In May 2022, a fraudulent stablecoin project called Terra imploded, setting off a broader meltdown that wiped out more than $1 trillion in cryptocurrency market cap. Inflation and broader market forces scared other investors away from crypto and drove more firms out of business. The rout reached its nadir in November, when the industry’s golden child, Sam Bankman-Fried, got arrested for running a Ponzi scheme, triggering ferocious blowback from regulators.
It has truly been a year from hell for crypto. But the headlines obscure a broader story of how the industry has survived—and even grown stronger.
In March, crypto’s market cap was over $1 trillion, while Bitcoin traded well above $25,000—both significantly above the highs set during the last big boom for the asset class, in 2017. More important, crypto has matured enormously since then, attracting talented people who have joined longtime blockchain believers to build quality companies. Wall Street CEOs like Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon have acknowledged that blockchain-based businesses are here to stay. And even as the current Crypto Winter has flushed away ill-conceived or scammy firms, others are demonstrating they are ready to make real waves in the finance and business worlds. That’s why Fortune is publishing the inaugural Crypto 40—the newest of our benchmark lists, like the Fortune 500, that recognize the firms that matter most in business.
The Crypto 40 includes eight categories—a recognition that the industry, which was once defined by crypto trading, is now far broader. We honor a wide range of businesses—from VC firms to NFT shops to data companies to decentralized protocols—that have created major enterprises around blockchain technology. Alchemy, for example, provides plug-and-play tools for companies that want to build products and services around Ethereum and other blockchains. Meanwhile, Yuga Labs is spurring the creative economy by giving customers control over the intellectual property tied to popular digital collections like Bored Apes. Together, these 40 firms are building foundations for enduring digital businesses.
The Fortune Crypto 40 also reflects the fact that the industry is no longer made up solely of edgy startups. Indeed, the category called TradFi—crypto lingo for traditional finance—is composed of market mainstays that have innovated with blockchain in surprising ways. For instance, PayPal is integrating its crypto services with the popular Ethereum wallet MetaMask—a move that could introduce millions to decentralized transactions—while Fidelity now lets customers integrate Bitcoin into traditional retirement funds.
To determine the winners, Fortune relied on an array of empirical metrics, coupled with surveys of more than 200 financial executives conducted by Researchscape. The results are both impartial and rigorous, yielding a list of companies—and in some cases nonprofit foundations or decentralized collectives—that have large customer bases, solid revenue streams, and respect from their clients and partners. (Further details on the methodology can be found here.)
The Crypto 40 also aims to reward transparency and sound business practices—qualities that have too often been lacking in the still-young industry. Some entities that would have ranked higher based solely on metrics slipped on our list because they don’t meet high standards of openness. Binance, for instance, is far and away the biggest centralized crypto company when it comes to trading volumes, but it slid in our ranking because of its legal troubles and lack of transparency about its reserves and business operations.
The ranking that follows features some familiar names and some surprising misses. (We anticipate some grumbling; we congratulate the top finishers.) Above all, the Fortune Crypto 40 is another instance of the publication doing what it does best: telling readers about companies that are making an impact in the world of business.
This article appears in the April/May 2023 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Ready for a reboot.”
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