Journal Entry: March 2, 2024/Lesson 2: Digital Economy: Instructors, Tokens, and Bitcoin

Journal Entry

My name is Michael Santos, and I am the founder of Prison Professors. I am grateful to Ryan Saleme for volunteering to help me learn more about the digital economy, and particularly, cryptocurrency

In this lesson, I’ll provide course participants with our backstory and reasons why we’re creating this self-directed course. It’s our hope that all participants will participate fully, helping us gather data necessary to advance our nonprofit’s mission to:

  • Authorize more incentives that will allow people to work toward higher levels of liberty through merit.
  • Introduce work-release programs for people who develop solid release plans and show their commitment to living as law-abiding, contributing citizens.
  • Open channels for people in prison to memorialize their journeys, so they can more easily advocate for themselves as they strive to recalibrate and succeed upon release.


In our introductory course, Preparing for Success after Prison, participants can learn about my lengthy journey through 26 years in prison. I began serving my sentence before we had the internet, smartphones, or any of the resources that make the digital economy possible. From leaders, I learned that anyone could develop a strategy to triumph over a crisis. That strategy required people to:

  • Define success,
  • Create a plan,
  • Put priorities in place,
  • Build tools, tactics, and resources,
  • Measure progress with personal accountability metrics,
  • Adjust as necessary,
  • Execute the plan.

As described in the introductory course, I made preparations while inside that accelerated my learning curve. By studying, I developed my vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and understood more about changes that technology was bringing to the world. Had I not spent my time inside preparing for success, I would not have been able to build multiple income streams after release, regardless of the job market.

The decisions we make today put us on a path to seize or create opportunities in the future. Bad decisions will leave us less likely to succeed, incapable of adapting to the changing world. The digital economy brings opportunities for those who have a basic understanding of how it works, but it can lead to unemployment or underemployment for those who fail to adapt, whether they have a felony conviction or not.

A basic understanding of distributed networks, decentralized finance, artificial intelligence, personal branding, and social media can lead to income streams and even generational wealth. With such knowledge, a person will never have to respond to questions about a felony background, or any collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

Anyone who invests time to learn about the digital economy will be far better positioned to succeed financially. Through this course, I will pass along lessons that I learn from Ryan, and aggregate what I learn from research. 

I will show how the digital economy contributes to my weekly and monthly income, and the generational wealth that I build. 

Ryan made better decisions than I made as a young man. As a high school student, around 2012, he began reading about Bitcoin and the blockchain. After graduating, he studied finance at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he earned a master’s degree in business from Georgetown University. He invested in Bitcoin and in altcoins, then learned how to use social media in ways that would open opportunities to advance his career. After beginning his career with a large accounting firm, he maneuvered his way into a position with a leading crypto exchange. Ryan became a trader, an investor, and eventually a global ambassador for the digital economy. 

In Going Infinite, a book by acclaimed business writer Michael Lewis, we learn that Ryan made forward-looking trades in altcoins, such as FTT. Mr. Lewis cites an example of Ryan purchasing $350,000 worth of FTT at five cents per token. 

Without knowledge of the digital economy, we would not know anything about an altcoin, an FTT, or a token, for that matter. Learning about the digital economy is like learning a different language. People would have to become fluent with the digital economy language, or terms, to understand the following:

  • FTT was a cryptocurrency.
  • It stood for “FT” = FTX Exchange “T” = Token. That means an FTT was a digital token that belonged to the company FTX. It entitled owners of the token to specific rights. The market would assess the relative value of those rights. 
  • Ryan made his purchase in a private sale, and he made the purchase at an agreed-upon valuation of five cents per token. For that reason, his investment of $350,000 bought him seven-million tokens.
  • If the market price for an FTT token went up or down by a penny, Ryan’s holdings of seven-million tokens would increase in value by $70,000.
  • Less than six months after he made his purchase, FTX began listing the FTTs on its exchange. Anyone could purchase an FTT, at the market price of $4 per token–or 80x more than the price that Ryan paid for the tokens. At that rate, Ryan’s $350,000 investment increased to $28 million. 
  • Within two years, the market valued FTT tokens at more than $80 each.
  • The daily trading volume for FTT tokens frequently exceeded $500 million. 
  • As part of his investment planning, Ryan had discretion to liquidate his tokens at more than $100,000 per day without putting downward pressure on the market.

Every day, people earn a living by speculating with cryptocurrency. To increase the odds of succeeding, however, a person should learn more about the digital economy. For example, it would be helpful to know that FTX built FTT as an ERC-20 token issued on the Ethereum blockchain. Those who owned FTT tokens received fee discounts and other benefits from the FTX exchange.

Again, we would need more knowledge about the digital economy and cryptocurrency to make sense of such terms as Ethereum and blockchain. In the cryptocurrency world, we should think of a token as a virtual currency or asset that exists on a blockchain network. Unlike coins like Bitcoin or Ethereum which have their own dedicated blockchains, businesses issue tokens on top of an existing blockchain platform. 

Tokens are digital assets governed by smart contracts on a blockchain, rather than having their own standalone blockchain. They can represent a wide variety of assets, including currencies, loyalty points, securities, stablecoins, NFTs, and other topics we’ll discuss in this course. Popular blockchain platforms used to create tokens include Ethereum (ERC-20 tokens), Binance Smart Chain, Solana, and others. Each token derives value from the code governing supply, utility, and market demand. Tokens are easier and cheaper to create and launch than an entirely new cryptocurrency coin.

In essence, a token is a crypto asset issued and hosted on an existing blockchain infrastructure, as opposed to having its own standalone blockchain network. Its properties and use cases are defined by the token’s smart contracts.

In the lessons to follow, we’ll provide more insight into this new language. 

I feel fortunate to have the privilege of learning from Ryan, a recognized expert in cryptocurrency. I’ll do my best to pass along what I’m learning so that people in prison can learn, too. Through the lessons, I’ll also show how and why I’m investing, including the most recent investment I made.

On January 31, 2024, at 8:47 am., I used the Coinbase exchange to make a $10,000 purchase of Bitcoin. In order to use Coinbase to make that purchase, I had to pay Coinbase a fee of $220.05. 

At the time that I placed my order, the market valued Bitcoin at $43,857.16 per coin. With $10,000, I could not purchase an entire Bitcoin. The Bitcoin currency is divisible down to 8 decimal places, with the smallest unit being called a “satoshi.” One satoshi is equal to 0.00000001 BTC (1/100,000,000th of a Bitcoin).

With my investment of $10,000, after fees, Coinbase added 0.22299552 BTC to my account. That equates to approximately 22,299,552 satoshis. It’s more common to refer to my purchase as simply as a fraction of a Bitcoin (0.22299552 BTC) rather than talking about the satoshi units.

The satoshi is the smallest unit of Bitcoin, similar to how we divide one dollar into 100 cents. In lessons to follow, I’ll try to make this course more interesting by showing how I’m using the digital economy, and investment into cryptocurrencies, as part of my long-term investment strategy.

As I learn from Ryan and others, I will share with participants of this course.

For full transparency, I am not an investment advisor. Our nonprofit, Prison Professors, offers these lessons for the singular purpose of helping people learn more about the digital economy. I provide information on my personal investments to show that even a person who served 26 years can participate in the digital economy. I am an investor and a speculator, understanding the risks. No one should invest in any asset class without a strategy and a plan, as shown through our introductory course: Preparing for Success after Prison. Always develop an  understanding of investment risks—especially with cryptocurrency.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. Discuss how understanding digital assets could play a role in your future financial planning.
  1. How can learning about blockchain and cryptocurrency help you find new job opportunities after release?
  1. What factors do you think would be important when considering digital investments?

Advocacy Initiative:

Please share your story and responses through the manner that works best for you:

  1. Send through email to
    1. Subject line: Digital Economy Course
  1. Send through regular mail:

Prison Professors

℅ Digital Economy Course

32565 Golden Lantern, Suite B-1026

Dana Point, CA 92629

  1. Send through the Edovo tablet

Prison Professors

℅ Digital Economy Course

32565 Golden Lantern, Suite B-1026

Dana Point, CA 92629

Three most recent lessons sequences:

  • Lesson 1: Digital Economy: Prologue to Course
  • Lesson 2: Digital Economy: Instructors, Tokens, and Bitcoin
  • Lesson 3: Digital Economy: Satoshi Nakamoto