Cooper Turley first started investing in cryptocurrency four years ago.
Bitcoin, currently the largest crypto by market value, was trading at over $2,000 at the time, according to CoinMarketCap. Ether, which is powered by Ethereum blockchain and is the second largest crypto by market value, was trading at a few hundred dollars. Turley bought both.
Now, Turley tells CNBC Make It, those early investments have made him a millionaire, growing to be worth seven figures, with 90% of that generated in the last two years. (CNBC could not independently confirm documents detailing the transactions and current value of Turley’s crypto holdings.)
“I definitely don’t feel like I’ve ‘made it’ by any stretch — there are far more people who are far better off than me in crypto. But I do feel really thankful,” says Turley, 25.
Though Turley declined to disclose exactly how much he initially invested, “it was not a lot at all,” he says. “At that point, I was still in college, working some ad hoc jobs. I was just putting a couple hundred dollars in, here and there.”
‘I fell down this rabbit hole’
Turley says he first invested in Ethereum while studying music business at the University of Colorado Denver in 2017.
He learned that the Ethereum blockchain has the potential to change the music industry and help artists take more control over their own music — for instance, smart contracts on the blockchain could do things like expedite royalty payments directly to creators.
“From there, I fell down this rabbit hole of being fascinated by how the technology works and how I could make a name for myself and become an expert on the industry as a whole,” he says.
Once Turley graduated in 2018, he got more serious about his cryptocurrency portfolio, he says, even though both bitcoin and ether had recently plunged in value.
“In 2017, I saw my net worth basically come crashing down,” he says. “It was during the midst of two to three years, when everyone kind of wrote it off, that I was really heavily investing, putting basically all of my income just into ether [when it cost] around like $100.”
Of course, this was a very risky move — even today, experts warn to only invest money into crypto that you can afford to lose. Cryptocurrencies are volatile, speculative investments.
But Turley stuck with it.
“For me, in 2018, I saw this turning point where [Ethereum] was a shift away from speculation to actually building usable products,” he says.
By this, Turley is referring to the capabilities of the Ethereum blockchain, as it is used to power the creation of different decentralized applications like DeFi (or decentralized finance) and assets like NFTs (or nonfungible tokens).