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Charlie Shrem was among the pioneer public faces of cryptocurrency. He co-founded a startup company in 2011 called BitInstant that was one of the earliest cryptocurrency companies processing a third of all Bitcoin transactions. In 2015, Shrem went to prison for two years for aiding an unlicensed money transmitter acquire Bitcoins to trade in the underground marketplace, where it was used to buy drugs. It was a felony that is the first of its kind in the crypto world.

Charlie Shrem entered prison in 2015 after medicating himself with vodka just before his incarceration. In the federal prison camp in Pennsylvania, Charlie Shrem began frequenting the library. It became Charlie Shrem’s sanctuary where he would stay in for hours and read 137 books.

Value of currency

Shrem found himself mulling over the question of what made money worth anything

Shrem found himself mulling over the question of what made money worth anything


Shrem found himself mulling over the question of what made money worth anything. Luckily, the jail economy provided the answer as the prison had its cash, mainly packets of mackerel. For those prison inmates in Lewisburg, sachets of mackerel were an ideal form of coins. Inmates serving long sentences would use stockpiles of mackerel as a store of value, much like a savings account. Gradually he came to believe that the acceptance of any form of money is mostly a social convention. But it was true that some features could make one currency more suitable than another.

Halfway house life

In 2016, Charlie Shrem was transferred to a halfway house and says that living not merely with embezzlers, drug dealers, and fraudsters, but also with murderers, child molesters, and bank robbers was worse than prison. One of the conditions of residency at the house was gainful employment and making money via Internet did not qualify. Therefore, during his time in the halfway house, Shrem worked as a dishwasher for $8 an hour. 

Life after prison

After serving time in prison, the 27-year old Bitcoin pioneer was looking for a real comeback. It was a time when Bitcoin and other digital currencies were about to explode in epic proportions, and their value had already risen to up to six times its previous price. When he tried to visit an online exchange, one of his old haunts, where he had once played with altcoins, he found that all familiar landmarks had gone. The website no longer existed and even the jargon and terminology had changed drastically. It was humbling for Shrem to realize that the Bitcoin community had changed in his absence. 

Rise from fall

Out of the gates, Bitcoin’s first felon took the same stance with the blockchain industry and set about catching up on everything he missed. He gracefully rose from his fall and found a new mission with a determination. Since his release, he started building the Internet’s future by strengthening the ecosystem of the blockchain. In this newly diverse ecosystem, Shrem has positioned himself to play a significant role not only as a coder but also as a connector. Although, after his comeback, he has fallen once on the wrong side, he claims that he is different now. 

Virtual money rivalry

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies

When Shrem was one of the first in the game, Bitcoin was the only virtual currency. Now that it has given rise to more kinds of digital money, he is embracing the transformation. He agrees with other pioneers that there will be not just one supreme digital currency but instead many because there is a crypto-pluralism taking hold right now. That may make Shrem the perfect poster child, as cryptocurrencies transition from a form of exchange favored by those who reviled any establishment into a rapidly growing mainstream system. The old Shrem and the likes were not above taking advantage of such a situation either. 

Dash debit card

As Dash took off, Shrem decided to get involved and proposed creating a prepaid debit card. The cardholder can load it with coins, convert them into dollars and use it at any company that accepts a Dash debit card. That way hundreds of millions of digital dollars can enter the mainstream economy. Dash-funded debit cards are several, but Shrem’s innovation would be the first to be used in America. Eventually, it allowed users to convert cash into Bitcoins at conventional banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, at hundreds of thousands of locations across Russia, America, and Brazil including 7-Eleven and Walmart. His plan garnered overwhelming support because people within the Dash universe take someone like Shrem very seriously and reputation plays an important role. Its price shot up to $266/- from $50/- and Shrem became a millionaire overnight again. But expecting more than that was foolhardy and he decided that it is better to let each cryptocurrency do what it does best. 

Digital token sales

Having seen that the new frontier was token sales, Charlie Shrem became the technology officer of a startup, Intellisys Capital, that he predicted would revolutionise the investment world. The plan was to raise funds by issuing blockchain digital tokens as initial coin offerings. The issue was that under American law this would undoubtedly be classified as a security. The decision was made by the company to bar British and American citizens from participating in it to avoid legal trouble. But the idea also had other drawbacks as they would have to depend on partners to vet investors for them. Shrem was back in pitch mode and became the face of the venture, touting Intellisys to the public and the press. He described the proof of concept, a waste-management company, as the fund’s first investment. 

Mired with doubts

As the date approached, Shrem had doubts in his mind and began to get cold feet. A person, already convicted of a financial crime once, selling security would bring intense scrutiny. This thought increasingly made him nervous, restless and sleepless for months leading to the sale. Fortunately for Shrem, fate intervened, and he decided to walk away because it was a bomb. It was easier to take a risk and tarnish his reputation than live in constant fear all his life. 

Taking it easy

Charlie

Charlie

The failure of Intellisys cost him, but Charlie Shrem wants to make the right comeback. He had moved with his fiancée to Sarasota and is living with her in a rented pink townhouse. His abundant off-hours, he spends on relaxing on the beach, boating, eating in upmarket restaurants, and Jet Skiing. Today Shrem is more patient and mellower and less arrogant and cocky than in the past.

Coming up next:

Today, many of the blockchain assets are tokens that are distributed as initial coin offerings. It constitutes the Internet’s second business model. Associated jobs have soared as its value has risen. Candidates who understand initial coin offerings, know how to write smart contracts, and have a good understanding of Ethereum would have an extra competitive edge. Interested applicants should read up the online literature on how blockchain works and be aware of the basics before applying in the field.