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Middle-aged crypto-king Anthony Di Iorio wants people to create something positive

Financial Post | Joe O'Connor | Feb 24, 2021

anthony - Middle-aged crypto-king Anthony Di Iorio wants people to create something positiveAnthony Di Iorio, co-founder of Ethereum, is plotting a way out of cryptocurrency to tackle a project he hopes will help change the world for the better

Anthony Di Iorio wears the same thing every day, call it his uniform: a white t-shirt, which he orders in bulk at $10 a pop, blue jeans and white sneakers. The outfit isn’t a fashion statement, rather, it’s a time-saving measure, since he tends to have a million thoughts reeling through his mind when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he needs to worry about is figuring out what to wear.

So, a white t-shirt and jeans it is. As for those morning thoughts, numbered among them lately are being sure to visit regularly with his 70-year-old-plus parents, Lino and Lynne, pondering how to fix corporations that only care about the bottom line, occasionally fretting about his own personal safety and working on his “white paper,” which he plans to have peer reviewed.

The paper details Di Iorio’s next big idea. It is something the 46-year-old is not ready to discuss quite yet, but he hints that the project to come is geared to altruistic ends, will be of benefit to Canada, tackle big and seemingly intractable problems and, perhaps, somewhere down the road, see him remembered for being something other than the thing he is most famous for today, especially among the cryptocurrency crowd.

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Di Iorio is one of the co-founders of Ethereum, a made-in-Canada, open source cryptocurrency platform whose units, known as ether, are second only to Bitcoin in terms of global popularity. He was also an early adopter of Bitcoin, buying up coins back when they were trading for $9.73.

Five years ago, ether traded for a measly loonie. Today, the digital currency is hovering around US$1,700. Bitcoin, meanwhile, rocketed past US$53,000 last week, achieving another vertiginous height in a notoriously volatile space that recently landed Di Iorio and fellow Canadians/Ethereum founders, Joseph Lubin and Vitalik Buterin, on a Crypto Rich List created by Traders of Crypto, an online information site.

The list pegged Di Iorio’s net worth at US$750 million. In 2018, a Forbes article did him even better, referring to him as a billionaire, hence all his fretting about personal safety.

“The whole cryptocurrency space, the whole concept is that you are your own bank,” Di Iorio said from his 5,000-square-foot condominium with a closet full of t-shirts in Toronto’s financial district. “When people know I’ve got crypto, it’s a little more of a risk profile than traditional things, because the money is not in a bank.”

Bad guys take note: Di Iorio is not, was not, nor has he ever been a billionaire. The bulk of his fortune, post-Ethereum, has gone into Decentral Inc., his blockchain technology startup, and developing Jaxx, a cryptocurrency “wallet.” If all goes according to plan, he hopes to sell the wallet and the blockchain business in about a year’s time for … a billion dollars.

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The hockey-loving kid from the suburbs, often hailed as a crypto-king, is planning to get out, not because he doesn’t believe in digital currency, but because he is 46 and wants to focus on addressing the particulars of that white paper he is not quite ready to talk about yet.

“I am a technologist,” Di Iorio said. “But what scares me the most is technology.”

The world, he said, has some pretty profound problems: Fake news; anti-vaxxers; conspiracy mongers; monster social-media companies and search engines gobbling up personal data; algorithms pushing out ads tailored to the individual and nudging them to buy crap they don’t really need; companies crowing about shareholder returns at the expense of ordinary people.

It is a big, daunting mess, and perhaps a relatively old crypto-guy can be part of the solution, at least that is what he hopes.

“We need to shift peoples’ focus towards creating positive impacts — towards helping their neighbours,” he said.

Di Iorio comes from a long line of problem solvers. His Italian grandparents didn’t see a future in Italy, so they solved it by immigrating to Canada with pennies to their name and hacking out a good life in the construction industry. The second generation started a patio door company in 1978, growing it from eight employees to 120 employees.

Di Iorio’s father, Lino, was that business’s resident troubleshooter, working in product development, ironing out kinks. In his spare time, he built classical guitars and in 1994 he took up curling.

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Di Iorio also read a lot, and got hooked on the Austrian school of economics, a central tenet of which holds that a product’s true value is only determined by its usefulness to the consumer. He had always fooled around with computers, but he experienced an “ah-ha” moment in 2012 when he heard Bitcoin mentioned on a podcast.

“I saw it as the next coming of the internet,” Di Iorio said.

Soon after, he founded the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup Group, and began hosting gatherings at a downtown office space. His parents organized the snacks.

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