Anthony Di Iorio is one of the eight co-founders of Ethereum – and probably one of the most complete members of that highly praised group. In 2012, he founded the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup, where he met a young man named Vitalik Buterin. The cryptographic center of Di Iorio, Decentral, has created one of the first user-friendly bitcoin wallets, and is also the place where he collaborated with Ethereum's co-founder, Joe Lubin.
I met Di Iorio for the first time at the beginning of 2014, immediately after the highly anticipated initial announcement of Ethereum. Buterin, understanding the limitations of the bitcoin digital cash system, has conceived of Ethereum as a sort of secure, "Turing-complete" megacomputer, spanning all over the world. Contrary to bitcoin, it allows more complicated automated transactions known as "smart contracts", which could in a sense rationalize a huge number of administrative, legal and financial activities. The concept captured the community of cryptocurrency, therefore still rather small, of storm. By 2017, Ethereum had become the backbone of the initial coin offering boom, allowing blockchain projects to raise money from around the world, sometimes even from regulators' wrath.
Di Iorio's big bet made him one of the 20 richest people in the crypt, according to Forbes. But in the months following the initial announcement of Ethereum, although it generated more and more enthusiasm, the foundation team that Di Iorio helped to bring together was fragmentary from within. Shortly before the tenth anniversary of the bitcoin white paper, Di Iorio took BREAKER on a journey into oblivion, evaluating the tortuous path of Ethereum, where he thinks that he could have left the track and what the future holds.
I was haunting you on Twitter a bit, and I noticed you grew up reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. Has it impacted the way you thought about bitcoin?
I say that reading was my first love. But when I had my first computer, at eight, the computer was my joy, my second love. I went to the computer field, robotics field. I was building computers at the dawn of the personal computer.
I enjoyed being at home on my computer, with games, with word processing, programming with Basic before Windows came out, and I've always been the guy who set up computers in the family. And if the first decade of my life was my computer, the second decade was connecting with people, with other computers on BBS cards and modems, before the Internet.
When did business enter the business?
My first real company was building websites in the early 90s. I never wanted to be a hardcore programmer, though. My father was an entrepreneur and I went to school for business, at Ryerson University, here in Toronto. My biggest was marketing and my minor was international business.
I never liked school, anyway. I hated being told what to do. And this is very important to me, even today.
What would you have preferred to do?
I prefer to be on my computer, I prefer to learn. There is a lot more on computers and online than in schools. If you are forced to do something, and you are massed in a group where everyone is at different levels, and you feel you are not challenged, it is not favorable.
When I went to university, I really started. When I graduated, I went to marketing and I did it for a couple of years, but I did not like it. I had mine, you know, "I do not like being in the business world" [moment]. So I left that marketing job and started producing music. I have not worked for a while; I only took a little time to find myself.
Wow, what kind of music?
Electronics, home, trance. I used to be a DJ in Toronto clubs.
Then I ended up going to my family business, which was sliding the production of French windows. I learned a lot about the economic side of things. When that activity was sold in 2008, I wanted to devote myself to something technological and green, so I entered geothermal drilling. I bought this massive drill from Italy and started building Ikea buildings, heating and cooling them by drilling holes in the ground and moving dirt. This was in 2010-2011.
And at the same time, I was studying economics. I was really interested in sound money and the Austrian school of economics. It makes a lot of sense after the housing crisis and the financial crisis.
When did the bitcoin enter in things?
I heard about bitcoin in the summer of 2012, and I was like a holy shit, this is more important than the Internet. I went to buy my first bitcoin the first day I heard about it, and I did not look back.
I know [bitcoin advocate] Andreas Antonopoulos says everyone has that moment when you hear it, dismiss it, and then come back later. But no, it was a perfect storm, I grabbed it. [It connected] my IT background, my knowledge of decentralized systems like Bittorrent and Napster, and the economic theory I was learning, and then also entrepreneurship.
And soon after I started the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup, looking for a community. There was nothing out there, so I created it here in Toronto.
It's interesting that you mentioned BitTorrent and Napster. The first or second piece of bitcoin I wrote for Fortune in 2014 was titled "Bitcoin is Napster for Finance".
Yes, peer to peer! On the day I was on modems before the Internet, it was basically peer. I was connecting to other computers. The Internet has allowed me to do it even better.
I understood the power it would have had when I used my first browser, Mosaic, at the university in the early 90s. I was like, this will completely change the information movement. And then with bitcoin, oh my god, I can be my bank. I can move my things and I can control my digital life.
What was the first big thing you decided to build after discovering bitcoin?
I started building portfolios in 2013 because I recognized that the wallet would be what the browser is for the Internet. The browser allows you to view information and the portfolio is the way you manage and transfer the value.
Was that Jaxx at the time, or was it something else and became Jaxx?
No, it was called KryptoKit.
Vitalik thought that more people would be willing to participate in the project if they did not think there was a company behind them.
How did you approach Vitalik for the first time and what was your impression of him?
When I started the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup group, Vitalik was at the first meeting. Meetups have grown to eight people, dozens of people, hundreds of people.
He was the most shy and uninformed person I have ever met in my life. There was something very interesting about him, [though]and he really blossomed that same year. We were traveling and talking at conferences, so I connected with him. In fact, he wrote a three-part article about me for Bitcoin Magazine, about what I was doing in Toronto.
It was before Ethereum happened. So he really progressed for that year, to the point that he was making presentations on stage.
So, how was the founding team born?
[In late 2013], Vitalik showed me the Ethereum white paper, I think of Inside Bitcoins in Las Vegas. It was the beginning of December, and that was when the story of Ethereum began.
I called my friend Charles Hoskinson and said, "Hey Charles, I need confirmation on this sheet that Vitalik showed me." I showed it to Charles, and he said, "Oh my God, this is the next big thing." I brought Charles into the mix and I introduced him to Vitalik.
Five of us fundamentally founded and started the project. [It was] myself, Charles, Vitalik, Mihai [Alisie], who at the time worked with Vitalik on Bitcoin Magazine, and Amir Chetrit, who was working on colored coins, and which Vitalik had known during his trip around the world. I funded on the basis of a company exit that I had before that year, and then all five in December we started building that community and we announced it to [the North American Bitcoin Conference] in 2014.
This is where we met the first time.
Yes. And later, Joseph Lubin was added as a founder. It was my first event when I opened Bitcoin Decentral on January 1, 2014. Joseph introduced himself because his parents were in Toronto, and he was home for the Christmas holidays. So he came to a meeting, and that's how he was introduced into the team. We brought it here and Jeffrey Wilcke and Gavin Wood were added later. So that completed the eight founders.
I remember the discussion about colored coins, an effort to represent real-world resources on bitcoin blockchain & # 39; scoring & # 39; particular coins. My impression is that the idea was important for Ethereum, the concept of building on bitcoins.
Vitalik traveled all over the world working with projects like Mastercoin [now Omni] and colored coins, and they really identified that the bitcoin is not made to do the most complex things they were trying to do. And it is here that the whole idea of a new chain, adding the level of intelligent contract, with the things that were specific to the smart-contract platform, the virtual machine, was really invented.
At that time, the bitcoin was everything. I'm not really a maximalist, there was not anything else at the time. And Ethereum was the first to influence not only the financial sectors, but also the law, insurance and much more with the smart contract platforms.
So he really opened my eyes and I really started thinking over the bitcoin. Soon after, I changed the name of my company from Bitcoin Decentral, to just Decentral, to reflect the environment. I was still a bitcoin fan, but by saying, OK, Ethereum has the potential to be just as big.
Bitcoin was the first and the most expensive thing to our hearts at that time. And it still has a special place, it's the thing that people know all over the world. It has that advantage of the first move, and it's super solid.
At this time it is easy to forget that until 2014 there was not even the general concept of "building a blockchain-based company". It seems that this is something that Ethereum has really introduced into the world.
What Ethereum did was, provided a way in which people could easily create a chain, create a token, an already existing infrastructure. Bitcoin, you would need to take a fork and then get your miners. With Ethereum, anyone who wants to create a token and start using that token, do these few things and Ethereum's infrastructure will allow you to do that. He accelerated things and removed many of the frictions involved in creating a blockchain project. It has democratized the ability to raise capital.
Have you looked at Ethereum differently than some of the pure technologists or developers?
Yes. I learned a lot from my brother; he was a politician. He had a tough position on a lot of things. He was my elder brother and I did not like to hear what to do; he would have taken more of a conference approach with me, and I have never responded well to this.
See, I'm that older brother.
I learned to be very diplomatic and see both sides and have an open mind and let people make their own decisions, and not be so black and white. It also extends to my parents, who were always very, "That's how you do things, there's a way to do it." I did not like it. When someone does it, this is one more reason to look for other alternatives.
So I always found that my approach to being open to things and not being so attached to a technology or something, really allowed me to see before bitcoin and then take a leap of faith and fund Ethereum.
I built my first bitcoin portfolio in 2013, then I built the first Ethereum portfolio in 2014. And then it's like, wow, I have to build the interface for all these technologies, there will be thousands of these things. That's why we started Jaxx in 2015, to be a single interface or a browser, if you want, for all these things and on all platforms. I'm not going to put all my eggs in the Ethereum basket, too. I want to support the whole ecosystem and help everyone thrive and create victories everywhere.
The commercial side of things [suffered] with the removal of Charles [Hoskinson] and Amir [Chetrit].
This translates into another interesting difference between bitcoin and Ethereum, meaning that you, Joe and Vitalik and practically everyone on the foundation team, unlike Satoshi, remained visible and active. Was it a decision you thought of as a team?
Good, Amir [Chetrit] he was always the one who was anonymous; he did not like having his face out there. That's why sometimes you will not see it listed. People have different levels of how open they are with those things.
We made the decision to be visible. We are asking people to contribute to the project and need that visibility. Satoshi, being many, many years before, and also having something so revolutionary, did not know what to expect.
But for me it is always about trust and the principles of all these technologies are trust, openness and transparency. Being in the portfolio space, I have always found it very important that people know who they are dealing with. It has its downsides and its positive aspects, especially when you get more notoriety.
One aspect of the history of the genesis of Ethereum that I have heard is that there was some dispute between the team on the type of organization that would be, for profit or non-profit. How was this discussion?
We had a team of eight founders at the height. You also had a team of dozens of others. And it has always been a clash. We are working with decentralized technology and have had to deal with leadership roles. There were always battles with decisions that would slow down the project, but we had to make sure that what we were doing was kosher with the rules. But then you had some people who did not care.
There were a kind of two camps. You've had some people, like Vitalik, who wanted it to be a foundation. But I, Charles, who was CEO and Amir, we said no, we do not want to be the Mozilla of this, we want to be the Google of crypto.
So, the decision was made for profit, so we went to Switzerland to sign the documentation. But then there was a coup, and Charles and Amir were removed from the project, unfortunately. He ended up coming to make a decision from Vitalik, who decided to turn it into a foundation. Vitalik thought that more people would be willing to participate in the project if they did not think there was a company behind them. And it's a valid point. Doing such things means building a community and getting people involved more.
But on my side, being an entrepreneur and being someone who knows the efficiency, I've never been a big fan of the foundations. I think there is more value in maximizing returns. This is what I signed up for; that's why I lent money to the project – to be a director and a shareholder.
Do you feel like the way Ethereum was received since then validated Vitalik's final decision?
Ethereum is a project focused on the developer and I think they have done an extraordinary job in building a community. It was phenomenal what came out of it, no doubt.
I think, however, that I do not control what I would call the perfect formula. You want to check every single box that makes something a perfect project, and if you do not control certain things then other projects will come and they will have the opportunity to join you.
I believe the economic side of things [suffered] with the removal of Charles and Amir. And then there was a mission to get rid of myself and Joseph, which eventually happened, and we went to do our own thing. Having that attention to the developer has led to massive hacker and community technologies and has been fantastic on this front.
I think, however, that it is perhaps in difficulty from a total [lack of] command. So, we'll see. This is what concerns a competition.
I learned that I no longer want to have partners.
What did you learn from your experience with Ethereum?
I learned that I no longer want to have partners. I already knew it, but for me it was an opportunity that I did not have much choice. I'm a decentralist, but I'm also very rational. Technology is not necessarily there to handle governance decisions, so a bit of benevolent dictator is a great way to do things.
And that's how I manage my activities. Fund my projects and make decisions that I believe are right. I have teams in one location, we work in the office to be the most efficient in communication, and this is the way I go. I think it leads to a lot of efficiencies for my part. And I can do it because it's my money.
But with Ethereum, we were distributed in different hubs all over the world, in different time zones, and there was no communication, and then there were the cliques that formed. The biggest problem was communication. This is what you get when you are spread all over the world and work in different time zones; it is very difficult to be efficient. For me, when I need an answer, I know my team is there. We can work together and we can go on, because here we are in a race.
Actually I'm not very familiar with the governance of Ethereum, but was I making improvements to that part of the mission?
Yes, the more people make decisions about things that maybe they are not qualified to do, the harder it is. It is my problem with democracy. It's the best thing that's out there, [but] it's the best of the worst. I think there are better options and opportunities, and I think technology will introduce and introduce new ways to improve transparency and do things that will be better and provide new governance structures.
But I still think that we are far, let's say, from the management of a company in a democratic way. I really do not see the efficiency of this in an organizational structure right now. I think the best thing for business is to have a vision, a person behind this vision and make quick decisions. That's how I work.
In terms of governance with Ethereum, we had eight founders and it was very difficult to make decisions. Because of age differences, due to maturity, due to philosophical convictions, political beliefs, technological beliefs, all these different things combined have made it extremely difficult for a group of people to come together and make decisions and have no problems. So there were a lot of inefficiencies due to decisions that could not be done fast enough.
And that was very frustrating, and I think that's what ultimately led to the split, and the developers who took control of that project, and the business people who washed themselves aside. Obviously it is an example of a community that is very focused on the problem, and it is great.
When Ethereum was announced at Bitcoin Miami in 2014, there was this sense of anticipation and excitement. How was this experience for the team? Did you expect the kind of reception you received?
We were just trying, OK, this will be great. The community is growing, joining our Skype groups. Vitalik took the stage and gave the presentation and was swarmed later. I believed it, and I think many people did it. The work we did building communities around the world in such a short time was really phenomenal.
We had the feeling in Miami that this could be TOO big. This is one of the main things I owe to Amir, and we all do it, is that Amir told us to settle in Miami. He's like, guys, let's take a step back and really think about what's going on here. Because we started to hear crazy numbers of what we could potentially increase, and we're like, wow, we should make sure we have our ducks in a row, and we're doing everything right.
And this is where the purchases of the jurisdictions begin, when we spent months and months making sure that what we were doing was correct.
The amount of money that Ethereum collected during the pre-sale was rather modest compared to what happened in the last two years, if I remember correctly.
Yes, it was around $ 18 million. Thirty-two thousand bitcoins at the moment, 9000 participants.
Obviously there was the technical level, and you mentioned the construction of the community, but was there anything else that made the launch of Ethereum different from the release of other blockchain projects at that time?
I think Vitalik is an interesting guy, and there's something about him that people are attracted to. With the smart contract platform, people have begun to understand that this is like bitcoin on steroids. This could be much more incisive. And there was something so big from the bitcoin. Timing was right. Projects like BitShares and Mastercoin have not attracted much attention; this was like a completely new game. We've done a lot of things right, and the rest has been history.
We already know that for bitcoin the app killer is bitcoin. Send money. What do you think the Ethereum killer app will be, or is it right now?
I think the killer app is the ability to create killer apps. The ability to quickly and quickly run apps on Ethereum without having to provide the infrastructure yourself is a leap.
I think it's still to be seen if Ethereum is able to reach the necessary scaling levels. [But] once the problems of scaling have been solved, once the problems of governance have been resolved, I think it is going to take off and we will see the next evolution of things. They are the first days
If I could go back six years ago and talk alone, is there anything in particular that you would want to say to that person?
Probably, but all that I have done has brought up to this moment when I am in this moment, and to make any kind of change in something like that, who knows what the results would be. And I'm pretty happy right now, so I think I'll leave it that way. I'm happy.
Yes i imagine. I feel pretty good for this; something else you want to enter?
Happy birthday, bitcoin!