A narrative has developed around Ethereum’s most important cofounders, Joe Lubin, and Vitalik buterin, in order to explain why they took different paths almost a decade back.

The pair apparently fell out over Ethereum’s future. Buterin, a 20-year old idealist, wanted to make it a nonprofit foundation while Lubin, and others, wanted to commercialize this technology through a for profit company.

Magazine in Tel Aviv conducted an in-depth conversation with ConsenSys, the billionaire founder and CEO of Ethereum infrastructure software firm ConsenSys.

What happened was that people were trying to find a reason why these two individuals were kicked out of the program. It was an easy way to describe it. “But that wasn’t why they moved.”

Lubin is referring to Ethereum’s “Red Wedding”, which took place in 2014, when the eight founders and their team met to form Ethereum as a corporation.


Former Ethereum CEO Charles Hoskinson (right) with creator Vitalik Buterin (left) from back in the day. (Flickr)

The meeting turned into a bickering, infighting battle over internal politics. Charles Hoskinson was pushed out along with Amir Chetrit, whose performance was below par.

The 58-year old says, “I believe it’s true, I and several other people on the team – like perhaps everyone else – believed that you needed to attract businesses, you needed to have economic, commercial validity in order to build better stuff, even open source software.”

But that’s not the reason I founded ConsenSys, or why two people left the project.


Red Wedding & Crypto Google

According to Camilla Russo, in The Infinite Machine‘s history on Ethereum, the cofounders gathered at Zug, Switzerland, in June 2014, in order to sign a contract transforming Ethereum into an for-profit corporation. Instead of signing the contract tensions rose over Hoskinson’s management style, Chetrit’s contribution to Ethereum’s project, Ethereum’s future direction, and other internal issues.

After much debate, all the decisions were left up to the 20-year old math genius who had created the project. He returned after a few minutes alone on the terrace to announce that Hoskinson, Chetrit, and Ethereum were no longer a company, but a nonprofit foundation.

Lubin, in context, says that Vitalik “wrote an amazing whitepaper — it was the right place, right timing, incredible vision” and attracted many people from different backgrounds. We worked well together for large chunks of time.


Joe Lubin in conversation with Magazine in Tel Aviv.

“We had disagreements, and sometimes, they boiled over infamously. There was a point where two people left the leadership. We were discussing whether to remain a purely nonprofit or to put it under foundation. Then, the group that had worked so well together decided to build Crypto Google.

It became clear to us all that we were not going to be able to build Crypto Google. It was clear to us all that no one was going to be able to build Crypto Google, and we were just building the platform and foundation for a very long time.”

Lubin had already planned his own for profit company to build Ethereum’s application layers when the decision was taken, and it came into existence not long afterwards.

Lubin has contributed significantly to what Ethereum is now. Other co-founders such as Gavin Wood, (Polkadot) contributed more in the early days, but arguably, none of them have contributed as much, aside from Buterin. ConsenSys may not have become Crypto Google but its infrastructure and applications are just as important for Ethereum as Google is today.

“ConsenSys was not formed to commercialize the platform.” Lubin explains that the company was created to continue the vision of the Ethereum platform.

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Who Is Joe Lubin?


Lubin, born in Toronto in 1964 studied electrical engineering and Computer science at Princeton during the mid-1980s. His roommate was Mike Novogratz, a future crypto billionaire from Galaxy Digital. Lubin told Magazine that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos studied in the same department, but they never met.


Joe Lubin was almost 50 before he jumped on board the Ethereum train and made his first billion.

Lubin’s career has been remarkably diverse, spanning AI, robotics, and autonomous music creation. cited from the Financial Times 2021 that Novogratz founded a hedge-fund and served as vice president of Goldman Sachs’ private wealth management. But he did not do anything revolutionary, according to .

Novogratz remembered that “Joe, who was a bright and forward-thinking member of our group, had not done much to make himself stand out by the age of 45.” “I don’t think anyone in our group could have predicted how things would end up.”

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He was shaken to his core by the combination of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and the global financial crises. At the ConsenSys Ethereal Summit, he said that the events made him feel like “we lived in a world society and economy which was literally, figuratively and morally bankrupt.”

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In 2011, he was receptive of the ideas contained in the Bitcoin White Paper. He thought that a financial collapse would be slow and cascading. He moved to Jamaica in 2012 with his girlfriend who was pursuing a dancehall career. While waiting for the crash, he invested in Bitcoin.

On a trip to Toronto, he met Vitalik Buterin at a Bitcoin Meetup in late 2013. He was promoting his newly-written whitepaper for an enhanced version of Bitcoin, called Ethereum. Lubin was “blown-away” and became an official founder in early 2014


The core early Ethereum team at the house rented for Bitcoin Miami 2014, including Joe Lubin in the back row, second from right. (yanislav.medium.com)


Approaching 50, he was an odd fit with a bunch of anti-establishment 20-something-year-old coders, but his Jamaican music production background gave him just enough cachet with the team to get by. Lubin and Di Iorio, who are both around 50 years old, personally financed between $500,000 and $800,000.

Lubin’s expertise also helped the team to avoid potential roadblocks and pitfalls. He insisted that early meetings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the hiring of high-priced attorneys be made, so as to minimize the extraordinary risks.


ConsenSys is born!

ConsenSys, founded in Switzerland for legal reasons in October 2014, has led to a bitter court fight between employees andshareholders. They claim that they were not properly compensated after the assets transferred to an American entity.

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It was actually run from a warehouse covered in graffiti located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was to develop applications and infrastructures for Ethereum through investing in startups, incubator projects, and consulting firms such as JPMorgan and BHP Billiton about how to integrate this new technology. Early on, it spawned over 50 businesses, including a gambling site, a prediction marketplace, and a healthcare record firm. Its early years, according to all reports, were a bit sloppy, without a real corporate structure.

Dan Finlay, co-founder of MetaMask, spoke on the Epicenter Podcast about the early years.

“ConsenSys at its early stages was a wonderful, chaotic incubator. There must have been hundreds different experiments being validated and tested out. He says that there was an exciting energy, and that many projects were built before Ethereum supported them.

Back then, it was normal to build an application as if blockchain would scale or scaled already.

A Forbes report in 2018 revealed that almost all ConsenSys projects were losing money, and that the company was spending $100 million per year on unprofitable projects. This included an asteroid-mining company.


Forbes took aim at ConsenSys in a 2018 investigation. (Forbes)

Lubin quickly axed several underperforming projects and culled 1,200 employees, and re-established ConsenSys 2.0, with a corporate culture that was more accountable.

ConsenSys, despite being valued at $7 billion following its latest $450 million fundraising round in 2020, let go another 11% in January this year. Lubin told Magazine that the company was preparing to weather bad times as “macroeconomic” and “geopolitical storm clouds” gathered.

He revealed that the company was looking at a number acquisitions, which “if we are able to bring on some will add really valuable items.”


Centralization vs. decentralization

Anyone who has heard Lubin speak knows that he is a true proponent and believer in the benefits of decentralization.

Is there tension in running a company such as ConsenSys, which provides the infrastructure for a decentralized Blockchain?

He says, “I don’t think there is a tension.”

It’s all about decentralization. It’s not wrong to have an organization that is organized one way trying to build something else that is structured in a completely different way.

Lubin says that ConsenSys’ products need to be “product-market fitted; otherwise, they are kind of useless. Bringing something out, wholly and completely decentralized is very difficult – it may even be impossible.”


ConsenSys plays a big role in the Ethereum ecosystem.

Infura is ConsenSys’ most important infrastructure. It offers Ethereum nodes to developers and users as a service. This makes it easier to connect to the Ethereum network. It is a service that acts as an intermediary between decentralized applications (DApps), and the blockchain, which projects depend on to remain up and running.

Infura is probably working a bit too well. It’s a big part of the Ethereum ecosystem. Infura is dependent on half of the Ethereum network projects including Uniswap MetaMask Aave.

compliance with Tornado Cash sanctions was also criticized.


Decentralizing Infura

ConsenSys is working on a plan to ” Decentralize Infura” for a while now. This will be in the form of an infrastructure marketplace with competing providers of similar services. Infura would be among them.

Lubin says it is “extremely” important to achieve this.

He says, “I have been a supporter of decentralizing Infura from the beginning but I’ve become more active since five years ago.”

He continues: “It’s a sub-priority for us to keep the system running rather than start a parallel decentralization and parallelization project — and it’s working pretty well now.”

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The protocol is either called XFura, or the Decentralized Infura Network Protocol.

He says, “We believe that now we can take a product that is high-performance and federate it. We will initially work with other providers to help them and then place Infura onto the protocol.”

It’s close. There are a number of partners who are very sophisticated and are working with EG [Galano], lead of the project. “I can’t give a date.”

Infura researcher Patrick McCorry said in an interview with Cointelegraph that resistance to censorship was not the purpose of decentralizing Infura. However, this is certainly one of its benefits.

DApps could choose their providers on a decentralized network, and thus bypass censored protocols like Tornado Cash or addresses.

Lubin says, “I like that there is an option.” He points out that different providers will operate in different nations and jurisdictions.

“I think this works best if you have a choice and there are many services. You can then go with a service that is uncensored and you know that they will be able to validate your transaction quickly.”

He adds that it is also possible that future aspects will be obfuscated, so that no-one knows what’s inside a packet or transaction. He claims to know people who are already “working on protocols enhancements” and will bring this about. The explosion of layer 2, layer 3, and other layers makes it more likely.

He says that if they are already glommed on and difficult to read, it is hard to believe that regulators would care or be able to do much.

“I am sure that there is a lot of criminal activity flowing through AWS, Azure and all mail servers everywhere. There’s an infrastructure level that you can’t stop because it is mostly doing useful activities.

MetaMask, the ubiquitous browser wallet provided by ConsenSys and which underpins Ethereum’s entire ecosystem, is another key piece of infrastructure. The development of new features, and the addition of blockchains are also crowdsourced.

MetaMask Snaps will turn the browser wallet to a platform that anyone can build on. One proof-of concept Snap allows MetaMask act as a bitcoin wallet.


Joe Lubin has arguably made a bigger contribution to Ethereum than any other co-founder apart from Vitalik Buterin.

Lubin says that the MetaMask Grants DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) will become increasingly decentralized, and that it will encourage people to create cool things or start companies which innovate without our permission.

He says that MetaMask has been approached by many blockchains over the years. However, after crunching the numbers they found there was not enough activity for them to separate their focus from Ethereum. Snaps will, however, open up the doors for everyone.


Crypto regulations

Lubin says that he is not concerned about the possibility that Ethereum could be declared a security. “It would be as likely as Uber being made illegal and have the same effect.”

There would be a huge outcry not only from the crypto community, but also different politicians and regulators.

Lubin is frustrated that the same ground has to be covered, stating that ConsenSys had already discussed all of this with the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission for many years.

He says, “We went there on a volunteer basis five years ago when they were just trying to understand what tokens are.”

They thought that back then, everything was a securities. We think that [we] helped to understand that many tokens aren’t securities. Then they left and Gary and his staff now think that almost everything is a security.

He believes the renewed focus on regulation in the wake the FTX collapse and the stablecoins’ failure will be a positive thing.

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He says, “Now that we have the attention of the world, smart people will win because it makes perfect sense.”

There will always be those with agendas that don’t see things in the same way. Perhaps the banking lobby can help them to not see it this way. “But in terms of finally trying to regulate a very important space, I believe that clear-headed people will think this through and that they will begin to understand the benefits decentralization, and that people will make good regulations for CeFi [centralized financial services] and no regulations for tech, cryptocurrency.”


A crisis equals an opportunity

Lubin’s attitude towards the technological, regulatory and game theory challenges that Ethereum faces is both philosophical and optimistic. He admits that the centralization of stakes on platforms such as Lido may become an issue, but that this won’t last long because the ecosystem is built to be decentralized.

He says that things don’t begin very decentralized. “These are relatively new innovations and our ecosystem requires a lot of work. You won’t want to run a centralized operation for long if you want to join the Ethereum ecosystem. The ecosystem will identify this as a problem and find solutions, which is fantastic.”

Lubin believes that problems are short-term issues which you must deal with in order to make the project better.

“I view things as processes. I hope that we will run into many complications, both in the short term and long-term, as every problem shows us how to build a robust and decentralized platform. “Yes, I hope we run into many difficult problems.”

Many smart people are developing good solutions.

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The Future of Ethereum

Where does he think Ethereum is heading? Is he confident that the financial system will run on Ethereum with ZK-Rollups in the future?

Lubin claims that the original idea behind Ethereum was to become a world computer, and that this is still in the works.

He says that he and others thought they were building Star Trek computers.

“I think decentralized protocols are going to be the trust foundation of many heterogeneous architectural designs.” It’s possible Ethereum will scale enough so that we could have one trust basis and then build many layer 2s, layer 3s and above.

There have been many computer innovations in the past 200 years, and this is one more.

“So the answer is yes. It will take some time for the answer to be revealed. It is impossible to redesign the global financial or economic system in a short time.

Andrew Fenton

Andrew Fenton, a journalist and an editor based in Melbourne, covers cryptocurrency and blockchain. He was a journalist for News Corp Australia as well as SA Weekend, where he covered film, and The Melbourne Weekly.