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Beijing native Xu Ke is really good with numbers. As an exchange student at the University of Riverside, California, in 2013, she developed a knack for poker, and though she was not yet 21 (the general minimum gambling age in the U.S.) at the time, the existence of online poker and lenient Southern California casino laws allowed her to play regularly and hone her skills in probability and risk assessment.
Her days in card rooms both digital and physical allowed her to meet plenty of interesting, unconventional characters, including investors in cryptocurrency, back before digital currencies hit the mainstream. She was intrigued and began mining Bitcoin. The deeper she dug into Bitcoin, the more she agreed with its philosophy of decentralization via blockchain.
Xu continued to play poker and invest in Bitcoin when she moved back to China in 2014. Whenever she’d score big at the poker table, she’d invest the money into the digital currency. At the peak of her Bitcoin days, Xu says she had over 50,000 units of the currency. She eventually cashed out 20,000 Bitcoins in 2014 at $240 per unit, which came out to around $4.8 million.
Now 24, Xu realizes that she sold them too soon — 20,000 Bitcoin would be worth close to $120 million now — but she at least made good use of that two million. In 2016, after a stint creating and selling an social app, she founded Nome Lab, a Beijing-based start-up that specializes in making blockchain product and games.