Erik Finman gained notoriety and a certain fame as a 14-year-old entrepreneur and bitcoin investor who’d managed to turn a $1,000 investment in the cryptocurrency into more than a million dollars and a chance to never see the inside of a college institution.
Hailing from the small town of Post Falls, Idaho, Finman, the son of two Stanford-educated engineers whose small business sells big technology to the Defense Department, was a kid who never took to public education.
Unlike his brothers, Ross and Scott, the youngest Finman didn’t respond to his parents curriculum of home-schooling and entrepreneurship and decided that a public education would be his way out into the wider world beyond the outskirts of a Coeur d’Alene exurb (if Coeur d’Alene can have an exurb).
Unfortunately, the public school system proved to be equally as ineffective as home-schooling for the young Finman, and at the tender age of 15 he had already turned on to bitcoin, tuned in to its wealth-creating allure and essentially dropped out.
He began making the tech-media speaking circuit discussing his rise to fame (and some fortune) through his bitcoin investments and his startup ideas.
Botangle, the first startup Finman launched, had as many as 20 developers around the world working on it, and is what provided his entrée into the semi-rarified world of hucksters, hipsters, self-promoters, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors and the internet-famous that comprise the TED-talk-circus-circuit.
The company was born from Finman’s early (and only) experiences in schooling, where he was unmotivated, uninspired and underwhelmed by his teachers.
His solution was to create a search service for students like him, who were looking for inspiration and weren’t finding it in their own schools. Indeed, one of Finman’s early teachers told him he would end up working at McDonald’s.
(According to a profile in New York Magazine, that same teacher got an email with a “Look at me now, bitch!” header from Finman after his bitcoin-based success.)
Botangle was acquired by another bitcoin millionaire from Finman’s hometown — one whose concerns over a government crackdown on the currency has led the individual to keep his identity off the record.
Now, several years after its sale, Finman is buying back his original startup. In the intervening years, Finman has set up shop in Los Angeles, bought a Lamborghini (as one does in Los Angeles) and is casting about for his next big thing.
In the meantime, he’s returning to the educational mission that gave his early (earlier?) entrepreneurial years purpose — education.
The idea is that an open-sourced Botangle can let anyone create an online school for their own interests.
“My real life goal is to fix the education system,” Finman writes. “And the reason I created Botangle was because of my own personal negative experiences.”
For Finman, it wasn’t his aptitude, it was the environment. “I wasn’t doing very well academically, honestly, so I went to a summer program to prep for the next year. There, I had one teacher who helped me to love hardcore physics… I realized that when I had the right teacher, I could not just love learning but be extremely competent in a particular subject.”