You may have seen me at the top of /r/technology the other day and I got a lot of messages telling me to do an IAMA about this article on CNBC so here I am!
So I made a bet with my parents that if I turned 18 and was a millionaire, my parents wouldn't force me to go to college. I’m proud to say I won that bet! Thanks to some clever investments, making money from projects, and as is the case with everyone who has any kind of success (or even failure) a little bit of luck.
Here’s the story of how it happened:
When I was 12 years old in May 2011, my older brother showed me this technology that I fell in love with and found fascinating. The technology was called Bitcoin.
At that stage in life I had a $1000 saved up, solely a gift from my Grandma to use for my scholarship fund. It did not go to my scholarship fund. I asked my brother to help me put it into Bitcoin at $12 because I knew it would be huge in someway. At that point I had about a 100 bitcoins.
I continued to do ‘day trading’ buying low and selling high over the coming years as well and reinvesting the money.
Fast forward to when I was 14 in high school I was not enjoying school. I was in a small town in Idaho living on a llama farm. So the quality of the school system, was let’s say, not the highest grade. I found the classes to be boring, valuable to some people, but at least for me boring and teaching me in a way that didn’t make sense to me. Lessons that did not seem applicable in my life.
My teachers would constantly criticize people in the classroom. Especially me.
One teacher told me to drop out and work at McDonald's because that was all I would amount to for the rest of my life.
Another would force us to read other student’s grades out to the rest of the class to shame them for failing.
Another roasted me (me in particular) for the full hour of class. No teaching. It was literally the “Roast of Erik Finman”. Which now seems kind of funny actually but still very bad to do.
I went to a summer program to prepare me for the next year and found the best teacher ever in my life that changed my life who was from the UK. I got an A+ in advanced physics when I got a C- in basic physics the previous year.
With that knowledge. Since I didn’t have access to good teachers in my small town in Idaho. I wanted to fix it. So I learned how to code and created an educational website that would allow you to connect with Tutors/Teachers/Mentors online over video chat to teach you any subject you wanted to learn. You could search for Spanish. And find someone to teach you from Ecuador. You could type in programming and you’d find a CS college student that is trying to pay tuition by doing this on the side. Or a retired expert who is a veteran in his field that just wants to impart his knowledge onto others.
It became very popular in the local community! I told my teachers about it, but they did not like it because it felt like competition. Maybe they thought they might have to do better?
At this point I was 15 and this got some initial traction and I was using it to teach myself.
I asked my parents to let me drop out of High School to focus on this because I was miserable in school.
They agreed and were supportive, but they made a bet with me that I can drop out of High School, but I have to go to college if I don’t make a million dollars by the age 18.
I agreed and I dropped out of High School to work on this. A little bit after I dropped out of High School, and I had traction with my project. Bitcoin was shooting up! It was going big! $800! $900! $1000!!!!
So I sold a lot of my Bitcoins which resulted in me gaining a $100,000.
I used that money to put into my business so I could hire more professional programmers and I moved to Silicon Valley.
I even caught the attention of Alexis Ohanian of Reddit because his book at the time Without Their Permission is what got me started. He helped me in many ways!
Fast forward to early 2015. Eventually I found a buyer for the companies code & technology in January 2015. The investor offered either $100,000 or 300 bitcoin, which had dropped in value at that time to a little more than $200 a coin. I took the lower cash value bitcoin deal because I believed it was the next big thing and an official buyout would’ve been very difficult for someone under 18 and it was good tax planning to use Bitcoin. Also continuing to do day trading on a daily basis.
I used some of that money in the coming years to travel the world. Going to London, Dubai, Australia, and more!
I used that to start a VR company using crowdfunding and that did well. I shipped all those out. It was incredible!
Now I’m doing a satellite as part of a NASA award which is launching in November out of New Zealand! I'll probably do another post about this soon because it's so cool.
Elon Musk has always been hero of mine. He's such a talented guy changing the world with Tesla and SpaceX. I'm a great admirer of his and respect him immensely. He's the closest we have yet to a real life Iron Man. But who knows maybe I'll beat him one day haha ;-) After all we stand on the shoulders of giants right? haha that's a big goal though and I say it as such.
It’s been a fantastic few years! I’ve used that money to learn how to do a business, invest, and learn about the world! I didn’t do investing all the time and I used that money to build things that I thought were important! I haven’t done everything perfectly, no one has! I’ve made some humbling mistakes, but had lots of exciting successes! I’ve really launched my career in exciting ways and have met mentors that help me and advise me along the whole way! Which I’m so thankful for!
I’ve learned so much outside the education system and have been so much happier. Although I’m unique, I’ve met many many people that weren’t satisfied and unhappy — ranging from students with the lowest and highest GPAs. My GPA was a 2.1 in school!
And I’m happy I’m not going to College! College wasn’t for me but it was the ‘life path’ you are supposed to go on and I did not want to go nor felt it would’ve helped me too much in life — especially the $250,000 in debt! Or $249,000 with my scholarship fund if I had not used it on Bitcoin and my projects ;-)
I really believe the education system needs to be reformed and I think technology is the way to do that. I think it’s wonderful how society allows you to be a ‘student’ so that you can learn for many years and that’s your full time job. The infrastructure would just ideally be much better so you could do that without being in sometimes a bad environment and crippling debt.
I can say today that I own 403 bitcoins which is currently valued at $1,092,678.08 with the price per Bitcoin being at $2,711.36 plus some other money invested in other things. Can’t have all your eggs in one basket! So I won the bet!
If you have any questions let me know! And if you want any advice on cryptocurrency or your own educational route, or anything else let me know!
Also on reddit! People have made Pepe memes of me! I feel like I've finally made it: http://imgur.com/gallery/06dWK
If you want to keep updated with everything I’m doing! Follow me on twitter!
Proof of the bet: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/erik-finman-botangle-after-100k-bitcoin-score-15-year-old-creates-startup/
Travel proof: http://imgur.com/a/kvlzR
Proof: I went through rigorous proof verification and fact checking with CNBC as you can see with this article. I keep my Bitcoin is super secure places spread out across multiple wallets across multiple machines. I'm so paranoid after all this media attention someone is going to steal it all! haha
Proof of growing up on the llama farm: http://imgur.com/gallery/6scF5 ---- ASK me about the time the llama came into my house!
Proof of the 100k initially made: http://mashable.com/2014/06/10/botangle/
Proof it's really me: http://imgur.com/a/zc3eu
Edit: Wow! Thanks for the gold guys!
Edit: Was on for the first few hours of the AMA and had a meeting to go to and I just came back now to see all these great questions! Questions I all have answers to! I will respond to them tomorrow as it's midnight here now.
Edit: That's it for me! A lot of great questions and a lot of great feedback.