MIT graduate Charlie Lee created Litecoin in 2011, a few months after discovering Bitcoin. Litecoin had a few ups and downs in its early journey. In spite of this, it become the fourth-largest cryptocurrency last year. Lee soon left his job at Coinbase to focus on the altcoin, which at the time of writing has a market cap of over $9 billion. He previously worked at other famous tech companies, including Microsoft and Google.
Early Life & Education
Charlie Lee was born in the Ivory Coast, but his family moved to the U.S. when he was thirteen years old. Lee attended the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 1999. Soon after his graduation, he began studying for his Master’s degree in MIT and graduated a year later. He started his first job as a software engineer in Kana Communications in 2000. Up until 2011, he had worked in three different companies – three years at Kana Communications (2000-2003), followed by almost 4 years as a senior software engineer at Guidewire Software (2003-2007). He finally acquired a position at Google as a software engineer in 2007. His career at Google lasted for almost 6 years, where he focused on applications such as YouTube Mobile, Chrome OS, and Google Play Games. It was during this time Lee first read about Bitcoin in an article published on Wired in 2011.
The Rise of Litecoin
Lee considered Bitcoin to be more valuable than gold – he bought Bitcoin when it was only $30, and soon became a BTC miner. Bitcoin’s slower transactions and slightly higher cost encouraged Lee to make a new cryptocurrency. But before Litecoin came into existence, Lee launched Fairbrix in September 2011. The altcoin copied the code from a previously unsuccessful cryptocurrency called Tenebrix. Fairbrix also turned out to be a disaster, as the developers of the altcoin mined millions of coins for themselves before the official launch. A software bug also led to its unfortunate demise as it was prone to 51% attacks. Lee decided to solve the issues in Fairbrix by using Bitcoin’s code to create a new cryptocurrency under the name of Litecoin. Instead of using BTC’s SHA-256 function as proof of work, Lee used Scrypt, and increased the number of Litecoins to 84 million compared with Bitcoin’s 21 million. In 2013, Litecoin’s price increased by almost 400% to $48, before dropping to a shocking value of $10 next year. In the midst of Litecoin’s price volatility, Lee left Google to work for Coinbase in 2013 where his work was mainly focused on Bitcoin. Initially appointed as an engineering manager, he was promoted to director of engineering in 2015. After the SegWit upgrade to Litecoin in May last year, and the price crossing the $40 mark in June, Lee left his job to work full-time on his altcoin.
Charlie Lee donated his entire Litecoin holdings anonymously in December, 2017. He had previously been accused of insider trading, and his decision to sell his coins led people to believe that the founder was losing interest in his own creation. He has tried to clear things up on many occasions by stating that he has a lot of influence on Litecoin and it was a ‘conflict of interest’ to talk about the cryptocurrency, as many people relied on him to buy/sell/hodl their Litecoin.
Awards & Achievements
- Founder of Litecoin
- One of the Board of Directors as well as the Managing Director of the Litecoin Foundation
On working for Bitcoin at Coinbase:
“I’m into Bitcoin as much as I’m into Litecoin. I know that in order for cryptocurrency to succeed, Bitcoin needs to be adopted by the mass first. And that’s why I’m focusing most of my time on Bitcoin currently. When I feel that my time is best spent on Litecoin, I will do that.”
On the famous ‘silver to Bitcoin’s gold’:
“Silver is cheaper and lighter, so the idea is people will use it more as a currency, were as gold would not be used for daily spending. Over the years, you see how bitcoin transactions are costing more in fees, and litecoin transactions are still relatively cheap. In fact, that’s kind of the whole idea behind the comparison.”
“I definitely think that what the Internet did to information, cryptocurrency will do to currency.”
On selling all of his coins:
“I’m not quitting Litecoin. I will still spend all my time working on Litecoin. When Litecoin succeeds, I will still be rewarded in lots of different ways, just not directly via ownership of coins. I now believe this is the best way for me to continue to oversee Litecoin’s growth.”