Why Charles Hoskinson Was Shamefully Kicked Out of Ethereum
Few understand how close Ethereum was to total annihilation in 2014. Not only was one of its first major applications a few cycles away from being hacked in what is now known as the DAO attack. But, in addition, its team of founders hated each other’s guts.
Like Voltron they united under a common goal: A confluence of admiration for Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum white paper and vehement disdain for how limited Bitcoin was.
“Bitcoin sucks for developing a financial system on top of, it’s really terrible,” said Mathias Grønnebæk, an early Ethereum developer.
However, as the old proverb goes, too many cooks spoiled the broth and Ethereum’s eight co-founders found themselves divided. And the person spearheading this division was Charles Hoskinson, the creator of Cardano.
Ethereum’s Bachelorette Ceremony
To understand Ethereum’s early history you have to understand Vitalik Buterin. Vitalik created Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, when he was 19 years old. He did so before he could even legally buy a drink in the U.S.
Vitalik had the technical skill and uncompromising vision to create Ethereum. However, he lacked leadership. Moreover, the teeth of making tough decisions. Vitalik was altruistic to a fault. He never put his foot down and enabled conflated egos to get out of hand.
Many developers had their own vision for Ethereum, which did not coalign with the project’s fundamental goals to become crypto-Google. Eventually, everything spiraled out of control and led to a desperate power struggle.
Vitalik had to choose who he was keeping on the team. Ethereum, essentially, had its own Bachelorette Ceremony.
According to Matthew Leising’s acclaimed book Out of the Ether, these were Ethereum’s major players at the time —
Anthony Di Iorio— One of the most important investors in Ethereum’s early history. He introduced Vitalik Buterin to a larger crypto community and brought Charles Hoskinson onto the ETH team.
Charles Hoskinson — The creator of Cardano. Charles wanted to lead the project from the start calling himself Ethereum’s CEO. He idolized Steve Jobs and whipped his employees into shape as such.
Gavin Wood — Ethereum’s chief architect and one of the most important programmers in crypto history. He took Vitalik’s vision and made it real.
Joe Lubin — Founder of ConsenSys, Ethereum’s top software engineering application. Always seemed to stay clear of any internal drama.
Amir Chetrit — Met Vitalik in Israel while they worked on an early early version of Ethereum.
Vitalik Buterin — Lover of bunnies
‘Someone Not to Trust With Your Girlfriend’
“A lot of people called themselves cofounders in that project, Michael Perklin, an early ETH investor said. “In my mind, there is only one founder of Ethereum: the guy who came up with the idea — and he deserves all the credit.”
All of the co-founders — with the exception of Vitalik — were under hot water for one reason or another. Gavin Wood only saw eye to eye with programmers and didn’t have much respect for anyone else.
Amir Chetrit lost passion for Ethereum and would show up to work wearing t-shirts of other crypto projects. Vitalik once said this of Amir, “Half of the time he was shilling his own colored coins thing that he was still working on. I’m not sure what to make of that character.”
However, none were as problematic as Charles Hoskinson.
In “Out of the Ether” Charles is described by other Ethereum co-founders as a pathological liar, a sociopath, and as someone to not trust in the company of your girlfriend.
According to Joe Lubin, he would try to convince people that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, and would even show emails claiming he’d invented Bitcoin.
More farfetched stories posited that Charles would describe his limp as a mistimed jump out of an Apache helicopter in Afghanistan; or how he was associated with DARPA, the supersecret US government weapons agency.
Charles himself began not to meet eye to eye with Vitalik saying, “Vitalik’s kind of a Communist. He’s not a capitalist.”
The Night That Changed Everything
“I’m not convinced that Charles doesn’t have sociopathic tendencies, ETH co-founder Taylor Gerring said. “Why would you give people the impression that you’re Satoshi Nakamoto? That you’ve jumped out of a Blackhawk helicopter? Why?”
Interestingly enough, the first Ethereum transaction on the blockchain was between Gavin Wood and Charles Hoskinson. The two later became the founders of the most successful “Ethereum killers” in existence being Polkadot and Cardano respectively.
To add to the Shakesperean irony, it was Gavin who gave Vitalik an ultimatum: it’s either Charles or me.
Wood was too important at this stage in Ethereum’s career; and Charles too toxic. So, on May 28 in a mansion in Zug, Switzerland — also known as “Crypto-valley” — Vitalik made his decision with all of the ETH founders present.
There was a somber tone in the air. All of the beer and pizza that was usually scattered around the house was cleaned up. Each of the founders was allowed to speak their minds. Afterward, Vitalik spent some time alone on a balcony to think everything over. I can only imagine what raced through his head (and how far he’s come).
“I made this speech that consisted of half a minute of filler,” Vitalik said, “followed by the real decision, which was that Charles and Amir would be fired. They were disappointed but not absolutely surprised.”
Years down the line Anthony Di Lorio would also be fired, and was almost let go that night alongside Charles and Amir.
Charles later commented on his departure, “It became a Lord of the Flies — style situation, where power camps were formed and whoever was most persuasive to Vitalik was the one who won. That’s why there’s some bad blood, that’ why I wasn’t the nicest guy on the exit. My Reddit postings weren’t so happy.”
Who is Charles Hoskinson?
Today Charles is one of the most idiosyncratic personalities in the cryptocurrency space. He’s active on social media, hosts interactive live streams every week, and beams with elation and happiness.
However, I can’t shake this gut-wrenching feeling from reading these stories. Moreover, there’s still some bad blood between Charles and Vitalik, the latter of which acknowledged Cardano in a sardonic tweet.
After being publicly advised by devs to “please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org” Hoskinson fired back: “You’re telling the CEO of iohk, founder of cardano and Ethereum to use the support email?”
Twitter didn’t take too kindly to his pretentiousness.
Maybe Charles has an itchy Twitter finger and feels obliged to always speak his mind? Conversely, maybe there is something deeper, more sinister that he’s hiding? Or perhaps, maybe, he grew out of all this; he was in his early 20s when he worked on Ethereum, after all.
It doesn’t shake my confidence in Cardano, but it is an interesting tale nonetheless.
What do you think?