Three years ago Erik Finman made a bet with his parents. He had just dropped out of high school, finding it a waste of time, and was being taught at home. If he was a millionaire by the time he turned 18, his parents said, they would not force him to go to university.
Last week Mr Finman declared victory.
“I won the million dollar bet I had with my parents!” he announced on Tuesday. “Grateful to all the friends, family, and mentors along the way.”
The teenager’s story has captivated America, delighting people with its mix of childhood ambition, entrepreneurial skills and hard work. Mr Finman has been celebrated on news channels, and lauded in the tech community. For his story is little short of remarkable.
The tale began in 2011, when he was 12, and his grandmother gave him $1,000.
Mr Finman, whose parents Paul and Lorna met at Stanford University in the 1980s, when Paul was getting his PhD in electrical engineering and Lorna was getting hers in physics, took the cash and invested it in Bitcoin, following a tip from his brother Scott.
The Finman siblings, three brothers, admit to being fiendishly competitive. Erik describes his family as being the “Elon Musk version of the Kardashians” – both his older brothers work in tech and engineering, and the youngest Finman was frustrated by school.
“I was a failure by most metrics,” he has said of that time. “I wasn’t the most studious of teenagers, I played Call of Duty and I snuck in Grand Theft Auto so my parents didn’t see.
“My life was pretty average at that point. No matter how hard I tried, it was to no avail. I still got Cs, I still was afraid to talk my teachers who made my failures seem like a bad thing and I just wasn’t motivated.”
He claimed one of his teachers told him he would never amount to anything, so he should drop out of school and work at McDonald’s.
Perhaps surprisingly, his parents listened to his complaints and withdrew him from school, home schooling him in rural Idaho.
In 2013 Mr Finman cashed in the first of his bitcoin investments, when they were valued at $1,200 a piece. His $1,000 investment was now worth a hundred times his grandmother’s gift.
With the cash, the teenager launched an online education company called Botangle, which would allow frustrated students like him to find teachers over video chat. Before starting the company, he went to a Starbucks and offered to buy anyone a coffee if they would listen to his idea and give feedback – 20 people did.
Buoyed by the launch of his first company, he spread his wings and begun interning at Silicon Valley start-ups. At the age of 15, he moved to San Francisco.
Mr Finman now owns 403 bitcoins, which at the current rate of $2,700 a coin puts his bitcoin value at $1.09 million. He also has smaller investments in other cryptocurrencies, including litecoin and ethereum.
Despite the volatility of the virtual currency, he is hanging onto it – believing its value will continue to rise.
Mr Finman told NBC he is currently working on multiple projects, including with Nasa to launch a rocket through the ELaNa project,designed to attract and recruit students to their teams.
And he has no regrets about not going to university.
“The way the education system is structured now, I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.
“It doesn’t work for anyone.
“I would recommend the internet, which is all free. You can learn a million times more off YouTube and Wikipedia.”