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Meet Charles Hoskinson – Founder of Cardano
- Charles Hoskinson is the founder of Cardano and former CEO of Ethereum.
- Ousted by Buterin in 2014 over differences in vision, he founded IOHK.
- IOHK builds Cardano using a methodical, peer-reviewed approach.
- Cardano’s native token ADA has room to grow. $5 could be in reach this year.
Life in polarities
The name Charles Hoskinson often elicits an ambivalent response. Some admire his tenacious, slow, principled building of Cardano into what became the #3 cryptocurrency by market capitalization with more than $90bn. Others called him autocratic, obstinate, even a turncoat and “a soul in hell”.
Who is Charles Hoskinson?
Born in Hawaii in 1987, Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson was born into a family of medical doctors. He steered clear of a medical degree and studied analytic number theory in Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Young Charles bailed out of his academic trajectory before finishing his PhD and joined Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008. Attracted by Austrian economics and libertarian thinking, he instantly recognized Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper as a revelation. He called Bitcoin “the spiritual successor to what Ron Paul was talking about”.
Into the Ether
This match was not made in heaven. Charles wanted to form a for-profit company to develop Ethereum and raise VC money in return for equity. Vitalik wanted to crowd-sell Ethereum, accept Bitcoin as payment, and have an open source, quasi leaderless organisation. The rift wasn’t just at the top. Most of the team didn’t like his top-down, demanding approach to leading “shadowy super-coders”.
Some of the other Ethereum co-founders described Charles as a “pathological liar, a sociopath, and as someone to not trust in the company of your girlfriend”, according to Matt Leising’s book “Out of the Ether”.
Eventually, push came to shove and, in late May 2014, the Ethereum team held a rare physical meeting in Zug, Switzerland. Zug is still home to the Ethereum foundation, thanks to favorable regulation. Fed up with Charles’ antics, who allegedly “gave the impression of being Satoshi Nakamoto”, the team asked Vitalik to decide.
Key developers threatened to leave if Charles was to remain CEO. After a painful hour of thinking alone on the porch of the Zug headquarters, Vitalik unceremoniously dumped Hoskinson from the team, and did not include him as a founder, even though he had worked on the project without pay for a year.
The battle-scarred ex-chief executive took a sabbatical from crypto and moved to Hong Kong. Former Ethereum colleague Jeremy Wood soon approached him and together they started blockchain company IOHK for Input Output Hong Kong.
Birth of Cardano
IOHK’s major project became the Cardano blockchain, named after Italian polymath Gerolamo Cardano, and its ADA token. Hoskinson saw a chance to pursue the project in his own spirit, unhindered from the objections he encountered when working on Ethereum. Led by a for-profit company, Cardano nevertheless did a public ICO, mainly pitched to Japanese investors and raised $62m.
Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood (not to be confused with Polkadot’s Gavin Wood) pursued a more organized, hierarchical and scientific approach to building their idea of a future world currency.
IOHK research produces academic papers that it sends to conferences for peer review. Once reviewed, developers code the concepts laid out in the papers using Haskell, a functional programming language. In another round of peer-review, researchers audit the code. IOHK’s approximately 50 scientists have produced 51 peer-reviewed papers with 22 more currently under review.
This process is slow, but methodical. It is academic by design. Buterin and Hoskinson have clashed over their different approaches to building repeatedly. It’s not exactly a head-to-head race, but Cardano ($91bn) is gaining on Ethereum ($388bn) in terms of market capitalization and the two currencies are currently number three and two, respectively.
Cardano is a Proof of Stake blockchain that is very energy efficient and uses its own unique Ouroboros consensus algorithm. Hoskinson called Ethereum’s Casper approach to PoS “incomplete” and that it is “impossible to prove the correctness of any claims about the protocol.” In return, Vitalik called Hoskinson’s claims “pathetic”. Newsaltcoin.com has the gossip.
Cardano is loved for its pragmatic, mature approach to developing a decentralized, global payments system. It’s team emphasized the inclusion of the African continent and countries with little blockchain exposure. Crypto’s promise to “bank the unbanked” is mostly a promise this far. So any effort in that direction is to be applauded.
Lately, the 33-year-old, who is currently living in Colorado, is a frequent host on podcasts and conferences. He is usually happy and projecting great optimism and energy. But some of his remarks and comments are displaying a darker, less inclusive side.
When he contacted MetaMask on Twitter to point out an issue in 2018, and MetaMask replied with a standard response, asking to contact them via email, he exploded: “You’re telling the CEO of IOHK, founder of Cardano and Ethereum to use the support email?” The Twitter and Reddit crypto communities met this with instant, lasting ridicule.
You're telling the CEO of IOHK, founder of Cardano and Ethereum to use the support email? Just wanted to ask about the chrome delisting.— Charles Hoskinson (@IOHK_Charles) March 24, 2021
Hoskinson is definitely not shy about picking a fight. He ignited the ire of every Bitcoin maxi on the planet in a relentless 8 minute harangue of the godfather of all coins. Worth watching.
What does it mean for the future of ADA?
So how does Hoskinson execute? Slow, but well, to sum it up. Cardano has gathered a loyal following. Despite consistent ridicule for the slow progress, especially with a smart contract language, the crypto market likes Cardano, even more so during the last few weeks.
Somehow everything is a little different in Cardano-land. Smart contracts are called “expressibility” for instance. Not a bad name. And of course, constant references to humanistic scholarship as a reminder that, yes, this is a scientific approach.
We have the Daedalus wallet. Stages of the blockchain‘s roadmap are named after philosophers and eminent artists. No unicorns flying around here.
“I’m kind of polarizing. People either like me or they hate me.”, Hoskinson said in an interview with Decrypt. The same can be said about Cardano.
Worshiped by some as the only way, ridiculed by others, the currency has garnered a large base of HODLers, namely over 112 million ADA wallets (390% YoY growth). As of August 2021, 55% of these wallets are staking their tokens, making Cardano the blockchain with the second highest staking level after Polkadot. 71% of the circulating ADA supply is staked. Talk about conviction.
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