- Brian Fakhoury, a 23-year-old analyst at Underscore VC, has made over $150,000 mining Helium tokens.
- Helium, founded in 2013, uses individually-owned hotspots to create a decentralized wireless network.
- While his profits have slowed, Fakhoury says it’s not too late for others to capitalize on the token.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On Brian Fakhoury’s windowsill, there’s a small white device using roughly the same energy as an LED light bulb. It’s helped make the 23-year-old VC over $150,000 in the last two years.
Fakhoury, an investment analyst at early-stage firm Underscore VC, received two hotspots that mine Helium tokens in early 2020. Unlike mining something like bitcoin, which takes exorbitant amounts of energy, he can leave his devices on “all day long.”
“My electricity bill literally doesn’t change,” Fakhoury said.
Helium is a platform that was founded in 2013 with the grand goal of being “the people’s network,” a wireless network stitched together by individually owned hotspots. The hotspots cover a certain area to produce a low-grade connection. It’s enough to do something like track a device’s location (Lime uses it to keep tabs on their scooters), but not enough to stream a video.
The Helium tokens skyrocketed from a few cents to over $20 this summer and VCs took notice: Andreessen Horowitz led a $111 million token sale in August, praising Helium’s “potential to provide comprehensive 5G connectivity across the world.”
While hotspots now go for around $400, Fakhoury got his for free – although he can’t specify where. His benefactor was an anonymous wealthy businessman who bet big on Helium, buying a bunch of hotspots to distribute for a portion of the profit.
Once Fakhoury saw how prolific his hotspot was – it made around $200 a day at its peak – he rushed to buy another. However, since the device provides service for its surrounding area, hotspots need to be spaced apart to maximize the tokens they earn. This meant he couldn’t keep two hotspots at his apartment.
His solution? The Underscore VC office in downtown Boston, where Fakhoury carefully placed his device across the office from his boss Richard Dulude’s own hotspot. It’s not even the only venture firm to mine Helium tokens: Fred Wilson wrote in 2019 that Union Square Ventures was putting one in their NYC office.
Fakhoury’s hotspot isn’t as prolific as it once was, making him about $10 total a day now.
“It was kind of a gold rush, right? Like a lot of people got hotspots,” he said. “As more people start mining, their share of the pie goes down.”
But he still believes people can make a decent amount if they’re willing to put in the time and money.
“The name of the game here is this idea of proof-of-coverage,” he said. If someone invests in a larger antenna, they can cover more area and earn more rewards. Upgraded antennas go for anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars online.
Although Fakhoury has $150,000 worth of Helium tokens sitting in his wallet, he’s not likely to sell anytime soon.
“Why would you kind of sell out early when you know there’s this whole promise or vision of something a lot bigger to be built?” he said.
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