Vitalik Buterin has long been a mythical figure in the crypto community. The Russian-Canadian coder extraordinaire, who co-founded Ethereum when he was just twenty-odd years old, has arguably become the most well-recognized figure in this industry, save for the faceless Satoshi Nakamoto. But it wasn’t always this way.
He recently sat down with Business Insider to talk about his involvement in the Bitcoin industry, no holds barred.
Buterin, now just 25 years old, first found out about Bitcoin in early-2011, when the asset was trading under a dollar. (Who wishes he could’ve bought in at those levels, eh?) He noted that he heard about crypto, then just known as Bitcoin, from a “couple of places” and quickly took interest in the innovation and its ground-breaking potential.
He then started to write on cryptocurrency news, with his employer paying him five BTC per article, then valued at approximately $5.
After making BTC, buying a shirt with said BTC, and realizing that the peer-to-peer innovation actually worked, Buterin, who went to the University of Waterloo, cofounded Bitcoin Magazine, one of the most well-respected outlets in this budding industry. Following his limited success in the crypto media scene, Buterin decided to down the red pill, leaving Waterloo to find himself in the then-nascent space.
While Bitcoin was the primary case of blockchain technology at the time, Buterin discovered that decentralized ledgers could be used for a “lot more interesting things” than decentralized cash. Hence the creation of Ethereum.
He told Business Insider that he came up with the idea that a blockchain, coupled with a built-in programming language, could be the simplest and most logical way to create a platform for decentralized applications. And from there, he went on to write the Ethereum whitepaper, whilst picking up partners in fellow Canadians Anthony Diorio, Joseph Lubin, among a smattering of other pro-crypto, forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
And from there, it was history.
On the matter of what Ethereum is trying to solve, Buterin noted that Bitcoin just has “too limited functionality.” To give his point further credence, he used an analogy, noting that Bitcoin is much like a plot-key calculator, while the blockchain of his own creation can be likened to a smartphone. He even quipped that the smartphone-esque Ethereum can have a plot-key calculator app, potentially hinting at his thought process that Ether could also be used as a form of decentralized money/medium of exchange.
While Vitalik seems to be confident that his creation is useful, some argue that the project is losing steam. In a recent interview with Forbes, Alex Sunnarborg, a founding partner of New York-headquartered crypto-centric hedge fund Tetras Capital, expressed somewhat wary sentiment towards Ethereum. He notes that the layoffs at ConsenSys and the lack of usability of many ETH-centric DApps has him worried. Even worse, smart contracts in use have little-to-zero active users.
Case in point, the Tetras capital founding partner drew attention to the mere $40,000 currently staked on Augur, a multi-million dollar ICO. Thus, he claimed:
“There’s this massive disconnect between how much money is still tied up in these projects and how much people actually use them.”
Sunnarborg added that Ethereum may also become pressured by competition blockchains, like Dfinity or Polkadot, along with the fact that development in his eyes is losing momentum and steam.