Did Ethereum ICO? Founder Joe Lubin Gives Uncertain Answer

A Quartz event on Tuesday saw a founding developer of the ethereum protocol answer high-level questions about the state of blockchain technology.

Oct 26, 2017 at 6:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:05 a.m. UTC

The early history of ethereum was up for discussion at an event debuting a new Quartz and Retro Report video series highlighting the potential of blockchain this week.

There, Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney asked one of the protocol's co-inventors, Joseph Lubin: When ether first went on the open market in 2015, "Was that technically an ICO?"

Perhaps a nod to the increasing scrutiny around the funding model, which has raised more than $2 billion for early-stage projects, Lubin dodged the question.

"We don't like the term ICO. It sounds too much like 'IPO,'" he explained.

The founder of blockchain development firm ConsenSys, Lubin went on to note that the use of the term (and similar investment language) tends to attract attention from regulators.

Yet, the conversation, taking place at Retro Report's offices in New York, as a preview of a series of films the two news organizations have produced together, was broader in scope.

Elsewhere, Lubin acknowledged that there’s a lot of speculators in the cryptocurrency market, but that his company is trying not to get caught up in that aspect of the industry.

Lubin told Delaney:

"We are just building the system. We are doing our best not to think about price."

That said, he also argued that the interest in the price of crypto assets does draw users into the ecosystem. "I keep getting asked if it’s a bubble," he said. "Of course it's a bubble."

Still, he hopes there will be many more bubbles, each of which will bring in a fresh new crop of users who will find value in blockchain technology, whatever happens to the price of the various available currencies.

That wasn't the only provocative statement Lubin made. Delaney also asked whether some of the most notable protocols needed to be better designed to prevent theft of people's assets.

"Bitcoin and ethereum are agnostic when it comes to theft," Lubin said. "Theft is a social construct." In other words, he argued theft needs to be addressed in the applications on top of cryptocurrency, not in the protocol layer itself.

Values, however, are not something to be installed in a money supply.

"I'm not going to warn people about what values they should carry around with them," Lubin said.

Image courtesy of Quartz


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