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Olaf Carlson-Wee, the first employee of Coinbase, the world’s second largest wallet platform and a major digital currency exchange operator, once allocated the vast majority of his life savings into bitcoin.

As an undergraduate, Carlson-Wee spent most of his time investigating into bitcoin. In 2011, when he first discovered bitcoin and decided to write an undergraduate thesis on the digital currency, bitcoin price plunged from $17 to $2. As expected, Carlson-Wee’s professor requested him to drop his topic on bitcoin, as it was shaping up to become a failed currency.

In a podcast hosted by Forbes, Carlson-Wee revealed that he sent his original undergraduate thesis on bitcoin to Coinbase, where he secured his first job as a customer support representative. Despite the ambiguity in regulation and development, Carlson-Wee continued to study bitcoin as a technology and as a financial network. At Coinbase, he pursued his study on bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Early adopters of digital currencies including bitcoin are greatly appreciated and respected by the bitcoin community because they voiced their support toward digital currencies like bitcoin regardless of the criticisms from industry and market leaders.

2011 was the year most bitcoin early adopters joined in. Prominent bitcoin investors including Roger Ver who established the core infrastructure for startups like Blockchain, Kraken, Bitstamp and Bitpay to transform themselves into key players within the bitcoin industry essentially led the growth of the bitcoin.


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At the time, investors like Ver and researchers such as Carlson-Wee had to overcome non-factual criticisms on bitcoin by conventional financial analysts and bankers who felt threatened by the technology. Economists called bitcoin a pyramid scheme and a fraudulent scam designed to steal money from its investors. Their reputation and following granted them credibility and the general public grew skeptical toward bitcoin as a legitimate currency.

Yet, Carlson-Wee allocated most of his life savings into bitcoin while playing a vital role in growing Coinbase into a 250,000 user platform from scratch. Coinbase only hired Carlson-Wee at the time to oversee all customer support requests and the majority of those requests were highly technical.

Until 2013, the bitcoin exchange market was very underdeveloped. People like Carlson-Wee literally had to deposit money into the bank accounts of bitcoin holders to purchase the digital currency directly. A method that is similar to today’s LocalBitcoins wherein users find bitcoin buyers and sellers within a peer to peer network to trade the digital currency directly with each other, with the absence of mediators or network administrators.

After allocating most, if not all of his savings into bitcoin and ether, Carlson-Wee gained publicity for becoming the first person within the digital currency industry to live solely on bitcoin for three straight years, without using cash or any form of financial tools during that time period.

Recently, Carlson-Wee ended his journey at Coinbase and began his own venture Polychain Capital, a digital asset hedge fund invested by reputable US-based venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and USV. Polychain Capital handles US$15 million in digital assets, investing in digital currencies such as bitcoin and ether to make profit off their volatility, gains and losses.

“Polychain manages a hedge fund that invests exclusively in digital assets. We invest exclusively in protocols, not companies, and we do this by investing in things made scarce through the blockchain,” said Carlson-Wee.

Image from Shutterstock.

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Posted by Joseph Young