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