When Erik Finman was 12 years old, he turned a $US1,000 gift from his grandmother — intended for his scholarship fund — into an investment in Bitcoin. This was in 2011, when the digital currency was still only worth $US12.
In 2014, when he was 15, Finman made a proposal to his parents: He would drop out of his suburban Idaho high school, where he was miserable, and sell $US100,000 worth of his bitcoin to start an educational technology company called Botangle. If he was a millionaire by age 18, his parents wouldn’t force him to go to college.
His parents, surprisingly, agreed, and Finman moved to Silicon Valley. Botangle led him to some adventures, including a meeting with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and a contentious exchange with an Uber board member; in 2015, he sold the company for another 300 bitcoin, bringing his holdings up to 403 coins.
This past June, bitcoin crossed $US2,700 per coin, putting the value of Finman’s holdings at just over $US1 million. At the time of writing, bitcoin’s value went up to around $US4,300, putting his net worth at about $US1.7 million. Now, at age 18, he’s fulfilled the bargain with his parents, and he’s not going back to school.
Next up for Finman, then, is a space experiment overseen by NASA: a satellite called Project Da Vinci, inspired by astronomer Carl Sagan’s famed Golden Record, that will serve as a time capsule orbiting the earth. Finman teamed up with students from a charter school in his home state of Idaho to bring the project to fruition.
Pop star Taylor Swift has even contributed a signed copy of her album “1989,” specifically for this project. Finman says that YouTube star Logan Paul, too, has already contributed a video to be stored in the capsule’s on-board memory, with more to come.
Now, before the satellite launches in the first quarter of 2018, Finman needs your help to catalogue human existence circa 2017. If you want to send a video into space, fill out the form here. And yes, Finman and his team will be vetting the videos for appropriate content.
Here’s a video, showing what Project Da Vinci is all about:
Going to space
The original Golden Record went up on the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes, serving as what Sagan called a “boottle” into the cosmic “ocean.” Those records contained sounds and images designed to accurately reflect life on Earth in 1977, when it was made, and intended to serve as either a message to aliens or a time capsule for humanity.
Finman, a life-long space enthusiast, says he jumped at the chance to participate in NASA’s ELaNa program, which allows universities to send up small satellites. And as a particular fan of Sagan’s work, he knew his project proposal could be a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Voyager missions.
“I love space so much,” says Finman. “I really think I’m gonna do big things in space.”
A new record
Where Sagan hand-curated media to send with Voyager, though, Finman wanted to open it up a little bit. He reached out to Swift, “an artist that represents today,” and YouTube stars like Paul. But he’s opening up submssions, letting anybody place a video into the capsule, in the interest of a more complete picture of modern life.
Still, where the original Golden Record was shot into deep space, the Da Vinci will stay in Earth’s orbit. So while the original Golden Record had an incredibly small chance of being viewed by aliens, “they’d have to come pretty close” to the planet to see Finman’s update.
Going forward, Finman says he has a strong interest in pursuing space entrepreneurship. One day, he says, maybe he’ll even get to compete with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, another of his personal heroes.
“I want to get to Mars,” says Finman. “Maybe one day, I’ll beat Elon.”
In the meantime, what’s it like to be a millionaire high school dropout with a budding career as a space entrepreneur?
Well, “that’s a great pickup line,” says Finman.
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