Vitalik is a Canadian citizen that became fascinated at an early age with bitcoin and its underlying technology, blockchain. Buterin got his start in cryptocurrency by writing and co-founding the earliest crypto magazine; Bitcoin Magazine. Vitalik was just 19 at the time, but immersing himself in the cryptosphere turned out to be a very fruitful endeavour for him. Writing about bitcoin gave him the ability to express his thoughts, and receive feedback on his ideas. Vitalik eventually went on to propose the idea of Ethereum in a whitepaper in 2013.
Vitalik Co-Founds Ethereum
Ethereum was founded by a long list of cryptographers, mathematicians, and investors. To name a few, Vitalik Buterin, Charles Hoskinson (founder of Cardano), and Gavin Wood (creator of solidity). Ethereum emerged out of the cryptocurrency space essentially out of necessity. The bitcoin community was too large, dispersed, and disjointed to come to a consensus on how the technology should be developed. It was Vitalik that proposed the idea of creating a scripting language so that applications could more easily be built to interact with bitcoin. When the community was unable to unanimously agree, Vitalik formed Ethereum along with the rest of the cofounders.
Vitalik was studying computer Science at Waterloo university in 2014 when the conversation about Ethereum started to pick up. He ended up dropping out of university, shortly after joining, in order to pursue Ethereum full time. Vitalik was awarded the Peter Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant given to individuals who drop out of college to pursue entrepreneurship. It was shortly after this, that the movement to develop Ethereum really started taking off.
Biggest Internet Crowdsale
When the idea of Ethereum began to manifest itself in the world, the founding team put together a formal funding process to raise funds for the project. In order to participate in the Ethereum crowdsale, all you needed was an .01 Bitcoin ($50), and an internet connection. Within 24 hours, the amount raised totalled almost $20 million dollars. The founding team carved off 9% of the total amount raised, and distributed it amongst themselves. Vitalik ended up receiving the largest cut out of any founder, which amounted to 500000 Ether. The ability to raise funds, on a massive scale, in such a short period of time had never been demonstrated before. The funds that were raised were used to “mint” or “pre-mine” roughly 72 million Ether. This makes up for about 70% of the total supply that is around today.
The First Big Use Case For Ethereum
The first use case for Ethereum was to mimic the Ether crowdsale itself. Unlike bitcoin, Ethereum has the ability to host many cryptocurrencies on its ledger. This means that people can easily create their own token, without creating their own blockchain. Although this utility was used before 2017, it was highly leveraged, and perhaps even caused the 2017 crypto bubble. Just like the dot com bubble of the early 2000’s, every company with a tech team was jumping into the crypto craze. It became very simple for anyone to create a token, and sell it on the open market in an initial coin offering (ICO). In order to buy into a token/coin, people needed to buy Ether. In order to buy Ether, most people needed to acquire bitcoin.
This cascading effect caused the inflation of the entire cryptocurrency market to a grand total of almost a trillion dollars ($800 billion). After the bubble popped, there were many who dismissed Ethereum and its use cases as part of the fad. However, it is more likely that the 2017 bubble is an example of a technology being too early for mass adoption. Just like the dot com bubble, the crypto bubble spiraled out of control. The bubble was fuelled by the fear of missing out (FOMO), and popped by fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). The next few years of Ethereum’s existence was spent advancing the underlying technology towards being a better overall system.
Vitalik’s Response to the Bubble
Buterin had this to say in the midst of the bubble.
“It would be a mistake to underestimate the value of ICOs or to say that they are a bad thing. ICOs are interesting because they enable monetization for open source projects, something that doesn’t happen often. I created Ethereum itself with an ICO. What we are seeing lately is that people are taking this idea too far …
If most ICOs fail, that is a risk (to Ethereum itself). We need to avoid over-publicizing these projects. …
A lot of projects will fail and people will lose money.” – Vitalik Buterin
This snippet is representative of Vitaliks cool and collected responses to the many questions he’s been asked. Say what you may about Vitalik and his grandiose visions, but he is a realist, and a pragmatist. His response to the hype is tempered with wisdom, approaching the phenomenon with a balanced perspective. The ICO’s are not bad, or good. Each one needs to be evaluated on its own merits. When any idea is taken too far, or used with malicious intent, it spoils the utility for the rest who are involved.
Vitalik is the Right Leader for Ethereum
Most of the founders of Ethereum have either moved on to start new projects, or are running an Ethereum supporting entity aside from the core operations. Vitalik is often considered the main founder, or the father of Ethereum. What is inspiring about Vitalik, is his story, as well as his demeanour. In a 2018 New Yorkers article, Dmitry Buterin (Vitaliks father) gave insight into the responsibility laid on Vitalik.
“He’s not too excited that the community assigns so much importance to him. He wants the community to be more resilient … He is trying to focus his time on research”
Ultimately, Vitalik is focused on the success of Ethereum. This is the exact right person that you want leading an open-source project like this. Vitalik is not too concerned about his fame, or notoriety with starting the world largest supercomputer. The focus on making the system better, and the sheer lack of attention paid to recognition for his efforts is what makes Vitalik a great leader. Vitalik shares these qualities with the founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.