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The Daily Beast

Crypto Mogul Vitalik Buterin’s $1B Donation of ‘Petcoins’ to Charity Backfires

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo GettyThe world’s youngest crypto billionaire donated approximately $1.5 billion to a COVID relief fund and other charities—paid out almost entirely in a selection of meme cryptocurrencies named for different dog breeds that then tanked in value.Vitalik Buterin, whose personal fortune first surpassed $1 billion early last week, donated several kinds of cryptocurrencies, three of which are dog-themed and created largely as jokes: Shiba Inu (SHIB), Akita Inu (AKITA), and Dogelon (ELON).The gifts were collectively valued around $1.5 billion at the time they were made. But within hours of the transactions, the meme coins’ prices plunged—in no small part due to the billionaire’s massive transfers. In a neat illustration of crypto’s volatility, Buterin’s donations effectively depreciated themselves.Meet the World’s Youngest Crypto BillionaireButerin, 27, is the founder of Ethereum, an open source blockchain whose native token, Ether (ETH), is the second-most valuable cryptocurrency and only legitimate rival of Bitcoin. The founder’s wealth is mostly vested in his creation, but over the past year, he has also been gifted so-called “petcoins” as part of a hokey marketing stunt.The canine-related tokens are knockoffs of the meme currency Dogecoin (DOGE), which spiked to record-breaking highs over the past month, thanks in part to repeated promotion from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Dogecoin, which has fallen in price since Musk’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, is now the sixth-most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization, according to Crypto Slate.The copycat coins tried to capitalize on the Doge frenzy—in SHIB’s “woofpaper,” or whitepaper, the creators dubbed it the “Dogecoin killer”—with some success. SHIB, which boasted a market cap of $0 on May 7, spiked to nearly $14 billion on May 10, according to Coin Market Cap. In an apparent bid to publicize their coins, the creators of SHIB, AKITA, ELON, as well as some other petcoins like HuskyToken (HUSKY) and Bulldog (BDOG), gifted Buterin large quantities: in each case, 50 percent of the total coin supply. SHIB’s creators claimed this had “burned” the coins—or taken them out of circulation to create scarcity.But Buterin retained control of the funds. Because he held such large quantities of the coins’ total supply, some thought that attempts to offload them could have a drastic impact on their value. Even before the donation, critics mused that an exchange could prove fatal to the petcoins’ creators. “To be perfectly clear,” crypto Twitter account @Waronrugs wrote back in January, “Vitalik can rug you.”ℹ️ We got a lot of requests to look into it, so we looked into it. Of course, the price volatility is currently extremely high so think twice before going in. This tweet isn’t an endorsement or financial advice of any kind. We’re only publishing the results of our findings.— #WARONRUGS❌ (@WARONRUGS) January 30, 2021 On Wednesday, according to data collected by the blockchain tracker Etherscan, Buterin doled out massive quantities of petcoins to a smattering of nonprofits and foundations, including the India Crypto Covid Relief Fund, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, the open source bounties platform Gitcoin, the charity evaluator GiveWell, and the Methuselah Foundation, a lifespan-extension research group focused, according to their website, on “making 90 the new 50 by 2030.”Within hours, the petcoins’ prices sank. Dogelon Mars fell by nearly 95 percent, before recovering some of the loss. Buterin’s largest contribution, 50 trillion SHIB to the India Crypto Covid Relief Fund, had been worth just over $1 billion at the time of the transaction, according to Etherscan estimates. Within an hour, SHIB’s price had dropped by 30 percent.In spite of the slump, Shiba Token’s creators released a statement of support for the gesture, insisting that Buterin was not “dumping” the token. Instead, they wrote on Twitter, he had “just brought invaluable legitimacy” to the token, illustrating that it was more than a memecoin. The India Crypto Covid Relief Fund added that it plans to execute a “thoughtful liquidation,” converting the donation in a slow, staggered manner, to ensure that the price does not sink further and eliminate its value.(Transparency Update)We thank @VitalikButerin for his donation of 50,693,552,078,053 SHIBA to @CryptoRelief_ . We plan to do a thoughtful liquidation to ensure we meet our COVID relief goals. We have decided to convert the donation slowly over a period of time.(1/x)— India's Crypto Covid Relief Fund

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