How Did 'Bitcoin Jesus' Become a Virtual Currency Millionaire?
The astronomical rise in the value of bitcoin—which has surged more than 8,000 percent over the course of 2013—has created a new breed of digital currency multimillionaires.
The 34-year-old Roger Ver began investing in bitcoins in early 2011—and made his first million from the virtual currency that same year—which saw prices skyrocket from around $0.30 to $32 before settling at $2. He bought his first bitcoins at around $1.
With prices currently hovering above $1,000, his virtual wealth has since exploded. Ver says he doesn't feel "richer" but that his wealth is "much more liquid than it would be in a normal bank account."
Ver is one of hundreds of investors that have struck it big with bitcoin. But his association with the virtual currency extends far beyond just owning it.
He has helped seed about a dozen different businesses involving bitcoin and actively promotes the currency, earning him the nickname "Bitcoin Jesus."
"I believe Peter Vessenes [chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation] gave me the title when we were at a BBQ together. I was explaining bitcoin to about two dozen high school kids. The kids were all enthralled by bitcoin, and hanging on my every word," he told CNBC.
"Peter then commented that 'it's like you are a Bitcoin Jesus, and you have all your disciples around you'," he added.
His venture MemoryDealers.com, a website that sells discounted computer parts, became the first mainstream business to accept bitcoins as payment. It's also worth noting that it was through this business that he made his first million, in dollar terms, back in 2003.
Ver's nickname is as colorful as his past. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, he moved to Tokyo, Japan in 2005 after serving 10 months in federal prison for selling a product called "Pest Control Report 2000"—which he described as a firecracker used by farmers to keep animals away from their cornfields—on eBay.
Before that, in 2000, he tried his hand in politics, running for California State Assembly as a Libertarian, but lost.
Bitcoins are 'incredibly cheap'
Bitcoin's meteoric rise in the recent weeks has led to concerns that it may be a speculative bubble, but Ver doesn't believe this is a concern for him.
At $1,000, Ver regards bitcoin as "incredibly cheap," noting that if it gains in popularity as he anticipates, each bitcoin would be worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The rapid price rise is due to people with money starting to realize how important of an invention bitcoin is," he said.
"Bitcoin will experience many bubbles along its way to improving the lives of everyone on the planet. I'm not concerned with the short-term price fluctuations," he added.
Ver, who currently uses bitcoins to pay factories in China to produce electronics components for his company, says he plans to use them "to promote the ideas of Voluntaryism and economic freedom" in the future.
This past weekend, Ver made the largest-ever bitcoin-based charitable donation. Ver donated 1,000 bitcoins (more than $1 million) to the Foundation for Economic Education—an American organization that promotes the principles oflaissez-faire economics, private property, and limited government to students.
Related: 3 Big Misconceptions About Bitcoin