The hell year that is 2020 has wreaked havoc on life as we know it. But you know what it’s been good for? Bitcoin.
The cryptocurrency has been soaring, hitting a high of over $20,000 per coin this week. There is now more than $350 billion worth of Bitcoin in the world, an incredible appreciation for a virtual money that was worth basically nothing a decade ago.
It’s a great time to be a longtime owner of the currency, and a painful time to be a person who once spent 10.354 Bitcoin (including tip) on a dinner for strangers. Yes, that person is me.
Back in May 2013, I spent in one night what would be worth approximately $200,000 today on raw fish and shrimp tempura rolls for people I had just met. I was a reporter at Forbes magazine at the time covering technology and privacy. Bitcoin had come on my radar as a privacy-protective technology allowing people to make anonymous online purchases, kind of like paying cash in the real world. (Except it involves a huge public digital ledger that never goes away.)
The digital money was invented in 2009 by a mysterious math enthusiast who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. By 2013, the value of a single Bitcoin had climbed to over $100, thanks in part to its popularity on online black markets like the virtual drug bazaar Silk Road (which was obviously very illegal and was later shut down by the federal authorities).
Techies, entrepreneurs, investors and economists were starting to get excited about Bitcoin, so I decided to try to live on the currency for a week to find out how valuable it was in the real world.
I bought a bunch of Bitcoin for $136 dollars each on a site called Coinbase and tried to find ways to spend them. There weren’t many places that knew what Bitcoin was, much less accepted it for purchases, but because I lived in the tech mecca of San Francisco at the time, I did have a couple options, including a cupcake shop and a sushi restaurant called Sake Zone.
Still, the week living on Bitcoin was hard: I had to move out of my apartment into a hacker hotel that was still under construction. I lost five pounds, both because of the limited food options and because my only transportation options were walking or riding a bike that a friend rented to me for half a Bitcoin. And I was constantly caffeine deprived because I couldn’t find anywhere selling coffee for cryptocurrency.
On the last night of my experiment, a Monday, I decided to celebrate the week’s end by throwing a dinner at Sake Zone with my remaining crypto-stash. I extended an open invitation on Meetup and to a community of Bitcoin enthusiasts on Reddit.
I had called the restaurant’s owner, Yung Chen, beforehand to make sure it would be OK to do a group dinner and pay for it in Bitcoin. I had told him it would likely be 15 people or so.
But when I got to the tiny restaurant on Clement Street in the Richmond District, there were already two dozen people outside. Then more than 60. As I wrote at the time, it was “a wild cast of…
Read more:My $200,000 Sushi Dinner