My foray into Ethereum and creating something of value for a global ecosystem has been a fascinating journey. It all started in September 2016 when I announced the open-source library, Web3j, that I had authored. Little did I know that this endeavor would lead to unexpected outcomes.
Before delving into Ethereum, I had spent the better part of a decade working in the banking sector, building technology platforms. While the industry was filled with smart individuals, the corporate environment with its endless meetings and processes didn’t suit my personality. I yearned for variety and needed a change.
I embarked on my first startup venture, Huffle, with two co-founders. Our goal was to launch a new home loan product in Australia. However, convincing a bank to adopt our model proved challenging, especially given our small size and the seemingly insignificant initial volume it would generate for them. As Huffle failed, I turned my attention toward the blockchain world.
Around May 2016, I realized that Ethereum seemed to be the most talked-about blockchain platform. It dominated Google search results and piqued my interest. Despite the vague understanding of Ethereum’s potential back then, I knew there was an opportunity waiting to be tapped.
Coming from a background of building on the Java platform, I noticed a glaring gap in the market. How were financial services companies, who had invested heavily in Java-based platforms, going to connect with Ethereum? As I delved deeper, I discovered that Java developers lacked an easy way to work with Ethereum. This realization ignited a sense of excitement; I couldn’t believe such an opportunity had remained untapped.
To communicate with the Ethereum network, Java developers needed to connect with a protocol called JSON-RPC. Implementing the multitude of method requests and responses became my initial focus for Web3j. As I started building the core functionality, I soon realized that supporting wallet creation, transaction signing, and smart contract interaction were essential components that needed attention.
In those initial weeks, I devoted boundless hours to the library, requiring my wife’s understanding and support. I poured myself into development, often losing track of time. Eventually, I had a functional version of Web3j, ready to be unveiled to the world. I announced its existence on the Ethereum subreddit, and momentum slowly began to build.
By the end of November, four previously unknown individuals had contributed to the library. I shifted my focus from code development to documentation and community building. Web3j gained traction, and the number of contributors and downloads steadily increased. Today, the library has been downloaded over 2 million times and has attracted almost 200 contributors.
Although I no longer contribute actively to Web3j, the project continues to thrive through the efforts of the team at Web3 Labs. It brings me immense satisfaction to know that major financial institutions, such as the American bank I encountered at an event, find Web3j invaluable for their blockchain work. This reaffirms my belief that I made the right decision in creating it years ago.
Creating Web3j was my gift to the world, a solution to a problem faced by countless Java developers seeking to work with Ethereum. Looking back, I am proud of the impact Web3j has made, and I wouldn’t change a thing. As I reflect on my journey into Ethereum and the creation of something valuable for a global ecosystem, I am excited to see what the future holds for this groundbreaking technology.