Erik Finman was 12 years old when he bought $1,000 worth of Bitcoin in the summer of 2011. The world’s first digital currency was just two years old and trading for $10, a time when most folks, if they knew about Bitcoin at all, associated it with the dark web drug trade or its fringe fanbase of libertarians, anarchists, and cypherpunks.
A month before he made the purchase, he’d cut a deal with his parents. If he could turn a $1,000 gift from his grandmother into $1 million, he wouldn’t have to attend university. By 2017, he’d won the agreement.
This lucrative decision would give the Idaho native a financial autonomy unfathomable to most teenagers. He dropped out of high school at age 15 to move to San Francisco and found an online education startup, Botangle (which he later sold and then bought back); he also spent his energy on a couple of pet projects, including a Doctor Octopus-inspired robotic tentacle suit and launching a satellite containing pop culture memorabilia from Earth.
As one might expect, the something-of-a-wunderkind’s sudden riches, business stunts, and cocksure-dropout attitude have resulted in a viral notoriety for the young entrepreneur. And he’s drunk the kool-aid of his own internet fame, often hamming up his success on Twitter.
“I’m not even 21. Just wait,” his pinned tweet from June 10 reads.
Well, the “wait” is apparently over. The world’s youngest Bitcoin millionaire recently announced his next big thing: He’s dumping all of his Bitcoin holdings into Metal, a cryptocurrency that launched an ICO in 2017.
“I’m willing to stake it all on Metal,” he told me in an interview. “I’m converting all my crypto money into this coin.”
Metal (MTL) is the token behind Metal Pay, a wallet that lets users store multiple coins and exchange them for USD seamlessly. Finman bills it as “an all-in-one” application for cryptocurrencies. The Venmo-like app lets its users send dollars to each other and earn MTL for their activity on the app (those reward tokens come out of the app’s “PoPP pool,” a trove of 26,000,000 tokens that represents a little over a third of the entire MTL supply).
“It makes crypto sexy,” Finman said, speaking of the application’s sleek design.
It was Metal’s attractive design and founder/CEO Marshall Hayner’s drive to make crypto “sexier” to the public, that turned Finman on to the project. After liaising on Twitter, the two sat down to a six-hour business dinner in June, and Finman left feeling that the encounter had “rekindled [his] love for cryptocurrency.” He had agreed to convert his entire crypto portfolio into MTL tokens and to announce his investment on August 19, the same day Metal Pay finally graduated from beta testing.
Finman told me yesterday that he’s already put “a good amount” of funds into MTL but that he still has 446 Bitcoin (worth about $4.5 million right now), which he plans to move into MTL incrementally. He justified drawing out the process by saying “one big off pump” would create price hype and disrupt any “actual grassroots support” for the platform.
Finman has also taken on a role at the company, although his bio on Metal Pay’s website doesn’t include a job title, so it’s not clear what his function is. “I don’t believe in titles,” he told me. “Just last night I was working on product. I was helping with hiring two days ago. Other times, I’m making videos about announcements. I’m working on anything I physically can because, as you know, we have big goals to say the least.”
Big goals indeed. Finman has boasted that Metal Pay will beat out Libra, Facebook’s ideation on digital currency, and he’s even gone so far as to say that Metal will replace Bitcoin.
“Yeah, these are bold claims,” he told me in an interview Friday. “I thought 10 years ago we’d be a lot further along in the blockchain space [by now].” He sees Metal Pay as the killer app that will finally make cryptocurrency “usable for normal people.”
“I like to say we have dragon energy. I feel like the momentum is here. I’ve really never seen momentum like this happen so quickly, so fast, and even more to come. … We were the number one in trading volume and price gain on Binance yesterday.”
The Metal token enjoyed a $40 to $60 million 24-hour trading volume in the days following Finman’s announcement. For most of July and August, the token was clocking anywhere from $300,000 to a few million dollars in daily trading (save a spike of about $18 million a few days before the announcement). The increased trading activity has bumped the price up to $0.40, nearly double its price a week ago. Like most so-called altcoins in the crypto market, this is a far cry from its all time high (~$13) at the peak of the 2017 market mania.
Also, like most altcoins, MTL’s liquidity is thin — even the numbers Finman cites likely have faked volume. (His numbers come from CoinMarketCap, which features exchanges known to spoof volume.) Messari provides what is likely a more accurate data feed, though even this volume might not be completely spot on. Messari, for example, only takes data from three of MTL’s markets because the others don’t meet its standards for data transparency and accuracy; CoinMarketCap lists 18, causing about a $1 million spread between the two.
All of that to say, with MTL’s market cap hovering around $19 million (Bitcoin’s, for comparison, is about $185 billion), it wouldn’t take much to double its price. In fact, MTL’s price has been so flatlined of late that this week’s surge caused barely a blip on its chart.
I asked Finman what he thinks about the price increase, and more pointedly, if this runup was the result of his own buying or of crypto enthusiasts chasing his investment — or both. He said, “I guess people see me and see me backing it and see me believing in it, and seeing the product itself. I think the product really speaks for itself with how beautiful it is.”
Beautiful or not, the MTL token is struggling to find users. Sure, Metal Pay, the wallet, is sleek and functional, and according to Hayner it has 30,000 users who send dollars or exchange cryptocurrencies on the platform (available only on iOS devices; Metal Pay has 2.8k ratings for an average of 4.3 stars on Apple’s App Store). But the token itself has little practical utility. For now, its primary use case is as a rewards’ system to encourage people to use the app. A less accessible, secondary use case allows users who stake a heap of tokens on their Metal Pay wallet to receive zero-fee trading privileges on the platform.
And Metal doesn’t even have its own blockchain; instead, it runs on the Ethereum chain, although Finman told me that “it won’t for long.” He wouldn’t give more specifics.
So is Metal going to be as hot as Finman thinks it is? Well, it’s clear that Finman’s contributions so far have given the project’s token price a boost. But as for how long the rally lasts and where the token goes from here, well, we’ll see how long the project can run on dragon energy.