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Charlie Lee interview: on the history of Litecoin, the future of crypto, and the ups and downs of being a public blockchain creator

SFOX: What inspired you to start building Litecoin in the first place?

Charlie Lee: Initially, it was mostly just for fun. I wanted to play around with the Bitcoin code base. And then I also wanted to create an altcoin that was better than all the other altcoins that were out there at that time. One of the main goals was to launch it in a very fair manner. So, no pre-mines: make it so that people can mine from the start. So, I didn’t have any advantage over anyone else. And then I also wanted to create something that complemented Bitcoin. So that’s where the “silver to Bitcoin’s gold” came from.

SFOX: I’ve seen that idea of it being “the silver to Bitcoin’s gold” cited everywhere, and I feel like oftentimes in media, people mean different things by it. Could you elaborate on how you see that relationship between Litecoin and Bitcoin?

Charlie Lee: I always saw that, in order for Bitcoin to stay decentralized and secure, it couldn’t be the best of both worlds in terms of being able to handle moving large amounts of money and also small amounts of money because both transactions would require the same amount of fees. So you have to make tradeoffs, right? If Bitcoin is focused on moving large amounts of money, then the fees will be high and the security will be high. Litecoin can act as a complement: it can be used for smaller amounts of money and have lower fees.

SFOX: As you reflect on the history of Litecoin — given that it’s been around for about seven years at this point — does any particular moment or set of moments stand out when you were really worried that it would fail?

Charlie Lee: It’s actually really hard to kill a decentralized cryptocurrency: if there are one or two people supporting it, then it will survive. I think for a few years around 2013/2014, Litecoin was pretty stale, and I was focused on Bitcoin — this was when I was working at Coinbase, so I wasn’t really paying too much attention to Litecoin or trying to ...

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