WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KRDO) — Although he wants to call it the “Ratcliff Conference Center and Hotel,” his wife has appropriately dubbed it “Bitcoin Manor,” a 5,000 square-foot dream home built entirely with Bitcoin.
Tucked away in a quiet Woodland Park neighborhood, John Ratcliff finished building his “mountain-modern” mansion in September. It has a first floor entirely for guests that include a Harry Potter-themed bedroom that sleeps six kids; the main level is centered around a two-story fireplace; an elevator takes you to a third-floor dedicated to entertaining.
“If I go based on what I paid for my Bitcoin originally, this entire house cost me around five or eight thousand dollars,” said Ratcliff, a video-game engineer who, while right now is on sabbatical, works for Nvidia Corporation, a software company.
After initially blowing off Bitcoin as “video game money,” Ratcliff used his knowledge of computer code to research it more. He then decided to invest $15,000 into Bitcoin in 2013 when it was worth just $100 a coin. Last November, it peaked at over $65,000.
He made a lot of money.
With his Bitcoin fortune, John also bought homes for both his nephews, paid off his kids’ student loans and he’s set money aside for charity.
He knew his initial investment would pay off in a big way, with little risk, except for one possibility.
“The biggest risk to Bitcoin wasn’t that it gets hacked, that the software doesn’t work, I never considered any of those risks. The only risk I ever felt was the government will just declare it illegal at some point.”
But, because it hasn’t been banned in the United States, John is one of many who have struck it rich with Bitcoin over the last few years.
Now, it appears many governments are embracing cryptocurrency.
Crypto in Colorado
Two countries, El Salvador and the Central Africa Republic have made it legal tender. Online data suggest the U.S. government holds more than $4 billion in Bitcoin. Now, Governor Jared Polis just announced Colorado will soon become the first state to accept crypto for tax payments.
“Things like that are signals to the industry that we are accepting of this type of technology and we want this type of technology to be part of Colorado,” said Mark Ferrandino, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Polis would like to see Colorado become the next Silicon Valley, which he hopes will become the crypto hub of America.
“The regulators, all the different agencies, they’re starting to say, ‘this is not going away, this is not a fad, this is something that will continue to grow.’ And we need to make sure we have the right parameters,” said Ferrandino.
“I think there is significant upside for the state in terms of investments, money coming in, these are high paying jobs,” he said.
The negative sides of crypto
What are the possible downsides of crypto?
In most places, you still can’t walk into a store and buy something with Bitcoin. If you do invest, expect a lot of volatility (Bitcoin is now worth less than half its price in November). There’s little protection or recourse available to you if your crypto is stolen. It’s also been a popular choice of currency on the dark web.
“I think the scams are what makes the news, into the headlines, but there is a lot of blockchain and crypto that’s being used for good and social impact,” said Yev Muchnik.
The positive sides of crypto
Muchnik is an attorney from Denver who’s been specializing in crypto since 2016. She’s used crypto for good, raising more than $20 million in crypto to help her native country of Ukraine.
“You have groups, de-centralized groups from all over the world that have come together, have raised crypto-capital, crypto-funds, and have been able to deploy them instantaneously into the hands of those that need it,” she said. “The Ukrainian government set up wallets to be able to accept crypto payments as donations.”
Crypto in Colorado Springs
That kind of open-mindedness toward crypto is even happening in Colorado Springs.
“I’m gonna be shocked if we don’t have more and more blockchain companies trying to grow here,” said Vance Brown, who runs Exponential Impact, an incubator in the Springs that supports companies emerging on the blockchain.
Exponential Impact’s first blockchain-based cohort was Byte-able, a company that hopes to put the food supply chain on the blockchain.
“I would call it, just like the internet was emerging technology back in the early 90s, right? But it was inevitable. And there was a crash for a little while. But ultimately it fulfilled the dream. And I think that’s gonna be the similar story of what evolves with blockchain,” said Brown.
Can you still get rich investing in crypto?
So, if the blockchain is inevitable, does that mean people can still get rich investing in crypto?
At the very least, many believe Bitcoin will likely continue to be a smart investment.
If Bitcoin does, someday, rival the price of gold, it would be worth roughly $500k per coin.
Ratcliff only owns a small amount of Bitcoin he originally bought. That small amount is still a lot, and if that money goes 10x, he will have “life-changing” money yet again.
“You believe in something and you stick with it,” he said.
“You should have some exposure, I think it’s wise, especially if you’re an investor. If you’re an investor and you don’t have a portion of your portfolio in Bitcoin, I think you’re missing the boat.”
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency. It’s the most widely recognized crypto and, by far, so far, the most successful. Think of Bitcoin as a form of digital money, not controlled by any person, financial institution, or government. Transactions are done on a public ledger online, with blockchain technology – which is a decentralized network that verifies all transactions across millions of computers, which essentially makes it un-hackable.
What is the blockchain?
The blockchain is a decentralized network that verifies all transactions across millions of computers, essentially making it un-hackable. It’s a technology that makes crypto possible. And it’s a dramatic tech shift similar to what saw thirty years ago with the 90s dot-com boom.
Want to invest in Bitcoin?
Fidelity Investments also announced last month they will offer Bitcoin as an investment option in its 401K plans later this year.
Muchnik’s investment advice
Muchnik tells people to simply do their research, which includes reading the company’s “white paper.”
“I guess in many ways it’s like, if you invest into stocks, you have to really try to understand whether the project is sound, whether the team is sound, kind of what their vision looks like. It’s doing diligence and trying to understand it as much as you can.”
“It’s here to stay… there is a lot of volatility but the underlying technology like a.i., quantum-computing… it’s here to stay,” she said.
Muchnik said she does believe it’s still possible for someone to get rich off investing in crypto.
“I think it is… I think it is! It’s not too late to jump in and create passive income,” she said.
Ratcliff’s investment advice
Hold on to it long-term; be what’s called, in the crypto world, a HODLer.
“The example I use is, if you had Apple stock in 1982, what is the chance you still owe those shares of Apple stock in 2022? Almost zero, right? But if you did it you’re a very wealthy man. How is Bitcoin any different?
If you got in early and you stuck with it, you did very, very well. And most people didn’t stick with it,” said Ratcliff.
“I think it’s here to stay, but, ya know, it’s very volatile.”