Erik Finman is the self-proclaimed youngest bitcoin millionaire at just 21-years-old. After a strategic investment of $1,000 in bitcoin at the age of 12 in 2011, Erik has grown his holdings to 431 bitcoins, worth over $4.8 million. Thinknum chatted with Finman, who is currently living in Utah.
Thinknum: How did you decide to invest in Bitcoin in 2011 at the age of 12?
Finman: I was in Washington, DC. I was at the Jefferson Memorial. My brother brought me to this protest, and some people got arrested for dancing — like Footloose. Some guy had a bitcoin shirt on.
We were in the middle of running from the police, I asked him what it was. He was like, "it's going to end Wall Street, bro," and ran off. That was how I found out about bitcoin. I researched it as soon as I got back and just really saw how great it would be, saw its future.
Tell me about dropping out of high school and the bet you made with your parents about college.
I really didn't like high school. People didn't really get what I was trying to do, get what I was searching for or what I was dreaming of. I had one teacher tell me, yeah, drop out, work at McDonald’s since I’ll never amount to anything more in life. I dropped out of high school and made a bet with my parents: if I make a million dollars by the time I’m 18, I don’t have to go back to school or go to college.
Tell me about the business, Botangle, you started before moving out to Silicon Valley.
I started a business from my bedroom. I had some bitcoin money at that point—bitcoin shot up a bit, so I was able to use a lot of that to fund my business. I was hiring contractors, freelancers, programmers, employees. Nobody knew I was 15.
It was an education business. I wanted to create a system where you could type in any subject you want to learn and find someone to teach you that subject over video chat. Rather than learning Spanish from someone in north Idaho, you could learn it from someone from Ecuador.
You became a millionaire in 2017, when bitcoin’s value hit $27,000 — what did that feel like? What is the first thing you did?
I traveled the world—went to Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing, London, Prague, Sydney, Melbourne, Vienna, Stockholm. I've always kind of had a millionaire mindset, to sound super cheesy. I always felt like it was meant to be. If anything, it's like, why am I not a billionaire right now?
You’re an investor in Metal, a Silicon Valley startup that has created a cryptocurrency and accompanying crypto-wallet. Why do you think this company is promising?
I think it's the easiest way to get into crypto in the United States. It's very simple, it's very user-design friendly. You can see other companies completely rip off the design all the time. Crypto is still very young, and I think Metal Pay is poised to capture that.
Facebook announced that it would be creating a cryptocurrency “Libra,” and you had said a year ago when Metal Pay launched that this was going to be the “Libra killer.”
Libra changed their name, and Libra hasn’t launched.
We just invested in this company Yellow Card, so Metal is going to be accepted in all of Africa. Which is kind of what Libra was focusing on, going to places where they have unstable currencies. So yeah, accepted pretty much all around the world and really trying to do aggressive expansion in Africa where it’s needed most. There’s just been a huge upsurge in cryptocurrency usage in Africa, just seeing their analytics through Yellow Card, it’s amazing.
You helped introduce the The Crypto-Currency Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill as a citizen advocate in March. The bill seeks to place crypto into one of three categories — crypo-currencies, crypto-securities, and crypto-commodities — and assign various regulatory bodies to each type. How will the bill revolutionize crypto-currency regulation, and crypto-currency itself?
The Cryptocurrency Act of 2020 enables it so you don't need a million dollars to start a crypto company.
Right now you need a million dollars at least to operate in the United States. And if you needed a million dollars to open up a restaurant, you would only have McDonald's, you know, just the lowest common denominator.
Right now you don't have Steve Jobs in his garage, you don't have Michael Dell in his dorm room making the next big tech company, because right now you already need to be a millionaire to really launch something. So if this bill were to pass, this enables it so even the person in their basement can do it.
Let's talk about cryptocurrency during the pandemic. What trends have you seen in the market, and what do you think it will look like as the pandemic continues?
We've seen bitcoin shoot up quite a bit along with gold and other things.
You see China, people are trying to get their money out. Africa, because unstable economies became way more unstable and they're looking for something more stable. In the US we've seen that Metal Pay, there's a moderate uptick in usage
Tell me about your current projects.
I’ve been doing a lot of stuff out of crypto these days. I’m tired of crypto, I’m sick of being the bitcoin person, it’s really like if I hear the word “bitcoin” one more time, I’m going to smash my head against a wall. I put a hundred percent of my trading under somebody else. I’m still doing stuff in Metal of course, but you know, kind of divesting out of a lot of cryptocurrencies. I care about building something much more than I care about just trading numbers on a screen. I’ve done bitcoin, crypto trading for six years.
I’ve been investing in airplanes, although Warren Buffett says that’s a terrible investment. Anything with wings I’ve been investing in, and that has made me good money. You see like 14-year-olds, they’re Robinhood trading. I'm on the subreddit Wall Street Bets, which is kind of a “bro” forum for this stuff. You see 14-year-olds that put their parent's ID in there and they're live streaming on there, making trades. One of them made $30,000. Looking at a livestream of a 14-year-old making tens of thousands of dollars, it’s like wow, that’s how I looked.