Have you heard the name Erik Finman? If you haven’t, then you should know that he is one of the world’s youngest Bitcoin millionaires. The 19-year-old leads an extravagant lifestyle, proof of which can be found on his Instagram feed. There are pictures of him stepping out of private jets or lying on beds covered in money with captions like: “Cash so worthless compared to Bitcoin I’m sleeping on it …”
In one photo he is pictured smoking, with the caption: “Sometimes you just need a good smoke to relax when you have to live with the exhausting burden of so much money and too many beautiful women.” After one of his fans called him out him, he replied: “Don’t worry guys. It’s not a real cigarette. Just a hundred. Don’t smoke!”
The teenager bought his first Bitcoin at age of 12 with $1,000 from his grandmother. On the context of his ostentatious social media, he admits his social media presence is a carefully calculated front. “I think being a provocateur is a fun way to get people to pay attention to my ideas”. He further states “You see the reaction to it, people go crazy. But that helps draw attention to the actual world-changing projects that I want to do.”
The first he heard of Bitcoin was when his older brother took him to an Occupy Wall Street protest and he was attracted by the revolutionary nature of cryptocurrency. He bought his first Bitcoin when it only cost around $10. Just a few years later, it hit around $1,100. Finman sold $100,000 worth of Bitcoin when the currency was on the up and, at age 15, used the money to start an online education business called Botangle, which matched students with tutors via video chat. The reason he started this business was that he had “a terrible school life”. One teacher told him to drop out and work at McDonald’s while another held an “Erik Finman roast session” where students were encouraged to make fun of him. His parents, however, wouldn’t let him completely drop out of school no matter how much money he made. He then made a bet with them: if he made $1m before turning 18, he wouldn’t have to attend college. He won that bet last year.
For the Finman family, education is really important. His parents met at Stanford while getting their doctorates in electrical engineering and physics and his entire family, he says, is very smart. “I think of them as the Elon Musk version of the Kardashians,” he says. His mom was involved in Nasa in the 1980s and, Finman says, “almost became an astronaut on the Challenger mission”. Thankfully she got pregnant with Finman’s brother and luckily averted that tragic launch.
In 2015, Finman sold Botangle’s technology for 300 Bitcoins. At the time it was a gamble, as Bitcoin had dipped and was worth around $200. Even though the currency continues to fluctuate every now and then, his business move paid off. One Bitcoin is now worth around $6,500. Finman has 401 Bitcoin as well as various other cryptocurrencies and continues to bet on its future. “Bitcoin will either be nothing or everything, and I think it will be more everything. Or crypto will, at least,” he said.
Finman is interested in space exploration and is currently working on a project with Nasa to launch a satellite containing a digital time capsule into space. The capsule will contain popular music and videos as well as other representative sounds of life on earth, and a Taylor Swift CD. Why Taylor Swift? “We just reached out to her out of the blue, and she was into it,” Finman shrugs. The project is meant to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launch, which carried the “Golden Record”, a compilation of music and images from Earth, curated by the astronomer Carl Sagan, into space as a gift for any extraterrestrials who might stumble across it.
Apart from this, he also recently created a robot suit based on the four-armed contraption worn by Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man for a 10-year-old child with hypermobility issues. The child, Aristou Meehan, is the son of one of Finman’s mentors, and wanted his own Doctor Octopus suit to help “solve his problems”. So Finman made it for him. “I wish someone would have helped me like that when I was his age,” he says. Some investors have already expressed interest in adapting the suit for various uses, says Finman, but he’s moved on from it. Right now his big project is building a physical school and disrupting education. He’s tight-lipped on the actual details: “I’m still in early stages.”
So does he have any fun with all that money? “Oh yes, I got a fast car, did all that,” Finman says. “Traveled all over the world. Went a little crazy. Made a couple of stops in Ibiza and Monaco. I had to get it out of my system, you know.” He’s also been careful to make sure his former teachers know about his success. “I remember when the first article [about me] came out, I sent it to the worst teacher I had. The subject heading just said ‘look at me now bitch’.” Finman put a tracking pixel in the email so he knows the teacher opened it. “But I didn’t hear back.”