"The Boy Genius"
A Profile of Vitalik Buterin
“I remember knowing, for a while, for a long time, that I was kind of abnormal in some sense.” Every great industry has had its boy genius; a young man with a certain je ne sais quoi that marks their distinction from all the rest. Motion pictures had the doomed Irving Thalberg. Cars had the visionary Henry Ford. Computers had the mercurial Steve Jobs. The cryptocurrency world – a world which is upending the very way we do business and value currency – has Vitalik Buterin.
Born in Russia on January 31st, 1994, Vitalik’s Computer Programmer father moved the family to Canada in early 2000. At that age, he was predisposed to math and programming and could add three-digit numbers in his head twice as fast as a normal human being. Pegged as a math whiz, he was quite lonely and found solace in the world of games. Like many teenagers, Vitalik spent a considerable amount of time playing World of Warcraft until one day Blizzard removed the damage component from a siphon life spell which his character, a warlock, used. He quit, cried himself to sleep that night and never forgot the horrors that centralized services can bring. He spent a year searching for a new purpose in life, which led him to the world of cryptocurrencies.
Vitalik first heard of Bitcoin from his father, and the decentralized and uncontrollable nature of the bitcoin market attracted his interest. To start with, he had neither the computing power to mine Bitcoin nor the cash to purchase them. But what he did have was the ability to write, so he began writing articles for Bitcoin Blogs earning 5 Bitcoin per article (which now would be a healthy sum of money $32,500 USD). In 2012, he traveled the world and co-founded an online news website called Bitcoin Magazine.
A trip to Israel in 2013 changed his perception of the cryptocurrency market and the potential uses of blockchain technology. Vitalik came up with the idea of a platform that would go beyond the financial use cases allowed by Bitcoin. He wrote a white paper (a document used to highlight the features of a product) describing this alternate platform. Being that it was functionally different than Bitcoin, he called it “Ethereum.” Simply put, Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables Smart Contracts and Distributed Applications to be built and run without any downtime, fraud, control or interference from a third party (like a bank).
In its initial crowd sale, Ethereum raised more than 31,000 Bitcoin from the cryptocurrency community (valued at $18 million USD at the time) and was the third most successful crowd sale of all-time. Beyond the financial aspects of cryptocurrency, which include wealth building, Vitalik summed up his brilliant vision of the greater market by saying “If crypto succeeds, it’s not just because it empowers better people. It’s because it empowers better institutions.”