Charlie Shrem, the founder of the now-defunct Bitcoin exchange Bitshrem, has transitioned from his troubled past to become a voice for regulatory compliance in the cryptocurrency industry. After being imprisoned eight years ago for crypto violations, Shrem has emerged as a general partner at Druid Ventures, an early-stage crypto venture capital firm that offers growth and strategic advisory services.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Shrem discussed his new role in helping individuals navigate the complex landscape of crypto compliance. He acknowledged that many people are struggling to understand the regulatory requirements and are seeking guidance from legal professionals. Shrem aims to assist these individuals in ensuring they are in compliance with the relevant regulations.

Shrem founded Bitshrem in 2011, and the exchange experienced a significant increase in trading volume in 2013 as the price of Bitcoin surged from approximately $100 to over $1000 by the end of the year. Recognizing the potential of the company, Winklevoss Capital invested $1.5 million to support its operations.

However, Shrem’s journey took a detour when he was arrested in 2015 for operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and allegedly attempting to launder over $1 million through the defunct darknet marketplace Silk Road. He spent two years behind bars as a result of these charges.

Reflecting on his time in prison, Shrem initially did not envision returning to the crypto industry. However, he realized that he could make a positive impact by promoting compliance within the industry. One example of his influence is Byte Federal, a Bitcoin ATM operator that he encouraged to obtain a money transmitter license. While it is unclear if Byte Federal received direct regulatory advice from Shrem, the company’s co-founder, Lennart Lopin, acknowledged that Shrem’s personal story inspired them to prioritize compliance. Lopin stated that Shrem’s arrest highlighted the importance of operating within the boundaries of the law.

Shrem admitted that his disregard for compliance played a significant role in his imprisonment. However, he has since learned his lesson and emphasizes the importance of adhering to regulations, regardless of a company’s size. He cautions against being on the wrong side of the law, even for small businesses in the crypto industry.

The United States crypto industry is currently grappling with the establishment of clear regulations, particularly regarding the classification of coins as securities and their eligibility for listing on crypto exchanges. Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed lawsuits against Binance and Coinbase for listing multiple unregistered securities, including BNB, Binance USD (BUSD), Solana (SOL), Cardano (ADA), and Polygon (MATIC).

Critics argue that the SEC has not provided sufficient clarity on how to determine which cryptocurrencies qualify as securities, nor has it outlined a straightforward process for companies to register their securities products. However, proponents of the crypto industry remain optimistic that the recent ruling in SEC V. Ripple could establish a legal precedent. The judge in the case declared that XRP is not a security, and secondary market sales of the asset are also not considered securities.

Charlie Shrem has transformed his past experiences into a mission to promote regulatory compliance in the crypto industry. Through his role at Druid Ventures, he aims to guide individuals and businesses in navigating the complex regulatory landscape. As the crypto industry continues to seek clarity on regulations, Shrem’s insights and lessons learned from his own journey serve as a valuable resource for those striving to operate within the boundaries of the law.


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