Charlie Lee is something of a celebrity within the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology community. He is the person responsible for the creation of Litecoin, one of the earliest Bitcoin derivative cryptocurrency. Coming two years after the creation of Bitcoin, Litecoin has remained one of the top-rated cryptocurrencies in terms of both price and market capitalization. Despite arguably not having the same level of popularity as Bitcoin or Ethereum, Litecoin continues to be a firm favorite of a number of people as far as cryptocurrencies are concerned.
Early Life and Education
Charlie Lee’s parents lived in the West African nation of Ivory Coast when he was born. Charlie’s father was among the pioneer group of Chinese people who came down to Africa beginning in the early 60s. Back then, there was a wave of African independence from colonial rule.
At the age of 13, his family moved from the Ivory Coast to the United States. He attended the Lawrenceville High School where he graduated in the year 1995. For college, Charlie took after his father and attended MIT. He studied Computer Science, undertaking back-to-back Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program. He graduated in the year 2000, with a Master’s degree in the field of Computer Science.
Charlie Lee has always had a flair for computer technology. For more than a decade after he graduated from MIT, Charlie worked for a number of tech companies. Many of them were even notable tech companies including Guidewire Software and Google. It was during his time at the latter company that he created Litecoin.
Pre-Google Career (2000 to 2007)
Fresh out of MIT, Charlie got a job at Kana Communications where he worked as a Software Engineer. He worked there for 3 years before going to work at Guidewire Software. Charlie spent 4 years at the firm as a Senior Software Engineer. He left Guidewire in July of 2007.
Google Career (2007 to 2013)
A little over 4 years before Charlie would create Litecoin, he started working at Google in September of 2007 as a Software Engineer. At Google, Charlie worked on a number of projects such as Play Games, YouTube Mobile, and Chrome OS. In July of 2013, Charlie left his post at Google after being with the company for 5 years.
Involvement in Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrency
Charlie has on numerous occasions admitted that he first came across Bitcoin in 2011 while he was still at Google. He refers to an April 2011 issue of an article he found on Silk Road. Prior to his discovery of Bitcoin, he had been actively trying to get involved with the gold trade. Despite his aptitude for computer technology, Charlie also holds an interest in Economics. He grew up to become somewhat mistrustful of the Federal Reserve system. Upon reading the article, Charlie became interested in Bitcoin and in the underlying technology behind it; the blockchain.
Charlie like many early adopters of Bitcoin began by getting into Bitcoin mining. At some point, he reached out to one of the developers of the core Bitcoin blockchain client software, Mike Hearn. He soon struck up a cordial correspondence with Mike and proceeded to buy a single Bitcoin from him. With advanced degrees in Computer Science and a decade of being a Software Engineer, Charlie wanted to create his own cryptocurrency just like Bitcoin. At that time, creating the next Bitcoin was all the rage and there were already a number of Bitcoin imitators.
Charlie Lee’s first attempt at creating a cryptocurrency wasn’t a success. In September 2011, Fairbix was created. The cryptocurrency shared a great many similarities with Tenebrix which had been launched earlier in the year. Charlie and other members of the development team cloned the Tenebrix source code and made a few adjustments. Fairbix used a Proof-of-Work hashing protocol that ran on Scrypt which Charlie would later use when creating Litecoin.
The release of Fairbix was plagued from the start. The development team pre-mined about 7 million Fairbix coins prior to its release. This led to a lot of rumblings within the project community. The Multicoin client that was being used on the altcoin also had a few major software bugs which made it unable to withstand a 51% attack.
Less than a month on from the failed release of Fairbix, Charlie Lee released Litecoin (LTC) to the world. This time around, Charlie cloned the core Bitcoin source code and made a number of adjustments to suit what he felt were improvements on some of the problems with Bitcoin. These changes include the hashing protocol, the average block transaction time, the GUI, and the total maximum supply cap value.
The Litecoin hashing protocol uses a Scrypt-based algorithm, unlike the SHA256 algorithm that is used on Bitcoin. This essentially reduces the transaction time by almost 75 percent. The average block transaction time is 2.5 minutes. Charlie also increased the maximum supply of Litecoin to 84 million LTC, 4 times the value of the Bitcoin supply cap at 21 million BTC.
Despite sharing some similarities with Bitcoin, Charlie has almost always maintained that Litecoin is not a Bitcoin competitor. Instead, he affirms that Litecoin is more of a complementary cryptocurrency to Bitcoin. Charlie likes to see Litecoin as being the cryptocurrency best suited for smaller, lightweight transactions like online retail shopping while Bitcoin is the currency for the more heavyweight transactions like international payments.
Coinbase and Working on Litecoin Fulltime
In 2013, about 2 years after creating Litecoin, Charlie left Google to go work at the newly created Coinbase. Charlie worked at Coinbase for 4 years first as Engineering Manager and then as Director of Engineering before he left in 2017. Charlie was one of the first people that were hired to work at Coinbase.
In June of 2017, Charlie stepped down as Director of Engineering at Coinbase to work fulltime on Litecoin. He is currently the Managing Director of the Litecoin Foundation where he oversees the development of the Litecoin cryptocurrency. Already, the segregated witness (SegWit) protocol upgrade has been implemented and there are plans for more future upgrade.