Just how easy is it to get rid of nearly $7 billion worth of a cryptocurrency that you don’t want? Probably a lot harder than you might think, according to Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.
During a visit to the UpOnly Podcast yesterday, Buterin discussed several topics throughout the course of an almost two-hour interview with hosts Cobie and Ledger, including the time that Buterin dumped $6.7 billion (at one point worth much more than that) in SHIB tokens.
Shiba Inu, or SHIB, is a Dogecoin-inspired, Ethereum-based meme token that surged in value over the last year. At one point last year, SHIB was up by more than 40,000,000%, according to data from CoinGecko, making those who invested early in the cryptocurrency very rich within a very short period of time.
Last May, anonymous developers gifted Buterin 50% of the total supply of SHIB tokens, bringing the total held by Buterin to around 505 trillion SHIB, or roughly $8 billion at the time. The developers did this because they thought sending the tokens to Buterin would effectively burn the tokens (i.e. take them out of circulation), decreasing supply and increasing demand.
Later that month, Buterin sent SHIB and other crypto donations he received to various charities, including 50 trillion SHIB, around $1.2 billion at the time, to the India Covid Crypto Relief Fund. Buterin then burned about 90% of his remaining SHIB tokens. Why? "I don't want to be a locus of power of that kind," he said in a note attached to one of the transactions at the time.
But exactly how Buterin got rid of those tokens is arguably just as interesting as the who and why.
Buterin explained to Cobie and Ledger the complex process that he had to go through to access and then send out the SHIB tokens, including buying a new laptop to complete the transaction. "It was scary and fun at the same time," Buterin said. "The scary part is this is more money than I've ever had."
The funds, he said, were initially in a cold wallet in the form of two numbers written on separate pieces of paper. Buterin said he had to combine the two numbers to get the private key. "One of those numbers was with me; the other number was with my family in Canada," he said. "So I had to call up my family in Canada and tell them to read their number to me."
Buterin said that he entered the numbers into the computer he purchased from Target after putting the two numbers together. "I sent my ETH out by generating a transaction and then on a computer that I bought from Tarjay [Target] for about $300 bucks for just this purpose."
Before disconnecting the laptop from the internet entirely, Buterin said he downloaded a program to generate QR codes. After generating the Ethereum transaction, he scanned the QR code with his phone, copied it to the laptop, and then put it into etherscan.io/push Tx. Finally, Buterin said he began sending out the tokens.
"So it was scary and involved a procedure that would probably make a good plot for a James Bond movie eventually, but maybe not," he said.