I’m 18 and I just made my first million – here’s how I did it

He says he’s going to buy a gold and red Lamborghini

By the time Erik Finman turned 18 this year, he had made his first million dollars. Winning a bet with his parents that he wouldn’t have to go to college if his businesses and investments weren’t worth a million, he’s now turning his attention to becoming “a trillionaire.”

He started by dropping out of high school in Idaho (teachers and students used to “roast” him in class) and turned $1000 from his grandmother into $100,000 with Bitcoin.

Several years later and he moved to Silicon Valley – we spoke to the teen about fame, fortune and buying a Lamborghini in Iron Man colors.

Erik Finman

Erik Finman

What’s your advice for other teens who want to make a million?

It’s an important reminder that with everything you go through, you come out with a new set of skills that helps you. One of my favorite books is How to fail at almost everything and still win big. It’s the story of this guy who had all these spectacular failures. But with each failure, he learned a new set of skills. I know that guy now, he’s incredible.

Through everything, be hyper aware to make sure you’re learning and getting something out of it and that could be through college or side projects. One thing I do like about college is that society does allow you to do four years just to learn and be a student and make it your full time job. I learned a lot through side projects. Spend eight hours a day and make it your full time job just to learn and get as much knowledge as possible, and do as much reading as possible and finding mentors – that’s my advice at least.

Why were you against going to college?

The academics weren’t worth it for me. I learn a lot better through other things. I’d say that’s where all the people my age are, so I tend to hang out with people in their 50s and 60s – that’s fun and I learn from them. The upside is I learn the way I want to and I’m doing all these incredible things. The only downside is I don’t get to hang out with people my own age that often, which is sometimes a good and a bad thing.

Would you recommend what you’ve done to others?

I dropped out of high school at 15, and did the business and sold it at 16, 17. So people come up to me and say: “Hey Eric, what should I do? I’m not learning well. I’m not enjoying high school but I love doing these side projects, what should I do?” I recommend: “What I would do in your situation – and you know your life better than you – but I would drop out of high school, just as I did.” I just find high school and college and their academics a little bit outdated.

I usually recommend not participating too much in the education system. You can learn 100 times more and for free, all online. You’ll meet people and get real experience doing that. I know a bunch of employers who say they actively won’t hire someone who has a four-year college degree unless it’s maybe from Stanford or Harvard and maybe then I hear groans about that as well. In the sense that why would you spend four years of your life in education where it’s a lot of partying for a degree that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you know your topic that well anymore? It helps but it doesn’t always translate to the real world.

You’ve met employers who don’t like to hire people who go to university?

Yeah, yeah I have. And it depends what you get out of college. I’d say the average student that goes through college isn’t getting the most value out of it and they’d probably do better for four years doing a side project or investing their money. Even if it failed miserably, you’d still meet all these people in the industry and learn so much more than you ever could in school. And of course you need to go to college if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that. But yeah, I know a lot of CEOs who actively don’t hire people with university degrees and they hire people with four years’ more experience. It makes sense right? More real world experience.

School in Idaho sounded tough.

Yeah I’ve had some pretty terrible experiences in Idaho. One teacher told me to drop out and work in McDonald’s because I’d never amount to anything more in life, which was terrible. I had another teacher roast me for the full hour of class instead of teach. Some of the other students didn’t like me – a lot of them liked me but some did not, and they were the most vocal. Once they all got up and roasted me for a full hour instead of teaching. Not a wonderful learning environment and culture. But even then, I’ve had so many students come up to me and talk about even worse experiences.

I read an AMA you did on Reddit and saw some negative comments on there – do you tend to get a bit of hate from people online?

I think anyone doing anything that’s marginally successful gets a lot of haters but a lot of great supporters too. I find that I get a lot of wonderful support, I get all these emails. Some comments on that Reddit AMA, I said they just got buried because a lot of people downvoted them immediately so they weren’t seen. They were saying completely irrational things in a lot of ways – some of them had good points and I answered those points pretty well, but I think that’s just Reddit for you.

Anyone who has any success will get people who are jealous or will criticize that, unfortunately. Everyone criticizes good ideas and any kind of success. People criticized the Wright Brothers, people criticize Elon Musk. Even if what you’re doing is wrong, you should have a culture of motivating people and a culture of hoping that they’re successful. But I love Reddit, I love a lot of those Redditors. Sometimes there’s that mob mentality and if you have any kind of success this happens to everyone and you get haters here and there. But I’d say I have way more supporters than haters.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I’ll be doing such incredible stuff, I’m sure I’ll have built even more incredible technology. Maybe trillionaire status? Haha. Building cool technologies, having success in the marketplace with those technologies. And I really want to fix the education system, that is such a great passion of mine. I’d like to think I will have made a significant dent on fixing education and maybe a full takeover of the education system in 10 years. And I really mean that. I know that’s big and ambitious.

You’re going to take over the education system in 10 years?

Yeah repeal and replace, haha.

Have you made any exciting purchases yet?

All I’ll say is I’ve been test driving Lamborghinis at the Lamborghini lot. Iron Man is my favorite superhero so maybe I’ll get it in gold and hotrod red.

Conversation edited for clarity and length.