The Mystery of 12 Million ETH – Trustnodes

The Mystery of 12 Million ETH


Ethereum founding team at Devcon 0

On July the 30th 2015, at 3:26 PM London time, 8,893 transactions were undertaken, with the very first transaction being for 1337 eth.

The ethereum genesis block had just launched, and with it, a massive distribution of eth to nearly 9,000 accounts.

Analysis of this historic moment are sparse, but 72 million eth was created on that day. 60 million went to these 9,000 accounts, and 12 million went to the founding team.

Ethereum's supply, Dec 2019
Ethereum’s supply, Dec 2019

Ethereum’s supply has grown by more than 40 million since then, with those 9,000 accounts still receiving more initially even now some 4 and a half years on.

Yet plenty of those early buyers – through an ICO for bitcoin – sold for pennies all the way back in 2015.

Ethereum genesis buyer sold low, Dec 2019.
Ethereum genesis buyer sold low, Dec 2019.

Like the guy above, who sold what at one point was worth nearly $1 billion for only circa $600,000 through Kraken.

Another genesis buyer, however, did turn pennies into millions, although he too sold a different bottom, but for huge sums.

Genesis buyer makes millions, Dec 2019
Genesis buyer makes millions, Dec 2019

What this man or woman plans to do with this mountain of money, is unknown. Just as, far more importantly, it is quite unknown what happened to 12 million eth that the initial ethereum team received.

On August the 8th 2015, an address starting with 0x5 received 11,901,464.23948 eth.

That sum is sent in full to a contract known as EthDev on the same day just a couple of hours after receipt.

Ethereum Foundation contract address, December 2019
Ethereum Foundation contract address, December 2019

The speed with which they got rid of so much money makes the above chart quite interesting.

Some 5 million eth, for example, was moved by the 17th of August 2015. By December of that year, just two million eth was left. By mid 2016, the Ethereum Foundation (EF) is left with just a million eth. Now it stands at around ◊600,000.

Where did 11 million eth go? That’s the question, and it is a question because they appear to have taken some care to obfuscate the movement of these funds.

The 300 days of ethereum spend, spend, spend.

These are the first 300 days of spend, spend, spend. Three million here, one million there, but it isn’t actually somewhere.

These movements appear to be a code execution of money distribution. Just what exactly the process of claiming was is unclear, but let’s take 0x5.

Ethereum initial distribution.
Ethereum initial distribution.

As you can see here too we have some speed in movement. In fact not far from a million eth was distributed in just one day back in 2015.

Now we know that 0x600 address was that of Jeffrey Wilcke, one of the six (?) ethereum co-founders that decided to sell on Christmas day.

So the other four accounts that received circa 100,000 eth or more were presumably likewise upfront payments despite the ethereum roadmap having hardly began.

That there are four in the above screenshot suggests there were many people that received huge upfront sums for merely a year or two of coding.

Vitalik Buterin receiving upfront payoff.
Vitalik Buterin receiving upfront payoff.

This is Vitalik Buterin receiving some funds, with many others too in the tens of thousands of eth.

Who are these people? How much did they receive? And why? That’s the question, and the more important question perhaps is what are they doing now?

We know Wilcke has gone off to some game. He is the rule, not the exception.

Almost all of them have gone off to one thing or another after taking millions and in some cases hundreds of millions.

That has led to an ethereum protocol development ecosystem that is hardly managing. Here Péter Szilágyi, who describes his position as Team Lead at the Ethereum Foundation, describing what has gone wrong for eth1x:

“I think the issue stems from everyone jumping on the Eth2 train. That’s all the rage for the past 2 years now, and it just siphons attention away from the system that actually works today. The people remaining behind are just spread too thinly to pay attention to everything.”

Wilcke of course coded geth. That’s what he got all these millions for, but now he’d rather deal with games than work on what he was paid for.

Yet so much remains unknown. Was there a contract? Between who? What were the terms? What were the conditions? Has this contract been breached?

By the letter of it, perhaps not, but in the court of public opinion it certainly has been breached, for that payment was based on the promise of a completed roadmap to Serenity, a promise implicitly or explicitly made by all of them.

They got so much, and instead of exercising their knowledge, even their talent, and perhaps more importantly instead of educating the new generation to pass on skills, they spoil themselves.


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