Gavin Wood comes in at the number 8 spot on our list of the top 10 most influential people in crypto.
Gavin is a powerful figure in the cryptocurrency world, known for co-founding Ethereum, contributing to the ongoing success of that project and more recently, founding the promising cross-chain protocol, Polkadot.
Early Days at Ethereum
Gavin Wood grew up in the UK where he attended the Lancaster Royal Grammar School. At university he studied software engineering and took his masters from the University of York. For his doctorate he studied music visualization for human-computer interfacing.
Gavin’s blockchain career began in 2013 when he met Vitalik Buterin for the first time. The two hit it off and began to brainstorm a new cryptocurrency; a decentralized platform based on the principles of Bitcoin but with more wide-reaching applications.
The work began in earnest in January of 2014, when Gavin, Vitalik, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di lorio and Wendell Davies rented a house in Miami. Together they created the first implementation of what would one day become Ethereum.
Although Vitalik Buterin is typically viewed as the most important of all Ethereum’s founders, Gavin Wood’s contribution played a key role in getting the protocol off the ground. Gavin wrote the Ethereum yellow paper, which provided the first formal definition of the Ethereum Virtual Machine. White papers typically present an overarching view of the project and are accessible to most audiences, while yellow papers are more technical and may include mathematical functions and code.
Solidity is another of Gavin’s important contributions to Ethereum. Solidity is the smart contract programming language that allows Ethereum to host decentralized applications and all other types of smart contracts. It’s hard to overstate Solidity’s importance, as it’s the key piece of infrastructure that sets Ethereum apart from non-programmable cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Throughout 2014 and into 2015 Gavin Wood continued to work on Ethereum, furthering development of the platform infrastructure as well as the C++ Ethereum client. However, as his understanding of blockchain technology grew, Gavin saw an opportunity to create a new protocol that would be even more feature-rich than Ethereum. A blockchain built around interoperability and a scaling technology that would enable faster and cheaper transactions for all users.
In 2015 Gavin Wood left the Ethereum project and co-founded Parity Technologies. In the beginning, Parity was dedicated to building open-source infrastructure on top of the Ethereum network. Some of Parity’s contributions include the OpenEthereum client and Parity Signer, a cryptocurrency wallet designed to bring hardware wallet security to a cell phone.
In the course of developing new Ethereum applications, Gavin began to consider how to implement sharding to reduce transaction fees and speed up confirmation times. As he explored the technical possibilities of sharding, Gavin began to conceive of a new blockchain to be built specifically around the concept of sharding as a scaling method.
Gavin released the first version of the Polkadot whitepaper, entitled POLKADOT: VISION FOR A HETEROGENEOUS MULTI-CHAIN FRAMEWORK, in November of 2016. As the title suggests, Gavin’s primary intention with Polkadot was to introduce a new blockchain based on the idea of multiple sharded chains communicating with each other via a centralized mainchain.
Shortly after the release of the whitepaper Parity Technologies started publicly promoting Polkadot while searching for a way to fundraise the buildout of a new blockchain. In October of 2017 the Polkadot ICO began and the project ended up taking in $145 million, more than enough to fund development. Unfortunately, a bug in the Parity wallet led to $98 million worth of ETH being lost and never recovered. As a result, Polkadot held a second fundraising round 18 months later, taking in an additional $43 million.
The initial version of Polkadot was launched in May of 2020, and the network has been successfully producing blocks for more than a year now. Most recently, Polkadot launched its first parachain auctions. These auctions marked the first proven implementation of Polkadot’s scaling strategy, and the first step toward connecting all of the major blockchains to one another. The Polkadot roadmap is available here, for anyone interested in following the project’s progress.
What the Future Holds for Polkadot
Gavin Wood’s Polkadot is an incredibly exciting project because it’s one of the first cryptocurrencies to focus on interoperability. Polkadot achieves this via bridges, a unique technology that connects external blockchains like Ethereum or Bitcoin to the Polkadot relay chain (a more thorough explanation of the technology is available in the Exodus blog article: What is Polkadot Crypto?).
When Raoul Pal (who is as crypto bullish as they come) describes digital assets he states that the network effect is the key metric to consider. The network effect measures the number of users, wallets, applications, exchanges, etc. which are connected to a cryptocurrency. The higher the network effect, the more valuable a cryptocurrency tends to be.
Polkadot is fascinating because it can increase a cryptocurrency’s network effect overnight. If a blockchain connects to Polkadot it can interact with Polkadot’s applications, as well as other projects connected to Polkadot. This is good for every single blockchain, a concept summed up most simply as: a rising tide lifts all boats.
In launching Polkadot, Gavin Wood has created a piece of technology that benefits not just DOT coin holders but the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem. Thanks to Polkadot and his pivotal early work on Ethereum, Gavin earned a spot on our top 10 most influential people in crypto list. Stay tuned for next week’s article to see who comes in at number 7!
Polkadot holders can store their DOT on the Exodus Crypto Wallet, which supports over 100 different assets.
Top 10 Most Influential People in Crypto, the countdown:
10 - Vinny Lingham
9 - Kathleen Breitman
8 - Gavin Wood
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.