Who Is Charlee Lee, the Creator of Silver to Bitcoin’s Gold?

As one of the first founders of a truly viable Litecoin, Charlie Lee is somewhat of an internet sensation. After discovering Bitcoin from an online article whilst working at Google, Charlie embarked on a multi-year journey to create the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. In this time, the prince of cryptocurrency forged alliances with other early-adopters, developers, and enthusiasts to create what many consider to be the second most successful cryptocurrency to date. Without any further ado, let’s delve into who is Charlie Lee, the internet sensation and creator of Litecoin.​

Early Life and Education

Born in the Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, a sovereign state in West Africa, Charlie Lee and his family eventually moved to the United States when he was in his early teens, where he was enrolled at Lawrenceville High School, a private boarding and day school located in New Jersey.

After finishing high school in 1995, Charlie went on to study at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he undertook a back to back Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Computer science, before graduating at the turn of the new millennium.

The Beginnings of a Founder

Shortly after obtaining his Master’s degree, Charlie began working for Kana Communications (now Kana Software, a subsidiary of Verint Systems), an e-mail and web-based communications platform. Here, he worked for three years as a software engineer before working with Guidewire Software as a senior software engineer until mid-2007.

After leaving Guidewire, Charlie worked at Google for almost six years, where he worked on a variety of products including YouTube Mobile, Chrome OS, and Play Games, until leaving Google in July 2013.

During his career as a Googler Lee stumbled upon an article about Silk Road, an online marketplace best known for supplying illegal drugs, and accepting Bitcoin as the preferred payment method, this article was his first introduction to the popular cryptocurrency and the beginning of his interest in the underlying technology: the blockchain.

Besides his aptitude for computing, Charlie also developed an interest in economics, which lead to him trading gold, other commodities, and futures in his spare time.

Like other Bitcoin enthusiasts and early adopters, Charlie made his foray into the world of cryptocurrency by mining BTC, a process whereby powerful computers are used as part of the Bitcoin network to verify and record transactions as part of the public ledger, as an incentive for performing this computationally demanding task miners are rewarded with bitcoins.

Whilst working at Google, Charlie struck up a correspondence with Mike Hearn, a fellow Googler and Bitcoin core developer, and proceeded to purchase a single bitcoin from him, the first time he had used fiat currency to purchase cryptocurrency.

This sacred moment was Mike’s initiation into the world of cryptocurrency where he will soon become one of the most reputable and cherished faces in the community.

The Fairbrix Failure

As an expert in computer science, and amateur economist, Lee was fascinated with blockchain technology, and its potential to revolutionize digital currency.

In the early days of Bitcoin, there was a great surge of interest in producing a next-generation blockchain based payment system, and as an early adopter of Bitcoin himself, this is exactly what Charlie intended to do.

His first attempt at a cryptocurrency was the Fairbrix project, which was intended as a substitute for Tenebrix, a cryptocurrency launched shortly prior.

From the start, Tenebrix was plagued by the negative press due to the fact that the currency was pre-minted, with the anonymous original creator admitting to having mined almost 8 million coins prior to its release, leading to it being shunned by the community.

Fairbrix aimed to act as a community friendly, fairly distributed alternative to Tenebrix, and was also based on the Scrypt proof-of-work algorithm created for Tenebrix. Unlike Tenebrix however, Fairbrix did not come with 7.7 million pre-mined coins, and instead opting to have only 100 pre-mined blocks prior to public release.

However, the Fairbrix project was soon abandoned after an unknown attacker successfully executed a 51% attack on the network, stealing approximately 1500 blocks worth of coins, an event that completely disrupted the Fairbrix community and effectively destroyed the value of the cryptocurrency.

During this initial stumble into the world of altcoins, Lee learned some valuable lessons and carried these on to his next attempt: Litecoin.

Let There Be Lite

“I believe that cryptocurrency will take over fiat currency and become the reserve currency.”- Charlie Lee

Shortly after the collapse of Fairbrix, Lee was already working on its successor. Charlie previously described himself as being deeply untrusting of the federal reserve, and this distrust pushed him to continue his goal in producing a viable alternative to fiat currency.

In a 2011 interview Lee comments “I wanted to create something that is kind of silver to Bitcoin’s gold”, he wanted to produce an altcoin with the strength and privacy of blockchain technology, along with a number of iterative changes to distinguish it from Bitcoin.

Acknowledging Bitcoin as the gold standard in cryptocurrency, Lee set out to create an alternative platform with some key differences. In an interview with Cointelegraph, Charlie highlighted his disappointment with the current altcoins, and, thinking he could do better whilst having fun learning about blockchain, set about to create an altcoin of his own.

This time, Charlie cloned the Bitcoin core protocols and made a number of modifications that he felt would suit his intended use case.

For starters, he changed the SHA256 proof of work algorithm used by Bitcoin to a scrypt-based algorithm, this switch leads to a decreased block generation time (of 2.5 minutes) compared to around 10 minute for Bitcoin due to the efficiency of the scrypt system. ]

Besides this, Lee also made improvements to the GUI to ensure Litecoin is user-friendly, and quadrupled the total supply of coins from 21 million to 84 million, an attempt to keep Litecoin within budget for new adopters.

Despite the similarities between Bitcoin and Litecoin, Charlie has always maintained that he did not design Litecoin to be a competitor, but rather a partner to Bitcoin, stating that his coin is best suited for smaller, lightweight payments, such as personal payments, retail shopping, and recurring bills, whereas Bitcoin is better for larger payments such as international payments.

In other words, Charlie envisioned you would purchase your daily coffee with Litecoin, whereas you would drive to work in a car bought with Bitcoin.

Like Lee’s previous cryptocurrency, Litecoin revolves around fairness, with only the Genesis block and two subsequent blocks being mined to confirm that the Genesis block is valid.

Also, by using the GPU resistant scrypt proof of work implementation to make mining fairer, and less centralized as was becoming common with Bitcoin due to the increasing use of GPU mining clusters, with large companies even being formed around the Bitcoin mining practice.

Unlike other altcoins, because only 150 LTC were premined before release, Lee did not have a budget for advertising or paying developers, and instead hoped that the early developers and the nascent crypto community would recognize the potential of Litecoin, and that this would be enough to get the word out.

What came next was unexpected, even to Charlie Lee, as his creation was met with great interest and praise by the cryptosphere.

Litecoin Goes Supernova

“My vision is people would use Litecoin every day to buy things. It would just be the payment method of choice.”- Charlie Lee

Following its release on October 13th, 2011, Litecoin quickly exploded into the mainstream, gaining new users by the thousands.

This massive surge in adoption lead to an astronomical increase in both value per coin, and overall market cap, increasing from almost nothing in 2011 to as high as 18 billion dollars in Q4 2017, with the price of a single Litecoin frequently exceeding $200 in the same year.

The success of Litecoin has firmly placed it in the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap, though it has recently been eclipsed by a couple of modern upstarts, namely Ripple and Ethereum.

Where Bitcoin initially gained traction due to its acceptance on Silk Road, Litecoin also followed a similar trajectory, as it became the default currency on Atlantis, a flashy alternative to Silk Road.

During this time, Charlie had left his job as a software engineer at Google, and began working as an engineering manager for Coinbase, one of the largest digital currency exchanges in the world.

Charlie Lee was in fact only the third hire that Coinbase had made since opening two years prior, a significant milestone for both Charlie Lee and Coinbase.

During his time at Coinbase, he led the GDAX team, a major division of Coinbase, where his role as engineering director kept him in charge of high-level operations and working on scaling, security and privacy solutions for the exchange.

In the summer of 2016, Lee decided to shift to working part-time at Coinbase, using the rest of his time to focus on Litecoin development, and in particular, readying Litecoin for the segregated witness upgrade.

Throughout this time, Charlie had a prominent social media presence, where he would vent his opinions regarding up and coming cryptocurrencies, discuss Litecoin upgrades and perform frequent media interviews.

With a large number of followers on his Twitter @SatoshiLite, Github @Coblee and Reddit @SatoshiLite, Charlie became a go-to source for signals regarding the market status of different altcoins, and Litecoin in particular. With some taking these signals as a sign to buy, hold or sell their Litecoins.

Insider Trading Controversy

Somewhat of an internet celebrity, Charlie Lee has over half a million twitter subscribers and is generally considered to be a key influencer in the cryptosphere. However, as both founder of Litecoin, and Coinbase director, Charlie frequently came under fire for apparently leading the market with his comments.

As Litecoin continued to gain momentum, and smash previous all-time highs, the cryptocurrency was finally accepted onto Coinbase in 2017, leading to a huge spike in value.

Shortly after this, Charlie announced via Reddit that he had recently sold all of his Litecoin holdings and donated the proceeds to the Litecoin foundation in an attempt to avoid a conflict of interest, as he was frequently accused of manipulating the market.

Lee writes;

For this reason, in the past days, I have sold and donated all my LTC. Litecoin has been very good for me financially, so I am well off enough that I no longer need to tie my financial success to Litecoin’s success.”

However, rather than being met with praise for his actions, Lee was instead suspected of insider trading, where Bitfinex’d, a well-known twitter cryptocurrency sleuth speculated that Lee had, in fact, dumped his coins to benefit from the recent price surge caused by its addition to Coinbase, a move Bitfinex’ed claims was orchestrated by Lee for his own personal gain.

Bitfinex’ed goes on to further corroborate his accusation by highlighting the fact that Lee left Coinbase in June 2017, just two months after the addition.

In rebuttal, Lee comments;

I told Coinbase late 2016 that I would leave sometime in 2017. The whole company knew already months before the decision was made to add Litecoin. So it was not like Coinbase adds Litecoin and then I immediately quit. If Coinbase decided not to add Litecoin, I would have left anyways.”

Many now see Lee’s decision as beneficial for the state of Litecoin, as it can now grow without his influence, whilst Lee is free to offer his support to the community without such drastic repercussions on the market. Now, the success of Litecoin is in the hands of the users, whilst Lee has become a closer to an equal part of the user base.

Though Lee has sold most of his Litecoin, only holding a small number in physical collector’s pieces, he still continues to come under fire for apparently promoting (or so-called shilling) other cryptocurrencies including Nano, a claim he vigorously denies.

Post-Coinbase

Deciding to work on Litecoin full time, Charlie left his position as Coinbase director and focused his time on improving his creation.

Litecoin was the first cryptocurrency to support segregated witness, a soft fork which changes the transaction format of Litecoin, removing certain parts of the transaction to reduce transaction size, freeing up space to increase the transaction capacity of the network.

The segregated witness upgrade was activated in May 2017 and enforced by the majority of Litecoin hashing power after a Global Litecoin Roundtable Meeting where a number of majority stakeholders agreed on the Segwit implementation.

The upgrade is intended to pave the way for second layer solutions such as the lightning network, the widely considered solution to the blockchain scaling problem.

Since leaving Coinbase, Lee continues to work on Litecoin as part of the Litecoin foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to advance Litecoin for the benefit of society by incorporating state of the art technologies, and community feedback into its design.

As the managing director of the Litecoin foundation, Charlie Lee, along with the other directors, Xinxi Wang and Franklyn Richards oversee the development of the cryptocurrency and maintain a resource of educational materials and information to demystify the underlying technology.

The foundation works closely with the Litecoin core team, supporting them financially using the money obtained from Lee’s substantial donations to the foundation, in combination with other donations from Litecoin users.

Lee also still contributes as part of the core developer team, where he and the other developers work to meet the schedules set out in the Litecoin roadmap, with his current focuses being an implementation of Confidential Transactions, and refinement of the Lightning Network.

After writing that Litecoin was becoming too centralized and dependent on him, he argues that now, free of his influence, Litecoin can grow to be the truly decentralized little brother to Bitcoin, and finally, with or without his guidance, reach the moon!

Join the Lite Side, We Have Cookies!

Regardless of whether you own, trade or pay for things with Litecoin, if you’re a true crypto fanatic, you should definitely familiarize yourself with Charlie, as he’s one of the community’s most influential, knowledgeable and positive person in the space!

There are lots to learn from him; his tweets are always spot on, his interviews are very educational, and his reddit posts are very engaging and informative. If you want to know more about Litecoin and cryptocurrencies in general, you should definitely check out his personal blog and dig deep into his twitter feed!

Hope this article gave you details about who is Charlee Lee and much more. Let us know in the comments.

2 Responses

  1. Nice profile post. Charlie Lee is someone I’ve recently started following and I can see myself sticking around for years to come because there’s so much good stuff that he shares. I also like his positivity which often rubs off on the his readers.

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