Who created Ethereum?

The answer is complicated but the simple answer is a bunch of folks.

The “idea” of Ethereum originated from then 19-year-old Vitalik Buterin, computer programmer and co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine who REALLLY wanted more use cases for blockchain technology than supporting cryptocurrencies.

So, in November 2013 Buterin leveled up his “Ultimate Scripting” project and introduced “Ethereum” via a whitepaper:

What this project intends to do is take cryptocurrency 2.0, and generalize it – create a fully-fledged, Turing-complete (but heavily fee-regulated) cryptographic ledger that allows participants to encode arbitrarily complex contracts, autonomous agents and relationships that will be mediated entirely by the blockchain.

On-chain currencies, futures contracts, prediction markets, Namecoin-style domain name systems and even provably fair gambling sites will become trivial to implement, existing as simple, hundred-line-of-code contracts on the chain.

But Buterin didn’t have a solid computer language yet, let alone a Turing-complete one. He also hadn’t formed a team to build the project with.

In true geek fashion, our boy got the first supporters and used the “greedy algorithm” to recruit the rest of the “first five” co-founders:

  • Mihai Alisie who also co-founded Bitcoin Magazine
  • Anthony Di Iorio who founded the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup Group (TBMG), where he met Vitalik Buterin. Currently, he is the founder and CEO of Decentral Inc.
  • Amir Chetrit who worked on the Colored Coins project where he met Buterin
  • Charles Hoskinson who made content for The Bitcoin Education Project and TBMG and knew Di Iorio. And is the founder of Cardano.

And then the founding team quickly expanded to eight to include a few key players:

  • Gavin Wood, a computer scientist who got in touch with Buterin after reading Ethereum’s whitepaper. Mr. Wood is a serial entrepreneur who has also founded the Web3 Foundation and Polkadot, among many other projects.
  • Jeffrey Wilcke was a core developer of Mastercoin, one of the projects that inspired the Ethereum network. Currently the co-founder of Grid Games.
  • Joseph Lubin also knew Di Iorio from TBMG which was then renamed the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada. Lubin is currently the CEO and co-founder at ConsenSys, an Ethereum software company most well known for the MetaMask wallet.

The gang lucked out with Dr. Gavin Wood, who not only helped Buterin with his C++ but was also responsible for shifting the project’s vision from “programmable money that’s moved around by contracts” to a more general-purpose computing platform.

He also conceptualized Solidity, the actual programming language that runs Ethereum.

It’s thanks to Solidity that developers can create dApps, design smart contracts, and launch Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) on Ethereum.

I guess you could say that Gavin Wood did the team… a solid. ity.

No wonder Wood left out everyone else’s names when he wrote Ethereum’s “Yellow Paper” in April 2014.

His groupmates be slackin’!



Other members were busy doing other things including establishing the Swiss-based nonprofit Ethereum Foundation in June 2014 so that it could oversee the first-ever Ether sale. 

The 42-day “presale” that ended in September 2014 netted a cool 31,591 BTC, which translated to $18,439,086 at the time in exchange for about 60,102,216 ETH.

Funding secured!

The presale gains went into development and in July 2015, the team launched the Frontier network where miners were able to load and generate the Ethereum Genesis block.

A few months later, prediction markets protocol Augur ran the first-ever initial coin offering (ICO) on the Ethereum blockchain and raised over $5 million in 45 days.

The DAO Hack and Ethereum Fork

All was going well in Ethereum-ville until 2016 when an attacker exploited a vulnerability in a popular (but unrefined) smart contract.

It was German startup Slock.it that developed a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) creatively called “The DAO.” The project promised to use the ETH it would raise in its sale to fund Uber and Airbnb-like projects with ETH. In return, token holders get to vote on which proposals to fund and possibly receive dividends.

The DAO became wildly popular and raised over 11.5 million ETH within a 27-day crowd sale. That was more than $150 million and 16% of all Ether supply!

But The DAO’s smart contract – not the Ethereum network – had loopholes and with a lot of moolah on the line, a “hacker” was able to siphon $50 million worth of ETH from the project’s Ethereum address and into a “child DAO.”

The amount of ETH tied to the project and the hits that Ethereum’s rep took led to the Ethereum Foundation stepping in.

Will it stick to the “code is law” principle and let the attacker get away with its gains? Or will it make an exception to the “too big to fail” project and “undo” the attacker’s hack?

After a civil war among Ethereum community k̶e̶y̶b̶o̶a̶r̶d̶ ̶w̶a̶r̶r̶i̶o̶r̶s members, a hard fork was eventually implemented. Ethereum’s blockchain splintered into one with the DAO hack and one without.

The blockchain with the OG code that allowed the DAO hack to remain a part of its history became known as Ethereum Classic (ETC), while the blockchain that reversed the hack and returned the “stolen” ETH is what many now call the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain.

The Merge

The DAO hack wasn’t the first drama in the Ethereum project, and it won’t be the last. These days, the project is focused on ” The Merge”.

The Merge involves the “merging” of the Ethereum main chain with the “Beacon Chain”, a brand-new, proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain.  When this occurs, Ethereum will be one step closer to achieving the full scale, security, and sustainability outlined in its Ethereum vision.

It’s the Ethereum Foundation funding multiple research and development teams that will facilitate the transition to The Merge. Among the OG founders, only Buterin remains active in Ethereum’s development.