Sarasota Has Become a Hub for Cryptocurrency Entrepreneurs
Courtney and Charlie Shrem. Photograph by Michael Kinsey.
I first met Charlie Shrem, 32, and his wife, Courtney, in an office that overlooks Sarasota Bay from the seventh floor of downtown’s Palm Tower Suites. It’s from here that Shrem runs Crypto.IQ, a consulting company that works with investors in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
A decade ago, Shrem was one of the biggest names in crypto. In 2011, he founded BitInstant, one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges, and later helped launch the nonprofit Bitcoin Foundation. The Winklevoss twins, famous for their role in the development of Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and the acrimonious breakup and lawsuit that followed, bought their first stake in crypto from Shrem. (According to Forbes, the twins are now both Bitcoin billionaires.) Thanks to crypto, Shrem’s official net worth grew to $500,000, a number that underestimates how wealthy he was, considering the amount of Bitcoin he owned. His life was a fantasy of luxury and tech celebrity.
“I walked around like my shit didn’t stink,” says Shrem. “I was 22, just out of college. I met Courtney. Life was grand. We owned a nightclub in Manhattan that we were living on top of.” Bitcoin was going for $1,000 a unit and rising.
“I did the very first transaction for Bitcoin to be accepted in a nightclub,” says Courtney. She showed me a picture from a Bloomberg article that shows her exchanging cryptocurrency for a cocktail.
The good times didn’t last long. In…