Let’s be honest; this article needs little in the way of introduction. Anything titled ‘The lives of X Millionaires’ is really only there to draw folk like us into a little huddle where we can spit our envious bile and scornfully look at lucky sods’ living a better life, right?
Start getting your spit ready, then.
Let’s begin with a name that’s become increasingly ubiquitous in the cryptocurrency world: Jeremy Gardner. Jeremy’s case is actually a fairly simple story and a frustrating example of someone that seized the initiative and invested in something that was risky.
Back in 2013 (around the middle of Bitcoin’s rise to prominence, note), a close friend of Gardner’s offered to buy up some Bitcoin for him in exchange for regular cash. To most folk, at the time anyway, this would sound like a fragile attempt to squeeze some money out of a gullible friend, but Gardner had been following the controversy surrounding Bitcoin’s usage on the infamous ‘Silk Road’ marketplace and knew a rising star when he spotted one.
It didn’t take Gardner long to realize that this was more than just a passing fad or rebellious transaction token – there was a future in Bitcoin and he wanted in. Before long, he had turned his entire life-savings into Bitcoin and is now valued in the millions while only being in his mid-twenties.
Well, that’s all well and fine for him but I’m in my mid-twenties and my mother says that people will realize I’m special soon and then it’ll be P.A.Y.D.A.Y. baby. Watch your back Gardner.
(Joking: Gardner is basically a cryptocurrency evangelist these days, having launched off-shoot start-ups that trade and speculate on cryptocurrency values and works at a large venture-capital firm for zero salary. I’ll never be in his league.)
That one didn’t quite stimulate your jealousy ducts? No problem, this one will have you gnashing your teeth: Erik Finman, again now notorious amongst certain circles for being one of the youngest Bitcoin millionaires in the world.
How young, you ask? [Fingers shaking with envy]… fourteen years old.
Now, granted, this isn’t quite a tale of rags to riches. This particular fourteen year old is the third son of a couple of Stanford-graduated engineers who run their own small company which sells tech to the Defense Department and home-schooled their kids. Some might say little Erik had it pretty sweet from the get-go, and he did.
But, like any entrepreneur or big money success story, he wanted more and he took the opportunity to invest a staggering (for someone still riding the initial wave of puberty, remember) $1,000 in Bitcoin.
Having said that, though, that lump sum is really an integral part of Erik’s philosophy to life: the money came from his grandmother who set aside money for Erik and his siblings to put toward a scholarship fund. Erik had never taken to the home-schooling curriculum and opted to try public school, but this also seemed to leave something to be desired for the whizkid (luckily, he made it big on his investments, saving him the trouble of traditional schooling).
As a result, he funneled a lot of his capital into a start-up called Botangle, a service for unsatisfied students who weren’t finding the necessary inspiration or drive from traditional schooling. He was then bought out by another Bitcoin millionaire but has now bought the company back with the aim of directing Botangle into an open-source format, allowing users to create their own online school for different areas of interest.
Oh, and the worst/best part? He’s still only eighteen years old. With a lavish apartment. And a Lamborghini.
How’re you feeling? Want to sit down for a moment?
The age-old advice is that the finest way to make money is to become a middleman between two interested parties. There’s little work on your part, almost zero-risk and you’re not actively trading one good for another.
Well, Charlie Shrem is a perfect example of the modern day financial middleman, operating in the world of cryptocurrency.
Hold on to your lunch, though, this story once again involves someone striking gold at a young age. Charlie was in his senior year of Brooklyn College (2011 – very early on in the life of Bitcoin) when he decided he’d spend $500 on the currency, which was valued at $3 per coin at the time.
Shortly thereafter, the value had jumped to around $20 per coin and Charlie, having the stomach for the heady world of investment decided not to sell some of his portfolio and maybe put the money toward some food other than Ramen noodles and, instead, bought thousands more Bitcoins.
But this is where he saw the gap: there was space for him to get in between the Bitcoin market and other would-be investors, too, rather than sitting on the side lines. So our plucky young Shrem founded a company, called Bit Instant, which gave users the opportunity to purchase Bitcoins from an amalgamation of over 700,000 different companies.
The rest is history, really. Shrem is now estimated to be worth somewhere around $45 million.
I once won a bet on a game of pool during college. So, yay me?
How about the bold Yifu Guo? Another man with the foresight to see an opportunity in the mechanics behind Bitcoin, rather than the upfront software.
During his college time, Yifu had been mining coins on the side to make some extra cash – this was at a time when the requisite computing power was considerably less, keep in mind.
However, he realized where the future of his mining was leading: more expensive tech, with users being priced out of the manufacturing side. So, he formed the first ASIC. What’s that? No idea what ASIC stands for? Don’t worry, most people don’t. It means Application Specific Integrated Circuit…Any wiser? No, didn’t help for me either.
Basically, he designed computer chips that could run almost 50 times faster than standard graphics cards and, as the designer, he could market them at a competitive cost. Naturally, this became a huge success amongst users looking to mine with limited technology and his company, Avalon, was soon making money hand over fist.
Bitcoin funding engineering funding Bitcoin. Where does it stop?
No, this has nothing to do with that Anonymous.
This is the story, published in a Mel Magazine article this year, of an anonymous forty-one year old Bitcoin millionaire who stumbled into the world of cryptocurrency and profitable investments because he was looking to get high.
Tragic, huh? Most folk I know that went exploring in a bid to get high wound up with empty pockets and a bagful of garden variety lawn-grass. In my defense, though, why would they come to me? I don’t know anything about drugs. I’m sure the jury will find in my favor.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the mysterious fella.
The man, given the codename ‘Cassidy’ is deeply paranoid about having his identity stolen – which is a surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) common occurrence in the world of digital currencies. Funnily enough, however, his tension around internet surveillance didn’t stretch to his appetite for some borderline-legal psychedelics back in the day.
On the hunt for some chemicals that acted in a similar fashion to LSD, Cassidy was directed to the Silk Road, where he hoped to find a kindly purveyor of narcotics that was willing to accept plain old PayPal or debit card payments… I didn’t say he was smart.
In doing so, though, he was introduced for the first time to the novel (at the time) concept of cryptocurrencies and quickly became taken with the famous Bitcoin whitepaper. After paying up and getting his jollies, Cassidy dove into the theory behind Bitcoin and before long became a genuine convert.
He invested in serious computing power, turned his garage into a ‘mining farm’ and hit the bigtime with the 2013 price spike. These days, Cassidy lives a quiet suburban life – a new home meant that he couldn’t bring his farm with him, but he’s kept a strong hold on his accumulated coins, making him a virtual millionaire, with no plans to sell off his crypto-assets any time soon.
Even the buttoned-down dads are making serious money on this stuff. *gnash gnash gnash*
Now, obviously, this is all to say nothing of other Bitcoin millionaires like the Winklevoss Twins (they of Facebook-dispute fame) or Jered Kenna, but these are guys that wear suits. Suits. They’re no fun.
Plus, I want to leave you with a story of someone else’s misery so we can all enjoy some schadenfreude if nothing else.
Hugo Rifkind – a Sunday Times columnist – delivered a scathing look at the history and future of Bitcoin and its human value as a de-centralized currency as well as its hysterical financial value. However, all I want you to pay attention to is the following excerpt:
“Several years ago, nervously and carefully, I spent a few hundred pounds on Bitcoins… The value has risen several hundredfold since then, and had I kept them all they would be worth the deposit on a small flat. Alas, I did not. Some I lost… others, I spent on mundane things, such as a Netflix subscription and a bunkbed.”
Sleep easy, dear readers, knowing that not everybody got it right. Phew.