MIT Students Who Got “Free BTC” Are Singing the Blues

Some people sold, some people held: the experiment reveals its results

students bitcoin experiment
  • MIT students who participated in a BTC experiment received one-third of a BTC in 2014 – worth, at the time, $100.
  • The MIT study aimed to demonstrate how Bitcoin could serve as an investment opportunity.
  • The participants would have yielded returns of 13,000% by mid-April this year when BTC reached its all-time high of $64,500.

MIT, a research university renowned for its affinity for developing technologies, carried out a study on cryptocurrency in 2014 where students could receive $100 worth of BTC after completing a long survey. The researchers gave away a total of $500,000 worth of BTC to undergraduate students.

MIT Students Get to Grips with Bitcoin

According to a Bloomberg report, the MIT Bitcoin study was performed by Dan Elitzer and Jeremy Rubin, who attempted to “take a glimpse into the future.”

The campus transformed into a global hub for digital assets, with enterprises accepting Bitcoin, and installing BTC ATMs. A 2016 Boston Globe headline illustrated, “Bitcoin Doesn’t Gain Much Currency at MIT,” as low interest.

Mary Spanjers, who participated in the MIT study, told Bloomberg that she still has her BTC “tucked away,” However, there are no full reports as to how many undergraduate students who were part of the experiment in their 20s are still HODL.

She highlighted that one-third of Bitcoin could have netted her $20,000 before the market dip in May. Additionally, the $500,000 worth of Bitcoin gifted to students would similarly have been worth over $60 million.

According to May, participating students saw the initiative as “…a bit of a joke,” with some selling their free BTC before buying more. Erik Pinos, who currently works at Ontology, emphatically states that he is “all about cryptocurrencies,” as he maintains 100% of his Bitcoin savings.

On the Flipside

  • The price of Bitcoin reached $713 in June 2016, and a further $1071 in January 2017, which could have tempted people to sell or spend their BTC at a profit.
  • Many of the participants are still involved with blockchain or cryptocurrency in some capacity even after graduating.
  • Bitcoin proved that it could be used as a unit of exchange in 2014 and 2015 as companies were willing to accept it as payment.
  • The sharp shift has altered Bitcoin’s use case from a currency, to a store of value.

People Sold and People Held

Christian Catalini, who oversaw the study, revealed that 1 in 10 people cashed out early within the first two weeks, while 1 in 4 people took the profits when the experiment ended in 2017. On December 18th of the same year, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $19,834.93.

Similarly to how one person spent 10,000 BTC on a pizza, study participants also reportedly spent their newfound money on food and other commodities. According to Bloomberg’s report, students bought “a mango smoothie, new shoes, pizza, beer” while also considering whether to buy a $49 burrito.

Participants have argued their reasoning by claiming that they have no regrets about spending, what was to them, “free money.” Sam Udotong, who created Fireflies, a food delivery app, allowed students to pay for his service with Bitcoin, netting him $3 to $4 worth of BTC per delivery at the time. In 2021, his profits would have been as much as $300 – $400 per delivery, had he not spent his earnings at a sushi restaurant that accepted Bitcoin.

Bitcoin As A Mainstream Ideal

Some were musing the premise of Bitcoin as a store of value even during the 2014 study. Mary Spanjers reportedly still has her free Bitcoin, keeping it tucked away. Other participants “lost access to the wallet,” or can no longer sign in to their email addresses.

The Boston Globe reported on the study of bringing Bitcoin closer to mass adoption in 2014 as a novel project, however, only “14%” were still using BTC when the experiment ended. In 2014, a Forbes author also posed the idea of living on Bitcoin for a week. While at that time Bitcoin was largely regarded as a form of payment, perception has swayed closer towards Bitcoin as a store of value in recent years.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Vlad Hatze

Social media fanatic and cryptocurrency enthusiast with a 10x mindset. working with ICO’s and upcoming blockchain project. Worked with ICO’s before the first cryptocurrency boom in 2017 and still HODL-ing. Creative content writer with a passion for electronic music, Instagram and cryptocurrencies