In 2014, two IT students, Dan Elitzer and Jeremy Rubin, awarded $ 100 worth of BTC to thousands of MIT students. After Rubin and Elitzer left MIT, they continued to work in the cryptocurrency space. Later, some students who had owned BTC for more than six years explained that they had seen significant gains.
MIT’s Bitcoin Project allowed all college students on campus to claim fractional ownership of a Bitcoin, free of charge. Mary Spanjers, as noted in Bloomberg, requested to participate in the study (and, therefore, receive her bit of Bitcoin), along with 3,100 other students: each student had to complete a questionnaire and review an educational brochure, then they set up one digital wallet with 100 dollars in bitcoins.
Mary Spanjers said that many students said it was just a joke. “It’s really extraordinary,” Spanjers detailed in an interview. “Most of us thought it was a little joke.”
They spent their Bitcoins on pizza and sushi
1 in 10 was cashed in the first 2 weeks, and 1 in 4 had already decided to sell their cryptocurrencies when the experiment ended in 2017, Christian Catalini, an associate professor at MIT who supervised the study, told Bloomberg. “It dropped from $ 100 to $ 50 shortly after the study started, and a lot of people got scared and bought pizza.”
In this regard, Van Phu, now a software engineer and co-founder of the crypto broker Floating Point Group, is still berating himself for spending much of his bitcoins on sushi.
“One of the worst things and one of the best at MIT is this restaurant called Thelonious Rape,” said Phu. “I spent a lot of my crypto buying sushi.”
Phu wasn’t the only one to hemorrhage his virtual currencies at this campus food place.
“It was the only restaurant in Cambridge accepting bitcoins at the time, and it was quite a popular place,” he said. The restaurant has since changed its name and withdrew its bitcoin payment policy.
Quantitative trader Sam Trabucco, who also participated in the experiment, estimated that half of the people he knew spent their cryptocurrencies on fish.
The creators of the MIT BTC Project have companies related to cryptocurrencies
The MIT experiment was created by Dan Elitzer, then an MBA student who had just founded the school’s Bitcoin Club, and Jeremy Rubin, a Computer Science student. The goal was “to take a look into the future and see where this technology could go,” Elitzer told Bloomberg. Currently, he runs cryptocurrency investment firm Nascent, while Rubin is the CEO of Judica Inc, a bitcoin research and implementation organization. Professor Catalini co-created Facebook’s Diem cryptocurrency, formerly Libra.
Spanjers anticipated that he has no plans to sell Bitcoin in the short term – he’s curious to see how far the investment could go and if the cryptocurrency will ever be used as a form of payment more expansively.
“It’s a bit like when you go to the casino and they give you $ 20 free, you use it to play.” Mind you, he acknowledges that if his third of Bitcoin ever grows to more than MIT’s tuition price, he would consider selling. “It would be like saying: ‘MIT paid itself,” he ironically.
Phu, Rubin and Trabucco declined to share how much they saved and how many cryptocurrencies they have accumulated since their days on campus.