Vitalik Buterin created a ‘fellowship of the ring’ to build ethereum. But its founders have a history of feuds and are now competing for crypto dominance.
Vitalik Buterin has compared the eight founders of the ethereum blockchain to JRR Tolkien’s close-knit “fellowship of the ring”, according to the Financial Times.
Yet, the story of the group is one marked by feuds and competition, with two members splintering off to create ethereum rivals cardano and polkadot. Buterin recently said choosing seven other founders “nondiscriminately” to build the network was his biggest regret.
The 27-year-old is one of the most famous figures in crypto, having come up with the idea for ethereum – a cryptocurrency network on which decentralized applications can be built – in 2013. He was just 19 at the time and 21 when ethereum launched in 2015.
Before that, Buterin had become a fan of bitcoin and crypto technology after being introduced to it by his dad, and went on to cofound Bitcoin Magazine. Buterin still works on the network, driving research and providing new ideas.
Maths whizz Charles Hoskinson quickly became an influential member of the ethereum startup that emerged in 2013. Yet, his time on the project came to an end within months, in part because of his prickly relationship with other founders. Hoskinson wanted ethereum to be a for-profit company, but Buterin wanted it to be a nonprofit platform.
Accounts vary about what happened: Hoskinson says he left, others say Butern fired him. Either way, the two are known to not particularly like each other and occasionally still take digs at the other’s methods.
After leaving ethereum, Hoskinson founded the cardano blockchain platform whose ada cryptocurrency has recently soared to become the third-biggest. Cardano is known as an “ETH killer” as it also lets users build their own projects and is a competitor with ethereum.
English computer scientist Gavin Wood became an important ethereum coder after joining the group in 2014. In fact, he created the first ethereum test network and made a number of other key programming contributions.
Wood left ethereum in 2016, and went on to found polkadot, another ETH killer crypto network focused on trying to link together different blockchains. Polkadot’s dot cryptocurrency has risen more than 500% in the last year as excitement has built around the project.
The polkadot founder has been known to take swipes at ethereum. For example, in 2020 he contrasted its “slow” transaction times with polkadot’s quicker speeds.
Although many of the ethereum cofounders were in their 20s, Lubin was older and more experienced when he came on board in 2013. The Princeton-educated computer scientist worked for Goldman Sachs before becoming disillusioned with traditional finance during the financial crisis.
Lubin founded the for-profit ethereum development company ConsenSys, which has launched a number of different projects on the network. One example is the widely used “wallet” MetaMask. ConsenSys raised $65 million from JPMorgan, UBS and others this year.
Anthony Di Iorio
Anthony Di Iorio was an entrepreneur and bitcoin enthusiast before Buterin asked him to come on board to launch ethereum. Yet, he was reportedly also not so keen on ethereum non-profit direction and took a backseat. He went on to found Decentral, which launched the Jaxx crypto wallet.
Di Iorio hit the headlines earlier this year when he said he was quitting the crypto world and selling his company, partly because of concerns about his personal safety. He said another key reason was to focus on philanthropy.
Mihai Alisie has known Buterin since 2011 when they founded Bitcoin Magazine, one of the first publications solely dedicated to crypto. Alisie was important in setting up the Swiss company that gave ethereum a legal and financial base in its early days.
He was vice president of the Ethereum Foundation – the non-profit organization which supports the network – until 2015. He stepped back to found Akasha, a crypto project looking to harness the technology for social purposes.
Computer programmer Jeffrey Wilke was a key player in the early days of ethereum, writing a version of the platform in the Google Go language. That turned into Go Ethereum, or Geth.
He has since left to form a games company called Grid Games with his brother. Wilcke has said he felt his energy was better spent elsewhere, “away from the drama” of ethereum.
Amir Chetrit is the most mysterious and publicity shy of the group, but was working on a crypto startup called Colored Coins – which Buterin also worked on – when he joined ethereum.
Yet, according to journalist Matthew Leising, who wrote a book about ethereum called “Out of the Ether,” other members thought Chetrit wasn’t pulling his weight. Leising wrote that this led to Buterin kicking him out of the project with Hoskinson.
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