Cryptocurrencies, the blockchains, smart contracts, and proof of work. The new world of finance is filled with strange terms and unique concepts. If you want to know what the blockchain can do and where digital finance is going — the best way to find out is by listening to an expert. Many of the world’s top digital money innovators deliver talks.
Here are the top 25 blockchain and cryptocurrency speakers.
1. “Sir” John Hargrave
A good place to begin is with a knight — or at least someone who styles himself as one. “Sir” John Hargrave is a former comedian, the founder of Zug.com, and the author of Blockchain for Everyone: How I Learned the Secrets of the New Millionaire Class (And You Can, Too).
Hargrave’s book uses real stories and examples to explain how the blockchain works. He’s also the CEO of Media Shower, a blockchain media platform. His publication, Bitcoin Market Journal, goes out to more than 100,000 blockchain investors each month.
Hargrave has also written about mind-hacking, but his strength is his in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of the blockchain industry and the clarity with which he addresses his audiences. His topics range from how the blockchain works through success stories to specific Bitcoin investment strategies. Whether you’re looking for a general explanation of the crypto world or specific information about how to make the most of it, John Hargrave will keep you both informed and entertained.
2. Samson Williams
For anyone who bought Bitcoin at the end of 2017, listening to someone who holds a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management could be useful. But Williams doesn’t just know about coping with crises. He’s also a recognized expert on the global impact of the blockchain.
Williams was the chair of a United Nations Blockchain Commission subcommittee looking at global health and emergency response. As part of the London School of Business and Finance, Williams has taught blockchain courses across the Middle East.
Williams’s talks have covered the nature of the blockchain, but they’ve also explored whether the blockchain is right for particular businesses.
Blockchain is a tool, but it’s not going to be the right solution for every problem. Williams helps companies to understand what the blockchain can and can’t do. He also looks to the future, explaining what will happen when cryptocurrencies meet artificial intelligence and automation.
3. Joel Comm
Together with Travis Wright, Joel Comm is the presenter of the Bad Crypto Podcast, the Internet’s most popular blockchain audio program. Comm has interviewed all of the blockchain’s most prominent figures, exploring both the technology and the opportunity. (He’s still hoping to interview Satoshi Nakamoto, but who knows? Maybe he’s interviewed him already.)
Comm brings two benefits to his talks. The first is an irreverent, down-to-earth approach. Comm isn’t an engineer or a coder. He’s an everyman with a deep interest in the latest technology.
As Comm looks into the future, he brings people with him, asking the right questions and learning as he goes. And the second benefit is a background in digital development.
Comm is an Internet entrepreneur who’s sold a business to Yahoo and written best-selling books about digital opportunities. As a blockchain speaker, if he says there’s something of value in the space, he’s worth listening to.
4. Cherie Aimée
Cherie Aimée was working as a programmer and technology CEO when she found that she was having trouble breathing. Sometimes she felt that she was suffocating; at other times, she’d hyperventilate. When her arms “felt heavy,” her husband rushed her to hospital. Within minutes, Cherie was in cardiac arrest. She was just 35 years old.
Cherie had survived Hodgkin lymphoma, but the medication she had taken had weakened her heart. The hospital placed her in a coma and put her on a life support machine until one day; she received a heart transplant.
The spiritual awakening she underwent during her period of ill health has influenced her return to the world of technology.
When Aimee talks to audiences now about the blockchain, her focus is on its human aspects, on the ethical use of digital currencies, and on how businesses can bring trust to a trustless system.
5. Calvin Weight
Cherie Aimée talks about “why Bitcoin”—and, in fact, why anything. Calvin Weight is better qualified to discuss the what of Bitcoin. As the CEO of Coinbook, a cryptocurrency exchange, Weight has seen what happens behind the scenes in the crypto world. He’s also an early adopter who was already active in cryptocurrencies when Mt. Gox collapsed, when Bitcoin suddenly inflated, and when the bubble burst.
Weight’s talks tend to focus on Bitcoin basics. He draws on his background in finance and the markets to explain why cryptocurrencies are a form of money and how they work.
As the head of an exchange, Weight also has a unique perspective on many of the most critical issues surrounding cryptocurrencies now, including security, regulations, and the challenges of building a new way of making transactions with a new kind of currency available to everyone.
6. Josina Rodrigues
There’s a real value in listening to a cryptocurrency speaker who’s building a cryptocurrency business. They can explain the issues and the challenges, discuss how companies are overcoming them, and talk about the trends that businesses are following.
But it’s also worth listening to someone who can take a broader view. Josina Rodrigues is a Portuguese Ph.D. researcher focusing on the blockchain. She also has twenty years of experience as an economist, has been a finance director, and consulted for numerous enterprises.
The result of that mixture of hands-on experience and academic distance means that her talks can be technical. She’s discussed the role of the blockchain in cybersecurity, explained how AI and the blockchain are changing risk management and talked about the effect of the blockchain on sustainability. It’s a long way from building an exchange but blockchain technology, but it’s always valuable.
7. Brian Armstrong
Like Calvin Weight, Brian Armstrong also offers insight into how the cryptocurrency infrastructure is being built and where it’s going. As the co-founder and CEO of Coinbase, few people have spent more time working with digital coins and experimenting with the blockchain.
Armstrong’s background is in development; he even worked at Airbnb in the early days of the platform, where he focused on fraud prevention. That gave him a unique insight into international payment systems. At Coinbase, Armstrong had to deal with the complexities of international transactions, as well as user demand and government regulations. (The company is said to have approached the SEC about obtaining a brokerage license that would enable it to trade in fiat currencies as well as digital coins.)
At Disrupt SF in 2018, Armstrong talked about the future of cryptocurrency. There aren’t many people who have had a more significant role in building its past.
8. Brad Garlinghouse
Calvin Weight and Brian Armstrong have created exchanges, platforms on which digital currencies are bought and sold. Brad Garlinghouse created a coin—and not just any coin but one of the most commonly used coins. Ripple wasn’t intended for consumers. It was meant to help banks and businesses to make use of blockchain technology to send and receive money around the world.
The company has come in for a lot of controversies, with some people accusing the firm of selling unregistered securities. Despite those arguments (which have descended into some bitter legal disputes) Ripple’s XRP remains the third-largest digital coin behind only Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Garlinghouse came to Ripple with a rich background in the technology industry. He had led YouSendIt, which became Hightail, and worked at both AOL and Yahoo, among others. None of those jobs have turned out to be as controversial or as innovative as his current role. Garlinghouse leads the expansion of one of the world’s most critical cryptocurrencies and one of its most essential cryptocurrency speakers.
9. Jihan Wu
Despite the country banning the use of cryptocurrencies, China dominates blockchain technology. Its mining companies are the world’s biggest, supported by cheap and plentiful electricity.
Those miners don’t come bigger than Bitmain, a company that makes mining tools, and whose two mining pools have been described as controlling almost 30 percent of all the power used in Bitcoin mining.
The founder of Bitmain is Jihan Wu, a Beijing University graduate now estimated to be worth almost $2 billion. In November 2018, Wu left Bitmain, chased by a large number of lawsuits, and has since started a new over-the-counter cryptocurrency service called Matrix.
No view of cryptocurrency would be complete with a Chinese perspective, and few people have seen more of the controversies and complexities of that space than Jihan Wu.
10. Kathleen Breitman
Controversy and cryptocurrency speakers seem to go hand in hand. When Kathleen Breitman and her husband, Arthur, decided to launch a digital coin that would be easier to manage than Bitcoin, she expected to raise about $20 million in the ICO.
By the time the ICO closed, the Swiss Tezos Foundation that collected the funds was sitting on $232 million worth of digital currencies, the most raised ever in a single offering.
And then it all went wrong. The Tezos Foundation was led by a South African called Johann Gevers, who is described as refusing to release the funds to developers. He also refused to resign.
Supporters were unable to receive the tokens they had bought. The press got wind of the story. Lawsuits started to fly. The Breitmans funded the development themselves—as well as the cost of the litigation. Eventually, Tezos did get off the ground. Supporters received their coins, and the non-profit wing has committed to spending $30 million in grants.
11. Nick Szabo
If Satoshi Nakamoto were a cryptocurrency speaker, he’d be at the top of the list. Nick Szabo isn’t Satoshi Nakamoto, but some people say he is. (He denies it, so he’s only at number eleven.) The reason that Szabo is so often associated with the author of the Bitcoin white paper is that he’s one of the few people who have all of the necessary qualifications and experience. He has a degree in computer science and engineering, but he also has a JD from George Washington University Law School.
That combination of computer knowledge and legal expertise has allowed him to mix coding with contract law to produce smart contracts.
It’s those smart contracts that show the most significant promise in the blockchain world, enabling digital tokens to confirm that contractual obligations have been met and the agreement can move on to the next stage. For anyone interested in how the blockchain is going to automate the sharing economy or improve supply chains, Nick Szabo has ideas worth hearing. Nick Szabo added legal knowledge to his coding skills.
12. Elizabeth Stark
Elizabeth Stark added Internet expertise to her legal skills. As a law school graduate, she’s not an expert coder, but she has taught at both Stanford and Yale about the Internet.
Her Lightning Labs company is also the leading developer of Lightning, an open protocol layer that uses blockchains and smart contracts to enable cheap and fast private transactions.
What Elizabeth Stark might be most famous for, though, is her willingness to tell people in the crypto world things they don’t want to hear. Her talks have criticized the explosion of ICOs that led retail investors to load up on coins that are likely to fail.
She’s attacked the tendency towards centralization at some crypto companies that want to retain control over their coins. Stark has also been credited with converting Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey to the benefits of the blockchain. Square is now said to be one of the most popular ways for US investors to buy Bitcoin.
13. Laura Shin
Laura Shin also didn’t come into the crypto world with a background in writing lines of code. Her experience is in writing. As a senior editor at Forbes, she was the first mainstream journalist writing about cryptocurrencies and the blockchain full-time. She’s since set up a couple of podcasts about the crypto world in which she interviews the industry’s leading figures.
Shin has been watching the development of the blockchain almost since the publication of the Bitcoin white paper. She’s observed cryptocurrencies develop, seen exchanges established and hacked, and written about every issue affecting the blockchain, from security and fraud to ICOs and regulation.
It’s always useful to hear from cryptocurrency speakers who are building the platforms and grappling with the technology. But it’s no less valuable to listen to people who can take a broader view and are familiar with what’s happening across the crypto space.
14. Arianna Simpson
Crypto pioneers often have unique stories that brought them into the space. For some, it’s a chance to reinvent a financial system that barely survived a crash. For others, it’s the opportunity to build something on an exciting new technology.
For Arianna Simpson, it was a trip to Zimbabwe where she saw first hand the effects of hyperinflation. The Zimbabwean dollar was losing half its value every day. Returning to the United States, Simpson started thinking about a country in which no government or bank was regulating currency.
Simpson had been working at Facebook, but she took a new job at crypto firm BitGo before setting up Autonomous Partners. The cryptocurrency hedge fundraised money in the “lower eight digits.”
As a cryptocurrency speaker, Simpson will be of the most considerable interest to investors. She’s compared crypto investing strategies with approaches taken by Warren Buffett and Howard Marks, and noted that crypto markets are “very sentiment-driven.”
15. Travis Wright
Travis Wright is, with Joel Comm, half of the Bad Crypto Podcast, a down-to-earth program that explains the blockchain and cryptocurrencies. When Comm and Wright started the podcast, they admit that they knew very little about the technology. Their goal was to bring audiences with them as they talked to pioneers in the crypto space and learned about digital tokens and crypto coins. They’ve since learned enough to launch their own currency, BADcoin.
What Comm and Wright lack in hands-on technical knowledge (they don’t have a crypto business, and they haven’t built a token to power a smart contract) they make up for with style. Travis is also a comedian, and his approach is to combine big ideas with big, fun entertainment. As a former technology trainer, he also knows how to make complex topics comprehensible and clear for anyone to use. Expect his cryptocurrency talks to be both informative and fun.
16. Kathryn Haun
We’ve already seen a few cryptocurrency speakers who have combined technology knowledge with legal training. But few of those speakers have the legal background of Kathryn Haun.
A former federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice and an Assistant US Attorney in Washington DC and San Francisco, she has prosecuted hundreds of crimes. Her focus is on cybercrimes, the deep Web, and digital currencies. She has taught about cybercrime and cryptocurrencies at Stanford Law School and sits on the board of directors of Coinbase.
The topics that Haun discusses are hugely important to anyone working in cryptocurrencies. Buyers and sellers of illicit goods have used Bitcoin. Exchanges have been hacked. Wallets have been broken into and their contents stolen.
Few people are better placed than Kathryn Haun to explain the security risks on the blockchain and the threat from cybercrime. Kathryn Haun’s talks are all about the risks in cryptocurrencies.
17. Arthur Hayes
For Arthur Hayes, it’s all about the benefits. Hayes completed a degree in economics from Wharton School of Business then did what anyone with that kind of education would do: he headed to Hong Kong and worked as an equities derivatives trader. He worked for Deutsche Bank and Citibank, making markets and trading futures, forwards, and swaps.
In 2013, Hayes saw an opportunity in digital currencies. He started trading and investing in Bitcoin, conducting arbitrage between exchanges and between derivatives.
That experience led Hayes to see the opportunity in a Bitcoin derivative exchange model. Together with a couple of partners, Hayes founded BitMEX, a P2P leveraged financial products trading exchange. Traders can use Bitcoin as collateral to make trades.
What Hayes offers is insight into the part of cryptocurrencies that’s both opaque and attractive to many: the potential to make money trading on the movements of a highly volatile asset.
18. Naval Ravikant
Dubbed by his fans — the “angel philosopher (how many cryptocurrency speakers can say that they have fans)? Naval Ravikant is best known as the co-founder of AngelList.
The business is a kind of dating service for investors and startups, bringing together entrepreneurs who need investors, and investors looking to support good ideas. The company has since expanded into recruitment, building a job service for start-ups, and a kind of marketing firm that helps start-ups find their first customers.
It wasn’t long though before Ravikant was moving towards the new opportunity in cryptocurrencies. In 2017, Ravikant spun off CoinList, an ICO platform for startups and accredited investors.
In a tweetstorm that year, Ravikant argued that blockchains combine the openness of democracy and the Internet with the merit of markets, and predicted that the blockchain would replace networks with markets. You can see why the entrepreneurs who have benefitted from his matchmaking call him an “angel” while people who read his tweets and hear his talks consider him a philosopher.
19. Don Tapscott
Don Tapscott, an adjunct professor at business school INSEAD, is both a leading cryptocurrency speaker and an authority on the effect of technology on business. In 2017, together with his son, Alex, Tapscott created the Blockchain Research Institute which runs multiple projects to investigate blockchain strategy, the way the technology can be used and implemented, and its effects.
Tapscott delivers a range of different talks, but the top of the list are speeches about the “Blockchain Revolution.” He discusses what he calls the technology that’s likely to have “the greatest impact on the enterprise and the global economy.”
What audiences receive is a particularly unique perspective. Cryptocurrency speakers who work in the industry can explain how the technology works and why it works. Tapscott explains what the blockchain will do and why it’s vital to business and society.
20. Apolo Anton Ohno
Cryptocurrency investors can often feel that they’re skating on thin ice. Some of the characters are slippery, the market often catches a chill, and at any minute they might fall through a giant crack and lose it all. Being guided by Apolo Anton Ohno could be valuable. Ohno has won eight Olympic skating medals. (He also won the fourth season of Dancing with the Stars.)
But Ohno isn’t just fast on his feet. He’s also keen on the blockchain. After investing early in Bitcoin and Ethereum, Ohno and his partners set up a cryptocurrency trading platform called HybridBlock and sought to raise $50 million in an initial coin offering.
Ohno’s talks are primarily about training and winning, but they’re also about adapting—which is an essential skill for an environment as cold and variable as the cryptocurrency world.
21. Linda Xie
If you’ve ever wondered how cryptocurrency firms cope with the spikes in demand that can suddenly strike the crypto markets, then Linda Xie will have some stories for you. When she worked at Coinbase, she was responsible for creating the internal products that helped departments such as compliance, legal, finance, and fraud detection to scale as the market grew.
It was that position that gave her a unique insight into how crypto companies are riding the wave and developing the market.
It also gave her the experience and the expertise to break out and open her own business. Xie is now the co-founder of Scalar Capital, a crypto asset investment firm that raised $20 million to invest in blockchain companies and privacy technology.
Xie has been known to give people a basic introduction to crypto-assets, but she also offers a unique perspective on fundraising from crypto markets as she explains how the blockchain will change the world.
22. Yael Tamar
Yael Tamar came into the cryptocurrency world while building a fintech venture in Silicon Valley. Again and again, she was asked why she wasn’t using the blockchain, and the more Tamar looked into it, the more she started to ask herself the same question.
She opened a blockchain storytelling agency, then worked with a company building blockchain tech for enterprise and another that was building out an ICO.
Tamar now lives in Israel, where she’s on the Advisory Board of Blockchain Israel, an organization that promotes blockchain technology in the country and provides tools, networking, and capital for local startups.
Tamar has also the founder of Women in Block, an association that tries to create executive and thought leadership opportunities for women working on the blockchain. Tamar is often invited to be on the advisory board of ICOs and has to assess whether the project is viable and offers value. It’s an essential perspective on a dynamic industry.
23. JB Rubinovitz
Most of the talks delivered by cryptocurrency speakers are about the future. They’re about what the blockchain will do, how it might change finance, and how it could improve supply chains.
What makes JB Rubinovitz stand out is that she’s already implemented a real-world application, and she’s used it to make a real social difference.
Users who install her Bail Bloc application allow some of their computer’s unused processing power to be used to mine Monero.
At the end of each month, the Monero raised by Bail Bloc’s network of volunteer computers is converted into fiat currency and donated to one of the bail funds in the National Bail Fund Network. The goal is to generate enough compounding revenue to secure the release of thousands of immigrants from ICE detention.
Rubinovitz has shown that even a simple application can use blockchain technology to have a real-world impact.
24. Olaoluwa Osuntokun
One of the great things about the blockchain and the cryptocurrency world is that it’s open to anyone. It’s a global movement that can bring benefits to every corner of the world.
Olaoluwa Osuntokun was born in Nigeria but moved to the United States and studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He started his career as a software engineering intern at Google before co-founding Lightning Labs.
Osuntokun is now the CTO. The company has raised $2.5 million to make Bitcoin a more efficient and user-friendly payment form by lowering the cost of small BTC transactions.
Osuntokun is part of the network of people around Bitcoin who are improving the service and bringing its mainstream uptake closer.
25. Hunter Horsley
Both Olaoluwa Osuntokun and Hunter Horsley have been named on Forbes’ list of 30 under 30 in finance. But while Osuntokun is focusing on improving technology, Horsley is all about the money.
The co-founder of Bitwise Asset Management, Horsley, has raised $4 million to build transparent cryptocurrency indexes. He was previously a product manager working on monetization at Facebook and Instagram and has a degree in economics from Wharton.
Horsley and Osuntokun together show that there have always been two aspects of the rise of the blockchain: an effective and efficient technology; and a financial system designed to beat traditional financial platforms.
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