Meet Vitalik Buterin, the 23-year-old founder of bitcoin rival ethereum

Meet Vitalik Buterin, the 23-year-old founder of bitcoin rival ethereum

First there was bitcoin, now there's ethereum.

The cryptocurrency, along with its associated blockchain software platform, has gained popularity recently and is considered an alternative to .

Ethereum is up 4,100 percent year to date, CNBC reports, and made headlines this week when its price plummeted from $319 to just 10 cents in seconds. (It later rebounded.)

But what people may not realize is that ethereum's founder, Vitalik Buterin, is only 23 years old.

Vitalik Buterin, founder of ethereum
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Buterin has become a celebrity in the cryptocurrency space and is credited with co-founding Bitcoin Magazine in 2011. He has more than 90,000 Twitter followers and posts frequently about the industry's latest news. He was a 2014 recipient of billionaire Peter Thiel's prestigious fellowship and last year, he was included on Fortune's 40 under 40 list.

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Here's a little history on the founder: Buterin was born in Moscow, according to a feature by Wired's Backchannel last year. At 6 years old, he moved with his family to Canada. He was considered a math genius from an early age and was placed in a gifted program in the third grade, the publication reports.

Buterin reportedly first grew interested in bitcoin when his father introduced him to the concept, and he soon became an expert in the emerging field. In 2011, he launched the cryptocurrency's eponymous magazine.

In May 2013, the 19-year-old programmer traveled to California to a cryptocurrency conference led by the Winklevoss twins. According to Backchannel:

Veterans of the dotcom era drew comparisons between cryptocurrencies and the dawn of the Internet. Booths showed off new hardware wallets, merchant payment platforms, and Bitcoin ATMs. And Buterin witnessed it all as a representative of Bitcoin Magazine. The San Jose event was Buterin's first glimpse at the living, breathing community cropping up around the cryptocurrency economy.

"That moment really crystallized it for me," he tells the publication about the experience. "It really convinced me that, 'Hey, this thing's real and it's worth taking a risk and jumping into.' So I did."

Buterin dropped out of the University of Waterloo and spent the rest of the year traveling around the world visiting with individuals working on bitcoin, according to Backchannel.

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Upon returning home to Toronto, Buterin began developing ethereum, and wrote a white paper on his findings. The idea took off: In June 2014, Buterin was awarded a $100,000 Peter Thiel Fellowship for his work.

Buterin helped launch the Ethereum Foundation to begin researching the cryptocurrency and announced the sale of ethereum in a blog post that same year. A beta version of the ethereum platform was released in mid-2015.

"When I came up with Ethereum, my first first thought was, okay this thing is too good to be true," Buterin tells Backchannel. "As it turned out, the core Ethereum idea was good, fundamentally, completely, sound."

And one day, it could be even bigger than bitcoin.

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