The UpTake: Even while under-house arrest, this bitcoin founder shows that earning a paycheck comes naturally, if you do what you truly love.
A lmost overnight, bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem lost his freedom and his bitcoin exchange company, BitInstant, when he was arrested on charges of money laundering and operating a money transmitting business without a license. Busted in January and released later that month to house arrest on a $1-million-dollar bail, he tells me in a conversation we had yesterday that he quickly started to go stir-crazy.
But not even the government-owned tracker wrapped around his ankle—a device that he has to charge every night, one which I wasn’t allowed to photograph—could keep him out of bitcoin for long. What Shrem ended up doing to keep his sanity—and is still doing, now that he’s allowed to leave his home on a limited basis—is a lesson to any entrepreneur on how to get paid doing what you love, no matter what.
“I told people, I have this ADHD thing where I have to be multi-tasking like five things at the same time, so use my brain for whatever you want,” he told me yesterday at the Magineses Townhouse in Greenwich village, an unmarked building that’s the clubhouse for members of a new exclusive credit card in New York City used by some entrepreneurs. “I’m just trying to help as many people as I can, for bitcoin.”
The 24-year-old founder, who is accused of running an unlicensed money transmitting company and assisting with laundering $1 million in funds that were used on the now-infamous Silk Road black market, provides a marked contrast to a common philosophy in the startup community: you’re only as good as what you charge.
Shrem, who described himself to me as “psychologically unemployable” because he prefers to be his own boss, said that during the first two months of house-arrest he told anyone who would listen that money wasn’t a priority, he just wanted to work, for free at first if necessary.