Free Bitcoin For College Students

Our portfolio company Coinbase is offering $10 worth of Bitcoin for every college student who opens up a Coinbase account using an email address with a .edu domain on it.

In the blog post announcing this giveaway, Coinbase says:

We believe that getting more young scholars thinking about and transacting in bitcoin will help spur the growth of the ecosystem and contribute to the ever-increasing creative ways bitcoin is being used to make the world a better place.

The big state schools were dominating the early results. This chart was published almost a week ago now:

bitcoin giveaway

I know that a lot of college students read AVC. So if you are one of them, go to Coinbase, sign up with your college email address, and get $10 of free bitcoin.

#hacking finance

Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    Most universities let alumni keep their .edu email addresses. I’ve got one. Does that mean I’m in the money?

    1. fredwilson

      i suspect it will work for you. give it a try

      1. Dan

        I can confirm it works. Just signed up. Smart move on Coinbase’s part. I’ve been standing on the sidelines for the last 18 months and apparently it just required a few hundredths of a bitcoin to encourage me to jump.

    2. Aaron Klein

      Was about to ask the same question. Guess I’m going to have to own Bitcoin for the first time. 😉

    3. William Mougayar

      that’s loopholing the program. it says “college students”.

      1. Richard

        But it doesn’t say “current college students” or “currently enrolled college students” 🙂

        1. William Mougayar

          haha…are you a lawyer 🙂

          1. Richard


      2. JimHirshfield

        It’s how many of us got on Facebook early. No one, especially FB, complained about that.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          It’s the main factor that ConnectU had required to create a curated network of people who’d want to engage.

        2. LE

          And actually the opposite. Some people love to feel that they are getting away with something.

      3. JamesHRH

        Jim is a student of life and Dean of the College of Puns. He’s good.

      4. ShanaC

        graduate students don’t count?

    4. ShanaC

      Oh same. I’m stuck as shanalee at uchicago foreverAlso, what about grad students (hello grad students!)

    5. LE

      When my dad used to sell at the gift show in NY he had a requirement that you had to be a retail store or a synagogue gift shop.So if someone came by and claimed they were and knew what to say he would sell to them even if they really weren’t. [1][2] The barrier was there to create enough friction to not be bothered by to many nudniks and to have plausible deniability. My guess is that coinbase is perfectly happy to have alumni exploit this but isn’t (at this point) specifically stating that.[1] Apple has the +-5% education discount. I have used that anytime I have bought a computer from Apple. In the past you had to show an ID at the apple store. Then you could just state the school you attended or taught at. Now you can just find the Apple Education store on the website and you don’t even have to state a school. It’s that easy. But it give Apple plausible deniability in terms of a pricing differential. (Same with any industry discount).[2] I was able to get into an really expensive medical conference by simply registering a domain name and making up a letterhead that I made myself in a few minutes claiming to be a member of the medical press. In that case I’m sure the conference isn’t expecting many people to be creative and do that and non medical conference tend to have more barriers and checking to prevent that from happening.

      1. JimHirshfield

        “nudniks”That is all.

  2. Liem

    What about UK universities?

    1. JimHirshfield

      I hear some of them are pretty good.

      1. William Mougayar

        you’re funny again. i thought you had a lull for a bit 🙂

        1. JimHirshfield

          Sorry if I let you down.

    2. fredwilson

      if you have a .edu address, i think it will work

      1. Salt Shaker

        There are 22M college students in the U.S. alone, which translates into a potential liability of $220M (10 BTC per), although clearly a small % of students will likely redeem this offer. Nonetheless, how does Coinbase fund/budget for this type of sampling effort without “breaking the bank?”I could understand if there’s a minimum spend requirement ($10 of Bitcoin w/ $50 purchase), or offer limited to first million who sign up, but there are no such caveats. Sure, one can model potential redemptions and avg. $ purchase per redemption, but there seems to be a very high level of risk w/ this uncapped offer.Perhaps the transaction is booked only when/if a purchase is made?

      2. jason wright

        not many have, but this is an exception;…typically it is ‘’

        1. Matt A. Myers

          .ac being academic?

          1. jason wright

            yes Matt, it’s ‘academic’, but .ac is not only for universities to use. educational institutions for 16-18 year old students also use it.

    3. pointsnfigures

      Kentucky is in the US. It’s eligible, but they don’t take it for basketball tickets yet.

  3. William Mougayar

    Acquiring a user for $10 is cheap, in relative terms. Brilliant move. It’s like the toaster you used to get for opening a new bank account somewhere.But the trick is not to just own bitcoin. You’ve got to spend it, buy more, transact, and experience the bitcoin economy.

    1. John

      They can buy tulips?

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly 🙂

      2. beery

        or beer

      3. ShanaC

        oh boy, that’s punny

    2. awaldstein

      You look at this as sales, I see it as marketing.It’s a great value for $10 if the socialization affect is there. Is this about monetization or market awareness? Don’t understand their biz model I guess.

      1. William Mougayar

        Well, it’s a marketing cost. And they got some headlines for awareness. So, it’s a little marketing stunt.The “sales” benefit will only come if they use it, buy more bitcoins, stay as customers, etc. That’s the harder part. And it might cost Coinbase even more to “retain” these users, if they chose to CRM them.

        1. awaldstein

          Actually the real value of this promotion then is in its viral spread. If you touch 10K enthusiasts at $10 a piece it is horrendously expensive if the multiple of reuse by networks is not a solid10x. Amazingly cheap if it is that or better.

          1. William Mougayar

            yep. if each person told 2-3 others, etc.

          2. awaldstein

            No real way to measure this except within a time frame as most shares happen within a very short window.2-3x is an expensive promotion in my mind. $3 per share is crazy shit if there is now transaction at the end of the line.I really love this idea but metrics to how to qualify success are kinda what we make up to know if things are working. I bet they have this figured out already.

          3. Salt Shaker

            Scratching my head a bit understanding how Coinbase modeled this promo. There’s no minimum purchase requirement (e.g., $10 BTC free w/ $50 purchase) or cap on the number of participants (e.g., offer limited to 1st million students). Plus, Coinbase waves processing fees on a merchant’s first million $ in sales, which could seriously effect their payout and liability.You get a free toaster w/ a minimum deposit. There are no such purchase requirements here, and there are 22M eligible college students in the U.S. (or $220M in potential liability, although redemption rates will prob be no higher than 5%).

          4. awaldstein

            dunno although these are smart people with Fred’s guidance so there is more than meets the eye.seeding markets is great marketing and lots of history so I’m sure there is more other than the yours and my math.

          5. JamesHRH

            @stuartkmarvin:disqus four markets to tend to in your business:- your customers- your competitors customers- customers of other competing categories- nonusersThey are growing the entire market with this approach. That is ultra long term view & very @fredwilsony of them.However, I think it is pretty scary when they can not even give a hint of the benefits, to a college student, of why they should have a coin base account.

          6. LE

            I think it is pretty scary when they can not even give a hint of the benefits, to a college studentAlso should mention that younger people in particular, while being more worried about some social issues, are less worried about many other things that adults are worried about or could see as a benefit to bitcoin. In particular they have a safety net (their parents) to dig them out of any mess that they are in. And they are famously not really worried about the future (after all they smoke and drink and party and get little sleep, right?). So in particular certain arguments for using bitcoin simply aren’t going to resonate with them. [1]All that stuff about the money system means nothing to them. And despite my previous statement regarding vices my guess is that they aren’t even that worried about or seeing a big benefit in bitcoin for nefarious purposes. Not to mention the fact that the subset of college students who would be is after all only a subset of all college students.[1] An example of this might be trying to sell apartment insurance to a recent college graduate. Using FUD with someone who has middle class parents to buy them a new laptop which was stolen is not going to work. They might very well be willing to take their chances since they won’t be SOL if it gets stolen.

          7. LE

            This falls into the category of guerilla marketing almost.To me (other than the timing that I have already mentioned as being off) this is quite obvious and a nice idea given they have run though the math on a napkin. [1]On a small scale I’ve given people free things in the past (randomly here and there) and although I would say I can’t provide you with statistics it’s always been a win and has made sense. In general they end becoming a customer who pays money in the future. It all depends what the initial freebie is. $10 isn’t a big deal (once again depending on the future win and probability of getting a customer). My cost for a freebie is perhaps $8.50 to $10.00 depending on how you do the math.This is really no different that getting a foot in the door by taking a loss on your first project with a customer in order to gain their confidence and get future business. Something that small business does each and every day.Separately this is another reason why it’s good to run businesses on a small scale as a kid because you can actually test human behavior and get a seat of the pants feel for it.[1] Not sure for example I would have rolled out at 500 schools I might have tried 3 or 4 schools as a test to turn up any potential problems and then tweak possibly.

          8. LE

            Hah. RTFM they are limiting it to 500 top universities all over the world.That said they aren’t legally obligated to take one and all. Sure the fine print says “we can’t stop this when we want”. (And in fact they talk about abuse and that’s obvious on it’s face anyway.)

          9. LE

            Also have to factor in if the media picks up on this and talks about it as well. So that when people think of bitcoin they think of coinbase. Similar to “isn’t AOL the internet” (you remember that I’m sure).

      2. LE

        Is this about monetization or market awareness?It’s about market awareness to me more than about monetization (by which I think you mean “getting the value of a future customer”).If I walk into a wine store and someone offers me a free bottle of a $10 Riesling there is the strong possibility that I will then continue to buy that Riesling over the one I am buying currently [1]. As opposed to shout to the world that I just got a free bottle of Riesling. (I mean this is all a matter of degree so you can for sure have a few things going on but the Riesling play would generally fall into the “future brand loyalty” end of things. Or if you give out lulitonix samples.Another example: My wife still uses the brand of perfume that she got in the swag bag when she had her first child 10 years ago.[1] I will also be more receptive to their advertising since my brain is aware of the brand. My wife couldn’t get Patron this weekend and ordered “1800”. I never heard of that. She had seen it on the shelf at the liquor store (I hadn’t I just buy Patron). On the way home from where we were (after this happened) I saw a billboard for 1800 with Ray Liotta. Before I had seen Ray on the billboard but ignored the brand. Now (this is a true story btw) I noticed the 1800 bottle first and Ray 2nd. Now each time I pass a billboard with 1800 it will bang in my brain and it’s quite possible I might pick up a bottle. My wife also told me 1800 costs more than Patron (my brain elevated the brand) and I wondered to what extent that pricing (higher) was a clear part of the branding strategy as opposed to costs. Not knowing anything about liquor business my gut says it’s a branding strategy (because my brain reacted positively to it as a luxury brand).

  4. tyronerubin

    this initiative is interesting, especially after listening to a talk like this with Naval Ravikant.…and this one with Chamath Palihapitiya…Naval Ravikant and Chamath Palihapitiya are some of the top tech minds that have spoken so openly and positively about BitCoin and have said that the more we get the non techie world to use BitCoin the more chance it has of going mainstream.Here are some more great videos from this years CoinBase summit.…especially this gem with Marc Andreessen and Balaji Srinivasan…

  5. pointsnfigures

    I am loving that the University of Illinois is leading the way. (Purdue too). Lots of engineers at those schools.

  6. Lars

    Too bad my university doesn’t end with .edu but instead “” 🙁

  7. Richard

    The better part of this experiment will be whether the bitcoin is spent and when it is spent (exchanged for value).

  8. reggiedog

    Can someone explain how “bitcoin is being used to make the world a better place.”?

    1. Richard

      Financial literacy is a growing problem in the US. Bitcoin is a hands on approach to help solve this.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        If there wasn’t the gambling aspect with people pumping money into it and benefitting from increased demand/adoption (e.g. “$10” from X years ago now being worth “$100” for doing nothing), then it’d be fine with this argument – though I’m guessing what I stated doesn’t get taught as part of financial literacy.

      2. ShanaC

        how do bitcoins solve financial literacy issues (I actually think Mint does a better job of that)

    2. JamesHRH

      Reggie, technology reduces cost and time.Its arguable that technology has made the world much worse in the last 400 years. You would have to tally up the medical / social pluses and subtract the economic negatives.Tech is neutral, but a force of nature. Its like sunshine (or tornadoes),

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Indeed technology and human behaviour are on different layers. The yin/yang balance of human nature must play through. Piss off and cause enough suffering in order to create an opposite enough reaction for positives to show through and get adopted – that is the hope anyway.

  9. Dshnaider

    I shared this right away on a couple of groups frequented by college students, then withdrew it when I read the “fine print” that said it only applies to students at 500 colleges worldwide that Coinbase determined worthy of the promotion. So it’s not “every college student.”

    1. Richard

      Good Catch.

  10. LIAD

    for me their blog post language a little too contrived and perhaps a teeny bit disingenuous.this isn’t about altruism its about customer acquisition.students aren’t being targeted as they’re ‘young scholars’ but because they are most likely to adopt bitcoin and their .edu addresses are limited to one-per-person therefore stopping people from exploiting this offer.nonetheless coinbase doing bitcoin a solid and i hope this helps it spread like wildfire.

    1. markslater

      correct. this is the bitcoin version of free uber rides……but at the end of the day if if generates a measure of liquidity – it does help the ecosystem at large right? so it could be seen as a double wammy in that regard.

      1. LIAD

        btc ecoystem benefits from this without doubt. am all for it.

        1. Richard

          Maybe. If I already own bitcoin, this promotion is similar to a “bad” groupon, wherein bad means that the marginal propensity to consume is not increased.

      2. Richard

        The issue is how many of these girls and guys already have bitcoin accounts.

        1. LE

          For sure there will be cannibalization but that’s merely a cost of doing business. Sigma Algebra could construct the equation needed to adjust for that effect.

    2. LE

      for me their blog post language a little too contrived and perhaps a teeny bit disingenuous.I agree but I think most people generally “chunk” bullshit like this in their brains and gloss over it. I know I did until you pointed it out (and you are correct).I did notice the typo though:How many colleges students can we get to sign up to get $10 of bitcoin?

  11. Richard

    Coinbase could have used a course in behavioral economics. They could have selected 50,000 accounts at random and pushed $10 of bitcoin to each account with one account getting $1000.

    1. JamesHRH

      Nudgy you are Padowan.90% of the heartache is doing anything the first time. I think they get full marks for focusing on adoption and putting their money where there needs are.Now, if they don’t nudge them with the next campaign……….

  12. Scott Barnett

    I forwarded to both my daughters, who go to SUNY schools – I hope they are part of the 500 universities in the list…. what a great idea.

    1. LE

      I’m not finding any list of the “500 universities”. I’m wondering at what point you find that out.(So he now goes and tests the signup) .Interesting.If you try to create an account at an invented .edu this is what it does. Example is [email protected]: Images aren’t posting, what’s up with that? Image posted after I did an edit..

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Re: Disqus images – yeah, there’s no sign it was successful. I am wondering if a moderation process occurs now, whether manual or automatic checking.

        1. LE

          Impossible to believe Disqus is able to moderate images before the fact. (And it almost certainly isn’t Fred, Shana or William either..)

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Automatically they could have a ban list of Reported posts that contain images? I could imagine it’d be a simple way to deal with trolls who post a lot of the same trolling content.

  13. jason wright

    potentially how many $10 is this?this is guaranteed to go viral.

    1. LE

      Like I said in my other comment “nice idea”.But I fear they may have “blow their load” at the wrong time.College students are most receptive to promotions at specific times. [1] Obviously they may not have wanted to wait but the beginning of the semester (September or January) would get them more virality.It’s graduation time at colleges this month. I was just at one yesterday. Timing is off.[1] My ex wife’s business was a coupon book promotion. The coupon books were given out free at the beginning of each semester at the bookstores when students were buying their books. And when freshman were most receptive to getting a new idea dropped into their heads (this is actually an important point on it’s own btw what I call “unzip and drop in an idea”). Separately she used to seed fraternities and school offices with freebies as well.

    2. awaldstein

      Nothing except cat videos are guaranteed to go viral….everything thinks so, few do.

  14. jason wright

    has Coinbase overcome the requirement of a US bank account to manage bitcoin?

    1. ShanaC

      most college students have bank accounts – parents have to send money somehow

      1. jason wright

        i was thinking about students at an .edu outside the US;…this might not fit the regs and requirements to receive $10 of bitcoin.

    2. William Mougayar

      that’s a very good point. the program is available to international students, but only with a US account, so that eliminates those don’t have it anymore, or never had one.

      1. jason wright

        yes, i think students at a .edu outside the US will be out of luck.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Worked for me using a email.

          1. jason wright

            then the irresistible force that is the peer-to-peer democracy of bitcoin will not be blocked. nice to see.

  15. LE

    Our portfolio company Coinbase is offering $10 worth of Bitcoin for every college student who opens up a Coinbase account using an email address with a .edu domain on it.Nice idea (will have other comments on this) but:Actually according to the blog post it’s limited to “the top 500 universities worldwide”This offer is good for select .edu domains only. We have tried to include the top 500 universities worldwide (this is not U.S. focused) but we can’t guarantee all universities are supported. We may also disable certain universities where we see abuse. Given this the following point does not matter but I will mention it. There are legacy institutions that are not colleges that have .edu . In fact there are some high schools that have .edu. (This is a grandfathering.)There are also obviously sysadm’s at these .edu’s that could easily create extra accounts (even a the “top” universities) and I fully expect this might happen.I haven’t gone thought the signup process (I have an alumni .edu) but I’m curious what if any the vetting process is for this.

  16. Brandon Burns

    A “use it or lose it” layer to this promotion would have been good. I.E. Coinbase puts the money in your account, but if you don’t use it in, say, 30 days they’ll take it out.If you look at this initiative as a sales tactic, even if Coinbase gets a super healthy 20% conversion rate (conversion = people who actually end up spending the money / using the service), which would be super high to say the least, after you do the math Coinbase is paying $100 per customer. In reality, the conversion rate will probably be lower and they’re actually paying more per customer. Sure, Coinbase is getting an extra bump due to the PR factor (which may even it out, depending on how exactly how much PR this gets), but this is still an expensive promotion… which really doesn’t have to be with a “use it or lose it” caveat.Thoughts for future planning…

    1. LIAD

      im sure coinbase are crediting accounts off blockchain, so the credit only exists in their ledger. therefore users don’t actually even have it until they use it.

      1. robertdesideri

        you think they’re shorting bitcoin? i guess that could be a hedge on their part :-0

        1. LIAD

          no, they are just crediting users accounts ledgers with a btc balance. no bitcoin really changes hands. as such if users don’t spend it no btc actually has been transacted

          1. robertdesideri

            however if the recipient utilizes the bitcoin received in the promo scheme then the short must be covered. if there’s no language in the scheme that says the bitcoin expires then the liability is forever. they either have to cover in the market or from their pocket.

      2. Brandon Burns

        if that’s true, then that’s both pretty smart and a pretty great example of a benefit of bitcoin.though without telling people upfront, it smells a little fishy. and like another excuse for people to not like bitcoin.

        1. LIAD

          called off blockchain transactions. coinbase plays with internal balances and reconciles with bitcoin as necessary –

          1. Brandon Burns

            this basically explains the process of making people think they received bitcoin, when in reality they didn’t… and then makes it seem like a good thing.i get the benefits of such a structure, but to the general public this is bond to sound super sketchy! and also, even though the bitcoin community says the protocol is safe and hard to abuse… i think this exploits a really big and dangerous loophole.that said, i’m no bitcoin expert. maybe i’m wrong. but if i am, a lot of other people will probably think the same thing and be wrong, which still isn’t very good for bitcoin.

          2. LIAD

            off blockchain mixed reviews -…

          3. robertdesideri

            if you’re correct then the bargain coinbase are offering, the way i view it, is: ‘install our wallet, meaning open an account with us, and we’ll give you an i.o.u. for 10 bucks worth of bitcoin’

          4. Brandon Burns

            i thought as much. thanks for the link.

          5. JamesHRH

            My head hurts/That’s not good news for BItcoiners.Someone has to tie a simple need to a simple benefit.

        2. robertdesideri

          which would mean, if liad is correct, that the recipient in the scheme doesn’t have 10 bucks worth of bitcoin at all. they have the credit of coinbase. completely defeats the so-called beauty of bitcoin. fishy

    2. LE

      Agree with “use it or lose it”. Also a good example why having lawyers around can sometimes retard special needs your chance taking. I can see some lawyers wondering if any money not used would have to be turned over to the state or dormant property laws or whatever. Of course forgetting if this even matters (I’m just saying lawyers would raise bubba meinsa points so to speak) gut says “ask for forgiveness not permission..”

  17. ShanaC

    Hello College Students who see this 🙂

  18. Matt A. Myers

    Anyone know the average transaction size made with Bitcoin?I don’t imagine there’s much people are buying and selling that’s $10 or less.

  19. Matt Zagaja

    Will be interesting to see the breakdown of who spends it on Reddit gold v. their OkCupid profile.

  20. Emily Merkle

    That is good for a 12 pack of Natty Light. Maybe a Slim Jim…

  21. christopher ridgeway

    All college students get free Bitcoin! Get yours today!

  22. 土木坛子

    Strange, I got 10 USD from this activity, but my office mate did not. Thank you,

  23. James

    Is this promotion made solely for US and UK students? As in South Africa we don’t get .edu e-mail addresses, but rather ones, we would also like to be a part of this revolution.

  24. We Buy Houses Fast San Antonio

    Just another icon to confuse everyone!

  25. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Bolder would be to offer n BTC rather than 10 USD. I wonder how the budgeting would have worked or is it already possible to buy BTC future options.?

  26. tpd

    I signed up that same day with my .edu account, and no Bitcoins for me…. 🙁