plain newsletter grew into the leading DeFi-focused multimedia platform. In April 2021, The Defiant closed a $1.4M pre-seed round from investors including IDEO CoLab Ventures, ParaFi Capital, Blockchange Ventures, MetaCartel Ventures, Defiance Capital, Mechanism Capital, and GBV Capital. The new platform also secured funding from individual angels, Anthony Pompliano, Mariano Conti, Andrew Keys, and many more.
Camila Russo is also known for writing The Infinite Machine, the first book on the history of Ethereum, published in July 2020.
Kevin Owocki is a software engineer who has been experimenting with web entrepreneurship since 1999, when he ran a web company out of his parents' house in Pennsylvania, USA. But his most important project at the moment is Gitcoin, an Ethereum-based network for developing open source software with incentivization mechanics.
Owocki recognized that many software startups end up abandoned due to the lack of funding and found an original solution to this issue, the quadratic funding system. The algorithm matches the donations from individuals with corresponding amounts of funding from bigger donors, so the project with the most active community receives the most capital. Since its launch in November 2017, Gitcoin has helped 111,332 funders reach an audience of 364,566 earners, raising about $64 million in total.
Owocki is also the author of GreenPilled: How Crypto Can Regenerate The World, a book about cryptoeconomic systems that create a positive impact on their environment and the world.
Nikolai Durov is the brother of Pavel Durov, who is a founder of the social networking site VK and the messaging app Telegram. Unlike his outspoken and charismatic sibling, who enjoyed the fame of being a "Mark Zuckerberg of Russia," Nikolai preferred to refrain from taking on the role of the tech superstar. But it was him who was behind most of the projects, including TON (previous Telegram Open Network), a blockchain designed to enable processing millions of transactions every second.
The Telegram team had an ambitious goal of turning TON into the most popular platform for DApps but lost the case to SEC over allegations of selling the unregistered security. After Telegram announced the end of the involvement with the project, the TON Foundation continued its development, partnering with three central African governments to work on CBDCs.
Cleve Mesidor was an Obama presidential appointee, working as Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. By 2016, she became disillusioned with politics and started exploring crypto. Here she found her commitment to closing gender and racial gaps, as the industry still remains vastly male-dominated.
Cleve Mesidor is the founder of THE CLEVOLUTION, a blockchain consulting firm, and Logos, the first censorship-resistant social platform on blockchain designed for activists. She is also the executive director of the Blockchain Foundation, an industry-wide crypto education platform, and leads the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain.
Mesidor is also an author of “THE CLEVOLUTION: My Quest for Justice in Politics & Crypto,” a memoir about her political journey and crypto activism.
Michael Gronager is CEO and co-founder of Chainalysis, the world’s leading blockchain analytics company that helps government agencies, cryptocurrency businesses, and financial institutions identify and collect on-chain data. While Gronager’s impact on the industry may be perceived as controversial, it’s hard to disagree that, in some sense, his startup has revolutionized the crypto market.
Before founding Chainalysis, Gronager served as the COO of Kraken, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges. When Japanese Mt.Gox went bankrupt in 2014 as a result of the biggest crypto hack to date that drained around 740k bitcoins, Gronager saw an opportunity to pitch his idea of the blockchain-tracking software to investors. Eventually, the newly launched startup became the official investigator on the Mt. Gox case, leading to the arrest of the main suspect Alexander Vinnik.
Despite two-thirds of Chainalysis's revenue coming from government contracts, Gronager doesn’t think his company undermines blockchain privacy. “Privacy doesn't mean that you can't trace money and find leads. It means that I can't see the nature of transactions on crypto and the blockchain,” he said.
Do you think that there are other people who should be on our list of less known but equally important people in crypto? Let me know about them on Twitter @szoszon_ or email me at [email protected]