The early days of Ethereum according to former core developer Christoph

I recently had a fascinating conversation with Christoph Jentzsch, a former core developer of Ethereum and author of The DAO.

Christoph was there during the launch of Ethereum and the rise and fall of The DAO and it was amazing to hear him talk about it.

I also learned a lot about the Ethereum lore that I wasn’t aware of.

🎧 Listen to the Podcast on Spotify | Apple Music | Youtube

Christoph’s introduction to blockchain was somewhat accidental. Coming from a background in theoretical physics, his search for cheap GPUs led him to Bitcoin mining. This curiosity paved the way for his involvement with Ethereum, a project initiated by enthusiasts from the Bitcoin community who were captivated by the possibilities of decentralization and the creation of a permissionless ecosystem.

Building Ethereum

The point was never to build just another cryptocurrency. As most core Ethereum devs came from Bitcoin, it was already clear to them that Bitcoin is the digital currency of the Internet. The question was what else can be done with blockchain technology?

It aimed to be a platform for decentralized applications (DApps), leveraging a decentralized computer to execute code on the blockchain. This idea was groundbreaking, intending to extend blockchain technology beyond just currency.

Christoph joined the Ethereum team right after its crowdfunding in 2014, diving into an environment where the community’s ethos of decentralization deeply influenced every aspect of development.

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum had a technical specification (the Yellow Paper), authored by Gavin Wood, which laid the groundwork for the development of Ethereum clients.

Christoph was the Ethereum lead tester at the time, working closely with Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood to ensure that the various Ethereum clients at the time were stable and secure.

There were thousands of tests written for the C++, Go and Python client. And due to time limits, the software auditing company only had time to audit the Go client, leaving Gavin’s C++ and Vitalik’s Python clients behind. At the time, the C++ client was the more robust and most tested one, and was eventually audited, but because the Go Client aka geth was the first one to be audited, it became the de-facto client and everyone assumed this was the official Ethereum client.

Launching Ethereum: A Decentralized Effort

There was no single button to press so to speak; instead, the network came to life as multiple individuals started the Ethereum protocol simultaneously, using a specific block hash from the testnet.

This process underscored the community-driven approach to Ethereum’s development, emphasizing the lack of a single point of authority.

Ethereum launched with Proof of Work but it was always supposed to have proof of stake. Christoph and the rest of the core Ethereum devs were expecting it to be a 6-month job, but obviously that took a lot longer.

As Ethereum grew in popularity, the developer team became more and more cautious, making the testing and development process much longer, as the stakes continued to grow.

How Ethereum Nearly Went Bankrupt

The Ethereum Foundation was experiencing some significant financial issues by the fall of 2015. They had about 3 months of runway left and were burning through it quickly.

That’s when Ming Chan came in as Executive Director of the Ethereum Foundation and she decided to cut down on anything and everything that’s nonessential. The marketing team went, and so did a good portion of the developer base. Why maintain 3 clients when you can only keep one?

The foundation stuck with the Go client and scrapped the C++ and Python teams.

The Ethereum price went up 10x eventually and the foundation had money again. But it was a close shave and many of the original developers and founding members of Ethereum never returned to work on the project.


Christoph’s journey with Ethereum took a significant turn with The DAO, an ambitious project aimed at creating a decentralized autonomous organization — the first of its kind where governance would be established through a Smart contract.

Christoph led the development of the first Smart contract for the DAO but it was a joint effort. The DAO quickly became a phenomenon among the Ethereum community and let to one of the most notable events in Ethereum’s History — the Hard Fork.

The DAO was designed to fund projects within the Ethereum ecosystem, operating without a central authority. However, a vulnerability in its code led to a significant loss of funds, prompting a contentious debate within the community about the path forward.

The resulting hard fork, which aimed to refund DAO token holders, was a controversial decision but one that Christoph believes was necessary to give the community a choice.

The hacker siphoned over 60 million dollars at the time from the DAO, but because the Smart Contract had a 40-day lock period on these funds, this gave the team time to consider their next move.

It was a very unique situation. There were 0 dApps on Ethereum, the stolen money was locked — the community could do something.

So the core team gave the users a choice — to return the funds to the DAO and proceed with an irregular state change, or to keep the chain’s history intact. The vast majority chose to return the funds, while a small percentage chose to continue the chain, thus hard forking into Ethereum Classic.

On Ethereum classic, the hacker still has the funds.

This event was a critical learning moment for the Ethereum community, highlighting the complexities of balancing idealistic decentralization with practical realities.

Christopher is now developing a solution to enable share tokenization, as a legal approach to a DAO. This enables companies to crowdfund and give everyone shareholder rights, and eventually even voting rights through tokenizing shares. The project is called

For more context and detail, I do recommend listening to the entire conversation down below.


🎧 Listen to the Podcast on Spotify | Apple Music | Youtube

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