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A Bunch of MIT Students Got $100 of Free Bitcoin in 2014 – Some Wasted It on Sushi

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Dan Elitzer and Jeremy Rubin

Dan Elitzer and Jeremy Rubin rolled out the 'MIT Bitcoin Project' in 2014.

Credit: Christopher A. Maynor

In 2014, MIT computer science student Jeremy Rubin offered all undergraduate students on campus $100 worth of bitcoin. Armed with half a million dollars in donations from alumni and bitcoin enthusiasts, 3,108 undergraduates or 70 percent of the student body participated in the free bitcoin giveaway.

Some ended up wasting their coin at a sushi restaurant. "It was the only restaurant in Cambridge that was accepting bitcoin at the time, and it was a pretty popular spot," says quantitative trader Sam Trabucco, who took part in the experiment. Others launched side hustles helping classmates set up crypto wallets.

Researchers tracing the project say that 1 in 10 cashed out in the first two weeks. By the end of the experiment in 2017, 1 in 4 had cashed out. Had all recipients of the free bitcoin let their crypto wallets sit idle, the collective would have been $44.1 million richer by today's prices.

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