Charles “Charlie” Shrem IV (born November 25, 1989) is an American entrepreneur and bitcoin advocate. He co-founded the now-defunct startup company BitInstant, and is a founding member of the Bitcoin Foundation, formerly serving as vice chairman. In 2017, he joined Jaxx as its director of business and community development. In December 2014 he was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting business related to the Silk Road marketplace. He was released from prison around June 2016.
Shrem was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is an alum of Yeshivah of Flatbush, and graduated from Brooklyn College in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance. He is of Syrian Jewish descent.
As a college senior in 2011, Shrem started investing in bitcoin. Soon after, the bitcoin service Shrem was using crashed, and he lost his bitcoins. Shrem and Gareth Nelson, a friend he met online, had similar frustrations with the length of time it took to buy and sell bitcoin on exchange sites. They started BitInstant, a more user-friendly company that charged a fee for users to purchase and make purchases with bitcoins at over 700,000 locations, providing temporary credit to speed up transactions. Initially a side project, BitInstant soon needed to grow, at which point Shrem received a $10,000 loan from his mother. Shortly thereafter, BitInstant received $125,000 from angel investor Roger Ver, and, in the fall of 2012, $1.5 million from a group of investors led by Winklevoss Capital Management. By 2013, BitInstant was processing approximately 30% of all bitcoin transactions. BitInstant operated from September 2011 until July 2013.
At the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose, California, Shrem spoke about the challenges facing bitcoin companies and the need for them to comply with regulations, as well as the challenges of properly explaining the value and mainstream potential of bitcoin. He has described himself as a bitcoin purist, who believes in bitcoin as a technology that will help the world by allowing citizens to protect their money without banks and other traditional financial institutions.
Shrem is a founding board member of the Bitcoin Foundation, founded in 2012 with a mission to standardize and promote bitcoin. He was formerly vice chairman, resigning after his January 26, 2014 arrest.
Shrem is featured in The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, a documentary directed by Nicholas Mross that explores the origins and development of bitcoin. It premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Shrem participated in a panel discussion following the screening. He is also featured in the 2016 documentary film Banking on Bitcoin, discussing how bitcoin technology will shape lives, and in the 2015 book Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper, which covers the rise of bitcoin.
After his release from 24-hour house arrest in May 2014, with the conditions that he must abide by a curfew, remain in New York City and wear a GPS monitoring device, Shrem spoke at bitcoin industry events, worked as a business development consultant for payments startup Payza, and advised two Brooklyn Holiday Inn hotels on preparations to accept bitcoin for payment. He was imprisoned from March 30, 2015, until his release around June 2016.