Teenager made $99K with Bitcoins
15-Year-Old Makes $100,000 on Bitcoin, Launches Startup
When Erik Finman received $1,000 from his grandmother in 2012, he invested it in bitcoin, the then-obscure form of online currency. A year and a half later, he sold his investment for $100,000 and used the earnings to launch Botangle.com, an online tutoring service that runs on video chat.
That’s not bad for an entrepreneur who’s only 15 years old.
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The business now has more than 20 staffers (including programmers, designers and animators) and over a 100 active users. Although the user base is relatively small, the company attracted much buzz after Finman participated in a Reddit Q&A, offering tips for startups and answering questions about finding success with bitcoin.
“Some people can’t comprehend how a 15-year-old could do something like this,” Finman told Mashable. “What a lot of people don’t understand, young or old, is that you can create anything you want with no barrier to entry on the Internet.”
Botangle, which launched in May, allows users to video chat and learn about any subject from computer programming and dance lessons to art and French classes instructed from, say, someone in Paris. Lessons are specialized and one-on-one, so users can set up a schedule that works best for them.
Finman, who is from rural Idaho and calls the schools in his region “limited,” came up with the concept after wanting access to more classes not offered nearby.
“I read ‘Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed’ by Alexis Ohanian and it taught me that I could do anything through the Internet,” he said. “I wanted to use the beauty of the open and free web so people like myself can get access to a great learning experience; whether they’re from rural Idaho, New York or even Africa.”
But he said finding staffers who take both the business and himself seriously has presented a challenge.
“Whenever I interview a potential candidate for a job, I always ask if being part of a team with a 15-year-old bothers them,” he said. “Sometimes that’s the end of the conversation right there, and other times people lie — and that shows later on. It’s pretty easy to tell when it happens, but the team I have now are super supportive, and they don’t treat me any differently than anyone else.”
Finman says he typically pays his employees in bitcoin: “I’m sharing the wealth of bitcoin because I have no doubt it will be huger [sic] than anyone can imagine right now,” he said. “Bitcoin is like the Internet in the ’90s.”
But employees can choose what they want to charge for their lessons by the hour or minute. Finman currently earns 30% of that but said he’ll be dropping it to 15% royalty in the Botangle 2.0 update.
Finman may be young, but he’s had teaching and technology on the brain for years; in fact, he started teaching older kids in his neighborhood about robotics when he was 9. He’s been continuing his education through his own site too, specifically taking advantage of programming courses to compliment the classes he’s enrolled in at his local community college, North Idaho College.
“I plan to talk to them about providing an online learning system for their college,” he said
Although he’s clearly passionate about bringing education to more people through the Internet, he doesn’t have plans to get a college degree of his own. The higher schooler most recently switched to home schooling to focus on Botangle.
“I actually have a deal with my parents that if I make a million dollars before I turn 18, I don’t have to go to college,” he said. “I’m going to do it or die trying.”
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