Hello Reddit!

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.

Comments: 4546 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

RebelLemurs6481 karma

What is it about a single lucky bet that makes you feel qualified to give investment advice?

EDIT: Relevant Bo Burnham http://i.imgur.com/ETTuOlz.png

erikfinman-28 karma

I spent every day working to build up the number of Bitcoins I had. Turning 80-100 Bitcoins to 403 + other money in cryptocurrencies.

Feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt but it was not one purchase, it was years of trading in addition to building out my projects. I wanted to clear that up. I'm not perfect, so you are right there might be imperfections in my advice.

bingoflaps3221 karma

Elon Musk, your hero, went to college and received two undergraduate degrees (Physics and Economics). He also pursued a PhD at Stanford.

What are your thoughts on the fundamental difference in value your hero sees in education?

Edit: Some people are pointing out that Musk believes that formal education is not important. That's not true. As another user pointed out, Elon credits college for widening his perspectives.

What he does say is that we need to provide purpose to students so they can get excited about learning.

He also says that a degree is not necessarily an indication of greatness. Easy to say in an interview, but how many salaried people at Tesla, SpaceX, or SolarCity do not have a college degree? How many without a high school diploma?

erikfinman-83 karma

People know what's best for them. I knew for myself traditional education was not for me. And I've had a lot of people that have come to me and said the same thing.

I was able to learn how to take an idea, build it, and sell it in addition to sitting down at my desk every day and turning 83 bitcoins into 403 + money into other diversification. That education was much more than I could ever learn in high school.

Elon knew what he needed to do in order to learn. I know what I need to do for my life in order to be successful.

startdayone2569 karma

You seemed to do very well in Bitcoin. But it seems there had to be a little bit of luck at play here. I think you were really smart considering you sold a large amount to put into your business and still ended up with 403 bitcoins.

What would you say to people saying you just got lucky?

erikfinman-217 karma

That’s a great question and a great point.

As I said in the post above there is a certain amount of luck in everything you do. And you just have to create systems in your life and in your work that set you up to be luckier.

In this case the system would be. Be an early adopter in a lot of things and from that you’ll also get an idea on what technologies will go big!

And yes you are right. I didn’t just buy a bunch of Bitcoins and sat there. I did lots of day trading to take advantage of certain events and put in my money I made off my projects back into Bitcoin. I'm not the perfect investor by any means but I did a lot and It took a lot of work and time but it paid off!

eddietheengineer1407 karma

My question--have you paid taxes on all of your bitcoins?

erikfinman-17 karma

I handled the taxes and did it all within the law.

erikfinman-66 karma

Yep! I have a team of accountants that help me with all that.

Raspberries-Are-Evil1380 karma

Shouldn't you still go to college and studying something that interests you? You can afford it...

erikfinman4 karma

I've thought a lot about going to college, but in the end I much prefer learning from mentors in my field and by building projects. I'm getting paid to learn when I build a project! It's a dream!

badamache1265 karma

Would you consider further education to improve your writing/communication skills? Your self-teaching has worked out well for your financial and software acumen. But I think that Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg are excellent communicators in addition to being technical leaders. If you went to a bad high school, it can hurt your communications skills.

erikfinman107 karma

A great suggestion! I'll look into it. Thank you!

JohnnySmokeEm1112 karma

You don't know your grammar is horrible, do you?

-ksguy-122 karma

And my goodness that fucking handwriting. My 4 year old writes her name better than that.

erikfinman20 karma

I think I may have the worst handwriting in the world honestly.

erikfinman-13 karma

Imo it's not horrible, it's atrocious.

gwern1023 karma

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.

Don't you have to pay full income or capital gains tax on it either way, so accepting the Bitcoins merely cost you a ton of money? I don't see how it makes a difference whether you took dollars & used them to buy Bitcoins or took Bitcoin directly or took Indian rupees - you still have to pay tax on the assets of the business you sold, no?

erikfinman-54 karma

I handled the taxes and did it all within the law.

available_username2503 karma

wait so you didn't pay on taxes on your 300 bitcoins? and just admitted to that online?

erikfinman-84 karma

I handled the taxes and did it all within the law. Using bitcoin was not only better for tax planning but for selling a company under 18. That was another reason I chose bitcoin.

AmeIie321 karma

As someone who made more than you did but before the age of 20, I want to ask, do you actually have investment plans for the future?

So much of your capital seem to be in BTC, do you even consider the unlikely but possible misfortune of the price falling back to below a thousand? especially with the rise of better blockchain based currencies like Ethereum (I know they are fundamentally different).

erikfinman-103 karma

Oh yes, I'm heavily diversified.

Other cryptocurrencies, traditional investing, my own projects, etc...

You just can't put all your eggs in one basket.

But I am very serious about Bitcoin. And do not think an alt-coin will overtake Bitcoin unless something major happens to Bitcoin like they make a stupid mistake by changing the technology in a major way.

HandRailSuicide1272 karma

How many second graders do you think you could wade through until you'd be overcome by them?

erikfinman74 karma


Gld4neer126 karma

What do you think you'll be doing in 10 years?

erikfinman-119 karma

I want to make sure I'm doing big things in technology. But what I've found in life is that not everything goes to plan. In both not so good and fantastic ways.

So I setup systems for success. Small things I can do in the short term which give me a wide a range options and opportunities.

So those systems have given me so much opportunity with doing a lot of little work. There's always times where you have to do a lot work but most of the time it's a lot of little work.

A good book on this is How to fail at almost everything and still win big!

thewhothewhat68 karma

Is it too late to invest in Bitcoin? If so, are other cryptocurrencies expected to have the same growth?

erikfinman-154 karma

I see bitcoin going up way more than just the 2000s/3000s where it’s been. Bitcoin and blockchain technology is where the internet was in the 80s, not the 90s, but the 80s. And if you just get a fraction of the world on it. And I know all these entrepreneurs inventing world changing technologies that one of them will do a lot to get new people onto Bitcoin thus raising the price. Bitcoin will be worth tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars to even millions of dollars a coin.

So you will see bigger gains by putting in a $1000 now than if you put a $1000 in when it was $9 in the same period of time of when it went from $9 to $2700 now. That’s my belief at least and feel free to take it with a grain of salt. But even if my experience isn’t enough. I know a lot of the top tech people are all betting BIG and HUGE on Bitcoin and you can google to see who.

Regarding other cryptocurrencies. I go long on Bitcoin. Short on everything else. Alt-coins are needed to innovate at a smaller level because Bitcoin is too big. But if you just want to put in some money now and leave it alone for years Bitcoin is a safe choice. Alt-Coins require day to day trading and being really really strategic.

Hope that answers your question!

thereally183 karma

Am I understanding correctly that you expect Bitcoin to hit $300k?

erikfinman-102 karma

No one knows the future for sure. But yes I would say so, one day

mymandeadpool53 karma

Were there any parts of your educational experience that you liked?

erikfinman7 karma

Absolutely! They were few and far between but definitely some good parts!

I had a teacher in particular that was incredible and helped me in so many ways. I owe a lot of my success to that one teacher and I was thinking how do I pay her back for her kindness because it’s so important to treat those great teachers that change your life so well, especially when Teachers don’t get enough credit that they deserve in our society.

So I was back home in Idaho and there was a Charity Auction for the Boys & Girls Club in our local neighborhood. They were raising funds for a new building they were doing. (I hugely recommend you donate to them, they do such good work)

My favorite teacher’s golden retriever recently died and she was pretty down about it and she was looking for another puppy but they were too expensive and too rare in the local area for the ones she could find.

There was a golden retriever puppy at the auction and I my teacher was looking at it wishing so bad she could have it but when the amount got really high when bids were taking place. So I saw this as my opportunity to really help her out. And I bid for $5000 and got the puppy and I gave it to her! She was so thankful and appreciative and I got the best gift of all which was being able to say Thank You to the that one teacher that changed my life forever and gave me faith in myself. It’s so important to show gratitude in life in my opinion and being able to enjoy even the more harder parts of life.

Here are some photos I found: http://imgur.com/gallery/vACSV

ficcionella53 karma

I've never seen so many exclamation points in a post- you're so happy & it's very heartwarming. What's your favorite place you've been able to travel?

erikfinman14 karma

I'm a very happy guy! And I'd say Florence Italy! It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you ever go there check out the Da Vinci museum!

Mercennarius32 karma

What are your thoughts on Ethereum in the long run vs Bitcoin?

erikfinman-77 karma

I think the way the technology differs with Bitcoin vs Ethereum. Will cause some interesting differences that land, when you weigh the pros and cons, to Bitcoins favor. I go very long on Bitcoin.

But the way Ethereum takes advantage of smart contracts will help them out too.

I'm still short on Ethereum and all other alt-coins.There's a lot of money to be made in the short term on Ethereum and other alt-coins, but if you just want to buy cryptocurrency and let it go for years. Bitcoin is what you want.

I also went into a little bit more detail here as well: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/6iw0b6/iama_high_school_drop_out_that_had_a_million/dj9jz7d/

ArmchairConsigliere31 karma

How did you learn to code?

erikfinman60 karma

Codecademy is really what got me going and asking and looking for questions on Stack Overflow. With the knowledge that I learned from Codecademy I decided to build my own projects and when I got stuck I googled the answer and usually found it on Stack Overflow.

Hope that helps!

ChampionOfTheSunAhhh32 karma

Can confirm. CA is a great place to start out and Stack Overflow basically earned 63% of my CS degree. Albeit, it didn't earn me 1 million in that sweet sweet cryptocurrency (and other successful ventures) moolah like you lol

erikfinman22 karma

Where would the world be without Stack Overflow? A question that I do not ever want to answer haha

alonghardlook17 karma

See if someone else asked it on stack?

iloveallchickens22 karma

Ok I’ll bite. What’s the story of the llama coming into your house?

erikfinman-22 karma

I’m glad someone asked!

So the mother of this baby llama died in the middle of the winter. So in order to save the baby llama whom we named “Bambi”. We had to warm her up in our house temporarily so she’d live because she was really struggling.

She was cold and hungry at first but when we fed her and warmed her up she had quite the personality!

As you can see here when she did a super funny selfie with me haha!


dasoberirishman20 karma

Are you still a firm believer in Bitcoin, and what's your opinion of Etherum?

legosexual19 karma

So did you double up as soon as you hit a million since your parents now owed you another mill?

erikfinman-24 karma

hahaha If I won the bet I didn't have to go to college, not they had to pay me a million dollars.

legosexual197 karma

Judging by the grammar in your title, I think you should still consider more education.


erikfinman2 karma

Hahaha Ahh! Maybe so!

GFY_EH18 karma

What gave you a better feeling, earning your first million or getting reddit gold?

erikfinman-14 karma

Reddit Gold for sure!

thewhothewhat-1 karma

Hey! I posted your article the other day that went to the top of /r/technology.

I’m just graduating high school. What would you recommend I do? Should I go to college?

erikfinman-2 karma

I would try to find an apprenticeship in a field that you want to go in. If you aren’t sure what field you want to go into. Then just try a lot of one week internships. Any company would kill for a weeks free work. And it allows you to test what you like and what you want to do.

You can take that same method into projects. Trying to do a small mini project in a particular industry in a day.

To find what I liked I sampled many different industries by working for them, doing small projects, and talking to people in a wide range of industries until I found my passion and love for Technology.

Regarding college. Unless you 100% need to go to college like if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I don’t see the reason to go. At least in my view and the people I’ve talked to. It used to be a guarantee to get a great job or even just a job. But I know someone who graduated from Stanford that had move back home because she couldn’t find a job and needed to pay off her debt by not having as much expenses working as a waitress in her hometown. Which sometimes you have to do and could be enjoyable for a lot of people. But a degree that costs that much —— especially a Stanford degree should get you way way way more if you want more than a waitressing job back home.

I see a lot of great programs like FlatIron or Make School that are trade specific and train you for free and make money by cutting a cut of your salary once THEY FIND YOU a job. So they are incentivized to get you a job, teach you real world applicable skills, and get you the past salary. Right now those schools are just for programming but their will be more across other trades I’m sure.

But right now. I’d try to find a good job/apprenticeship with a good mentor and work on projects on the side. It’s easier said than done. But it’s possible.

smartupio-2 karma

Those llama photos you shared are great haha! Did you do anything else with the llamas?

erikfinman-11 karma

Wow a lot of llama questions! Didn’t expect this! Well I did take a drone and flew past the llamas and they were really curious about it! Llamas are always very curious!

Which at that moment I realized this was going to be one of the most funniest situations of my life when you think about it. A teenager flying a drone in the middle of no where Idaho with llamas looking staring at it! It’s too funny!

I managed to find the photos I took: http://imgur.com/gallery/z8QeA