MIT student bitcoin airdrop would have netted millions of dollars

A computer science student at MIT decided in 2014 to do a bitcoin airdrop. The idea was to give each Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student $100 in bitcoin.

Seven months later – armed with half a million dollars in donations from alumni and bitcoin enthusiasts – Rubin offered to do just that, and 3,108 students accepted.

At the time, 1 bitcoin cost $336, much less than the current $40,000. If all recipients of this free bitcoin had saved their bitcoins, the “MIT Airdrop” collective would be $44.1 million richer at today’s prices.

Many cashed their bitcoins

Not everyone got richer, though. According to researchers who tracked the fate of these bitcoins, 1 in 10 cashed out in the first two weeks. At the end of the experiment in 2017, 1 in 4 had drawn.

One of the people who drew on its resources was Van Phu, now a software engineer and co-founder of the exchange Floating Point Group. “One of the worst things and one of the best things about MIT is this restaurant called Thelonious Monkfish,” Phu told CNBC. “I spent a lot of my crypto buying sushi.”

Quant trader Sam Trabucco, who also participated in the experiment, estimated that half of the people he knew spent their withdrawals shopping at this restaurant.
“It was the only restaurant in Cambridge that accepted bitcoin at the time, and it was a very popular place,” he said. Since then, the restaurant has changed its name and withdrawn its bitcoin payment policy.

The MIT airdrop

Jeremy Rubin decided to distribute bitcoins amid a court dispute by the New Jersey attorney general, who accused him of being a “radical cyber criminal” who was “installing malware on people’s computers.” At the time, Rubin had launched a bitcoin mining program called Tidbit. The project had just won an innovation award at a local hackathon known as Node Knockout, and Rubin, then CEO of the bitcoin R&D lab Judica, was proud of his project.

The idea, according to him, was to spread bitcoin more and spread its technology.

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