Charlie Shrem at Ben's Deli in Manhattan (Ken Kurson)
Bitcoin

Charlie Shrem’s new podcast focuses on stories of Bitcoin’s early days

The Untold Stories podcast centers on interesting people at the heart of Bitcoin’s wild west days from 2011-2014

Hot on the heels of his legal victory over the Winklevii, Bitcoin bad boy and early adopter Charlie Shrem has unleashed a new podcast looking at the early days of the first cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology on which it’s built.

The goal of his Untold Stories podcast is to create an oral history of Bitcoin, Shrem said.

“The idea is to weave together an amazing narrative of what the early days were like … by the people who have built and shaped where the crypto industry is today,” Shrem said. “I feel like … in order to really understand what crypto is, what bitcoin is, you really need to understand who shaped it and why is it important.”

Which isn’t to say that Shrem is taking himself too seriously. “First of all, it’s interesting. It’s funny. And it’s good entertainment. People have been enjoying it just because it’s something great to listen to in your car, on your flight, wherever you are.”

In choosing a guest list from his extensive Rolodex, Shrem said his priority was to talk to really interesting people who were active in bitcoin from 2011 to 2014. Six of the first 10 Untold Stories podcasts Shrem has recorded are up online, and he plans to add another every Tuesday morning at 7:00 am ET.

“I just released an episode with Simon Dix, who got involved in Bitcoin in the early days,” said Shrem. “Simon [had] a very interesting life—he built the software for central banks in Africa, he grew up [in] Zimbabwe, and got his land taken from him by the government.”

The episode, “Simon Dix—The Dangers of Storing Money in the Bank and Globalism is Alarming,” delves into the life of the chairman of hedge fund Ecstatus Capital, who hitchhiked to South Africa with no money when he was 17.

Another is with self-sovereign bitcoin miner J. Maurice “Wiz” who was there for the failure of Mt. Gox, the cryptocurrency exchange hacked for $$50 million in bitcoin in 2014. They discuss topics ranging from crypto taking on Venmo to creating a better financial system.  

“I’m not going to bring on a person who’s got a half a million followers on Twitter … but all they’ve done is be a talking head on Twitter about crypto,” Shrem said.

Shrem was right there himself as a founder of the Bitcoin Foundation and CEO of the Bitinstant exchange from 2011 until 2013 before falling from grace. In 2014, he was arrested for violating anti-money laundering laws by using his exchange to sell bitcoin to users of the infamous Silk Road dark web marketplace. He went to prison for a year.

Shrem describes himself as an ideological Bitcoin person—but not a maximalist—and believes that bitcoin (BTC) is the only cryptocurrency on the path to full decentralization.

“Without decentralization there’s really no point to crypto,” he said. “The whole point of this is that you can’t have one single entity in charge.”

On the other hand, Shrem said, he’s also a capitalist and has no problem with people doing what they think is best with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in general.

Shrem is not with controversy, of course. In April, he won a lawsuit brought by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who accused Shrem of keeping about 5,000 bitcoin out of a $250,000 purchase in 2012. A year later, they invested in Bitinstant. The case was dismissed with prejudice.

He also makes a substantial appearance in Ben Mezrich’s newly released history, “Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption.” It is a sequel to the account of the Winklevoss’ part in the creation of Facebook that was the basis for Aaron Sorkin’s film, “The Social Network.”

Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus senior editor, is a New York-based journalist who has spent much of the last 15 years covering the employee engagement and recognition business. Before that he covered the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and wrote about politics in New York City. Disclosure: Jakobson owns no cryptocurrencies.