Reported by Nina Bambysheva, Michael del Castillo and Steven Ehrlich
The cryptophiles are settling into the realities of a bear market, but their recent triumphs should not be lost.
A record nine cryptocurrency-focused companies made it onto this year’s Forbes Fintech 50 list–an honor roll of the most innovative private companies in fintech. Collectively, these nine trailblazers have raised $6.5 billion in venture capital, with the lion’s share of that coming within the past 12 months.
Leading the pack is billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX, which raised $1.5 billion in private funding last year alone, jolting its valuation from $1.2 billion to $25 billion. A $500 million raise this past January took its valuation to $32 billion, making it the third most valuable private fintech headquartered or doing business in the U.S. With its rapidly growing U.S. business, FTX US (valued separately at $8 billion), the Bahamas-based firm is going after its list predecessors Coinbase, Kraken and Gemini’s chunk of the customer base.
Another major beneficiary of last year’s bull run and newcomer to the list is NFT marketplace OpenSea, where users can buy and sell all sorts of digital collectibles, whether art, music or gaming. In January, the startup landed a $13.3 billion valuation, making its founders, Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah, the first billionaires of the non-fungible token craze.
Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Alchemy, whose developer suite helped build just about every major NFT platform including OpenSea, saw its valuation jump to $10.2 billion from $505 million last year (its first year on the list). Similarly, list veteran Chainalysis, which helps governments and businesses in 70 countries analyze blockchain data to investigate illicit transactions, has quadrupled its valuation to $8.6 billion since last year’s list.
Just two crypto companies on the 2022 list have not yet reached unicorn status—Ava Labs, the firm behind the Avalanche blockchain, and Chainalysis’ competitor TRM Labs. As venture capitalists continue to raise multi-billion dollar funds, Forbes is watching these companies closely to see if they reach this milestone even as the rest of the market is adapting to the new “crypto winter.”
Scroll down to see the full list of the most innovative companies in crypto:
San Francisco, California
Sometimes called an Amazon Web Services for crypto, Alchemy’s infrastructure software organizes blockchain data and makes it easier to access. Dominant NFT marketplace OpenSea uses Alchemy to display information on its website, such as who created and has owned a given piece of digital art. Alchemy’s other high-profile customers include Adobe, DraftKings and Shopify.
Funding: $413 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Silver Lake, Lightspeed Venture Partners and others
Latest valuation: $10.2 billion
Bona fides: Alchemy’s software has been key to the NFT explosion. Between October 2021 and February 2022, the volume of annualized on-chain transactions powered by Alchemy grew from $45 billion to $105 billion.
Cofounders: CEO Nikil Viswanathan, 34, and CTO Joseph Lau, 32. They previously cofounded popular meetup app Down to Lunch.
New York, New York
Creator of Avalanche, a competitor to Ethereum, the most popular decentralized blockchain platform that applications can run on top of. Over the past year, more than 500 decentralized finance apps have been built on Avalanche, which can process 4,500 transactions per second, compared to just 14 per second for Ethereum.
Funding: $6 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Polychain, Initialized Capital and others
Bona fides: Over 2.4 million users; Avalanche’s token AVAX has an $8.5 billion market capitalization.
Cofounders: CEO Emin Gün Sirer, 50, former Cornell University computer science professor known for his research on distributed systems; COO Kevin Sekniqi, 28; chief protocol architect Ted Yin, 27.
New York, New York
The firm’s data platform has been used to solve some of the world’s highest-profile criminal cases involving digital assets, including the seizure of $3.5 billion of crypto by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation unit, announced in November, and the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack. Chainalysis now screens $1 trillion in transaction value each month across all cryptocurrency assets.
Funding: $535 million from Coatue, Paradigm, Accel and others
Latest valuation: $8.6 billion
Bona fides: Over the past year, Chainalysis has increased its customer base by 75% and now has more than 750 clients in 70 countries.
Cofounders: CEO Michael Gronager, 51, a PhD in quantum mechanics who cofounded cryptocurrency exchange Kraken before leaving in 2015 to launch Chainalysis; chief strategy officer Jonathan Levin, 32.
Creator and co-issuer of USDC Coin (USDC), the second-largest dollar-pegged token or “stable coin” in the world. Available on eight blockchains, including Ethereum, Solana and Avalanche, USDC is used across top decentralized finance platforms, accepted at auction house Sotheby’s and has been integrated into Visa’s payments network. Circle primarily generates revenue on the interest earned on its cash deposits and treasuries, which brought in $85 million in 2021. The company plans to go public via a SPAC in late 2022 at a $9 billion valuation.
Funding: $1.5 billion from Marshall Wace, Fidelity and others
Latest valuation: $9 billion
Bona fides: Its USDC stable coin has a $49 billion market capitalization.
Cofounders: Jeremy Allaire, Chief Executive & Chairman, and Sean Neville, a board member. Before founding Circle, Allaire cofounded and led two global internet technology companies through successful IPOs on Nasdaq, the online video platform Brightcove and the software development firm Macromedia.
New York, New York
Institutionally-focused crypto custodian servicing BNY Mellon and popular decentralized finance applications Compound Treasury and Aave Arc. In April 2022, Fireblocks partnered with payments giant FIS to provide its more than 6,000 capital markets clients access to crypto trading and lending services.
Funding: $1.2 billion from BNY Mellon, Coatue, Ribbit and others
Latest valuation: $8 billion
Bona fides: Grew from 100 clients in January 2021 to more than 1,200 today. Transfers over $260 billion worth of assets per month.
Cofounders: CEO Michael Shaulov, 39, and CTO Idan Ofrat, 40. Before entering the private sector Shaulov worked in the mobile security field for the Israeli Defense Forces elite intelligence Unit 8200, where he received the Israeli Presidential Excellency Honor for his contributions.
One of the largest crypto trading exchanges in the world, it handles some 11% of the $2.4 trillion in derivatives traded each month. The company raised $1.5 billion in private funding last year, jolting its valuation from $1.2 billion to $25 billion. A $500 million raise this past January took its valuation to $32 billion. Eager to become a household name, FTX is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, signing up celebrity brand ambassadors including Tom Brady, David Ortiz and Kevin O’Leary.
Funding: $1.8 billion from Sequoia, Temasek, Thoma Bravo and others
Latest valuation: $32 billion
Bona fides: Reached roughly $1 billion in revenue in 2021; grew its customer base from 246,000 in 2020 to 3.1 million in 2021.
Cofounders: CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, the world’s second-richest crypto billionaire, and CTO Gary Wang, 28.
New York, New York
Founded nearly five years ago, this startup was an early player in the NFT market that took off in 2021. It operates as a peer-to-peer platform where users can create, buy and sell all sorts of NFTs—in exchange for a 2.5% cut of each sale. Although OpenSea is facing heightened competition, including from crypto giant Coinbase, which launched its own NFT marketplace in May, it continues to dominate the NFT market with more than 1.5 million accounts having transacted on the platform.
Funding: $423 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Paradigm, Haun Ventures and others
Latest valuation: $13.3 billion
Bona fides: Has been processing about $3 billion in NFT transactions monthly, earning about $75 million in monthly revenue.
Cofounders: CEO Devin Finzer, 31, and CTO Alex Atallah, 30. They became the first NFT billionaires in January 2021.
New York, New York
Founded in 2012, initially as a crypto exchange (itBit), the blockchain infrastructure provider has built a backbone for PayPal and Venmo’s crypto brokerage services that allows their customers to buy, hold and sell crypto. Societe Generale, Credit Suisse and Nomura Instinet have used Paxos’ software to settle trades directly with each other. Paxos is now hoping to attain a clearing-agency license from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm also issues a U.S. dollar-backed stable coin called Pax Dollar (USDP).
Funding: $540 million from Oak HC/FT, Declaration Partners, Founders Fund and others
Latest valuation: $2.4 billion.
Bona fides: More than 100 institutional clients.
Cofounders: CEO Charles Cascarilla, 45, cofounded institutional asset management complex Cedar Hill Capital Partners in 2005 and its venture capital subsidiary, Liberty City Ventures, in 2012; Asia CEO Rich Teo, 42.
San Francisco, California
Helps financial institutions and government agencies like the IRS investigate money laundering, crypto fraud and other financial crimes by analyzing blockchain data. Its tools let customers monitor transactions across more than one million assets on 26 different blockchains.
Funding: $80 million from Blockchain Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Tiger Global and others
Latest valuation: $600 million
Bona fides: FTX and Circle are clients; its 90-person team includes threat finance veterans from the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and Europol and data scientists from Apple, Amazon and Google.
Cofounders: CEO Esteban Castaño, 31, previously an analyst at McKinsey; CTO Rahul Raina, 28, a former software engineer at Amazon and member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.
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