From Dorian Nakamoto to Elon Musk: The Incomplete List of People Speculated to Be Satoshi Nakamoto

Ten years ago, on Jan. 3, 2009, the Bitcoin (BTC) network was created as Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block, also known as block number zero.

However, the identity behind the Bitcoin creator has remained one of the biggest mysteries in the crypto community since the original white paper was published by Satoshi in October 2008.

Various journalistic investigations have attempted to unveil the person or group of individuals responsible for creating the top digital currency, but Satoshi’s real identity remains unknown to date. On his P2P Foundation profile — which went inactive in late 2010 — Nakamoto identifies as a 43-year-old male who lives in Japan, but he almost never posted on the Bitcoin forum during local daytime. Other clues, like the British spelling of words like “colour” and “optimise,” suggest he was of Commonwealth origin.

So far, the media and community have come up with numerous results of who might be the real Satoshi, none of which have been confirmed. On June 14, 2018 the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said that it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence” of Nakamoto after a Motherboard journalist requested information on his identity through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Here’s the (incomplete) list of potential candidates.

Vili Lehdonvirta

Vili Lehdonvirta

Suspect credentials: a 38 year-old Finnish professor at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology

Source: Joshua Davis, The New Yorker

One of the first attempts to reveal Satoshi’s identity dates back to October 2011, when journalist Joshua Davis wrote a piece for the New Yorker. During his quest to identify the Bitcoin creator, Davis found Michael Clear, a young graduate student in cryptography at Trinity College in Dublin, who had worked at Allied Irish Banks to improve its currency-trading software and co-authored an academic paper on peer-to-peer technology. Clear denied he was Satoshi, but offered the journalist the name of “a solid fit for Nakamoto” — a thirty-one-year-old Finnish researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology named Vili Lehdonvirta, who used to be a video game programmer and studied virtual currencies.

However, after being contacted by Davis, Lehdonvirta also claimed he was not Satoshi. “You need to be a crypto expert to build something as sophisticated as bitcoin,” he said. “There aren’t many of those people, and I’m definitely not one of them.”

Shinichi Mochizuki

Shinichi Mochizuki

Suspect credentials: a 49 year-old Japanese mathematician at Kyoto University

Source: Ted Nelson

On May 17, 2013, American IT pioneer, sociologist and philosopher Ted Nelson suggested that Nakamoto could be Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki of Kyoto University, who worked mostly in number theory and geometry. Nelson’s evidence was largely circumstantial, however, as it mostly rested on how Mochizuki released his solution to the ABC Conjecture, one of the biggest unsolved problems in mathematics.

A few days later, Nelson told Quartz that he would donate to charity if Mochizuki denied being Satoshi Nakamoto:

“If that person denies being Satoshi, I will humbly give one bitcoin (at this instant worth about $123) to any charity he selects. If he is Satoshi and denies it, at least he will feel guilty. (One month time limit on denial– bitcoins are going UP.)”

In July 2013, The Age reported that Mochizuki denied Nelson’s claims, but did not specify the source.

Dorian Nakamoto

Dorian Nakamoto

Suspect credentials: a 68-year-old Japanese American man who has done classified work for major corporations and the U.S. military

Source: Leah McGrath Goodman, Newsweek

On March 6, 2014, Newsweek published a lengthy article written by journalist Leah McGrath Goodman, who identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American male living in California as the original Bitcoin creator.

Goodman learned that Nakamoto worked as a systems engineer on classified defense projects and computer engineer for technology and financial information services companies. Nakamoto reportedly turned libertarian after being laid off from his job twice in the early 1990s.

There were other clues besides his birth name. Goodman argues that Nakamoto confirmed his identity as the Bitcoin founder after she asked him about the cryptocurrency during a face-to-face interview. "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he allegedly replied. “It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."

However, in a following full-length interview with The Associated Press, Dorian Nakamoto denied all connection to Bitcoin. He said that he had never heard of it before, and that he thought that Goodman was asking about his previous work for military contractors, which was largely classified. Interestingly, in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" interview, he stated he had misinterpreted Goodman's question as being related to his work for Citibank. Later on the same day, the Nakamoto's P2P Foundation account posted its first message in several years, stating: "I am not Dorian Nakamoto."

Nick Szabo

Nick Szabo

Suspect credentials: (supposedly) a 55 year-old American man of Hungarian descent and creator of BitGold, a predecessor of Bitcoin

Sources: Skye Grey, researcher; Dominic Frisby, financial writer

In December 2013, researcher Skye Grey published results of his stylometric analysis, which indicated that the person behind Satoshi Nakamoto was a computer scientist and cryptographer named Nick Szabo.

Essentially, Grey searched for unusual turns of phrase and vocabulary patterns “in particular places which you would expect a cryptography researcher to contribute to,” and then “evaluated the fitness of each match found