Bitcoin Millionaires I ARTE Documentary

Despite price fluctuations,
digital money is creating hope. I really believe that bitcoin is revolutionising
the entire monetary system. It's like the gold rush. Here they are! The bad boys. Litecoin, bitcoin… Some have become rich
with cryptocurrencies. Had anyone said a few years ago that prices would be
like they are today, I wouldn't have believed them. The island Kho Phangan,
in Thailand, is where Didi Taihuttu spends
the cold winter with his family. The Dutchman
is a bitcoin millionaire and he also speculates
with various other cryptocurrencies. Mum's doing handstands,
but she keeps falling over. She can't do it? 12-year-old Jolie brings breakfast
to her father as he works. She knows a bit
about how he makes money. When bitcoin is high, you sell it. When it's low, you buy it, and then you make money from it. That's my girl!
That's how Papa makes money. I first look at the prices.
What's Bitcoin doing? I trade with about 20%
of our total capital. I have to check it a bit every day.

What's it look like?
What do I sell or buy now? What's the news like today?
Is it good or bad? If it's good, then prices go up.
If it's bad, they go down. The whole market
is really emotional. Today, it's bad news: China is banning crypto trading. I know prices will go down. In 2017, the family
took a huge risk. They exchanged
all they had for cryptocurrency, selling off two
successful IT companies, a big house and three cars. With the profits from digital money, they want to keep their lives
independent and without burden. Despite price fluctuations, Didi still believes in the future
of other digital currencies, like Ethereum, Monero and NEO.

One decisive experience
was the death of his father, which is why Did gave up
a normal working life. He had something to tell me and he asked me to sit down.
I said "of course". He said: "So, I have cancer. I have one year to live." Then, I went home… took my father into my arms… Right, then you're really sad. You think: "OK… So, do I have to work 10 more years, just work and work,
then get sick and die? Like my mum at 48
and my dad at 61?" No, I sold everything… I sold my businesses.
After 2 months, I sold two, I sold my car and travelled
with my family…

Then it all really started. The riskiness
of bitcoin transactions didn't scare Didi's wife,
Romaine, either. I wasn't scared at all! Not at all. I was always
at home, tired. I wanted to get away.
It wasn't for us. I was really structured before. It was all… Wake up at 6:30 am… get breakfast ready,
get the kids ready, everything was planned. Didi has other plans
while on the island, since he wants to persuade
others about cryptocurrencies. Germany's capital, Berlin,
is a crypto-stronghold. Room 77 in Kreuzberg
was the first pub in the world to accept payment in bitcoins. The bar has a regulars' table
for those using the currency and for trade insiders. As a reaction
to the financial crisis, bitcoin doesn't use banks, thanks
to a decentralised payment system. The creator of the crypto-money
has remained anonymous. Since 2009, everyone
can buy bitcoins online or generate them digitally. The amount of bitcoins
is limited to 21 million and only about 4 million more
can be generated. Until recently, transfer fees
were very high for bitcoins, but the fees have now gone down
to 16 cents for a 12 Euro purchase.

Three young crypto-pioneers
from Berlin want to develop the technology
behind bitcoin even further. They've founded a communal living
space and a start-up there. The workday begins
at the breakfast table by checking on bitcoin prices. 24-year-old Till Wendler
and 29-year-old Robert Küfner say they've become millionaires
by using bitcoin. It's hardly a champagne
environment here, though the quick success of bitcoin has enormously promoted
their business, Advanced Blockchain. When we wake up, it makes sense that we all check our mobiles.
I think we all do it. It's kind of like
an occasional habit, like people who spend time
on social networks. The company develops technology
for decentralised computer networks. They're going to meet developers
and investors on a business trip. You're flying at 9 am on the first, you'll be picked up at 11:30 am, then you'll head quickly
to your accommodation… then you go to H-FARM
and then lunch. Seems like a full schedule
for a few days. Now that it's so busy,
we don't really have private lives,
so we live and travel together. We got these digs
across from the office.

We need time to get ahead. In the new market
based on bitcoin technology, it's vital to grow quickly. Robert wants to become
a global player. We travel a lot. Along the way, I… got rid of everything, since we travel a lot.
This is all I have. It all fits in a suitcase! To go from the flat to the office
in Invalidenstrasse takes only two minutes. Their company is listed. There's a lot of pressure. They mustn't gamble
with their investors' trust. And please contact Philipp about the conference on Tuesday. Robert's girlfriend, Elisabeth,
is on the team. The skilled industry clerk comes
from another sector, like many here. We're not focusing on speculation
with crypto tokens or betting on the curve. We concentrate
on the underlying technology and uses for that technology
in the industry.

The concept is decentralisation. Here's my friend in New Zealand and this is me.
I can make a direct transfer to my friend, without any kind of bank
or middleman in between. Of course, there's criticism for the lack of a regulating body within it all, that would make sure the transactions… are only used for legal purposes. The system functions
using block-chain technology. When someone makes
a transfer to someone else, the transfer details are saved
in the block-chain. So-called miners
look for digital copies of this information,
which they then approve. The data is decentralised
around the world and saved on thousands
of computers, in order to prevent tampering. The miners themselves
are paid in bitcoins. Till and Robert want to develop further practical uses
for blockchain for large groups. Like almost every afternoon,
Didi and his family go out to eat. It's cheap in Thailand. The five of them rarely need
more than 1,000 Euro a month. The Taihuttus live minimally. That's part of their new philosophy: a return to an easy life,
despite financial wealth. I wanted to be a millionaire
before I turned 13. That was my life goal. We're crypto-millionaires, so…

Like people say, maybe the bubble
will burst and we go bankrupt. There's no certainty for us. And if I convert
into dollars or Euro, that's still not a guarantee, because another crisis will come
and then it's all gone again. So… The security that I want
is to be happy with my family
and that I can live my life. Didi pays for the meal
with bitcoins. As soon as I scan the QR code, it's ready.

Now I can see the transaction
is being processed. It takes about a minute or two for him to receive the money,
and that's it! While travelling, I've found more
and more places that accept crypto. Where's the laptop? It has to be in your bag. I can't find it. Well… I can never find anything! In Thailand, the Taihuttus
live in a holiday resort in two small bungalows. A big change
from their old house's 280m2 in Holland. I put it away… My God. I have it now. It's a bit tight… cooking and all
is tough.

It's all here! A crypto-adventure
with few possessions. Even the children sold off
almost all their clothes and toys. The small teddy bear is mine. That one's Juna's,
the pillow is Juna's, too, and that one's Jessa's. Sometimes, it's hard to sleep
in one bed with Juna and Jessa. Jessa sleeps like this… Luckily, Juna sleeps like this. I'm lucky with her,
but with Jessa… On the island, Didi is the expert
in all things crypto. He does occasional workshops. Hello! Today, he'd like to quickly
answer a few emails, but many guests are curious and want to know more about
digital money from him.

What exactly is a block-chain? Basically, a block-chain
is like a ledger, like a real ledger
to record transactions. Everything going in and out
is recorded. The book is then copied 50,000 times and saved on 50,000 computers. If one computer breaks,
then it's fine, because the other 49,999
computers have the same data. There's a Dutch company
you can tell: "I want to buy this house". It costs 300,000 Euro and the company looks
in a database, in a block-chain, for 30 people
who will pay 10,000 Euro.

Then I pay those 30 people
2% interest every month. That means no banks. Just 30 mates
helping me to buy a house. At low interest, too. At a low interest rate. If the blockchain is on so many systems,
what about hackers? With block-chains, there are
over 10,000 computers, so the hacker
has to change something on 10,000 computers
at exactly the same time. It's impossible. I really believe that cryptocurrency
will become the new money. Sweden has already communicated that they want eKrona, so a cryptocurrency. There's also Venezuela, with a… petrol coin. It's all crypto. More and more countries will accept it, I think.

After his crypto-consultation,
Didi wants to visit a friend. – See you later!
– Bye! – Bye!
– Thanks a lot! His friend has a surprise for him… Kiev, in Ukraine. A euphoric, digital mood
also reigns here. The capital is known for its large
and creative programmer scene. Till Wendler is meeting
with developers. Programmers here are cheaper
than in Germany and more motivated, Till thinks. I think people are willing to take on new things, since they don't have much to lose. It sounds maybe a bit more drastic
and dramatic than it actually is. Until now, Till's only communicated
with the programmers online. He's meeting them now
for the first time. Around 20 developers and designers
work in the small company. For two weeks, they worked
day and night on the elaborate and multi-language website for Advanced Blockchain AG. Today, they're getting
their first feedback from Till. I'm really happy with the work
that you've done. It all works really fast
and really well, so it should be like that
for all future projects.

We heard that you launched
the site last week. We'd like to know
people's first impressions. Do you have any data on it? Yeah, we have that data.
We collect it. Do you need it? We need some updates from you
for the German version. Till still wants more. He's looking for specialists
for future block-chain projects in various industries. I think the big challenge is to find these people for you, so that we can expand
our collaboration in Kiev. It's still somewhat a niche market and it seems to be that way
with qualified people, too.

We have really high requirements. block-chain technology
is still in its infancy. Till and his team can only
make progress with programmers who can
develop block-chain even further. Till goes online in a café. He keeps his colleagues in Berlin
updated with his impressions. The meeting this morning
went extremely well. It was important
to see each other face-to-face. We can load them up
with new projects. In a few hours,
Till will go on to Venice for his next business meeting. In Thailand, Didi is on his way
to see his friend, Kris Bernad.

The bar owner ordered
a new, special computer for bitcoins and Didi will be
the first to see it. How are you? – The miner is here!
– You really got it? And you get to open it! It's like my birthday! Boys with toys! This is where we'll put the miner. There's already one here. My God, it's a fridge! In an old bathroom! With the mining computer, Kris will obtain processing power
for bitcoin transfers and will be paid for it
himself in bitcoins. How many bitcoins
are being mined right now? In one day,
about 8 to 10 dollars in bitcoins… So, about 15, 20 dollars
over two days. Kris does small-scale mining. Huge server farms around the world meant for bitcoin mining
use up more energy than Ireland.
A big environmental problem. We're at about 120 to 130 dollars
a month for energy. If solar energy becomes better,
then we'll use renewable energy. We're hoping for a change
and we want to be a part of it. If we can happen to make money
from it, too, even better! The more people that mine,
the stronger bitcoin gets. It's becoming harder to interfere
with transactions or falsify data.

Cool lock! Safety first! You can see how much
you've earned here. These are pending rewards, you can see them here, too. Today was a good day! Kris has already made 3.50 Euro. Will you get it running today? I need a little time
to get it configured, but it'll be running tonight. I'll see it at my table later on? You'll see it later, hopefully before your talk.
It's not making money like this! Didi has to hurry. He promised to help
his children study. Since moving to Thailand,
he and his wife home school them. For fun, he gave Jolie
a special arithmetic problem. At the end of the year, one bitcoin is worth 30,000. How much are three bitcoins worth? School is mandatory in Holland. Not sending your children
is punishable, so Didi had to officially change
his place of residence. The kids are always saying
they want to learn. That's… I would have
never thought so.

I thought kids never wanted
to learn, that you had to hammer it into them
that they need to learn. Every day they can–
they want to learn something. We make the learning plan. The way I see it,
they'll never go to school again. I have to persuade them. If they'd like
to go back to school, then they can.
If not, then they won't. Didi's children have to learn
by doing in particular. Some visual instruction
at a nearby temple complex. Didi's father was from the Moluccas. He wants to help his children
open themselves to other cultures and religions. The self-named Bitcoin Family
post their experiences regularly to their blog. They've developed
a large group of fans online. Today, Jolie, Jessa and Juna learned what Buddhism is,
as well as its rituals. Later this evening, Didi will be
giving a talk on cryptocurrencies. Crypto-pioneers Till and Robert
are still travelling. Their destination is an innovative
technology centre near Venice, called H-FARM. The start-up founders
were invited by the director. They've already made
a name for themselves. Till quickly shares
his thoughts on Kiev.

Eugene, who built our site, has unbelievable bags
under his eyes, probably because we've been
torturing him for weeks! Now, it's about networking
even more internationally. I have high expectations.
They can help us out and give us a network and contacts that will become pertinent
by the middle of this year. The director, Timothy O'Connel,
sees the young company as promising. H-FARM could provide them
financial support for projects. Today, he wants them to meet
investors and other founders. Then, he introduces H-FARM. It's a German-sponsored project.
Deutsche Bank is the main sponsor. Even banks are getting involved
in the crypto-world. The founders from Berlin
hope to bring their start-up into a new league
with the contacts here. We have developers
and project managers, but working with large firms
is a whole different thing. Scaling is a problem,
you're absolutely right. You have to be careful,
because if you have a lot of projects and spread yourselves too thin, you can't deliver
what clients are expecting. What you need now is for a client to tell you:
"That was great!" We need support from people who know
how to scale a business model, how we can grow further
after reaching a certain size.

Timothy O'Connel wants
to encourage the boys. If a project falls through,
which definitely happens… it's important to learn
from it and improve upon it. In the afternoon, Robert,
Till and Florian are meeting the founders
of a start-up in England, whose know-how will be
useful to the Berliners. The company Lendflo develops
software for granting credit using block-chain technology. We developed credit software that can predict
clients' ability to pay with up to 84.2% accuracy. What's the current status
of the development? What problem
are you facing right now? Finding programmers who understand
how block-chain works. We want to use the technology
because it's good, not to show off. We're looking for people
who understand that we add value. The tech-pioneers quickly agree that their projects
and goals fit well together. Collaboration
could be very promising. Hopefully, we'll find
a way to work together, either through an investment
or becoming part of the company, or some other kind of collaboration.
It'd be great! Work is over after a 14-hour day. To really get started,
they still need a big project and much still depends
on the investors' trust.

But at least they seem to gradually be finding the programmers
and partners they need. I have a good gut feeling
about what we've seen so far. Our assessment after
meeting them today is very good and I'm sure
we'll get together to do something.
We still need to see what they will be.
It takes some time. Tomorrow, all three
will be in a plane again headed for Florida.

In Thailand, there's also
an event going on. Fans of the crypto-scene meet
in Kris' Crowbar every Tuesday. The new computer is mining bitcoins
in the next room. Here they are, man! They're up and running,
our bad boys! Litecoin, bitcoin… Mining from heaven! This is supporting crypto,
what it's all about! Crypto-newbies have also
come to the meet-up tonight. More and more people
are interested in digital money. Put your hands together for Didi! Thanks for coming
to our presentation. I'll tell you how I was infected
with the crypto-virus. Many dream of living
with financial freedom like Didi. All the big shots with the money
will never allow there to be only crypto.

And that's fine. Leave them with their digital Euro, eKrona, ePetrol, eDollar…
That's OK. We have our own monetary system,
which will be the new cash. A rumour in the news
makes the bitcoin fans nervous. block-chain supposedly contains
a hidden link to child pornography. For Didi, it's pure scaremongering. In the 90s, the Internet came along and the newspapers, since
there was no online media, wrote: "Internet is for criminals, Internet is for drug dealers
and porno.

Nobody is going to use
email in the future, only IT nerds." If there's one person
in the entire world who can show me one picture
of child porn from block-chain, I will pay him a bitcoin. It's not possible! Tonight, Didi and the crypto-world
gained a few more fans. The next day, Didi leaves his laptop
in the closet. As a digital nomad, he's free
to arrange his working hours. Can I have three coconuts? Only cash is accepted here. Didi can't get by completely
without some local currency. Of course I hope that bitcoin
will be accepted by everyone. I think they'll want to
in the future, because… in countries like this, they really get a lot
of cash every day.

So, how do you secure your money
without a bank account? I think crypto's a bit… better for that. By now, there are over
100 cryptocurrencies. Which of them will push through
is still to be seen. Today, bitcoin has fallen
back down to 100 Euro. That still leaves the family enough
to enjoy life under the palm trees. Do you need a lot of money? No! We live very simply now
and we don't need it, but we feel that… bitcoin will change money a lot. It doesn't matter to us
if we go bankrupt. We've already won.
We've earned our life here.

If we go bankrupt… that means… nothing for us. We don't need
money for our everyday life. So, if you can let go of it
and really live with little money… then you can't lose any more. I'll never go back
to our old life. No way. Translations by Giuseppe Ilisco.

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