Joe Lubin was once less interested in changing the world than escaping it. Half a decade ago, he was living in Kingston, helping a Jamaican model break into the music business. Having worked on Wall Street, he thought the 2008 financial crisis was only the beginning of a system-wide global collapse to which he foresaw no solution and no alternative. He had considered battening down the hatches in South America or starting up an urban farm in Brooklyn before settling on Jamaica as the place to ride out the coming storm. In those recession years, his present life—as a co-founder of Ethereum, as the globe-trotting CEO of blockchain venture studio ConsenSys, as a cryptocurrency billionaire—was literally unfathomable.
Jamaica was only the latest stop in a varied career. After graduating from Princeton—where he played squash, studied electrical engineering and computer science, and roomed with Mike Novogratz, the sometime billionaire and Wall Street veteran who now runs a crypto merchant bank—Lubin spent years as a researcher and software engineer. Eventually he went from building robots to serving as a technology executive at Goldman Sachs, and later founded a hedge fund. By the time Wall Street was being occupied, though, Lubin had seemingly retired from the world of finance.