Amer­i­can plans to open a univer­sity in Dubai

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - NOOR NANJI Lon­don

A teenage Bit­coin in­vestor who turned US$1,000 into more than $5 mil­lion is turn­ing his sights on Dubai.

Amer­i­can Erik Fin­man, 19, from Idaho, in­vested in the cryp­tocur­rency in May 2011 at the age of 12 af­ter his grand­mother gave him $1,000.

Back then a Bit­coin cost only $12. He owns 401 Bit­coins to­day, which at the cur­rent value of $14,000 a coin gives him a net worth of $5.6 mil­lion.

Erik has am­bi­tious plans to in­vest part of that into open­ing a univer­sity in Dubai, which he says will be “two times bet­ter than Stan­ford”, the in­sti­tute where both his par­ents gained their PhDs.

“I want to start the school of all schools in Dubai,” he says. “It will be the best on the planet, world-renowned, be­cause I know Dubai likes the best.”

Erik has vis­ited Dubai reg­u­larly and his fam­ily runs on­line teach­ing train­ing in the UAE un­der the Stem Rev­o­lu­tion brand.

It uses the tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped through an on­line ed­u­ca­tion start-up called Botan­gle that Erik launched in 2014, us­ing the $100,000 he made through sell­ing his first Bit­coin in­vest­ments.

But Erik has plans to build a cam­pus in Dubai, which he says will be “a very big and beau­ti­ful cam­pus, with a mod­ern de­sign”.

His whole fam­ily is in­volved in the project, which they hope to launch in the next three years or sooner.

“My brothers went to MIT and Johns Hop­kins. My par­ents met do­ing their PhDs at Stan­ford and I have the en­tre­pre­neur­ial side with my ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning an ed­u­ca­tion com­pany,” Erik says.

“So it’s re­ally been a fam­ily project. We want to bring that com­bined Stan­ford, MIT and start-up magic to Dubai.”

While he also con­sid­ered Sin­ga­pore and San Fran­cisco for the univer­sity, Erik is most ea­ger about Dubai be­cause he be­lieves it has “over­taken New York to be­come the most in­ter­na­tional city in the world”.

“Dubai has re­ally be­come the cen­tre of the world,” Erik says. “It al­ready has the tallest build­ing, it al­ready has the big­gest malls – I think it de­serves to have the best ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in the world too, and I know that fits a lot of their goals.”

Satel­lite cam­puses could be set up in other cities at a later date, “but I re­ally want to put the flag­ship one in Dubai”.

Erik’s pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion is partly rooted in the fact that he was failed by the sys­tem.

“I had a mis­er­able school ex­pe­ri­ence; I didn’t en­joy it at all,” he says.

“One of my teach­ers even told me to drop out and go work for McDon­ald’s as I’d never amount to any­thing more in life. I guess I did the dropout thing.”

Erik made a deal with his par­ents that if he was a mil­lion­aire by the time he was 18, they would not force him to go to col­lege.

His Bit­coin in­vest­ments and for­ays into var­i­ous start-ups helped to en­sure he achieved that goal.

But even though Erik thinks col­lege is a waste of time, he is com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to help frus­trated stu­dents, and he thinks the UAE is the per­fect place to base his project.

Apart from plan­ning his ed­u­ca­tion em­pire and his Bit­coin in­vest­ments, Erik spends his time work­ing with Nasa to launch a Tay­lor Swift CD into space. That project is also fu­elled by his de­sire to mo­ti­vate and in­spire pupils.

“We need to get more peo­ple talk­ing about space,” he says.

Is Erik wor­ried about the re­cent volatil­ity in Bit­coin’s price? The sim­ple an­swer is: “Ab­so­lutely not. For my own san­ity, I don’t check the price that of­ten any more. It changes all the time.

“But I think Bit­coin def­i­nitely has more to go and I think cryp­tocur­rency as a whole has a lot more to go. It’s the next big thing.

“The only way you can take down Bit­coin is not through its own do­ing, but if you make some bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to it.

“What­ever the win­ning cryp­tocur­rency is – and right now that’s Bit­coin – it will get to mil­lions of dol­lars a coin.”

Erik has vis­ited Dubai reg­u­larly and his fam­ily runs on­line teach­ing train­ing un­der the Stem Rev­o­lu­tion brand

Erik Fin­man

Teenager Erik Fin­man, from Idaho, US, wants to open ‘the world’s best univer­sity’ in Dubai

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