Millionaire at 18 and bankrupt by 22: The ‘influencer’ who personifies the danger of investing in cryptocurrencies
Kiarash Hossainpour, a YouTuber and investor, has become a case study in the dangers of getting rich quick with bitcoin
Kiarash Hossainpour found a shortcut to getting filthy rich. When he still couldn’t grow facial hair, he was online giving seminars on entrepreneurship. But last spring, his fortune vanished during the collapse in the price of cryptocurrencies. From one day to the next, he had lost everything.
However, even after this disaster, the 22-year-old German of Iranian origin is not giving up. After losing up to 90% of his digital investment portfolio, Hossainpour assured the German edition of Business Insider that he will continue to invest in bitcoins. A firm believer in the future of cryptocurrencies, he notes that “accumulating losses… is part of the game.” It builds character.
A crash course in crypto
Hossainpour says that the collapse in the value of his digital assets worries him only slightly, because he is not planning on selling them. He considers himself “a strategic investor” – someone who does not succumb to “sudden panic attacks.”
“I did not sell in moments of uncontrolled boom and I will not sell, of course, in full decline.”
Bitcoin is trading today at €22,542 per unit… far from the all-time high of €67,205 that it reached in November 2021. Still, it remains the most stable of all the cryptocurrencies in which Hossainpour invested. The true lethal bite to his finances has come from Luna, the cryptocurrency on which he was betting with messianic fervor just a few months ago on his YouTube channel. Last May, it lost 99% of its value.
What happened? Hossainpour blames the disaster on the “incompetence” of the team that launched the cryptocurrency. He acknowledges that he did not see it coming. The “sixth sense” that allowed him to accumulate hundreds of thousands of followers on his financial advice channels on social networks has wasted away. This has also impacted his net worth, because the young German is, in addition to being an investor, an “influencer.” Or, in the words of US stock market advisor and radio host Clark Howard, “an irresponsible man who [caused] thousands of unknowing people to go bankrupt.”
The making of a kamikaze entrepreneur
Kiarash Hossainpour was born in Berlin in 1999, into an Iranian family (he prefers to say “Persian”) who took refuge in Germany to flee the turmoil of the Islamic revolution. His father, a computer scientist, gave him his first computer when he was 10 years old.
Young Hossainpour began to use the machine to make sports bets, but his father – “an upright man, a bit old school” – strictly forbade him from this activity. “If you want the computer to help you make money, first learn to code,” his father warned. So that’s what he did.
Largely self-taught – like many members of the first generation of cryptocurrency moguls – Hossainpour discovered the gaming scene, launching his first YouTube channel at the age of 13. But he soon wanted to go beyond simply offering online tips for playing Grand Theft Auto. He started designing custom web pages on WordPress, charging “barely 30 dollars a page.” One day, in 2014, he received his first payment in bitcoins.
His brain began spinning when he discovered this new currency. It was completely virtual – almost clandestine – and could be minted at home to be exchanged with members of a community of technological entrepreneurs. By the end of 2015, he took a decisive step: investing nearly €40,000 into bitcoins.
His parents asked him if this was legal… if it was “real” money, or just a scam.
“My father came from a very rich family that was impoverished by the revolution,” explains Hossainpour. “Maybe that’s why he doesn’t give too much importance to money. He always told me that the most important thing was for me to be careful, to continue with my university studies and not to lose sight of the fact that those millions were nothing more than numbers on a screen.”
In any case, Hossainpour used his rising numbers as a hook to increase his fortune, selling himself online as an example of success. While his financial YouTube channel generally offered relatively sensible advice – such as “invest only what you have left over, nothing you need to live on or to meet the needs of your family” – the photos in which he appeared, at just the age of 20, behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce or a Lamborghini, or smoking Cuban cigars, told a very surreal story.
An example to follow?
In the autumn of 2021, when bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were reaching sky-high prices, the international press began to take notice of the young YouTuber. David Thompson of Tech Times magazine referred to Hossainpour as a kind of post-adolescent King Midas, a young man “touched by the wand of success” and willing, moreover, “to share his experience [via] social networks.” Arianna Rodriguez, of International Business Times, described him as one of the few young Europeans who had already achieved full financial independence at the age of 18 and the person in charge of “an influential network that shares knowledge.” Hossainpour’s financial advice channel, Kyle Hoss, was described as “a virtual school for future millionaires.”
In the opinion of Ana Cristina Silva, a finance professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, these kinds of Cinderella stories are far from healthy. In fact, she considers them to be a symptom “of how much the culture of quick enrichment has penetrated the younger generations.” For her, “any undertaking requires a certain [level of] economic literacy and, above all, a solid financial base. Encouraging young people to invest in a field as speculative and volatile as cryptocurrencies by tempting them with some supposed example of success is very irresponsible.”
Silva adds that a high percentage of her students “spend their savings on buying bitcoins and crypto assets of all kinds, thinking they are going to get rich. Most lose every last dollar.” Her perspective is that “[crypto] couldn’t be further from the true culture of entrepreneurship, which requires training, discipline and values.”