Silicon Valley’s Russ Hanneman lost a fortune in cryptocurrency, just like a few people in real life.
HBO’s Silicon Valley is well-known as a poignant satire of big tech. The show was oftentimes as cutting-edge as the industry it endlessly parodied. Season 5’s “Initial Coin Offering” was no exception, as it accurately foretold how a few minor cryptocurrency mishaps led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Initial Coin Offering” begins with Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks exploring the possibility of launching an initial-coin-offering (ICO) as a way to cut off the company’s tie to Raviga investor Laurie Bream. An ICO would essentially function like an initial public offering (IPO) but with its value in cryptocurrency rather than stock. After a tense meeting with associate Monica Hall and a passionate crypto-currency lecture from Pied Piper Systems Architect Bertram Gilfoyle, Hendricks and Gilfoyle pay multi-billionaire Russ Hanneman a visit at a landfill.
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Hanneman tells the duo that he launched 36 ICOs, however only one of them found success. Unfortunately, Hanneman put all of the cryptocurrency in a flash drive, which was lost after one of his cleaning assistants threw out his ripped jeans. According to Hanneman, the amount of cryptocurrency inside his lost pants pocket was worth billions, if not trillions of dollars.
If this Silicon Valley plotline sounds familiar, that’s because it happened in real life. Earlier this year, the International Business Times reported that a Welsh man named James Howells accidentally threw out a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoin — worth over $260 million dollars. Howells, an IT worker, reportedly mined the bitcoin sometime around 2013 and lost the hard drive he kept it on years ago. He has offered his local authority $70 million to allow him to excavate a landfill where the hard drive might be found, but they have continually denied his requests.
Howells wasn’t the only person to luck out of a bitcoin fortune thanks to an honest mistake. German programmer Stefan Thomas reportedly lost just over 7,000 bitcoin, worth around $220 million, after losing the piece of paper that contained his bitcoin wallet’s password. Thomas has only two more attempts to put in the correct password, if both attempts are incorrect, the wallet will delete all of its available bitcoin. Thomas has publicly made peace with his loss, but he admitted to suffering over the ordeal on some nights.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it: Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again,” Thomas told the New York Times.
Thomas and Howells aren’t the only two who have lost entire bitcoin fortunes due to a simple mishap, The New York Times reports that an estimated $140 billion worth of bitcoin is considered lost due to forgotten passwords. Hanneman’s bitcoin loss on Silicon Valley might seem like it was caused by incompetence, but real life has proven that these simple mistakes exist all over the place.
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