There’s always been a cloud of mysteries surrounding Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC). Thousands of enthusiasts, either known or unknown, followed his example to build another ground-breaking crypto but only one name won the same world recognition — the Russian-Canadian wunderkind, Vitalik Buterin.
Vitalik is the creator of the second-largest blockchain, Ethereum, which, while improving the original one, gave a new dimension to the use of cryptocurrency. Unlike Satoshi, the mastermind behind Ethereum hasn’t left room for many speculations (except maybe that he is Satoshi himself).
Vatalik is a public figure and influencer in the growing crypto community with a regular media presence and clear biography. We know about his origin, education, and among other details, his net-worth wealth. Nobody has to dig up these details. The leading Ethereum developer openly presented his wallet address together with regular updates on his personal attitudes toward blockchain development.
The fact that his personal and professional profile is open to the public doesn’t make the Vitalik story less intriguing. For that reason, we’ll go through his life and achievements just to find out how Vitalik became the youngest crypto billionaire.
Who Is Vitalik Buterin?
Vitalik Buterin was born in Russia in 1994 as the son of the computer scientist Dmitry Buterin who immigrated to Canada 6 years after the birth of his child. The little Vitalik showed outstanding results in the new environment — he was immediately transferred to advanced classes for gifted students at his local school.
Vitalik learned about Bitcoin for the first time back in college. He co-founded the earliest crypto journal, Bitcoin Magazine, in 2011 and pursued his blockchain passion at the University of Waterloo, where he attended advanced cryptography courses.
The excellent results led him to a position as a research assistant for the renowned scientist Ian Goldberg, who had a leading role in designing Tor and was a co-founder of the Off-the-Record Messaging. As part of the new job, the teenage Vitalik had the opportunity to cooperate with well-established cryptographic scientists and take part in international scientific conferences, where the newly-discovered Bitcoin was regularly discussed as the first operable product in the field. This is where the 19-year-old decided to pursue the development of crypto as a full-time job leaving the school for good.
The Inception of Ethereum
Buterin established personal communication with the original Bitcoin programmers worldwide, which helped him envision the idea of a more useable blockchain. He concluded that Bitcoin had limited functionality against the blockchain potential and returned to Canada in 2013 to create the first Ethereum whitepaper.
The next year, Vitelik received the $100,000 worth of Theil Fellowship, which enabled him to dedicate himself to his Ethereum project, together with other great minds like Gavin Wood, Joseph Lubin, Charles Hoskinson, and Anthony Di Lorio.
Vitalik and his fellow developers introduced the project to the public at the beginning of 2014 at a Bitcoin conference in Florida. Later that year, they organized an initial coin offering (ICO) event and managed to sell over a million dollars worth of ETH coins using these funds for the further development of the network. Interestingly, the newly purchased coins were paid in bitcoins. Despite having sold a bulk of native coins, the Ethereum blockchain was officially open for use in the summer of 2015.
What Is Ethereum?
To clarify, in the beginning, the digital currency Ether (ETH) that people could pre-buy on the referred ICO offering was only a part of what Buterin and co-founders offered to the public in 2015.
Ethereum is a blockchain platform that enables individuals to transact data securely through automated programs called smart contracts. Smart contracts convey transaction data that is immutable and distributed across the entire network, making the interaction between participants public and transparent.
In this on-chain ecosystem, the blockchain native currency Ether serves as a mechanical force that moves the transaction of data from one user to another. Similar to Bitcoin, Ether coins are produced through a process called mining, where participants ensure the validity of the ongoing transaction and receive new coins in exchange for their contribution.
However, while the Bitcoin blockchain is used only as a channel for the circulating bitcoins, the Ethereum blockchain allows developers to build numerous decentralized products on top of it — from other cryptocurrencies like ERC20 tokens and NFTs to ICOs and decentralized applications (dAPPs), which can find use in many industries outside the blockchain.
Use Cases of Ethereum
Before we get to the Vitalik crypto fortune, we should have a clear insight into all sources of income that the Ethereum network offers. Clearly, the first thing that could pop up in your mind is the Ether-trading business, and you’re right to a certain extent. Ether is the second-largest cryptocurrency (right next to Bitcoin) that can be found on all reputable cryptocurrency exchanges like Bitbuy, Coinberry, Binance, Coinbase, and Kraken.
You can purchase ETH coins in exchange for your native currency (CAD, USD, or EUR) or use them as a speculative instrument on pro-trading platforms. However, Ether is also an official payment method of the entire Ethereum ecosystem, which is quite large and covers the following sub-industries:
- Decentralized Finance (DeFi) — Ethereum-based applications with open access to anyone who holds Ether. Nowadays, these decentralized apps are most often used for building the trending AMM protocols, which are a sophisticated form of next-gen decentralized exchanges that come together with their own governance token. They allow sleek swaps with all other ETH-based tokens and a vast variety of other trading opportunities like staking, yield farming, and lotteries. You’ve probably heard of some popular DeFi representatives such as PancakeSwap, SushiSwap, Aave, and Maker DAO.
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) — a lucrative business for passionate collectors that caused the new digital frenzy in 2020 by allowing tokenization of everything we consider art or intellectual property. For illustration, the most expensive NFT Pak’s The Merge was sold at $91.8 million.
- Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) — virtual organizations that run on smart contracts and allow collective governance by all members. Today, they’ve found an application in different communities and charity organizations, with MetaCartel and MolochDAO as the best success stories.
How Much Ether Does Vitalik Have?
As a founder of Ethereum, we can expect that Vitalik has quite a number of ETH coins in his possession. In 2018, he revealed his Ether wallet address in a tweet claiming that a part of the amount he received as a donation. All in all, Vitalik’s wallet held more than 355,000 ETH. Despite the sharp fluctuation of the Ether price, ranging from $1,800 to $4.400 between 2021 and 2022, we can easily crunch the numbers at the current exchange rate and conclude that Vitalik is a crypto billionaire.
It’s interesting to note that in the spring of 2021, Vitalik withdrew the majority of coins from the publicly announced wallet to an undisclosed address. He never discussed this move, but we do know that amid the pandemic, he donated more than $1 billion worth of Ether and other cryptos to the India Covid Relief fund.
Moreover, in April 2022, he gave 750 ETH to Ukraine’s relief efforts established by the Ukrainian government and another aid package with the same amount to the Unchain Fund to support the organization that provides humanitarian help to war victims. You can see both transactions on the most popular Ethereum block explorer Etherscan under the Vitalik domain name — vitalik.eth.
Does Vitalik Have Other Cryptocurrency?
Yes. You can find the full records of Vitalik’s wealth on Etherscan, where we can see that the Ethereum creator owns 505 billion Shiba Inu (SHIB), 50 billion Akita Inu (AKITA), 500 billion Dogelon (ELON), and plenty of other ERC20 tokens. You’re probably wondering now about the dog-themed fuss in Vitalik’s deposit box.
It all started with SHIB when an anonymous group of developers stated in their whitepaper that they were giving away half of the total circulation of coins to Vitalik, who had no previous connection with the SHIB creative team whatsoever. Yet, blockchain technology doesn’t require recipients’ permission, and anyone can send anyone as many tokens as they want without the recipient’s consent and an option for cancelling the transaction — blockchains are immutable ledgers, as we already know.
The most probable explanation behind this “gift” was probably a marketing trick to make people notice the newly-released coin in August 2020. And it worked! Two months after its release, the token’s value rose around 4000%. You can see from the graph, though, that this instant success didn’t last long, but it gave the coin a tightened position on the list of liquid digital assets.
Crypto Donations to Vitalik Buterin
This example followed a series of dog-related tokens to do the same, which at some point, sounded like a mockery. However, Vitalik burned 90% of his SHIB capital and donated the rest, saying that he didn’t have the intention of being a locus of power of that kind.
When it comes to NFT collectibles, Vitalik has addressed this phenomenon in his interview for Time, where he admitted that their existence and uncontrolled rise make him feel anxious, despite their contribution to boosting the ETH price.
Finally, the diverse crypto portfolio we’re reading on Etherscan covers only Ethereum-powered tokens. Vitalik once confessed that he had to sell half of his Bitcoin capital in order to survive in the pre-Ethereum era. As the president of the Ethereum foundation, he earns a $150,000 annual salary now.
A Few Words Before You Go…
In all interviews and podcasts, Vitalik implies that he’s not interested in making a fortune out of the growth of the Ethereum network. Currently, he and his development team are busy with the transition of the Ethereum blockchain from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to a more environmentally sustainable mechanism called Proof-of-Stake (PoS). Being delayed a few times in a row, the new mechanism is claimed to contribute a great deal to improving the blockchain speed and performance, and ultimately, the value of the native token.
Maybe, Vitalik’s intentions aren’t as humble as they’re presented to the public. Yet, he definitely has the most inspiring story among all other tech-savvy university dropouts who followed their instinct and became self-made billionaires.