logo academy

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto really? Clues, candidates and curiosities

March 22, 2023

10 min

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto really? Clues, candidates and curiosities

The identity of Bitcoin‘s creator is a mystery: we know their pseudonym, but no one has ever managed to find out who Satoshi Nakamoto is. On the Internet we can find a few clues, emails and posts in old forums, we know that they have been nominated for a Nobel Prize and we can perhaps estimate their net worth, but they seem destined for eternal anonymity in any case.

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

We don’t know their real name, but they are absurdly the most renowned person in the crypto world: who is Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, and what is their net worth? On 31 October 2008, on the crypto enthusiast website metzdowd.com, they shared the whitepaper of their cryptocurrency: ‘A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’. This paper presents the philosophy and functioning of a decentralised digital currency, exchanged without the need for intermediaries (Peer-to-Peer), whose transactions are stored in a shared ledger (the blockchain), so as to prove the ownership of the coins and prevent attempts at ‘double spending’. 

On 3 January 2009, the project came to fruition: Satoshi Nakamoto themselves created the genesis block of Bitcoin, inserting a message as a warning.

The Times 3 January 2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” 

This Times headline is iconic for the crisis years that motivated Bitcoin’s creator. In a nutshell, Satoshi reflected on the fragility of the traditional financial system, dependent on trust in centralised authorities, and proposed an alternative based on cryptography

This project perfectly represents who Satoshi Nakamoto is: a revolutionary who, having solved the problem of money, chose anonymity to give up control and return power to individuals. Bitcoin, in fact, does not need its creator to function, because its decentralised system is managed by a network of equal nodes, which follow the rules of an impartial algorithm. 

The creator of Bitcoin: from forums to the Nobel Prize

Their willingness to remain anonymous has not stopped the curious people who, for years now, have been wondering who Satoshi Nakamoto is and trying to find out as many details about them as possible, such as their net worth. There is an entire archive of emails, forum posts and even quotes from the Bitcoin creator: a sort of ‘digital identity’, but one that describes a character in search of an author. We can appreciate their discussions on BitcoinTalk, the online space they founded. Here we find, for instance, exchanges of banter with Hal Finney, the cryptographer who defined the risk of double spending for Bitcoin.

Satoshi’s last post in this forum, dated 12 December 2010, emphasised the need to improve Bitcoin’s protocol, but this is not their final message to the world. In fact, they later wrote other e-mails to two collaborators of the project: some to Mike Hearn, on 23 April 2011, after they gave the Bitcoin source code to Gavin Andresen:

I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin and everyone.”

The second to Gavin himself, a few days later, saying not to speak of them as a ‘mysterious figure‘, because it would have given Bitcoin the reputation of a ‘pirate currency‘, but rather to emphasise the project being open-source. We do not know what Satoshi Nakamoto’s new interests are, but they probably withdrew from the scene to prevent their words from affecting the value of their creation. In any case, they were taken literally, because many still contribute freely to the development of Bitcoin’s algorithm today.

The profile on the P2P Foundation forum, on the other hand, gives us perhaps the best clues: male, Japanese, 47 years old; probably fictitious data, but it has sparked speculation. So much so that, in 2014, an article was published in the online publication Newsweek recognising the creator of Bitcoin in Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old Japanese programmer from California. 

If we search online for ‘who is Satoshi Nakamoto’ we find the face of Dorian, but he himself has denied being the creator of the cryptocurrency. To confirm this, the real one broke his silence on the P2P forum: ‘I am not Dorian Nakamoto‘. By contrast, in 2016 the Bitcoin creator did not comment on their nomination for the Nobel Prize in Economics, proposed by Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor at California University. In the end, Satoshi did not win the Nobel, but even today the crypto community on Twitter is convinced they deserved it. 

Who is behind Satoshi Nakamoto: possible identities

The enigma concealing the name of Bitcoin’s creator is more complex than mining calculations. However, crypto-enthusiasts never give up: searching for who Satoshi Nakamoto is, they have formulated several hypotheses.

We already know Hal Finney, the first person to receive a transaction in Bitcoin from Nakamoto in January 2009. Finney also helped overhaul BTC’s software before it was launched. Unfortunately, in August 2014, he lost his battle against ALS, but decided to hibernate to see the future. For many, this sad event would explain the Bitcoin creator’s silence since the Dorian affair. 

We can still name Gavin Andresen among the candidates: in addition to receiving the source code, he was the creator of the first Bitcoin faucet, a site to distribute BTC via a sort of airdrop. If he were Satoshi Nakamoto, that would be a great way to redistribute his net worth! 

Other clues lead to Adam Back, identified as a possible Satoshi Nakamoto by the Financial Times in 2016. He is the cypherpunk and cryptographer who created the HashCash: Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm, which is fundamental to recording transactions and producing blocks. Nakamoto also sent a preview of Bitcoin’s whitepaper to him and Wei Dai, the engineer who created b money, one of the first digital currency projects. 

Nick Szabo is another name that could explain who Satoshi Nakamoto is: the American computer scientist who created the Bit Gold currency (before Bitcoin) and coined the term ‘smart contract‘. In addition, the writing styles of Szabo and Satoshi are said to be similar, according to a linguistic analysis, which, however, has also identified purely British terms, such as ‘favour’, in Nakamoto’s posts. Nick Szabo’s initials, finally, are for many a revealing coincidence.

For the same reason, Sergey Nazarov is referred to by many as the true creator of Bitcoin. However, there is other evidence: he registered the internet domain smartcontract.com 6 days before the publication of the BTC whitepaper. Furthermore, an individual named Sergey allegedly exploited the same proxy server used by Satoshi to release Bitcoin version 0.1.0. Nazarov, for his part, stated that he was not Nakamoto and that, in his opinion, it would rather be a group of people.

Craig Steven Wright, on the other hand, is the Australian entrepreneur who tried to claim the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Specifically, Wright filed a claim of authorship for Bitcoin’s whitepaper with the US Copyright Office. In 2021, a UK court even ordered Bitcoin.org to remove the document for infringement of Wright’s intellectual property. It was based on his ability to access cryptographic addresses allegedly belonging to Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright has repeatedly claimed that this pseudonym was used by him and his friend David Kleiman to create Bitcoin. 

Finally, for some, answering the question ‘who is Satoshi Nakamoto’ is a given: obviously Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter. The irony, however, leaves room for doubt when we consider that Musk has founded many other projects that have revolutionised the 21st century, from Paypal to OpenAI (ChatGPT‘s company). In 2017, in fact, a former SpaceX employee claimed that Musk was the creator of Bitcoin, but was promptly denied by Elon. 

How many Bitcoins does Satoshi Nakamoto have: net worth

There are many who hope that the identity of Bitcoin’s creator remains a secret because, if it were revealed, Bitcoin’s price would certainly suffer a shock. The value would reflect who Satoshi Nakamoto is and no longer just the potential of the cryptocurrency. Moreover, since no ‘boss’ or company can be identified as being in charge, for the SEC, ‘everything that is not Bitcoin is a security’. Buying BTC, in practice, would not be an investment, because there can be no expectation of profit based on the commitment of others. 

However, this does not exclude the fact that the value of Satoshi Nakamoto’s assets is very high. We know that he received the reward from the first ever blockchain, but this is not transferable or spendable in any way. At the wallet address 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa, we still find the 50 BTC, plus various donations Satoshi has received over time. The total of 72.59 BTC, as of March 2023, corresponds to approximately one and a half million dollars, but that is not all.

From a study by Sergio Deminar Lerner, the so-called Patoshi Pattern was identified: Nakamoto allegedly mined 22,000 blocks in the first year alone and may have collected around 1.8 million BTC, of which 1.1 million were never spent. This number was more or less confirmed by research by Whale Alert, which estimated 1,125,150 Bitcoins mined by its creator: almost 5% of the total availability of 21 million!  At early 2023 prices, Satoshi Nakamoto’s net worth in BTC, taking into account at least 1 million BTC, should therefore amount to more than $20 billion. Most of the Satoshi Era‘s wallet addresses, however, are dormant: mined Bitcoins plus 12 years are rarely moved, unless in exceptional cases. 

To sum up, who is Satoshi Nakamoto remains an unanswered question: we do not know whether the creator of Bitcoin is a single person or a group nor their real net worth, but we can guess it is immense. In any case, it is unlikely to be liquid for personal gain: Satoshi’s goal has always been the financial emancipation of the masses.  Bitcoin and cryptography, even if they don’t find a solution to the political problems, can ‘gain new territory of freedom for several years’: Satoshi’s word, but you don’t have to have faith, just run the code and do the calculations.