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How Vitalik Buterin Turned Memecoin Speculation into $1 Billion for Charity

Vitalik Buterin went on a crypto donation spree last week.

The Ethereum founder donated crypto spoils to several organizations, including 50 trillion tokens — worth $1 billion at the time — to a crypto relief fund for India. Buterin also gave 13,292 ETH to charity assessment organization Givewell, as well as 1,000 ETH and 430 billion ELON tokens to longevity research organization Methuselah.

Vitalik Buterin made one of the largest contributions ever thanks to the rising value of so-called memecoins

Buterin’s philanthropic move was noteworthy for three reasons:

  • the sheer figures involved.
  • new coins that some people in crypto had never even heard of significance of the donations for the cryptocurrency sector.

It’s always a cause for celebration in cryptoverse when there’s a headline-grabbing event. When people are talking about a big surprise that somebody pulled, it’s good press for the industry. We say this because crypto, despite taking on a new lifeform this year (crazy bull rallies, exploding NFTs, institutional investments), the industry is yet to crack the mainstream glass ceiling.

As It Happened

If you’re wondering what the heck ELON and those other coins are, inspired developers have been hard at work creating Dogecoin-inspired coins. In recent months, Tesla head and, er, self-appointed ‘Dogefather’ Elon Musk has been relentlessly promoting the coin. With a 50 million+ strong Twitter base and SNL-level media appeal, Musk has helped send Dogecoin on a dizzying 20,000% climb over the last 12 months.

This success has inspired Shiba Inu (SHIB), Akita Inu (AKITA), Dogelon (ELON), Huskytoken, etc. Oddly, the developers decided to gift Buterin with some of the supply, perhaps to help the tokens garner publicity. But shortly after the selloff, the coins’ prices significantly tumbled, with SHIB, AKITA, and ELON going down by 30%, 50%, and 73% respectively in the next 24 hours.

Crypto detractors will zoom in on the market dynamics that caused the plunge, but proponents will see how Buterin’s epic sale is good for cryptocurrencies.

Good For Cryptocurrency

Here at CryptoVantage, we always talk about how crypto is still an outsider in the larger financial system. Yes, a raft of institutional investors have bought Bitcoin. Yes, NFTs are a super hot thing now — with famous people shining an even brighter light on them. High-profile investors are endorsing Bitcoin more than ever.

The largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US — Coinbase, is now publicly listed. But still, we’re so far from a decentralized finance system — one that’s purely internet-native no less, being seen as a viable financial alternative.

It doesn’t help at all that Bitcoin is accused of being dirty. The currency is still dogged by a “Bitcoin is so terrible for the environment” reputation. Over 60% of Bitcoin mining happens in China, with a bigger percentage of that using coal. But overall, over 74% of Bitcoin mining now uses clean energy, and efforts are being made to make that 100%. But the reputation enforced of Bitcoin as the bringer of the environmental apocalypse persists, and it’s holding crypto back.

This reputation caused Elon Musk’s Tesla to bow under pressure and retract on Tesla accepting Bitcoin payments. Many in the crypto community had hoped that Tesla’s acceptance of Bitcoin would help push crypto closer to the mainstream.

So, how do you know cryptocurrency is far from mainstream acceptance? One metric is the number of wallet users. For example, the wallet has 70 million users. That’s about a third of all wallet users worldwide.

It’s still a wide margin from the 1 billion users that would be considered nearing mainstream acceptance. Many people have heard of Bitcoin, but to them, it’s still an unusual kind of money they see on the news.

Big splash crypto donations are good for the cryptocurrency ecosystem. People think: “crypto is not just some wild speculation asset. It has real-world, practical utility.” It lends crypto legitimacy, helping bring us an inch closer to wide recognition. The bigger the user base, the more indispensable cryptocurrency becomes as an alternative financial system.

Cheerful Crypto Givers

It’s not the first time Vitalik Buterin is digging deep into his crypto coffers for charity. In Feb, he sent approx. $4 million worth of Ether to Give Directly, a charity that gives to the world’s poorest with no strings attached.

In 2018, Buterin also teamed up with FinTech startup OmiseGo to donate $1 million worth of OMG tokens to the same charity. The money went to over 2,000 refugee households in Uganda to help them kick start business growth.

The 27-year old is not the only one who has made a big crypto donation to charity. Jack Dorsey also gifted Give Directly with 50 BTC after the iconic $2.9 million NFT sale of his first tweet. People that care about freedom of speech will be happy to know $5.4 million worth of crypto went to the Freedom of Press Foundation this year, after founder Edward Snowden capitalized on the NFT craze.

In 2018, actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher surprised Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show with $4 million worth of Ripple. The donation would go to DeGeneres wildlife charity, The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, a global conservation effort for saving endangered species.

Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong has set up GiveCrypto, a non-profit to directly send cryptocurrency to people in poverty around the globe. The Coinbase CEO set up the organization as the crypto world’s equivalent of The Giving Pledge — an organization set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to inspire the world’s wealthiest to give back most of their wealth.

Announcing the launch of GiveCrypto, Brian Armstrong said the organization would help “unlock the power of crypto for individuals.”

More Than Riches

With crypto boons that make overnight millionaires and talks of Lamborghinis, crypto is often criticized as a get-rich-quick scheme fueled by greed.

Crypto donations like these — emanating from inside the community to boot — help dispel that inaccurate notion. They help rubber stamp cryptocurrency as a viable financial system, and one that can be used to advance good in the world.

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Hope Mutie

About the Author

Hope Mutie

Hope Mutie is a professional writer and editor whose interests include fintech, cryptocurrency, and blockchain. She engages with crypto audiences by curating content that’s fun-to-read, educational, and offers unmatched value. Hope is part of the brilliant team at Go Full Crypto – a podcast and service that enables your transition into crypto.

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