Who Is (or Was) Satoshi Nakamoto?

Was the creator of the most well-known cryptocurrency a single person with the legal name "Satoshi Nakamoto"?

Bakkt
Mar 10 2022

In 2009, someone (or potentially a group of people) going by the name "Satoshi Nakamoto" unleashed the groundbreaking cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin. But to this day, no one knows the true identity of Bitcoin's creator or creators.

Lack of information hasn't stopped people from speculating. Was the creator of the most well-known cryptocurrency a single person with the legal name "Satoshi Nakamoto"? If so, that would lead people to believe that the crypto pioneer was a Japanese man, since "Satoshi" is a masculine Japanese given name, and Nakamoto is a surname from that country.

But "Satoshi Nakamoto" might also be a pseudonym for an individual or a team.

Besides the original code behind bitcoin, Satoshi gave the world a paper explaining cryptocurrency called "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System," and posted a number of messages to an online forum. He also communicated with early crypto enthusiasts by email. But in 2010, the messages abruptly stopped, and no one has heard from Satoshi since then.

Over the years, sleuths have combed through clues trying to identify Satoshi Nakamoto. Maybe Satoshi is someone already associated with bitcoin, hiding in plain sight? Or maybe it's someone living in obscurity? Maybe they have since passed away? It could even be one of the people who have claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto.

Here are some of the many theories on the real identity of bitcoin's creator:

Dorian Nakamoto

In 2014, Newsweek claimed to have found the real Satoshi—a then-64-year-old engineer and model train enthusiast living in a modest home in the Los Angeles suburbs.1

Why he could be

His birth name was actually Satoshi Nakamoto. Politically, he was libertarian, according to family—a philosophy popular in the crypto community. His family described him as both brilliant and secretive, two qualities that could sensibly be associated with the mysterious founder of a new kind of currency.

Why he may not be

After the publication of the article, Nakamoto denied having anything to do with bitcoin. Also, he appeared to be living humbly, and claimed financial hardship in his denial. The person who started bitcoin, on the other hand, is believed to own more than 1 million bitcoins, which they could presumably sell at any time for billions of dollars.2

Hal Finney

The late Internet pioneer was known as an early bitcoin contributor. Coincidentally (or perhaps not?) Finney lived near Dorian Nakamoto in Temple City, California.3

Why he could be

As one of the developers of PGP, and a "cypherpunk," Finney wrote that his interest in cryptography was motivated by his appreciation for privacy. Finney was an early defender of bitcoin and received the very first bitcoin transaction from Satoshi Nakamoto.4

Interestingly, Finney's retirement from PGP Corp. happened the same year that Satoshi Nakamoto was last heard from—2011.5 Finney subsequently lost more and more of his physical abilities due to ALS and died in 2014. That could explain Nakamoto's silence all these years.

Why he may not be

Like others, Finney denied being Satoshi Nakamoto. There's also this little shred of evidence: In 2010, a collaborator said that Nakamoto didn't have a Macintosh computer; the same year, Finney tweeted about a problem with his own Mac.6

Gavin Andresen

This software developer says he collaborated with Satoshi Nakamoto on rewriting bitcoin's code after its release and was chosen by Satoshi as his successor. But what if Andresen actually created the project on his own, and made up the Satoshi identity?

Why he could be

Andresen is more closely linked with bitcoin than any other known developer. And at least one investigator has claimed to prove Andresen is Satoshi by analyzing their writing styles.8

Why he may not be

Andresen says he isn't Satoshi. And, like other candidates, he hasn't spent any of Satoshi's bitcoins.

Elon Musk

Some have speculated that the billionaire Tesla founder could secretly be behind bitcoin.

Why he could be

Musk is known as an unconventional thinker and a cryptocurrency enthusiast. Supporters of this theory point out that Musk has the know-how to have written the original code, and have cited similarities in his writing style with texts attributed to Nakamoto.9

Why he may not be

Musk has denied being Satoshi Nakamoto.10 Since Musk has never seemed to shy away from the spotlight, something tells us that if he had created bitcoin, he would be taking credit for it.

Does it matter who really created bitcoin?

A lot of people would like to meet the creator and ask them questions. Some of those who became millionaires through bitcoin might want to thank them.

But there's a more practical reason it matters: the creator of Bitcoin mined more than 1 million bitcoins, which are still sitting untouched. If Satoshi Nakamoto is able to spend those bitcoins—as in, they or their heirs still have the address needed to move them—it's possible that a huge amount of bitcoin could one day flood the market, possibly destabilizing the already volatile price of the currency. If Satoshi is still out there, they could let the world know when or if they plan to move that hefty chunk of cryptocurrency.

The more years that pass without a peep, however, the more likely it seems that we will never know who Satoshi Nakamoto is or was. And it appears that whoever they are, that's just how Satoshi wants it.

This does not constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell, or otherwise transact in any investment, including any of the product(s) mentioned herein, or an invitation, offer or solicitation to engage in any investment activity. This information is provided solely on the basis that you will make your own investment decisions, and Bakkt does not take account of any investor's investment objectives, particular needs, or financial situation. It is strongly recommended that you seek professional investment advice before making any investment decision.

1Newsweek. "The Face Behind Bitcoin." Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

2Decrypt. "How Many Bitcoin Does Its Inventor Satoshi Nakamoto Still Own?." Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

3Forbes. "Nakamoto's Neighbor: My Hunt for Bitcoin's Creator Led to a Paralyzed Crypto Genius." Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.

4The New York Times. "Hal Finney, Cryptographer and Bitcoin Pioneer, Dies at 58." Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.

5Bitcoin.com. "The Many Facts Pointing to Hal Finney Being Satoshi Nakamoto." Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.

6Cointelegraph. "Twitter Evidence May Prove Hal Finney Is Not Satoshi." Accessed Feb. 1, 2022.

7ZyCrypto. "Bootstrapped Gavin: Satoshi Nakamoto's Identity Revealed!" Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

8Medium. "Elon Musk Probably Invented Bitcoin." Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.

9CNBC. "Elon Musk Denies He Is Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto." Accessed Jan. 13, 2022.