Watching his parents lose their money during the Soviet Union’s collapse made a big impression on Vavilov, sparking his interest in networks not controlled by a single authority. Decades later, the Latvian is cofounder and CEO of Bitfury, a company that mines Bitcoin.
The Digital Gold Miner: How Valery Vavilov Scored Riches Mining Bitcoin
Crypto Net Worth: $500 million-$700 million*
Growing up in Latvia in the 1980s, programming whiz Vavilov was scarred by the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. “We just literally lost everything,” he says. “Money became paper. Patents become worthless.” That experience shaped his thinking–that decentralized frameworks needed to be designed so people could always retain their property.
In 2011, Vavilov cofounded Bitfury, a startup that “mines” Bitcoin, or uses computers to solve complex mathematical problems that add a new block of transactions to the blockchain and earn Bitcoin. For four years he struggled to raise outside capital. “Very few investors believed in this technology,” he says. So he used the Bitcoin he mined to fund the business, selling it as low as $30. Bitfury has generated about 800,000 Bitcoins since its start, says Vavilov, 38.
Based in Amsterdam, his 400-person company is the ultimate pick-and-shovel operation to the blockchain boom. Besides being a top player in the Bitcoin mining market, it also makes and sells hardware, including processor chips and a product called Blockbox, a mobile bitcoin mining machine that typically retails for more than $1 million. Bitfury is on track to bring in $400 million in revenues in 2018.
*All cryptocurrency/U.S. dollar conversions are as of January 19, 2018.