This 20-year-old high school dropout bought $1,000 worth of bitcoin at the age of 12 - now he's worth $4.5 million

Erik Finman YouTubeErik Finman/YouTube
  • Erik Finman bought $1,000 worth of bitcoin at the age of 12 in 2011, when each bitcoin was $10 to $12.
  • Today, he says he holds 446 bitcoins - that means he's sitting on around $4.5 million in bitcoin, according to Tuesday's price.
  • The Idaho tween who bet big on bitcoin is now a 20-year-old Silicon Valley millionaire with two new cryptocurrency ventures launched in 2019, including a competitor to Facebook's forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Erik Finman says he's the youngest person to become a bitcoin millionaire.

In the past eight years, he's grown his bitcoin holdings from about 100 (worth $1,000 in 2011) to nearly 450 (worth about $4.5 million in 2019). And he had an early start - he made his first investment at age 12, and became a millionaire at age 18. Now at age 20, he's invested in a competitor cryptocurrency that he says will "kill" Facebook's forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency.

Read on for a timeline of the life of Erik Finman, from Idaho tween to Silicon Valley crypto-millionaire.
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In 2011 at the age of 12, Idaho tween Erik Finman bought $1,000 worth of Bitcoin.

In 2011 at the age of 12, Idaho tween Erik Finman bought $1,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Finman grew up in Post Falls, a small town outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Finman grew up in Post Falls, a small town outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Source: Techcrunch, CNBC

His parents met as Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Erik is the youngest of their three sons.

His parents met as Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Erik is the youngest of their three sons.

Source: New York Magazine

Finman first learned about bitcoin from a "hippie" at a protest, and he thought it sounded promising.

Finman first learned about bitcoin from a "hippie" at a protest, and he thought it sounded promising.

In an interview with Cheddar, Finman shared the origin story of his discovery of bitcoin:

Finman said his older brother brought him to a protest following the financial crisis of 2008. He recalls running from the police and seeing a man wearing a bitcoin shirt, and then asking him what bitcoin was.

"He's like a hippie, he's like, 'Man, I think it's gonna end Wall Street, all the corruption, and all the bad things.'"

That prompted Finman to research the cryptocurrency himself and he decided, along with his brother, that it was the next big thing.

Source: Cheddar

So, Finman used $1,000 from his grandmother intended for his scholarship fund to buy around 100 bitcoins, when each coin was worth $10-$12.

So, Finman used $1,000 from his grandmother intended for his scholarship fund to buy around 100 bitcoins, when each coin was worth $10-$12.

"I just spent every day trading to get more after that," Finman told Business Insider. "For three years, I just was basically doing bitcoin trading and school, and that was about it."

"I just spent every day trading to get more after that," Finman told Business Insider. "For three years, I just was basically doing bitcoin trading and school, and that was about it."

At age 15, Finman sold $100,000 worth of bitcoin, founded an education startup, and dropped out of high school.

Part of the reason Finman sold those bitcoins was to enter a raffle costing $8,500 to meet his idol, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian — Finman won and met Ohanian.

Part of the reason Finman sold those bitcoins was to enter a raffle costing $8,500 to meet his idol, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian — Finman won and met Ohanian.

Source: New York Magazine

Finman was inspired by his own negative experiences with school to create his education startup, Botangle.

Today we're OBSCENELY excited to announce our new logo made by Gautam Bhargava & @jed_rollins at @ankorhem! pic.twitter.com/eCm86sxPCy

— Botangle (@BotangleHQ) July 8, 2015

Finman hated school — he says one teacher told him to drop out and get a job at McDonald's.

In June 2016, Finman posted a throwback to Instagram with a screenshot of an email with the subject line "Look at me now, b----!" to his former teacher. The caption reads, "I got to send this email to the high school teacher who told me to drop out and work at McDonald's."

And so Finman created Botangle — a company that paired students with teachers online — and dropped out of school himself to work on it.

Source: New York Magazine

Have you met anyone like this? pic.twitter.com/wefjGQra0E

— Botangle (@BotangleHQ) July 15, 2015

Finman upped the ante in a bet with his parents: If he became a millionaire by the age of 18, he wouldn't have to go to college.

Finman got an internship at a startup selling Sprayable Energy — so he moved to Silicon Valley.

Finman got an internship at a startup selling Sprayable Energy — so he moved to Silicon Valley.

Finman described the Sprayable Energy product as "Red Bull for your skin" to New York Magazine.

The product is a "topical caffeine spray," which the company recommends spraying on your neck for a gradual energy boost.

Source: Sprayable Energy, New York Magazine

Around two years after starting Botangle, Finman sold his company for 300 bitcoins at age 17.

He told Business Insider that he eventually ended up buying the brand back because he "liked the name so much."

Source: Business Insider

In June 2017 at the age of 18, Finman became a millionaire when bitcoin's value crossed $2,700 — meaning he won his bet with his parents.

Source: Business Insider

Finman's first splurge was an Audi R8, which he keeps in a garage in LA now.

The 2020 R8 Coupe retails for $170,000.

This is about when Finman says he began cultivating an outrageous persona on Instagram — "a semi-satire...pantomime of myself" — to bring attention to his projects.

His current Twitter bio calls his account "A SATIRE of new money."

Source: Twitter

"I did this crazy Instagram stuff to look like an eccentric young bitcoin millionaire, you know, kind of fit the stereotype," Finman told Business Insider.

Finman was interviewed for a GQ article titled "Bitcoin Millionaires Are Coming for Streetwear," in which Finman was quoted (jokingly) saying:

"I wake up and I'm just in my blanket made of hundred [dollar bills] and I get up and they fall off my face and I jump into my Yeezys as soon as I get off the bed and brush my teeth with a Supreme toothbrush. It's just a day in the life, so if it so happens to be flexing in that day in the life, then what a coincidence."

In May 2018, Finman led a team of engineers in creating a real life Dr. Octopus Suit.

Source: Instagram

In December 2018, Finman led Project da Vinci, for which a group of teenagers launched a satellite into space with a time capsule — Taylor Swift signed a copy of her "1989" album for the capsule.

The satellite was part of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program, which attracts and retains STEM students, and allows students to launch small satellites.

In addition to Taylor Swift, YouTuber Logan Paul also contributed a video for the time capsule.

Source: Instagram, Business Insider, NASA

In May 2019 Finman launched CoinBits, a Bitcoin investment tool.

Source: Cheddar

Metal Pay launched in August 2019 with Finman as an investor, and he's calling it "the Facebook Libra killer."

Yahoo Finance calls Metal Pay "a peer-to-peer payments startup."

"If it need it, I'm willing to put all my bitcoin money into this," Finman said in his announcement video. "I'm willing to bet it all."

"I'm not normally like an investor-type guy, but I just wanted to be a part of the team, and then just kind of do something together, and kind of f--- s--- up, if you will," Finman told Business Insider.

Source: Yahoo, Twitter

ANNOUNCEMENT: We're launching the Facebook Libra killer https://t.co/i0kpmiB8Xt

— ERIK FINMAN (@erikfinman) August 19, 2019

Finman currently holds 446 bitcoins — that's about $4.5 million, according to Tuesday's price.

Each bitcoin is currently worth about $10,075.

Finman has apartments in San Francisco and New York City, and he spends significant time in Los Angeles too.

Finman turns 21 in October, and he'll be spending his birthday in Las Vegas.

I was a kid from Idaho then:

At 12 - Bought Bitcoin at $10
At 15 - Dropped out & Moved to SF
At 17 - Sold my first Startup
At 18 - Became the youngest Bitcoin Millionaire
At 19 - Built a real life Dr. Octopus Suit
At 20 - We launched a Satellite

I'm not even 21. Just wait.

— ERIK FINMAN (@erikfinman) June 10, 2019

As for his next project, Finman says he's preparing to do something in the education space, which he'll announce soon.

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