Joseph Lubin, founder, ConsenSys

A visit with the tech wizard behind Ethereum, a new vision for the internet

Says Lubin in our podcast: "I have been confident from the beginning that it would succeed. The ideas are incredibly powerful." (Photo courtesy of ConsenSys)

Joseph Lubin is a renaissance man of technology, having ventured into fields ranging from robotics to digital music to finance. But it was a fateful moment in 2011, when he first heard about Bitcoin, that launched him on the path to creating a technology that could transform our daily lives. Lubin is the founder of ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based company that produces applications to run on blockchain technology, a kind of digital-ledger system that decentralizes control of transactions. The platform he co-created, Ethereum, has been hailed as a more trustworthy version of the web, capable of revolutionary changes in social and business relationships.

Lubin, a native of Canada with a degree in computer science from Princeton, got his start in the early days of computing. “I used to work on punch cards,” he recalled in our podcast, “chopping little pieces of paper out of cardboard cards and sending them to University of Toronto computing services and having those programs run on the computer there. Twenty-four hours later you’d get your feedback, so it was a very different kind of world.”

From there he ventured into mobile robotics, machine vision, autonomous music composition and cryptography, including a stint at Goldman Sachs and the founding of a set of hedge funds. “I have always been pretty independent,” Lubin told us. “I’ve certainly had bosses in the past, but was never really in much of a situation where I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing.”

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In early 2011, he read about Bitcoin technology on Slashdot, the tech website, and followed up by reading the white paper on the new cryptocurrency. He realized that blockchain technology would go much farther than just financial transactions. “I think I got it pretty quickly. I began to understand that it was going to be a profound invention, that it would enable people to build alternative systems that could potentially be built on a much more trustworthy, more equitable foundation,” he said. “Unlike the Bitcoin platform, which really supports pretty much one application, it could support any application that any software developer could dream of.”

ConsenSys, launched in 2015, turns Ethereum networks into real-world products and services. The headquarters team in Bushwick leads a rapidly expanding worldwide workforce of more than 450. “I have been confident from the beginning that it would succeed. The ideas are incredibly powerful,” Lubin said. This year, ConsenSys has launched a series of parallel projects, including a $50 million investment fund, a coding academy, an indie film funded via cryptocurrency, and the e-commerce technology behind singer Imogen Heap’s single, Tiny Human. –By Kora Feder