Four years ago, Swedish expert programmer Alexander Bottema went from deep skepticism to considering bitcoin as an innovation with similar implications as the internet itself. In an exclusive interview, he reveals what happened after he went all in on bitcoin, and shares how other investors can walk in his footsteps. So did it make him a billionaire? Alexander Bottema, laughing on the phone. But my capital has grown by a factor of more than one hundred since I sold all my stocks and liquidated my savings in order to buy bitcoins in 2013. By that time, one bitcoin was worth 30 dollars.
Today, almost four years later, the virtual currency is valued at 4000 dollars. How much savings he had at the time Bottema doesn’t want to reveal, but it’s clear he’s content with the investment: his holdings have remained untouched since that day in early 2013. I consider it a retirement insurance. I could consider selling some of my assets should the price hit 100,000 dollars. Alexander Bottema grew up in a small community near Stockholm. He started programming at nine years of age, using the family’s Apple 2-computer. The booming personal computer market made it an exciting time to grow up.
But programming wasn’t enough for Alexander Bottema. He wanted to learn more about the theories behind computing. In 1991, he started studying computer science at the renown Uppsala University, where he would later continue as a PhD faculty. Uppsala turned into Stockholm when he started working on data security and encryption for consultancy Upec Industriteknik. When the company was acquired, Alexander Bottema and his two colleagues started their own company. Frontec wasn’t interested in product development, which we were into at the time, so we decided to start Polytrust. We got financial support from two venture capital firms: Telia Business Innovation and IT Provider.
After Stockholm and Polytrust, Alexander Bottema moved to the U. Mathworks, a Massachussetts-based company providing data analysis and simulation for industrial purposes. Today, he continues to work for the company out of Stockholm. Seven years ago, Bottema encountered Bitcoin for the first time. I rejected it as something uninteresting. The following year, I was sitting on the subway and read in the Metro newspaper how bitcoin had recovered after a crash. I couldn’t understand how a currency that is built on trust could recover.
He downloaded the technical description and the program code for the currency, and used all his knowledge and experience in studying the material. His deep skepticism was gone with the wind. They had solved what I though was unsolvable. Once he was convinced of bitcoin’s excellence, he started calculating how much the currency could one day be worth. Like many others, Bottema used the gold market as comparison. The allocated value of the gold market, where rich people put their money to avoid devaluations, is roughly 8,000 billion dollars. If you divide it by 21 million, which is the number of bitcoins that will be available from the year 2140 onwards, you get 380 000 dollars per bitcoin.
I ended up on values ranging between 50,000 and 100,000 dollars per bitcoin. I panicked, and bet all of my savings. What is driving the value of bitcoin, according to Bottema, is the combination of a growing number of use cases, like micropayments, and a limited supply of the currency. Isn’t there a threat from competing cryptocurrencies? The first one is the biggest.