Who owns the most Bitcoin?

A beginner’s guide to the top bitcoin holders

One of the most-asked questions surrounding the largest cryptocurrency is “who owns the most bitcoin (BTC)?”

It's certainly an interesting topic, but one that isn't as straightforward to answer as people might think.

The pseudonymous nature of digital currencies like bitcoin (BTC) allow people to create crypto wallets freely without submitting any personal documentation. While the transparent nature of blockchain technology means it’s possible to view the balance and transaction history of each cryptocurrency wallet at any time, it's incredibly difficult to ascertain which wallets belong to who. 

Bitcoin wallet addresses are represented by strings of letters and numbers, not personal identifying information such as birth dates or email addresses. This makes it nearly impossible to know at a glance who created and controls these addresses.

Another problem that makes identifying top bitcoin holders difficult is the fact that companies, countries and large holders regularly adjust their BTC holdings. As market conditions, regulations and other factors change, these holders may decide to reduce or increase their exposure. This factor means that the list of top bitcoin holders constantly changes.

Because of these factors, we can only provide a snapshot of top bitcoin holders based on the current information available at the time of writing.

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Individual Bitcoin whales

A “Whale” is a commonly used term in the crypto industry. It refers to individuals who own a substantial amount of bitcoin (at least 1,000 BTC). This makes these individuals highly influential players in the crypto market. 

Many bitcoin whales, along with other prominent investors and influencers, help to shape the cryptocurrency markets and contribute to the growing adoption and acceptance of bitcoin as a store of value and electronic cash system.

While the identities of many of these whales remain anonymous, some notable figures have come into the spotlight.

Satoshi Nakamoto (~1.1 million BTC)

It's unsurprising that the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, remains the largest holder of the cryptocurrency.

It's estimated they hold an astonishing fortune of around 1.1 million BTC. 

This impressive accumulation of wealth stemmed from Satoshi Nakamoto's mining activities during Bitcoin's early days. Some report that Nakamoto mined as many as 54,316 Bitcoin blocks, receiving a block reward of 50 BTC for each block prior to the first halving event.

What's interesting is that the thousands of bitcoin Nakamoto earned from block rewards have never been spent. Instead, these coins lie dormant spread across approximately 22,000 different wallet addresses.

If any of these coins moved, it could cause significant fluctuations in bitcoin's value and send shockwaves throughout the wider cryptocurrency industry.

The Winklevoss Twins (70,000 BTC)

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are renowned figures in both the tech and cryptocurrency worlds. Their entrepreneurial journey began with the creation of HarvardConnection, a precursor to Facebook, before they famously sued Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing their idea. The resulting settlement awarded them $65 million, which they decidedly invested in cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin.

Today, the Winklevoss Twins are considered pioneers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors. In 2015, they co-founded the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange. Through the platform, the twins have established themselves as major players in the digital currency industry.

In 2019, writer Ben Mezrich published a biography of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss' rise to crypto stardom entitled "Bitcoin Billionaires."

The Winklevoss Twins are estimated to have around 70,000 BTC.

Tim Draper (29,500+ BTC)

Tim Draper, a prominent venture capitalist, has played a significant role in the world of Bitcoin. Draper's involvement with Bitcoin dates back to 2012, when he made his initial purchase of the cryptocurrency.

In 2014, Draper made headlines once again with his acquisition of around 29,500 BTC. This significant purchase came about through a US Marshals' auction, where he successfully bid for a substantial amount of bitcoin confiscated from the Silk Road marketplace. This acquisition further solidified Draper's position as a major bitcoin holder.

Michael Saylor (17,732 BTC)

Michael Saylor, a prominent figure in the cryptocurrency world, is widely known as a Bitcoin maximalist and the co-founder and CEO of MicroStrategy. Saylor's belief in the potential of bitcoin as a digital asset has propelled him to become one of the biggest advocates for the cryptocurrency.

With a deep conviction in the future of Bitcoin, Saylor has made a significant investment in the leading cryptocurrency. In 2020, he publicly stated on X that he owns 17,732 BTC.

Under Saylor's leadership, MicroStrategy has become one of the first businesses to adopt bitcoin as a corporate treasury asset. In August 2020, the company made headlines by announcing its decision to allocate a significant portion of its balance sheet to bitcoin, citing it as a superior store of value compared to traditional fiat currencies.

While MicroStrategy as a company is also among the largest holders of bitcoin today, Saylor himself is one of the largest individual holders of bitcoin as well.

Indirect Bitcoin exposure

Indirect bitcoin exposure refers to the concept of investing in assets whose value tracks the price of Bitcoin. 

These assets remove the need to directly purchase the digital currency, and allows traders to participate in the growth and performance of Bitcoin without the challenges of crypto custody. Oftentimes, institutions managing these products will purchase and hold large sums of bitcoin.

A leading example is the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), a closed-end fund that is managed as a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group. Grayscale reportedly holds around 643,572 bitcoins (as of 2022) — around 3% of all bitcoins in circulation. Accredited investors can buy shares of GBTC at the market rate, or net asset value (NAV), during daily private placements. After a set lock-up period, these investors have the opportunity to sell them to retail investors on the secondary market.

Another type of asset that offers indirect exposure to the world’s largest cryptocurrency is an exchange traded fund (ETF). Bitcoin ETFs come in several different forms but all allow investors to gain exposure to the price movements of bitcoin without having to own the asset. It's worth noting that the total amount of bitcoin held within ETFs and other bitcoin-related assets is constantly changing due to market dynamics and investor demand.

Finally, publicly traded companies that operate in the blockchain and crypto space are another way to gain indirect exposure to bitcoin. These companies may offer blockchain software development, operate crypto mining facilities or provide other types of services within the crypto industry. Because of their close relation to bitcoin, their stock price is often influenced by the price of bitcoin as well.

Companies holding the most Bitcoin

As digital assets become an increasingly common part of corporate and financial portfolios, several companies have emerged as significant holders of bitcoin. These companies are not only diversifying their balance sheets but also positioning themselves as pioneers in the cryptocurrency markets. 

With the potential for returns on investment and the confidence in Bitcoin's long-term viability, several companies have accumulated large amounts of the digital currency.

Public companies

MicroStrategy and Tesla are among the notable public companies that have made significant investments in bitcoin.

MicroStrategy, a leading business intelligence firm, has emerged as a major advocate for bitcoin as a digital asset. As of 2023, the company holds around 174,530 bitcoins, worth billions of dollars. This impressive investment has garnered widespread attention and has made MicroStrategy one of the largest institutional holders of bitcoin.

In February 2021, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla led by Elon Musk announced that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. As of 2023, Tesla has reduced its bitcoin holdings to 10,725 BTC.

Other notable public companies with significant bitcoin holdings include:

  • Square, a digital payment services firm led by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, which purchased $170 million worth of bitcoin in 2020.
  • Galaxy Digital Holdings, an institution-focused blockchain company, which owns over 40,000 BTC.
  • Marathon Digital Holdings, a large bitcoin mining operation, which holds 17,326 BTC.
  • Salesforce, an enterprise technology service provider, which holds an undisclosed amount of bitcoin.

Private Companies

Private companies play an influential role in the cryptocurrency markets, with several notable entities accumulating substantial bitcoin holdings. Combined, private companies hold around 1.5% of the total bitcoin supply, amounting to a little more than 316,000 BTC.

Here are a number of private companies believed to have  some of the largest bitcoin holdings:

  1. Known for its blockchain solutions, has emerged as one of the leading holders of bitcoin. The company, founded by Brendan Blumer and Daniel Larimer, are said to have accumulated a significant sum of bitcoin.
  2. Tezos Foundation: As a nonprofit organization supporting the Tezos blockchain network, the Tezos Foundation not only focuses on advancing the platform's technology, but also reportedly holds a substantial amount of bitcoin. This strategic move allows the foundation to diversify its holdings and potentially leverage bitcoin's value to support its mission.
  3. Tether Holdings: As the company behind the popular stablecoin Tether (USDT), Tether Holdings has garnered attention for its large bitcoin holdings. Tether is designed to maintain a 1:1 ratio with the US dollar, providing stability in the volatile cryptocurrency market.

These private companies, among others, are actively involved in the crypto market, contributing to the growth and innovation of blockchain technology. 

Their significant bitcoin holdings position them as key players in the evolving landscape of cryptocurrencies.

Countries & governments holding Bitcoin

Several countries and governments have reportedly accumulated significant holdings of bitcoin.

The Ukrainian government, in particular, is known to hold a substantial amount of bitcoin, with reported holdings of 46,351 BTC. 

El Salvador, which recently adopted bitcoin as a legal tender, holds approximately 2,381 BTC.

Finland also holds a notable amount of bitcoin, with reported holdings of 1,981 BTC. 

Additionally, the government of Georgia is said to hold around 66 BTC as part of its investment strategy.

These holdings indicate that governments are recognizing the potential of bitcoin as a digital store of value and are actively adding it to their reserves. The reasons behind these accumulations vary from country to country. Some governments may view bitcoin as a hedge against inflation or a means to diversify their investment portfolios. Others, like El Salvador, have embraced bitcoin to promote financial inclusion and innovation.

This variety of large bitcoin holders highlights the increasing acceptance and adoption of cryptocurrencies on a global scale. As more individuals, companies, countries and governments explore bitcoin and other digital currencies, we may see a rise in the adoption of bitcoin as a speculative store of value.

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