In 2014, Dan Elitzer MBA ’15 and Jeremy Rubin ’16, a computer science major, distributed $100 in Bitcoin to thousands of undergraduates who signed up for the MIT Bitcoin Project. So what happened to all that cryptocurrency?
While Elitzer and Rubin have moved on from MIT—they are still involved in the Bitcoin sector, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe—the experiment continues to be tracked by its faculty advisor, Christian Catalini, the Fred Kayne Career Development Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management. Funded largely by MIT alumni, the project’s aim was to monitor how students would use Bitcoin, as well as to encourage innovative applications, offering prizes in such categories as “Next Billion” (focused on developing nations) and the self-explanatory “Awesome Award.” Merchants near campus, including the MIT COOP, began accepting Bicoin.
So far, however, findings don’t bode well for a Bitcoin revolution: two out of five students quickly traded the currency in for cash; only 14% are still actively using it.
According to the Globe, “Even though it hasn’t caught on, MIT is still learning from the Bitcoin project and collecting data on how consumers adopt and use new technology… And the Bitcoin project has also drawn attention to the technology behind the digital currency, with more MIT students now focusing their research on the blockchain technology that underlies Bitcoin.”