Minn. native's Bitcoin brilliance propels him onto prestigious Forbes '30 under 30' list
MOORHEAD, Minn.—Olaf Carlson-Wee is a 28-year-old, San Francisco-based cryptocurrency hedge fund founder and CEO. He's also the Head of Risk and Product Manager of Coinbase, one of the most well-known digital currency exchanges in the world. For all intents and purposes, Carlson-Wee is the Wolf of Crypto Street.
Carlson-Wee, a Moorhead, Minn. native, was recently named to Forbes' 2018 "30 under 30" list in the category of "finance." This marks the sixth time that Carlson-Wee has been featured in Forbes Magazine. To reiterate, he's only 28.
A Forbes article published Jan. 7, 2016 titled, "This Man Has Been Living On Bitcoin For 3 Years" profiled Carlson-Wee as a Bitcoin hoarder who treated the digital currency as his "default" currency of choice. In 2013, when Carlson-Wee began to live only off of Bitcoin, an individual Bitcoin was worth approximately $20 to $30. As of Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 19, one Bitcoin is equal to $17,916.19.
"I pay my roommate who pays our rent in dollars," Carlson-Wee said in the 2016 Forbes article. "If I'm out at a restaurant, I'll have a friend foot the bill, and then I'll pay them in Bitcoin."
According to a July 10, 2017 Forbes article titled, "The Emperor's New Coins: How Initial Coin Offerings Fueled A $100 Billion Crypto Bubble," Carlson-Wee's Bitcoin bonanza all started on a Minnesota lake while on summer break from college in 2011.
Carlson-Wee, who in his youth was obsessed with math, games and imaginary worlds, was drawn to Bitcoin after reading about the underground drug marketplace called "Silk Road" and how it was all enabled by Bitcoin, according to the Forbes article.
With $700 in savings in the bank, Carlson-Wee eventually invested all of it into Bitcoin, at prices as high as $16 per Bitcoin, only to see it eventually sink to $2.
Undismayed by the loss, Carlson-Wee would eventually persuade his sociology professors at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to let him write his senior thesis on Bitcoin. Carlson-Wee would eventually go on to graduate from Vassar College in 2011 with a degree in sociology.
Upon graduation, Carlson-Wee took a job as a lumberjack in Washington State, according to the Forbes article. It wouldn't last long.
Desperately searching for a way into the cryptocurrency industry, Carlson-Wee emailed his college thesis to Coinbase, the digital currency exchange he is now Head of Risk for. In 2012, Carlson-Wee would become the company's first-ever employee, tasked with managing customer service. There was only one request: that he be paid his $50,000 annual salary in Bitcoin. Carlson-Wee would eventually work himself up the corporate ladder, reaching his current position with Coinbase as Head of Risk and Product Manager.
Then, in Sept., 2016, at age 26, Carlson-Wee would go on to launch his own crypto-only hedge fund, Polychain Capital.
Today, Carlson-Wee has grown Polychain Capital from $4 million in assets to $300 million in recent months. The growth of the hedge fund was fueled by a vast portfolio of tokens with values that have skyrocketed this year with the rise of cryptocurrency in the mainstream financial world.
In a Jan. 27, 2017 article written for the Vassar College alumni website, Carlson-Wee said that it is cryptocurrency's complicated, complex aura that made him want to fully invest in it from the beginning.
"Where there is complexity, there is opportunity."