At contentious Consensus interview, Jimmy Song and Joe Lubin bet $550,000 on Ethereum’s future

Bitcoin apostle calls out Ethereum and ConsenSys as targeting the gullible and greedy

ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin just bet more than half a million dollars that Ethereum will be going strong in four years. Settling the terms of the bet between Lubin and Bitcoin missionary Jimmy Song on Ethereum’s success or failure took a year—it was made onstage at Consensus 2018—but it’s done.

And thanks to the changing prices of bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) in that time, Lubin is offering 3 to 1 odds—betting about $550,000 (69.74 bitcoin) against Song’s $180,000 (810.1 ether). The cryptocurrency numbers were based on prices when the bet was first suggested. The dollar amount is based on the price of the No.1 and No. 2  cryptocurrencies by market capitalization when the bet was finalized live on the Coindesk Live video stream on May 14 at Consensus 2019.

Of course Lubin, who also co-founded Ethereum, is thought to be a lot richer, having broken the billionaire boundary (at least during the cryptocurrency boom).

It was not a friendly wager. During the discussion, Song said many of Lubin’s ConsenSys companies targeted the gullible and the greedy. He also accused Lubin of trying to duck finalizing the bet for a year, and insisted on writing terms into the bet preventing Lubin from cheating.

Song added that he’d refused a proposal to have the loser donate the proceeds to charity. “I want it to hurt for you,” he said. “I don’t want you to feel you’re donating to charity. I want it to hurt when you lose the bet, I want you to pay me.”

Basically, the bet comes down to Song saying that the Ethereum blockchain will not have any significant applications in use by 2023. Really, Song’s argument isn’t just with Ethereum. He doesn’t think there is any future for decentralized dApps at all.

“I wrote an article last week about why blockchain isn’t that answer for anything,” Song said, in explaining his position. “If by some miracle you have some popular dApp, you are going to be able to build it much cheaper, faster, more scalable, and more maintainable and more upgradable on a centralized platform, and be able to crush that [decentralized] dApp.”

He added that “the only reason dApps exist is to raise money from gullible people or from greedy FOMO [fear of missing out] people.” Taking a swipe at Lubin personally, the 10 gallon hat-wearing Song added, “that’s essentially what the Ethereum platform has done, and honestly a lot of what your [ConsenSys] companies have done.”

Lubin, for his part, avoided personal attacks and called Bitcoin awesome, but added “there’s narrow set of use cases built on Bitcoin and that’s wonderful, we love that, but decentralized application platforms are also really useful.”

Specifically, Lubin said, “[w]e have opportunity to move the world from subjective trust systems to objective, automated trust systems, and whether there’s some decentralization on a consortium platform or maximal decentralization on a platform like Ethereum, it’ll be really valuable to build applications on that sort of platform going forward.”

At Consensus 2019, ConsenSys' Joe Lubin and Bitcoin advocate Jimmy Song awkwardly hugging it out after initiating a $550,000 bet on whether Ethereum will be anything of worth in 2023.
At Consensus 2019, ConsenSys’ Joe Lubin and Bitcoin advocate Jimmy Song awkwardly hugging it out after initiating a $550,000 bet on whether Ethereum will be anything of worth in 2023.

Broadly, the terms of the bet are that for Lubin to win, there must be at least 15 different dApps that have at least 10,000 active daily users, and 100,000 active monthly users, for any six months in any 12 calendar-month period by May 23, 2023. Song said those numbers were chosen as they represent the minimum for a decently successful app on iOS or Android.

There was some sparring over whether those active users have to pay for something each time they use the dApp, but they settled on an agreement that a transaction must have someone paying gas, possibly including a dApp company that gets some other value from the users.

There is only one hurdle left to clear: choosing a judge to declare a winner. Song and Lubin said they have settled on someone but have not asked him yet, and may have to agree on someone else.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.