Today, it’s safe to say that crypto has overcome its initial marginal status. It’s not just the niche investors who are dipping their toes into crypto now but also those pulling the strings of the global economy that are ready to get their piece of the pie. After all, with a 713% increase from the previous year, 2021 saw a record VC funding channeled into blockchain startups.
While the sheer diversity of the space may make it difficult to pinpoint the frontrunners, the good news is that you don’t have to be the next Vitalik Buterin to make your mark. From non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to decentralized finance (DeFi), there’s a new generation of savvy entrepreneurs looking to leverage crypto to disrupt virtually all industries, including banking, gaming, travel, and even social impact.
Taking on the task of creating an exhaustive list of emerging leaders would be impossible, yet The Sociable is bringing you a compilation of some of the promising blockchain entrepreneurs that deserve the spotlight.
Atsu Davoh, CEO, Bitsika
Kicking off strong, Atsu Davoh is the Ghana-based Founder and CEO of Bitsika, a payment application facilitating instant money transfers and digital currency trading.
With a clear mission of becoming the “payments app for the whole of Africa,” Davoh guides the company toward making cross-country payments across the region more seamless than ever before.
“The Africa continent has 54 countries, facing incredible segmentation on language lines, borderlines, and currency lines,” Davoh noted in a recent interview.
“Whilst most fintech companies focus on the corridors from Africa to the rest of the world, we saw a sweet spot of Africa-to-Africa transaction. This is how we emerged, and this is how we are thriving.”
Tim Dierckxens, CEO, Venly
Based in Belgium, Tim Dierckxsens is the co-founder and CEO of Venly, which was previously known as Arkane Network.
His team is building a leading multi-chain platform with wallet services (that now have over 2 million users), NFT minting and marketplace, and APIs to help businesses globally incorporate blockchain into their services.
Recently, Venly has launched an integration to allow vendors to sell NFTs through Shopify.
Dierckxsens loves sharing his passion for business innovation and technology with those around him and has been excited about blockchain since 2014.
Sesie Bonsi, CEO, Bleu
The holder of two patents in payment technology, Sesie Bonsi is the President and CEO of Bleu, a financial technology platform focused on enabling touchless payment experiences.
By powering cryptocurrency payments through a secure, touchless solution at the point of sale, Bonsi is on a mission to bring easy payments to virtually everyone across the globe.
Bonsi’s strong dedication to empowering global communities can also be seen in his other company.
AidBanc is a full-service banking platform designed for non-profits to manage global spending from a single corporate account.
Mildred “Mimi” Idada, Founder, Open Web Collective (OWC)
Mildred “Mimi” Idada is a force to be reckoned with in the Blockchain world, breaking down barriers and increasing diversity in the space.
She’s the founder of Open Web Collective (OWC), an investor, accelerator program, and supporting community for blockchain and Web 3 startups.
The company helps early-stage founders validate, build, and de-risk companies by defining and growing key performance indicators (KPIs), developing product-market fit, and fundraising, according to their website. The accelerator provides founders with an initial $150,000 investment, in exchange for a 7% equity or token stake in the company, with the opportunity to receive an additional $500,000 coming out of Demo Day.
According to a press release, the venture fund and accelerator has already supported 28 startups that cumulatively have raised over $300M USD in venture funding to date.
In addition to her work with OWC, Mildred is a mentorship lead at She256, a non-profit aimed at increasing inclusivity in the Blockchain space.
The program has mentored over 900 participants from 40+ countries in just two years.
Shai Azran, CEO, Claritus
Shai Azran is a serial entrepreneur and investor in multiple areas including finance and tech.
He has co-founded startups offering solutions ranging from content-sharing and monetization, an investment advice platform, R&D for startups, and a music streaming service.
Most recently he co-founded Claritus.io, a technology-driven private wealth service, providing individual and institutional investors with an easy-to-use solution to track, understand, and make better-informed decisions regarding their wealth.
The company aims to provide the highest‑value solution for money at a fair, and low subscription cost.
Jeremy Dela Rosa, CEO, Leyline
Jeremy Dela Rosa, a former Blizzard veteran with 20 years of experience in tech and gaming, has decided to take his expertise into the social good domain.
By marrying gamification, art, and crypto, he created Leyline, a California-based web3 social impact organization.
“My mission is to rewrite the rules of the economy, eradicate poverty, and help humanity achieve sustainability,” Dela Rosa says on his LinkedIn, highlighting an innovative “Proof of Good” structure to incentivize engagement.
“We aim to pay the people who do good and build a decentralized reputation system to reflect your philanthropic identity. We’re cultivating a global community of people that want to help build a better future.”
Alena Vranova, CEO, SatoshiLabs
With an early entry into the blockchain space, Alena Vranova has seen an impressive trajectory in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Despite her successful career in the traditional financial industry, she left her job in 2013 to launch SatoshiLabs, one of the world’s most prominent Bitcoin players.
The company is responsible for several products that significantly changed the landscape of the Bitcoin ecosystem, including CoinMap, Slush Pool, and the TREZOR hardware wallet.
Vranova also co-authored The Little Bitcoin Book, an iconic read in the blockchain world, with a 4.6 rating on Amazon.
With a background in marketing at some of the world’s largest financial services companies, including French investment bank Société Générale Group, Alena is an advisor to multiple companies including IMC Invest, Chimes Broadcasting, and INX Exchange, as well as a board member for Biomass Plastics Inc., a company that makes biodegradable packaging.
Bruno Macchialli, CEO, Delchain
Bruno Macchialli is the CEO of Delchain, an innovative financial digital asset service provider looking to bridge the gap between regulated financial systems and blockchain.
“We are interacting on a daily basis with multiple exchanges as they are completely integrated into our ecosystem in order to serve our clients,” Macchialli says.
Rapid blockchain innovations have created a demand for a full suite of secure and sophisticated digital asset services, including custody, trading, staking, and initial offering advisory.
“When we see a need in the industry that we can satisfy, we analyze how securely we can offer these services and how our clients can benefit,” he adds.
Suren Ayriyan, President, Tempo Money Transfer
Another innovator in the payment space is Suren Ayriyan, the co-founder and President of Tempo Money Transfer, a France-based online transfer provider prioritizing speed and security.
When the company first ventured into blockchain, the main goal was to see how it would support their transfer business.
Since the results far exceeded the expectations, Tempo worked its way to becoming one of the world’s largest payment networks of licensed crypto exchanges.
Operating on the Stellar DEX as the main European anchor for Stellar, the company brings ease to crypto trading by facilitating exchange through an online platform and a mobile app.
Ayriyan is a passionate believer in blockchain’s benefits to merchants. “As one of few actors providing multiple payment options to consumers, retailers are in fact the ones that can make the greatest impact with blockchain solutions,” he says.
Cleve Mesidor, Executive Director, Blockchain Foundation
“Crypto is about more than just making money. It can offer a pathway to economic empowerment for women and people of color,” believes Cleve Mesidor, a crypto and web3 expert with a strong background in public policy.
Mesidor serves as the Executive Director of the Blockchain Foundation, an industry-wide crypto education platform, and an Advisor to the Blockchain Association.
Previously, she had worked as an Obama Presidential Appointee and a Senior Staffer in Congress.
“As a person who’s been in the industry for almost six years now, we have not done enough to educate people and move past formal hype,” Mesidor notes.
“Yes, it’s important for people to do their research, to look beyond the noise, but as the industry, we need to do more to make sure people have trusted sources to go to when they are looking for information.”
George Grama, Founder, Atlas Navi
George Grama is a serial software entrepreneur and founder of multiple startups.
His primary focus involves developing solutions that incorporate AI, computer vision, transportation, and blockchain.
His latest endeavor, Atlas Navi, is a navigation app that integrates all four of the technologies mentioned above to help drivers analyze road conditions in real-time, achieve the fastest route to their destination, and earn money through unique automobile-related NFTs and a cryptocurrency that is generated as drivers use the app.
Atlas Navi has its eyes set to become a leading navigation choice for drivers across the globe.
Alberto Vasquez, Founder, Bitlabs
Alberto Vasquez is an IT professional and a serial entrepreneur. He is the founder of Bitlabs, a Colombia-based company builder in blockchain that works at the intersection of art, design, and technology.
Previously, Vasquez founded Clientexec, a billing software company that became the second-largest in the space.
As a Bitlabs project, Vasquez co-founded HASHHOUSE MEDELLIN, aligned with his mission of supporting the growth of Medellín, the Colombian metropolis, in becoming the Crypto Valley of South America.
The meeting place aims to bring influential blockchain projects closer together, improve communication between developers, researchers and users, and cultivate the ecosystem required for the city to flourish in the blockchain space.
“Even though Miami has done a lot for its region, we do not believe it correctly represents Latin America in the blockchain space. Nor it can express the fantastic journey Medellín has had to find itself as one of the most innovative cities in the world.”
Youssof Altoukhi, Founder, Y Coin
The youngest on the list, Youssof Altoukhi has earned the spotlight by being only a 16-year-old entrepreneur – he even hosted a TED talk on the challenges for young entrepreneurs.
Within the blockchain space, he is on a fundamental mission: As the founder of the cryptocurrency known as Y Coin, his project aims to tackle prominent blockchain governance problems.
Centered around democratic governance and user-friendly features (such as no fees for users who send transactions via the app), Altoukhi wants his company to inspire a template on how to democratize decision-making when launching coins.
This, he believes, is the key to encouraging more newcomers to enter the space.
Jeremy Foo, Founder, TripCandy
With creativity and innovation being his biggest drivers, Jeremy Foo is taking a shot at transforming travel through blockchain.
He is a Singapore-based entrepreneur and the founder of TripCandy, a crypto travel booking platform that turns customers’ experiences into a crypto investment through cashback rewards. “We make crypto fun, safe and simple,” says the company’s slogan.
Leveraging on cryptocurrency tokens ($CANDY), TripCandy aims to establish the premium standard in travel accommodations and services through the engaging use of blockchain.
Foo values entrepreneurship for its power to inspire and make impact on others. Since leaving his dream trading job and venturing into entrepreneurship, he has helped jumpstart various companies, both local and overseas.
Manu Alzuru, Founder, DoinGud
Using NFTs to make the world a better place – this is the mission of Manu Alzuru, an engineer, entrepreneur, and humanist.
He is the founder of DoinGud, a company attempting to reimagine the creator economy while emphasizing the importance of the giving economy.
Alzuru highlights the importance of “human capital” as opposed to financial capital, stating his belief that web3 and NFT communities offer a unique opportunity to do good, rather than just making as much money as possible.
Creators and artists can donate a part of their proceeds to a charity directly through the DoinGud platform, with a minimum allocation of 5% (and 2.5% of secondary sales).
The ultimate goal is creating a healthy NFT ecosystem while helping creators donate to causes they care about.
Grey Jabesi, Founder, Crypto University
A frontrunner in crypto education, Grey Jabesi is a successful entrepreneur.
Now based in Dubai, he is a representative of a rising generation of innovative African tech entrepreneurs.
He has a large magnitude trading experience, with years in trading spot, derivates, OTC, arbitrage, and P2P.
Jabesi’s background is in IT and visual communications, and he has worked with both big corporates and startups on popular commercial projects.
Jabesi is best known for founding Crypto University, one of the biggest crypto communities in the world.
He runs the Crypto Hustle channel on YouTube (with over 157k subscribers) as well as the Survival Skills podcast.
Maliha Abidi, Creator, Women Rise NFT collection
Maliha Abidi is one of the strong female voices in the crypto space, which, unfortunately, now hosts only around 4-6% women.
She is a Pakistani-American artist that has wowed the digital space by minting and selling the famous Women Rise NFT collection at the end of 2021.
Through the collection, she has been able to mobilize tens of thousands of people.
The PFP (profile picture) collection features 10,000 unique art pieces with the intention to “celebrate women in web3 and bring more women into the space.”
Around 7.5% of the proceeds made through the sales go to a mix of global organizations supporting gender equality, girls’ education, and mental health; 2.5% go to Malala Fund, a girls’ education organization, and 5% of royalties are used to support NFT communities on an ongoing basis.
BONUS ENTREPRENUR: Alex Kilkka, co-founder, SimpleHash
Working on NFTs from a different angle, Alex Kilkka is the co-founder of SimpleHash, a company that is on a mission to organize the world of NFTs and digital assets.
The solution comes from allowing web3 developers to query all NFT data from a single API.
No newcomer to the space, Kilkka previous co-founded Showtime, an NFT social network.
His startup is one of the 26 crypto companies that were selected to join Y Combinator’s W22 batch.
With the market making huge strides, SimpleHash aims to tap into the opportunity to simplify NFT procedures for players in the space while eliminating cross-chain headaches.
The blockchain technology has opened a whole new world of possibilities for anyone to reap – but that’s no guarantee of success. The stories of these entrepreneurs show that the ultimate mix includes boldness and marrying part expertise with innovation to reimagine new solutions through technology.
Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.