This 19-year-old earns $54,000 a year mining bitcoin as a full-time job — here’s what it’s like


Bitcoin miner Zack Pettit skating on his work break at the SCATE Ventures mining facility in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Nick Sears was 17 years old when he helped build a bitcoin mining farm in Dallesport, Washington. He was 18 when he was legally allowed to buy bitcoin for the first time. And now, at 19, Sears has doubled down on his life as a bitcoin miner, saying “no” to college and “yes” to living in a room inside a data center that houses 4,500 whirling ASICs. 

“My room is sound-locked,” said Sears of the acoustic retrofitting of his living quarters. “So I can’t hear the machines when I close my door, but they are definitely noisy if I have my door open.”

The machines generate about 80 decibels of noise apiece — but Sears says he likes being as close to the action as possible. It also beats making the half hour commute each way from his parents’ house in White Salmon. 

The 19 year-old has spent pretty much every single day for the last two years teaching himself the nuances of how mining machines work – and crucially, how to fix them. He believes his education in soldering and electronics is worth a whole lot more to him than a university degree. 

“I don’t think about going to college at all, just pursuing further knowledge in the repairs of the miners,” continued Sears.

CNBC spoke with multiple miners for this story. Many explained that the allure of mining comes from being able to tangibly grasp the power of bitcoin. 

“If you’ve been to any of these data centers, the first thing you’ll notice is just how vast and how impressive they are. They’re huge,” said explained Thomas Heller, chief business officer for Compass Mining, which works with Sears’ employer, SCATE Ventures. 

“There’s so much noise, and there’s so much heat. There’s just so much action going on. It is quite cool to walk into a data center for  the first time that’s mining bitcoin, because you can really connect the intangible aspects of bitcoin as a currency, with the physical nature of these machines consuming power and doing these calculations.” 

Bitcoin miner Nick Sears lives on-site at the SCATE Ventures mining farm in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

A day in the life of a miner

Roughly every ten minutes, 6.25 bitcoins are created. In order to mint these new tokens, a global pool of miners are all contributing their computing power to running a hashing algorithm. But these miners aren’t working in a vacuum. They’re competing against each other to see who can unlock each batch of new bitcoin first. 

So the stakes are high for Sears. Being diligent and knowing how to triage issues across the entire facility is critical to success.

Some mining sites use more sophisticated software to monitor the machines, which includes checking the temperature of each hashboard within the individual miners. 

But most important for Sears is just figuring out which of his machines aren’t functioning at full capacity. 

“Every day, you find the machines that have stopped hashing, then you remove them from the rack, and you troubleshoot,” he explained. “You’ve got to find the problem with the machines. You’ve got to find out why it went offline.”

It could be a power outage, which would affect all the machines, or it could be a network outage which could impact all of the machines or just some. 

“Sometimes they just need a power cycle or a reboot,” he said.

But the hardware fix isn’t always as simple as that. 

“It could be that the fan on the individual machine that is used for cooling is broken, or maybe it’s the power supply that needs to be repaired or replaced,” explained Heller.

“It could be the hashboards themselves,” continued Heller. “Each hashboard has lots of individual chips, and those are the chips doing the calculations. I think with a Bitmain machine, if more than four chips on a single hashboard are broken, the whole hashboard will switch off. So instead of hashing at about 100%, you’re only hashing at two-thirds or one-third.” 

Seasonal changes in the weather add a whole other layer of complexity. 

Training up and getting paid

Next, he hopes to attend an in-person class in Atlanta, Georgia, to learn more about soldering. “The hard part is learning how to solder and disassemble a circuit board,” said Sears.

Sears’ boss, Scott Bennett, is big on giving his team access to the resources they need to get better at their jobs. 

Bennett, CEO of SCATE Ventures, is a self-taught miner who started his business in his parents’ garage back in 2017, just before the last crypto “winter,” when prices of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies plunged. Similar to Sears, Bennett once lived at one of his data centers – only he opted for an on-site camper, rather than a room inside the facility itself. 

It helped that he lives within minutes of some of the cheapest power in the world. 

“All of our facilities are 100% hydro powered,” said Bennett. 

The mining facility where Sears works is next to the Columbia River and directly adjacent the Dalles Dam. “We love that source of power. It’s cheap, renewable, and very abundant,” he said.

As for employee pay, Sears says that he makes $54,000 a year, plus full health insurance, which is paid for by the company. 

Bennett also runs some mining machines exclusively for his employees. That amounts to about .02 BTC quarterly, which by today’s price equates to a $788 bonus every three months to Sears. 

“With all the miners in China going offline, the difficulty rate has been changing, so the rewards are higher,” said Sears. “The last time we got a little bit more than we did the previous time, which is cool by me.”

Mining remotely

Gitzes owns six machines that he says are on the “higher end.” When China expelled all its miners, Gitzes says it doubled the amount of money that his machines generate daily. 

After paying the mining pool fee of 1.25%, Gitzes’ miners generate about .0055 bitcoin a day, or $216 at today’s prices. Daily electricity costs are about $30, so he’s pulling in roughly $186 a day, or just shy of $5,700 every month. At that rate, he’ll recoup his investment in about 11 months, assuming no major fluctuations in energy or bitcoin prices.

Gitzes was so impressed by the Compass business model that he quit his job at Amazon to join the team in March. “The mission to decentralize mining and make it so that everyone can participate is something that I find really important,” said Gitzes.

The SCATE Ventures mining farm is in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.



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