After spending a year in prison, Bitcoin pioneer Charlie Shrem has a new job and a new mission: Strengthening the ecosystem of blockchain assets—and, just maybe, helping build the future of the Internet.
“My word is gold,” says Charlie Shrem, glass of absinthe in hand, light winking off a pinkie ring he wears that is embossed with a Bitcoin symbol. “And I make sure everyone gets paid.”
Bitcoin’s first felon is in his favorite mode: full-on bluster. We’re in Sarasota, where he lives, perched on stools at Pangea Alchemy Lab, a faux-speakeasy tucked behind a curtain in the back of a sandwich shop. The bartender is a bearded anarchist who, after making our drinks—he drips water from a sort of four-armed decanter onto sugar cubes suspended on slotted spoons above glasses of French absinthe—asks if I’ve read Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by the anthropologist David Graeber. Shrem has been offering plenty for the bartender to eavesdrop on, a discourse that features words like Bitcoin, blockchain, digital currency.