Ethereum is one of the most important inventions in the crypto industry. Like Bitcoin, this blockchain network has sparked some major movements that have brought crypto and blockchain closer to achieving mainstream adoption. However, unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum comes with versatile computing and infrastructural design that allows it to power a broad array of blockchain applications. This architectural decision has spurred interesting and successful use cases, including decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
And so you may begin to picture the level of ingenuity that birthed this highly innovative ecosystem. In this article, we will put the spotlight on the founder(s) of Ethereum and how they envisioned, conceptualized and implemented the idea of a world computer for blockchain applications.
The Crypto World Before Ethereum
When Bitcoin launched in 2009, the crypto community was focused on delivering a financial paradigm that borders on autonomy, security and decentralization. A lot of people were much more interested in how Bitcoin could evolve the financial industry so that power would be taken from central authorities and redistributed to the average individual, rather than waiting for Bitcoin to go to the moon. At that time, the spotlight was on the digital asset at the expense of the underlying blockchain technology that powers it.
However, the more people began to understand the workings of Bitcoin, the more they started visualizing other possibilities. Some worked on adding more functionalities to the Bitcoin blockchain, while others sought to create their own variation of a decentralized network. Regardless of the approach used, the vast majority of developers stuck with the original codebase and architectural makeup of the Bitcoin network. The apparent drawback of this widely adopted approach is that Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin does not use a Turing complete programming language that can accommodate a dynamic implementation of functions.
Due to Bitcoin’s infrastructure, most of the attempts to improve the Bitcoin network came to an underwhelming end. Then came a 19-year-old teenager named Vitallik Buterin who devised a way of going around the limitations of the Bitcoin protocol such that blockchain became the building block for a wide array of applications even beyond the financial realm.
Vitalik Buterin and the Conceptualization of Ethereum
Buterin, a Russian-Canadian programmer, first heard about Bitcoin from his father in 2011. He was 17-years-old at the time and had downplayed the idea of Bitcoin as a result of its lack of intrinsic value. However, following his second encounter, Buterin began to understand the essence of such a currency and how it could level the playing field.
At the time, Buterin lacked the financial and computing resources to mine or buy Bitcoin. So, he opted for the next available option: work and get paid in Bitcoin. He was paid 5 BTC for each post contributed for online Bitcoin forums. He later teamed up with Mihai Alisie, another Bitcoin enthusiast, and co-founded Bitcoin Magazine in the latter part of 2011.
From there, Buterin started playing around with Bitcoin's underlying technology. He even contributed to a project called Colored Coins, which looked to represent real-world assets on the Bitcoin blockchain. In a little over two years after his debut in the crypto scene, Buterin had met with great minds around the world who were working on expanding the functionalities of the Bitcoin blockchain in one area or the other. He later concluded that the only viable way to evade the restrictions of the Bitcoin protocol is to build a new network from scratch with a computationally universal programming language.
This moment of truth birthed the idea of Ethereum. And in under four weeks, he had the groundwork for what would become the second most valuable crypto ecosystem. Buterin published the Ethereum white paper in November 2013 and it resonated with a lot of Bitcoin proponents. Some of those inspired by this movement joined Buterin as members of the founding team of Ethereum. Today, there are eight individuals officially recognized as the co-founders of Ethereum.
Who Are the Co-founders of Ethereum?
At the early stage of development, Vitalik Buterin onboarded top developers and entrepreneurs to steer the formative stage of Ethereum. These individuals became co-founders of the project and contributed their quota to its success.
The list includes:
Alisie, due to his previous partnership with Buterin and his expertise in economic cybernetics, was a member of the founding team of Ethereum. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Ethereum Foundation in Switzerland. He helped set up a legal framework for the pre-sale of Ether and later emerged as the vice president of the Ethereum Foundation. In 2015, Alisie set out to start his own Ethereum-based project, named Akasha.
Anthony Di lorio
Anthony Di lorio was one of the financial sponsors of the Ethereum startup. He then took a back seat after the team decided to opt for a non-profit business principle. Following his decision to opt for a passive role, Di lorio emerged as the chief digital officer of the Toronto Stock Exchange for a short while before founding Decentral, the company behind Jaxx digital wallet.
Amir Chetrit had a working relationship with Buterin during his stint at Colored Coins. Buterin asked Chetrit to join the founding team in December 2013. However, at a co-founder meeting in June 2014, other team members and Ethereum developers questioned the lack of input from Chetrit. It was at this meeting that Chetrit agreed to step down active involvement with Ethereum development while retaining his position as a co-founder.
Charles Hoskinson emerged as the CEO of the Ethereum startup in December 2013 only for him to hit the exit button after the team decided to promote a non-profit architecture for the organization. This spurred Hoskinson to create his version of a programmable blockchain ecosystem called Cardano. The platform is currently considered one of the major rival blockchains to Ethereum’s throne.
Gavin Wood was one of the core contributors during Ethereum’s early stage of development. He earned the position of co-founder as a result of his programming contributions. He created the first Ethereum testnet and even published the project’s yellow paper — the technical specification of the original white paper published by Buterin. Wood also proposed the ecosystem’s native programming language, Solidity. These days, Wood is busy working on Web3 Foundation and its flagship product, Polkadot.
Like Wood, Wilcke became a co-founder solely because of his programming contributions. He was working on MasterCoin when he discovered Ethereum. He began writing Google Go’s version of the platform independently. He is currently focusing on his game development studio, Grid Games.
Before joining the Ethereum team, Joseph Lubin had amassed a wealth of experience in various fields. He later launched his own for-profit company, ConsenSys, which serves as an incubator for blockchain startups looking to use the Ethereum ecosystem. He has also been influential in some of the high-profile partnerships that Ethereum has secured over the years.