In recent months, the internet has been rife with tales about young speculators making life-changing money on high-risk markets.
These traders usually opt to stay anonymous, veiled behind alphanumeric wallet addresses, burner Reddit accounts, and cartoon avatars.
But one successful crypto investor recently decided to share his story with The Hustle for the first time — and it’s a wild ride.
Daniel Maegaard, 30, of Brisbane, Australia, made a fortune not once, but twice: First, by hedging bets on various cryptocurrencies from 2013-2017, then, more recently, by getting in early on the explosion of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
It’s a rare tale of how extreme risk-taking, timing, intuition, and a lot of luck resulted in a multi-million dollar payout.
And it began just 8 years ago, with an investment of a few thousand dollars.
The first fortune: Cryptocurrency
In February of 2013, Maegaard — then a 22-year-old psychology student at Australia’s University of Sunshine Coast — was procrastinating on an assignment and came across a BBC article about Bitcoin.
Still relatively unknown to the general public at the time, the cryptocurrency had recently doubled from $15 to $30.
Back then, Bitcoin only had a market cap of ~$1B — 1000x smaller than today’s $1T+ total value. But it piqued Maegaard’s interest for several reasons:
- He was certain that the coin’s scarcity would lead to an increase in price. (Only 21m Bitcoin will ever be released.)
- He believed in the underlying technology of the blockchain — a distributed public ledger where every transaction could be verified.
- He’d just read about the financial crisis in Cyprus, where the government seized money from thousands of bank accounts, and he could sense a mounting distrust in traditional fiat systems.
So, he decided to go all-in.
Daniel in Colombia in 2017 (Daniel Maegaard)
Maegaard turned to Bitcointalk, a forum where a small but passionate group of early cryptocurrency enthusiasts talked shop.
And after a few weeks of reading, he gained enough confidence to start investing his weekly paychecks from a part-time job stocking shelves at a gas station.
In total, he spentt ~$4k on Bitcoin at ~$150 apiece.
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” he says. “But my philosophy was that this was the time for me to take risks — when I was young and didn’t have responsibilities like a mortgage, kids, and bills to pay.”
The gamble didn’t take long to pay off.
By the end of 2013, Bitcoin had risen to ~$950 per coin, nearly 10x-ing Maegaard’s investment.
As his profits rose, Maegaard watched other friends cash out and enjoy thousands in proceeds. But he had bigger plans.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, he doubled down on altcoins — smaller market-cap coins like Counterparty, Colored Coins, Xcoin (later Dash), and Ripple — that were experiencing even more dramatic volatility than Bitcoin, sometimes rocketing up or down by 50% in one day.
Maegaard paid astute attention to trends, buzz on forums, and ebbs in the market. By trading Bitcoin/alt-coin pairs(using Bitcoin to buy other coins in lieu of cash) he was able to “double-dip” on profits.
“Bitcoin rose against the US dollar, and altcoins rose against Bitcoin,” he says. “Everything just compounded.”
In particular, he bet heavily on Ripple, a coin he purchased in bulk at an average price of <$0.005.
After graduating from college, Maegaard enrolled in law school.
But as his holdings ballooned, he began to realize that cryptocurrency — not a 9-to-5 lifestyle — was his true passion. Much to the dismay of his attorney father, he dropped out and burrowed further into altcoins.
“My parents just didn’t understand it,” says Maegaard. “They’d read about how crypto was used for money laundering and drugs, and they were worried I was making bad decisions.”
By early 2017, Maegaard’s commitment began to pay off.
Largely thanks to a boom in Ripple, his net worth surpassed $1m for the first time. In May, he cashed out ~$600k and bought a house, then reinvested the other ~$400k back into crypto, anticipating another surge.
His timing couldn’t have been better.
Between July and December, Bitcoin surged from $2k to $18k — and many altcoins saw price jumps of 40%+.
“Random people, like my grandma, started calling me and asking me about Bitcoin,” Maegaard recalls. “It was reaching a saturation point, and I knew it was time to exit.”
Just before Bitcoin hit its peak, he cashed out, walking away with ~$10m.
A newly-minted millionaire, Maegaard decided to step away and see the world. For the next 18 months, he lived out of a suitcase, traveling to more than 40 countries.
But hedonism soon lost its luster.
“One day I realized that it wasn’t even fun anymore,” he says. “I was missing fulfillment in my life, a sense of purpose.”
He reentered the cryptocurrency markets, putting vast sums of his net worth back into altcoins. This time, he wasn’t so lucky.
Prices tumbled as much as 99% on certain coins. The same types of bets that had made Maegaard wealthy were now losing him millions of dollars — and he saw, for the first time, the dark side of speculation.
Cryptocurrency, he found, also just wasn’t as exciting as it used to be.
“The market went through this gentrification,” he says. “It just didn’t feel like the neighborhood I’d discovered in 2013. There were lots of new faces, lots of scams. It had lost a bit of the magic from the early days.”
He missed the feeling of being a pioneer in a largely untapped market.
So, he set out to find something new.
The second fortune: NFTs
Back in 2017, Maegaard had heard rumblings of a newfangled tech called non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
NFTs, he’d learn, were lines of code on a blockchain that prove the authenticity of ownership of a digital asset — like a piece of artwork, an audio file, a video clip, or a plot of virtual land.
“At the time, I just thought of NFTs as a scam or money grab,” he says.
But after his travels, he began to research NFTs more intensely and he developed the same conviction he’d felt with Bitcoin.