Vitalik Buterin, the 28-year-old who created Ethereum, ripped Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and hates the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Here’s what else to know about him

March 21, 2022, 9:51 PM UTC

Vitalik Buterin has been a household name in the crypto community for years, but lately he’s just become a household name.

Ethereum, which the 28-year-old cocreated, is a behemoth, for one thing. It powers the second-largest cryptocurrency, and it’s widely known for its smart contract capabilities and applications for decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs, among other things. 

With its success, Buterin became the “world’s youngest crypto billionaire,” according to Forbes, but he has much higher hopes for the blockchain and himself beyond profit. (Time magazine recently reported that Buterin’s net worth is at least $800 million.) 

In the early months of 2022, he’s emerged as crypto’s voice of conscience, ripping into Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine, and the Bored Ape Yacht Club for egging on wealth inequality in the same crypto space that made him famous. 

Here are five things to know about Buterin.

1. He was born outside Moscow to two computer scientists and loved math from an early age.

Buterin was born just outside Moscow in 1994 to two computer scientists, Dmitry Buterin and Natalia Ameline. 

Like his parents, Vitalik had an interest in numbers. For example, at just 4 years old, Buterin “inherited” his parents’ old IBM computer, Time reported, and began to play with Excel. 

“Excel was his favorite toy,” Dmitry told Fortune in 2016.

The family moved from Russia to Canada when Buterin was 6, and by 7 “he could recite more than a hundred digits of pi and would shout out math equations to pass the time,” according to Time

He began to code by 12, and today he is fluent in almost six languages and disciplines such as sociological theory, advanced calculus, and land-tax history, according to Time.

2. He learned about Bitcoin from his dad.

When he was 17, Buterin first learned of Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, from his father.

At first he dismissed the idea, but later he became interested in the blockchain after a bad experience with World of Warcraft game developers. Buterin was taken by the idea of a decentralized platform not controlled by any one entity.

Back then, “I had a much more cartoon mentality,” he told Wired in 2016.

“I saw everything to do with either government regulation or corporate control as just being plain evil. And I assumed that people in those institutions were kind of like Mr. Burns, sitting behind their desks saying, ‘Excellent. How can I screw a thousand people over this time.’”

3. He cofounded Bitcoin magazine 

At 18, Buterin cofounded one of crypto’s leading periodicals and became its head writer. There, he learned much more about Bitcoin and what could make the blockchain better.

He thought it could serve as an efficient method for securing assets ranging from web applications to financial derivatives to non-predatory types of loans, according to Time.

He managed his role at Bitcoin while attending the University of Waterloo and working another job as a research assistant for a cryptographer, Wired reported.

4. He dropped out of college and created Ethereum.

Buterin dropped out of college in 2013 and began writing the Ethereum white paper. 

“When I came up with Ethereum, my first first thought was, ‘Okay, this thing is too good to be true, and I’m going to have five professional cryptographers raining down on me and telling me how stupid I am for not seeing a bunch of very obvious flaws,’” Buterin told Wired. “Two weeks later I was extremely surprised that none of that happened. As it turned out, the core Ethereum idea was good, fundamentally, completely, sound.”

In 2014, Buterin was named as one of Peter Thiel’s fellows and awarded $100,000 to invest in his work.

5. He is becoming increasingly outspoken. 

In 2022, Buterin hopes to “try to be more risk-taking and less neutral,” he told Time. “I would rather Ethereum offend some people than turn into something that stands for nothing.”

Recently, Buterin condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, tweeting, “This is a crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people,” before pivoting weeks later in a Time interview to a criticism of his crypto community.

“One silver lining of the situation in the last three weeks is that it has reminded a lot of people in the crypto space that ultimately the goal of crypto is not to play games with million-dollar pictures of monkeys, it’s to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world,” Buterin told Time on March 14. Time reported that he was “referring to the Bored Ape Yacht Club.”

(Buterin actually met Putin briefly at an event in 2017 and discussed Ethereum.)

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