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How a high-school drop out won big on Bitcoin

By Dan Cole on 3rd June 2020

How one describes Idaho-raised twenty-something businessman Erik Finman would depend entirely on the point in time in which you met him.

At 12? You might have considered him a disillusioned pre-teen destined for a mediocre education. At 15? An ambitious, if ill-advised, ed-tech entrepreneur. At 18? Well, by then he was a bitcoin millionaire.

Long before the advent of technology like the, Finman went all-in on the concept of cryptocurrency. As a 12-year-old in 2011, Erik had developed an interest in coding, largely as a result of his lack of interest in traditional education. Soon after, his computing hobby led him to learn of the emerging industry of cryptocurrency, and, with bitcoin trading at $12, he plunged his $1000 college fund passed down by his grandmother into the emerging digital currency.

With bitcoin on the rise, Finman held his nerve until it began trading at an eye-watering $1,200 a pop. The result for the bespectacled 15-year-old was a cool cash-out sum of $100,000.

For many of us, perhaps the story would end there. At the opposite end of the risk-reward spectrum, one might have invested that money into a savings account to pay for a college education, or a house deposit. Not Finman, though. He was not even close to finished.

The experiences of Erik’s formative years had led the Post Falls native to develop an interest in enhancing the education sector, tapping into his own sense of despair at how schooling had failed him.

Despite the myriad of temptations that must have presented themselves to a teenager who had just hit the jackpot, Finman, armed with his improving coding skills and a six-figure budget, founded his first company, Botangle, in early 2014.

The company focused on connecting uninspired students like Finman with professional tutors and teachers online, helping to improve their schooling prospects. The project began to gain traction, and, soon after, Finman haggled with his parents over dropping out of public school and moving the company to Silicon Valley.

Thousands of people are using cryptocurrencies to improve their standards of living

Erik’s parents, both Stanford education engineers, eventually agreed, on the understanding that Finman would continue to home school. The young entrepreneur accepted the terms, which also included a high-stakes bet that if he had not made $1m by the time he was 18, he would also go to college.

In the early days of his move to the coast, Finman found California to be, in some ways, no different to the high-school corridors back in Idaho. In several high-profile interviews, Erik has recalled being laughed out of executive meetings while trying to find investors for Botangle. As we now know, though, he had the last laugh.

Eventually, a prospective buyer for Botangle’s technology came forward, and offered Finman a choice: $100,000 for the company, or 300 bitcoin. It may seem like a no-brainer nowadays, but, back in 2015, the cryptocurrency had fallen back to around $200 a coin. Erik, who had gotten this far on trusting his instincts, took the bitcoin over the fiat currency. The rest, as they say, is history.
Finman held his glut of bitcoin during the cryptocurrency’s storied rise in 2017, making a number of smart investments along the way. As a result, he made good on his bet with his parents – and any thoughts of a college education were pushed aside by a personal wealth of several million dollars.

Now, as an early-twenties cryptocurrency wunderkind, Finman’s reputation is mixed. On the one hand, his ostentatious social media posts, which see him performing anything from smoking rolled up hundred dollar bills to sitting atop his range of sports cars, seem to evidence a far cry from the teenager who claimed to have been bullied so badly at school that even some of the teachers joined in.

Erik, though, maintains that those social media posts are satirical, and his portfolio of projects since making it big seem to support the notion that he has not forgotten his roots. In 2017, Finman made a play to reclaim ownership of Botangle, writing that his “real life goal” remains to fix the education system.

Since then, Finman has invested in anything from sending culture capsules into space, and delivering cryptocurrency drops to remote schools in Africa, allowing them to make essential repairs.

Investing in cryptocurrencies carries risk, do so at your own risk and we advise people to never invest more money than they can afford to lose and to seek professional advice before doing so.