CEO and Founder, KnC Miner
Farmer. Miner. Geek. A Portrait of Sam Cole
“I come from a long line of farmers,” proclaims Sam Cole, his voice seeming to exude both pride and an undertone of irony. The pride comes from his clear sense of identity as a farm kid growing up in the pastoral environs of 1980s southern England. The irony likely comes from the rich juxtaposition of that imagery with his professional passion for the supercomputers and other Bitcoin mining equipment that he now manufactures with his partners in KnCMiner, which operates one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency mining operations in his adopted home of Stockholm, Sweden.
For Cole, it’s not as if farming and computer activities ever existed in alternate universes. The land was there from the beginning, and so was the family computer, both ready at hand as objects of his childish curiosity and exploration.
“I don’t remember not having a computer,” says the 34-year-old Cole, who also enjoyed employment-related stops in Scotland and Switzerland before settling in Sweden. Another thing he doesn’t remember: having anyone around to fix the computer when it malfunctioned. So, betraying what one can only conclude is a natural prodigal talent for such matters, Cole took to fixing the family’s computer—and soon everyone else’s in his orbit—himself.
He was all of 10 years old.
“I knew it was up to me,” he says. “I had actually written my first computer program when I was 6 years old, a basic logic puzzle. So when it came time to fix them, I just read a few things and practiced trial and error. It didn’t really seem hard. Pretty soon, I was setting up the computer network for my school. No one knew how to plug them in. The delivery company came and dumped these massive cables on the floor. I said to the teacher, ‘I can do it.’ And I did. So yeah, computers and geekdom have been in my bones for a very long time.”
Fortunately for Cole, his self-diagnosed geekdom is not the type that sees him buried in dark basements communicating only in computer code, however elegant that might be in its own right. He instead exudes an amiability that would surely find him as a natural in one of his home country’s fabled pubs, if he ever had time to hang out in them.
But as a central figure in the Bitcoin world, where, he says, chip production that not long ago took two to three years now happens in a frenetic four to five months, there’s no time for pubs or much of anything else. After working dawn to dusk, Cole commutes a half-hour to his home outside Stockholm, where the family dinner and bedtime snuggles await with his two young children, a daughter and a son.
“I’m one of what they call ‘love refugees,’” he says. “It’s actually an official term here. My wife is Swedish, so we moved here two years ago after we got married. No one comes here for the taxes, that’s for sure.”
Cole’s entrepreneurial spirit manifested itself early, in the wake of all the computer assistance he provided gratis to family, friends and schools in his boyhood. At 18, he made it his profession, attracting an immediate and growing list of clients whom he served as an IT consultant over nearly two subsequent decades.
“I had been studying to be a civil engineer since I was 16, but I realized it would be 10 years before I could really do anything to rise above average in that field,” he says. “I didn’t want to wait that long. I’m not very good at being average.”
That drive saw Cole snag contracts with hundreds of companies over his prosperous IT years, from sole proprietor hairdressers to Nestle, Hewlett-Packard, GlaxoSmithKline and other titans of the corporate world. Last year, sensing favorable winds for Bitcoin and the crypocurrency movement and seeing a wide gulf between demand for mining equipment and its supply, he teamed with partners Andreas Kennemar, Marcus Erlandsson and Michael Unnebäck to launch KnCMiner. The company quickly went on to sell millions of dollars worth of equipment and (literally) set world records for speed of chip production, taking mining equipment to rarefied heights of raw computing power.
With it all has come rather high visibility in the highly technical Bitcoin world for a man still not that far removed from his boyhood farm—nor the values it engendered.
“I still have my tractor driver’s license,” Cole muses. “To this day I have no trouble with early morning starts. There are no lazy farmers. When my father stopped farming, he went on to own a sawmill, so you can say he went from farming to forestry and didn’t miss a beat. I come from a long line of people who are willing to commit.”