If we’re doing a round-up of crypto-currency influencers, we can’t not include Vitalik Buterin. If you’ve decided to dive into crypto, chances are you’ve read or heard about him, as he’s one of the most popular names in crypto. At 25, he is perhaps one of the youngest crypto influencers.
The question is why has he become so popular? Who is Vitalik Buterin? And why is he my crypto idol.
Early Life and Education of Vitalik Buterin
Vitalik Buterin was born in Russia in January 31, 1994. At 6 years of age, his family moved to Canada. When he was in grade three, he was recognized as a gifted child. Perhaps due to the influence of his computer scientist father, he was drawn to math, computers, and economics from a very young age.
High school was spent in a private educational institution called Abelard School, which he credits for his desire and focus for learning.
Getting into Crypto
The interest in crypto started when he was 17 and his father Dmitry Buterin, who has a small startup, introduced him to bitcoin. At first, he couldn’t be bothered. However, after encountering it a second time, his interest was piqued. Some speculate the reason behind his sudden fascination on bitcoin was because he had recently quit playing World of Warcraft and was looking for a new thing to focus on.
Wanting to enter the crypto space but without the money or hardware to do so, he scoured the internet for alternative ways to buy bitcoin. He found someone who would pay him 5 bitcoins for every article he would write. He made a name for himself writing bitcoin and blockchain-related articles in a way that could be understood by laymen.
His talent for writing was evident and he caught the attention of Mihai Alisie. In 2011, they co-founded Bitcoin Magazine. He also took part in developing the code for Dark Wallet and Egora. Despite his age, he has already made waves in the crypto space.
Event that solidified Vitalik Buterin love for crypto
In 2013, he attended a conference in San Jose, California. The conference solidified his interest in crypto and blockchain. When he got back home, he told his father he was thinking of dropping out of his computer science degree from the University of Waterloo to pursue his interest and immerse himself fully in the crypto ecosystem.
Being the person who initially introduced bitcoin to Vitalik, it makes sense that Dmitry was all for it. Vitalik Buterin travelled the world and learned more about crypto and blockchain, eventually realizing the potential of blockchain technology – one that went beyond a peer-to-peer currency.
Thiel Fellowship Grant
Vitalik Buterin wrote the Ethereum white paper when he was just 20 years old. As a testament to his genius, he was granted the Thiel Fellowship – a $100,000 grant awarded through the course of two years, which encourages people aged 22 and below to make their vision come true. Since its inception, it has supported the development of non-profits and consumer products.
In 2015, Ethereum was born. Unlike other altcoins, Ethereum wasn’t a result of a bitcoin hard fork. He described it as a “blockchain with a built-in programming language” in an interview with Business Insider.
The following year, he was listed in Canadian Business’ 2016 Change Agents.
Creating the second most valuable digital currency
What is Ethereum? How does it differ from Bitcoin? Many people call Vitalik’s creation bitcoin’s staunchest competition. This is probably true as it ranks second in terms of market capitalization, which as of July 17 2019, is just shy of $21.5 billion.
However, Ethereum is much more than just a digital currency. The goal behind the creation of Ethereum was to provide a platform for the exploration of other applications of blockchain technology – one that the limited functionality of bitcoin did not address. To put it simply, Vitalik Buterin likens Ethereum to a smartphone that has different applications for different purposes instead of having just one device that does one thing.
Impact of Ethereum
The creation of Ethereum has further propelled cryptocurrency into the mainstream, making it impossible to ignore. Financial and technological institutions are closer to recognizing the legitimacy of crypto as a currency. However, its value lies in its decentralized nature.
Aside from enabling decentralized applications (DApps) to run, Ethereum has a core innovation: Smart Contracts. To understand smart contracts, the simplest and most common example used is vending machines. If you put a dollar inside a vending machine, you’ll get a treat. Smart contracts work the same way. When the defined conditions are satisfied, the contract gets executed.
The protocol has opened up a world of blockchain applications and several big firms have shown their support. This includes Toyota, Merck, and ING. The idea of Ethereum was good and sound. However, it is not without its problems. There are technical problems in terms of scalability and security, but Vitalik has hired a team help find solutions.
Why should you listen to what he has to say?
Vitalik Buterin is far from your normal 25 year old. He’s a genius whose net worth is in the hundreds of millions. Aside from being an expert in decentralization, the experience he has amassed from writing articles about the technical aspects of crypto, to building and improving the Ethereum protocol, means he can provide valuable insight on the issues plaguing the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
Stephan Tual, the former chief communications officer of the Ethereum Foundation, describes him as an “ultra-pragmatic” person who would choose the best solution to the problems he sees, whether or not it came from him.
He’s not shy to give his opinions on certain issues. In fact, he uses twitter as a way to engage with the cryptocurrency community. He, along with Ethereum researchers, participate in AMAs.
He’s even open to criticism. In a podcast with Laura Shin (a cryptocurrency influencer we’ll also discuss in a separate article), he shares his belief that criticism is one way we can learn and improve. For this reason, he thinks it’s alright for the Ethereum community to criticize other community members. If you want to watch this podcast, you can do so here. You can also read Laura Shin’s show notes.