In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the 1940s Christmas classic, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is the guiding force of a small-town bank, who ends up sacrificing his own dreams for the betterment of his community.
Ultimately, facing financial ruin, he begins to question what it was all for. That is when his friends appear, one by one, with a flurry of donations, reminding him of how he touched each and every one of their lives, and Bailey realizes he is a rich man after all.
Bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos recently found himself at the center of a similar outpouring of gratitude. The author and public speaker has spent the last five years of his life traversing the globe and educating people about Bitcoin. But, as it turns out, he hadn’t exactly made himself rich along the way.
WIth the price of bitcoin soaring into the $16,000s, a grateful community has decided to give Antonopoulos’s fortunes a karmic boost. A spontaneous giving spree, fueled by social media, is under way. Thus far, more than 100 BTC, valued at over $1.7 million has been sent to his bitcoin address. One individual alone sent an eye-popping 37 BTC, worth $500,000. (Update: That same individual added another 42 BTC, making for a total of 79 BTC: worth well over $1,000,000.)
Along with the money, people are tweeting under the hashtag #ThankYouAndreas and reminding Antonopoulos of the many ways he made a difference in their lives.
Never a Rich Man
Antonopoulos became involved with Bitcoin in 2012. He has written two books on the subject, describing in detail the technical rules governing Bitcoin in a way that a novice could understand, and has given more than 200 talks (many of them free) about Bitcoin.
It is easy to imagine that someone who knows so much about Bitcoin might have found a way to profit from it. A small investment in the virtual currency five years ago, when bitcoin was at around $6, would have netted the Bitcoin writer a humongous profit. (Bitcoin is currently listed at $16,000.) But Antonopoulos wasn’t really a speculator.
Indeed, as investor Roger Ver pointed out in one of his tweets, if Antonopoulos had put more money into bitcoin early on, he would have been a lot better off financially.
But Antonopoulos was too busy, too obsessed with spreading his vision of a world free from the strictures of legacy banks and payment systems. He wanted people to understand the technology and to appreciate its promise.
That early obsession, as he described in a recent blog post, led him to undo a lifetime of savings and eventually fall into credit card debt as he tumbled down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. He lived paycheck to paycheck for years until becoming debt-free at the end of 2016. Those bitcoins he’d collected and earned had to be cashed out along the way to support him and his family.
I did invest, Roger. Then I sold in 2013 to pay my rent. I didn’t have disposable income to work for two years without pay and invest at the same time. I should’ve gone into more debt, but that would have been irresponsible towards my family who I supported
— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) December 5, 2017
Because most people were not aware of Antonopoulos’s earlier struggles, some were puzzled when he recently began putting videos of his talks on Patreon, a membership platform that allows users to collect monthly subscription fees for services.
“I’m not a bitcoin millionnaire [sic],” Antonopoulos responded to one follower on Twitter. “My supporters on Patreon, many at $5/month, make it possible for me to work with independence.”
Developer Adam Back quickly responded with the suggestion that “if ‘sign guy’ can get a meaningful start from tips, we should try [to] find a way for the community to fund @aantonop to a hodlers position.” And the community agreed.
Shortly thereafter, his number of Patreon supporters began to rise, and donations started to pour into Antonopoulos’s bitcoin address.
In addition to the funds that accumulated, accolades began to pour in from supporters far and wide on Twitter, Reddit and Patreon. Many credit him for getting them into Bitcoin in the first place, for helping them to understand it and for inspiring them to pursue careers in the space.
“I don’t know anyone as authentic, well-intentioned and universally respected in the industry,” wrote entrepreneur Ryan Selkis in a tweet.
“@aantonop is by far the BEST advocate and most eloquent speaker on #bitcoin. His speeches had a HUGE influence on me,” wrote investor and author Brian Kelly.
“The community raised over $700,000 worth of Bitcoin in a matter of hours for Andreas from all over the world, which beautifully shows the power of Bitcoin itself, actually,” wrote Erik Voorhees, CEO at cryptocurrency exchange ShapeShift.
For Antonopoulos, the outpouring of support has been no less than overwhelming.
“I am going offline for a few days. I need time to process everything that happened,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “If you sent me a message in the last 48 hrs, thank you. If I don’t respond for a week or so, I apologize.”