Peter McCormack: What was the kicker? Why did you decide to start doing a podcast?
Charlie Shrem: I’ve always wanted to do one for a long time. Are you getting his squeaking?
Peter McCormack: We probably are getting his squeaking but we don’t mind, it’s a family show. So you were wanting to do one for a while?
Charlie Shrem: I want to do it for a while, but I want to make sure it was done professionally and I needed help making sure, like from the concept of the show, the concept of untold stories I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I didn’t know how to take it and make sure I did it the right way. I didn’t want to half ass the show. A lot of people have half assed podcasts. They’ve released one and got like 10 downloads and then they’ve edited themselves and they’ve written the show notes themselves and people don’t realize that a podcast is a full on production.
You have sound engineers, you have a copywriter, you have a editor, you have transcription, you have to come up the format for the show, the design of the show, you have to choose which ones are going to be released next week. Then there’s the marketing, distribution, advertisement, sales! You do a lot of that yourself?
Peter McCormack: I did everything to begin with. Sorry no, when I first started, Bitcoin 20k, I had a bit of money, hadn’t blown my Bitcoin. I had an engineer and that was it. Then as the price dropped and I ran out of money, I figured out how to do the engineering myself. So up until about two months ago, it was about a year where I did everything. I wrote the show notes, I prepared the interview, I booked the interview, I did the interview, I engineered it, I published it, I did the marketing. But that was cool because I had control over everything.
Charlie Shrem: You’ve learnt and you can become your own podcast network and bring shows to life eventually. You can have other people who want to do shows, you can do everything. Let them pay you to produce their shows. You can become a producer if you want it to. Kind of like BlockWorks with me. I like working with BlockWorks because they were able to really take what was in my brain and put it down onto paper, which was very difficult.
Just creating the whole concept of the show and giving me a lot of direction, because you see now and my listeners of Untold Stories now see all the good stuff, but along the road, I had some really stupid ideas that those guys were basically telling me like, “Charlie, we’re not doing that” and I would’ve done that!
Peter McCormack: How many shows have you done now?
Charlie Shrem: I’ve released I think eight or nine episodes and I’m getting about 2,000 downloads per episode now.
Peter McCormack: What have you learnt in doing it? Because you do your first show and you’re like, “crap, how do I do this?
Charlie Shrem: You got to use honey because your voice goes. I called my wife and I complain, I’m like, “I don’t have a voice!” I have a little mixer in my studio and I’m constantly putting myself on mute and just like clearing my throat because you talk a lot. So I’ve learnt that. But what also I learnt, I’ve learnt that people like talking and I’ve learnt that I like talking and I’ve learnt that because I don’t really give a shit whether people like the idea of my show or not, I’m funding the show myself and this is an idea that I’ve wanted to do and I gauge success by, did I try?
If I tried to do it and it failed, at least I can say, “all right, I tried it” and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to try it. Do you know what the definition of a professional is? The definition of a professional is someone who believes that if you’re going to do something, you have to do it the best way possible. So that’s what a professional is.
So I’m not going to say I’m a professional anything. I play tennis. We play tennis a few days a week. We’re not professional tennis players. We’re not amazing at it yet, but we believe that doing it right is the best way, like amateur hour at the court whatever it is.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I don’t think people always understand how much work goes into something like this. I do at least 70 hours a week for both episodes, when you consider everything the prep, the engineering the show, the show notes etc. I mean getting a show live is half a day of work. Just getting it live, doing the marketing and also trying to construct it like a business that has the right level of income, so I can travel and do these interviews in person because this right now, is going to be an infinitely better interview than if I did it over Skype.
Charlie Shrem: I agree. I’ve only done one episode in person. I’m happy I did it not with a big, big guest because I was a little nervous. When you’re interviewing someone online you can look at your phone, you can look away, you can put yourself on mute, go take a piss while they keep talking and talking and talking. We’re doing it in person. You got to sit here and you’ve got to communicate and you’ve got to look and you’re having a conversation.
It’s a very different type of interview. I would almost say that there are some people that if they were here in Sarasota with me, I would say, “hey, let’s go in opposite rooms as I don’t want to interview in person.” I want to do it over at separate rooms because I feel like it’s a different type of interview.
Peter McCormack: Well, I tell you why I prefer to do in person. There’s a couple of reasons.
Charlie Shrem: You get to know the person.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, but you have the whole body, kind of actions and what they’re doing so you can get a feel for them, you’ve got the full peripheral vision. Whereas in a Skype window, you don’t have that. The second reason is that you do get to know them. So we hung out last night. We’ve hung out today. I know you…
Charlie Shrem: Today was such a crazy day!
Peter McCormack: Yeah! But I know you now a lot more, for the last 24 hours, than I would if, say I had done the research online and prepared a list of questions. Also another thing I started doing, I do it rarely, but one in every five shows now, I do it without any questions prepared, because I know the kind of guest it is and the kind of conversation I want to have.
Charlie Shrem: It’s an interesting point. but don’t you think that because you got to know me, if you had done your research online about me, there’s a persona that’s been created about me, good and bad. That would have led your interview or the conversation, that would’ve been one type of interview. Now that you’ve gotten to know me, it’s a different type of interview. I think it’ll be a better interview, but it’s a different type of interview. I’m like you with research. So that’s another thing people don’t realize is that you have to do research.
Peter McCormack: Of course!
Charlie Shrem: Everyone can do a podcast, but you have to be able to control and follow and lead a conversation and allow the person to talk about something that you want, like a theme of the show. So I don’t do the research anymore like you, but what I do do is, I want to know a little bit of background on the person and I try to answer myself, “what makes this person tick, what drives them.” It’s hard to find that on the Internet. Sometimes people have spoken about that already, but that’s really it. Then topic wise, what I do is, I plan my first question. My first question is like a totally left curve ball question.
Peter McCormack: Oh, interesting!
Charlie Shrem: Yeah so if you listened to my shows, untoldstories.com, you’ll notice the first question throws everyone off because they’re not expecting it. So my first question, could be anything from, “so why’d you name your dog that?” They’re like, “why are you asking me about why I named my dog that?” But it just kind of throws it off and it gets people a little more comfortable, because you’re talking about something like that.
Peter McCormack: No, but I get that. So I do something similar, but usually I try and find some kind of common ground. So yesterday when I interviewed Brian Quintenz at the CFTC, it turns out his son has the same name as my son. So I have that as an introduction. Then from that, I find out the history of his family and you kind of break the ice, you disarm the guest so you can get a better conversation. But also there are two types of interviews. There is an interview. So Brian Quintenz at the CFTC, that’s an interview.
Charlie Shrem: It’s not a conversation.
Peter McCormack: That was an interview, you work at the CFTC, you have a role within the industry that people have specific things they want to know about and they want to know how you operate. Then you have people who just have a really interesting past and…
Charlie Shrem: I don’t know if I could do interviews though. I don’t know if I could do that type of interview. If I were sitting with him and I’m excited to listen to your episode, but if I was interviewing him, I don’t know if I could interview him, I just want to kick back and get to know him. But then eventually ask a question like, “I know the CFTC or whatever is like, “motto is this”, but what do you really think?” Something like that.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, it depends. Like I say, it all depends on the guests and the service you’re doing, because I know people are going to want to listen to that show and they’re going to want to know about the CFTC. But also there’s going to be people who are going to want to listen to this show and they just know you have a history and they’re going to want to know the stories and hear it. So that’s why…
Charlie Shrem: You want to talk prison stories?
Peter McCormack: Well we’re going to get there! We’re going to get deep! But as I keep saying to your lovely wife, hello Courtney!
Courtney Shrem: Hi!
Peter McCormack: So I also have to say thank you for having me here, your hospitality has been fantastic.
Charlie Shrem: Our pleasure.
Peter McCormack: It’s been a wonderful two days!
Charlie Shrem: Today was a crazy day. I did not expect for that to happen!
Peter McCormack: I hadn’t planned for that to happen, wading through the sea with a bag of…
Charlie Shrem: Now everyone wants to know what happened!
Peter McCormack: We can’t tell them. They won’t believe us.
Charlie Shrem: Can we give them a little inkling of what happened?
Peter McCormack: Well, we might be on MTV.
Charlie Shrem: True! So we stumbled into the shoot of a MTV reality series called Siesta Key. The way it happened was, Peter’s here in town visiting, but a reoccurring guest at the Shrem home is Jeremy Gardner. You guys know him as Disruptepreneur. Entrepreneur but with the dis!
Peter McCormack: It’s like trying to say Charles Hoskinson!
Charlie Shrem: Charles Hodgkinson… No it’s not Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s Hoskinson! Anyways, I love you Charles. So Jeremy’s in town and when I say regular guest, that’s what he does. He just shows up one weekend out of every two months, he’ll just be here. So we decided to go on our boat, Satoshi, and we get to this mega mansion and Peter said, “that’s someone’s house?” It was huge, but we were booting up to it from the Gulf of Mexico, from the beach and we got as close as we could, but then we realized that, okay, how are we going to get from Satoshi the boat, onto the beach so we can walk to this house where there’s this mega party going on.
Someone saw a banana boat being pulled by a Jet ski, that had a phone number printed on the side. So Jeremy calls him and he says, “I don’t want to talk on the phone to people,” he doesn’t like phone calls. So he hands me the phone and I said, “hey, can you pick us up and take us to the party?” So the banana boat came right up to the side of our boat and we went into the the banana boat and we boated over, in the banana boat, over to the beach.
Everyone’s looking at us like, what are these crazy people doing? We went to this party that wasn’t really a party. It was a reality TV shoot that looked like a party and then when we wanted to leave, the banana boat guy had left. So Peter being the tallest one in our group
Peter McCormack: Which is rare for me by the way!
Charlie Shrem: We basically had to wade and walk and swim back to the boat, which was offshore, but we all had our bags and stuff with us. So Peter was holding all of our shit above his head. We were like crossing the Rio Grande, crossing in from Mexico with stuff on our head. Everyone’s looking at us like we’re crazy and we made it back home and we showered and here we are all comfortable!
Peter McCormack: So that was fun, that was a fun day! Thank you for that and thank you for your hospitality and inviting me here. So we got to go way back man. Can we go back just before you discovered Bitcoin, how old are you? What are you doing? What’s going on in your life? I want to go right back before it all started.
Charlie Shrem: I found out about Bitcoin around 2010/2011, I think it was the end of 2010.
Peter McCormack: So you were 20?
Charlie Shrem: I couldn’t even drink alcohol yet. Yeah so I would be 20 years old.
Peter McCormack: I bet you did though?
Charlie Shrem: No comment! Smoked a lot of weed! A good night for me was like, I go out with friends, but then by like 10 or 11 o’clock, I would just want to go home in my basement and just smoke a bunch of weed and watch TV. That was more of a better time for me, because when I would do that, I would turn on my computer and I’d enter this Internet world and those were my real friends.
I was able to make Internet friends a lot better than making real friends, like in real life and that’s why like yourself, people that I’ll meet on the Internet, I just know that they’re good people and I’ll invite them to come here. My wife still thinks I’m crazy for doing that. She’s like, “you never even met this person!” But I just do. Actually the summer before I had found out about Bitcoin, I had these two friends that I was best friends with online.
We had this IRC network and hundreds of people in our IRC network. We had a little ad revenue going and we were just a bunch of kids. It was just one of these sites where you can learn how to do SQL injection and all these little hacky type stuff. I was just a little hacker kid in the basement in my parents Jewish house in Brooklyn.
Peter McCormack: But so you skipped the whole college thing?
Charlie Shrem: No, I went to college. So it’s not yet though. I’m still high school at this point. Yeah, this was early. So then the summer between high school and college, that summer I went to Norway for a month and I had stayed at this guy’s house that I’m still friends with today, but we had met online and my parents were like, “you’re crazy. You’re going to spend a month at this guy’s house in Norway: and they had no idea who he was. But I’m going to tell you a funny story about that, the Untold Stories of Charlie. It was three of us. It was me, Cassie, who was the guy who lived in Norway and it was my other friend, his name is Polynomial.
I still don’t know his real name. Polynomial was from Manchester in England, but I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know anything about him, like physically, any pictures. But Polynomial was like my best friend, we talked every day, knew my deepest darkest secrets. So we had a plan and the plan was that I was going to fly to the UK and then stop over in London and then fly from London to Norway. We hopped on the same plane together in London, but we didn’t know who each other were.
So when we landed in this small airport in Norway, everyone got off the plane except for me and this six and a half foot tall, black hair, black eyeliner, black makeup, black shirt, black shoes, spiky boots, black belt, like super Goth! I’m looking at this guy and I’m terrified of this guy. He walked over to me and he gave me a big hug and he’s like, “it’s so good to meet you in person!” It’s my best friend, but I never even knew what he looked like or anything about him and we ended spending a month together. But those are the type of people that you meet on the Internet. I know I’m going off on a tangent here.
Peter McCormack: That’s cool. That’s fine!
Charlie Shrem: So I had a start up, that I had started in Brooklyn and it was a side hustle to make some extra money. The startup was basically, I built a website and I went to all the warehouses and I go to like CVS and Dwayne Reed and Walgreens and I’d buy up all the stuff that they couldn’t sell and I just resell them on the Internet, one deal a day, dailycheckout.com. I did that to make a little bit extra money and it actually ended up doing very well.
Then I ran that in my first two years in college and then towards the end of my second year of college is when I found out about Bitcoin. That’s when I told my partner, who was my cousin Joey, I was like, “we need to sell this company. I’m going into Bitcoin.” He was like, “what are you going to do?” I said, “I don’t know…”
Peter McCormack: How did you discover Bitcoin though? Did you hear about it just online?
Charlie Shrem: It was on IRC.
Peter McCormack: How did it click for you? Because it didn’t click for me first time.
Charlie Shrem: Most of my guests on Untold Stories, it’s funny because they all say the same thing. They’d heard about it and it didn’t click for them and then like a few months later, they’d heard about it again and they were like, I got to check this thing out.
Peter McCormack: So I discovered it with the Silk Road. I told you about that and I was like, “oh cool, this is way I can buy some stuff I can’t normally buy.” But he still didn’t really click with me and the price went up, the price went down. Then I forgot about it. It was only after my mom got sick and then I wanted to buy her some cannabis oil for treatment and I could use it. Then it clicked. It was like, “oh, hold on this. This is a problem that we have, that I can’t buy a treatment for my mother and now we can do it.” So the second time it just clicked, but it still didn’t fully click.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I understand. I see what you mean. So the first time I remember I had heard about it, I was an IRC network and I’ll tell you why it clicked. I was involved with this charity in Israel to raise money for victims of terror. Kids who need prosthetic legs and kids who need prosthetic arms and blind sailors and whatever. I was helping them raise money in the United States and this was like when PayPal was first getting big. So I had to set up a PayPal account for them and they were going around the country using this PayPal account that I had set up for them to raise money.
They were raising a lot of money around America, going on a whole tour donations. What happened was, PayPal shut down and froze the account, because they said, “they’re not a real non-profit, because they’re a nonprofit in Israel, but they didn’t get their 501(c)(3) in the US.” So PayPal froze all their money and they looked at me and were like, “what happened?” I was like, “I don’t know” and that made me realize that a lot of times you think that it’s your money, but it’s not your money.
When I found out about Bitcoin, someone started talking to me about it and I started playing around, I downloaded Bitcoind and then the Bitcoin-QT at the time. So before the term Bitcoin Core came, there was two iterations of Bitcoin. There was Bitcoin-QT and this was the downloadable software that you can download on your Mac or PC or Linux. Actually when you ran it, it was a node, it was your wallet and it mined. So as it the software was open, your mining. So everyone was mining. So someone asked me ask, “did you ever mined Bitcoin,” I was like, “everyone mined Bitcoin. It just what you did!”
Peter McCormack: You weren’t in a pool, you were…
Charlie Shrem: No, everyone mined Bitcoin on their own, because the software mined for you.
Peter McCormack: So did you solve some blocks then?
Charlie Shrem: Of course I did, everyone did.
Peter McCormack: So when you did, was it like a “wow, fuck!”
Charlie Shrem: No it didn’t, because Bitcoin had no value. There was no tradeability really. There was like one website that was literally just a Google spreadsheet that one guy manually updated of bids and offers of people. This is pre Mt Gox. That was the Bitcoin Exchange. It was like 10,000 Bitcoin for $5. It wasn’t real. Gavin ran a faucet that was basically giving away… You put your address on the faucet and you get a 100 Bitcoin!
Peter McCormack: Fuck 100 Bitcoin!
Charlie Shrem: I know right, but who cares? Bitcoins weren’t worth anything back then.
Peter McCormack: And I used to hear about people used to buy it on EBay and someone would send them the money and then they would send them the Bitcoins. Could you imagine that happening now? You wouldn’t get the Bitcoin!
Charlie Shrem: You’d never get it. So that’s what it was like back then. So when I downloaded the software, I generated an address and my friend Joe, him and I were into tech together. He was at his house in New Jersey. I was in New York and I had told him to download the software, generated an address and I’ll send you some Bitcoin. So he downloaded the software and I sent him 500 Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: 500!
Charlie Shrem: It didn’t go through, he never got it. Until today, I don’t know why he never got it. I think I know why. I think because he didn’t sync, he didn’t have a support open and he didn’t sync the chain. So it actually did send to him and I remember years later I was like, “Joe, you’ve got to find that laptop! Your private keys are on that laptop!” He’s like, “no, I threw it away years ago!”
Peter McCormack: That’s like $5million dollars today!
Charlie Shrem: Yeah I know! So as I was starting to understand it, the way it clicked was, I had this software and he had it and I was like, “okay, it’s like a downloadable version of PayPal except these units called Bitcoins aren’t worth shit. So who cares? Why is this thing such a big deal?” Then I started reading more about it and I was talking to all my friends in the IRC network and we started chatting about Bitcoin. So Bitcoin was talked about on IRC and on the Bitcoin forums. But IRC was bigger, everyone talked about it.
You could at one point, I remember in 2012, we’ve got every mining pool, every exchange and every major business in one IRC chat room, because in 2012, we upgraded to Bitcoin version 9, it wasn’t compatible with version 8 and it was a big hard fork and the chain actually split. Half the miners were mining on one chain and the other mining the other. We had to get everyone in the room together and basically have everyone drop one chain and continue mining on the other chain.
That was a big deal! I remember that. I was at a Bar Mitzvah and I had to go home, because I was running BitInstant and we were running the nodes of one chain and we had to like stop. Me, Bitpay, Mt. Gox, Trade Hill, fuck I think that was it. There wasn’t no one else! We had to pause.
Peter McCormack: How many Bitcoin do you reckon you’ve…
Charlie Shrem: But wait, so you’ve asked me why it clicked for me…
Peter McCormack: Because it’s got no value.
Charlie Shrem: So what happened was, I understood it as I literally open up the database file on your computer and you’re seeing in real time, the size of this file is increasing. So imagine you have a file on your computer that’s constantly increasing. You’re like, “why is it 100 megabytes and now it’s 101 and then it’s 102!” The file is increasing because what’s happening is, in real time, your database is getting all the transactions of everyone else using it in real time. So I maintain a copy of the Blockchain in real time, of not just my transactions, but everyone else’s.
That clicked for me because now I realized, “oh, so this ledger is actually completely decentralized” and I didn’t even use the word decentralized, because that wasn’t like a lingo, but I said, “this ledger is now actually being maintained on everyone’s computers in real time. So no one can freeze it. No one can reverse it. No one can counterfeit. No one can double spend. That’s when it really clicked for me.”
Peter McCormack: Okay, so at that point you’re like, “I get it. Now it needs to have some kind of value?
Charlie Shrem: Now it needs to have value and that’s when I started BitInstant.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so just back in those early days, how many Bitcoins do you reckon you’ve just given away or lost just fucking about?
Charlie Shrem: How many have I given away or lost? Hundreds if not thousands! There’s a YouTube video out there of a guy who made up a theme song about BitInstant and anyone can YouTube it right now. In the comments of the video, you can see it today, you can see in the comments I said, “hey man, give me your Bitcoin address. I want to send you some Bitcoin.” I meant to send him 5 Bitcoin, because it was worth like $100 at the time. So I was giving him like $500 and I accidentally sent him 50 Bitcoin and he was like, “should I send it back?” I was like, “nah man, just keep it!”
Peter McCormack: And people these days are just like, “I just want to get 1 Bitcoin”
Charlie Shrem: Well 1 Bitcoin is a big number you know. If you think about it, there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, but it’s less really when you think about it. if you’re really honest, they reckon 4 million have been lost?
Charlie Shrem: Maybe more than that. There’ll be a lot less than that, maybe half.
Peter McCormack: So you say 17 million, but was it you who tweeted out recently? You said, “you’re only going to need five Bitcoin.”
Charlie Shrem: You’ll only need 5 in like 10 or 20 years from now. Life changing money, $5 million, one Bitcoin = $1 million. $5 million is enough money to start to have that money work for you and you could live off the interest, because that’s wealth. Wealth is not how much money you have, wealth is when you have money that’s working for you to make you more money and you can sit back and do nothing for the rest of your life and you’ll just have income coming in. That’s wealth.
Peter McCormack: So you’ve discovered Bitcoin, you’re getting your head round it and then you decide you want to create a business?
Charlie Shrem: No, not yet. Knowing me, I always have side hustles. So my first foray into earning money with Bitcoin was I would go on EBay and I would buy airline vouchers, like Jet Blue vouchers and American Airline vouchers from people and then resell those vouchers for Bitcoin, at a profit. That was how I would earn Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: Okay, and then?
Charlie Shrem: And then I started selling a lot of my daily checkout products online to earn Bitcoin too, like knives and stuff like that. I would sell knives and throwing knives and all this stuff. Anything I could sell really, I would sell for Bitcoin on the forums. Then one day I was just browsing the forums, it was about May 2011 and I see a post by this guy named “Gareth Nelson UK” and he’s like, “hey, I have an idea to make buying Bitcoin faster.”
Going back to what I said earlier, the thing had no value, so in the back of my mind, I was always saying, “I need to get some” and I was content with the community that we had. The community that we had was a great little community. It wasn’t meant to grow into this whole thing it was today. We just wanted to be a stable little community of people transacting with each other on these forums and using Bitcoin to do it.
That’s all it was. If the economics of Bitcoin and people buying and selling and holding it, never went beyond this forum and these marketplaces, like these message boards, that’s totally fine with me. That’s what it was and that was never meant to be this whole thing. It was this social experiment at the end of the day. Then so Gareth had posted this thing and he’s like, “I have an idea to make buying Bitcoin easier” and again, the idea to make buying Bitcoin easier, it wasn’t so I can get my grandma to buy Bitcoin, it was so people on the forums can be able to have the way to buy and sell Bitcoin faster, so we can all transact with each other.
So Gareth had an idea and the idea was BitInstant, he called it something else. He had the very basic idea. So what I did was, I messaged him back and the post is public and I said, “I like this idea. How much money do you need to start it?” He’s like, “I need $1,000.” I said, “all right, let’s do it together. We’ll own it 50/50” and that was the start of a beautiful business relationship together and we started BitInstant, which very quickly later was the largest Bitcoin company ever. We had like 30 people working for us and I started it in my basement. I didn’t intend for it to be this whole business, it was like a side hustle.
Peter McCormack: So this came before Mt Gox?
Charlie Shrem: This was during the same time as Mt. Gox. Mt. Gox was very difficult to buy Bitcoin. You’d have to wire money to some Japanese guy’s personal bank account and it was just manual and it was shady and weird. Then once you have the money on the exchange, you have to buy Bitcoin with it. You want to just buy Bitcoin, you don’t have to like enter a bid order and ask on the exchange. It’s complicated.
Peter McCormack: Actually prior to the Japanese account, it was wired to Jed’s Chase account before he sold it to Mark
Charlie Shrem: Yes, I remember that.
Peter McCormack: So how did BitInstant do it differently?
Charlie Shrem: What BitInstant did, was BitInstant would maintain large accounts at Mt. Gox already and we did it through various credit agreements with Mt. Gox or we’d actually wire him a few hundred thousand Dollars and leave it there. Then what we’d do, is we’d have people in the US, we have bank accounts here and we had relationships with Walgreens, CVS, Dwayne Reed and Walmart where you can walk into these locations, deposit money with them, and then our software would instantly move money from our account at the exchange, to your account at the exchange.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So tell me the journey from it being you two with $1,000 to be in 30 people?
Charlie Shrem: It just grew very quickly. I had the original $1,000 and then I borrowed money from my mom, like $10,000 and then Roger Ver put in $100,000 and then Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss put it in $1.5million.
Peter McCormack: How did you meet them?
Charlie Shrem: I had another investor, David, who I knew from Brooklyn and he was just a kind of crazy, wacky guy, really nice guy. He was in Ibiza on vacation with his wife and he saw them just out on the beach and he offered them his beach chair and said, “hey, have you heard about this Bitcoin thing?” They were like, “no” and he sold them on it literally on the beach and then they were still very unconvinced, but they had heard about it through him and from their research.
So they called me up out of the blue and they were like, “hey, we heard you’re the Bitcoin kid, can you convince us it’s the future?” And I said, “hell yeah, I can. Where do I start?” Less than a month or two later, they were jumping in head first or feet first or whatever the term is.
Peter McCormack: And was that with them accumulating Bitcoin or was…
Charlie Shrem: They first made an inclination they wanted to invest in BitInstant and let it grow and they also want to start accumulating Bitcoin. So that’s what they asked me to help them do, is start accumulating Bitcoin for them.
Peter McCormack: Okay, but they came and put $1.5million in the business. Was it a good relationship to begin with?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah it was a pretty good relationship over the course of time. I have some regrets by how the relationship went, but I was a young kid who walked around like a shit didn’t stink. I was on top of the world, I was the king of the world and these guys were basically trying to tell me like, “hey, the company is growing, you have no experience being a CEO. Why don’t we get a professional CEO to run this company?”
I was like, “no!” In hindsight, I should have listened to them and I wish I had, because now, it’s like every startup CEOs dream, to be big enough where you have a real professional come in and take over the company. You get to become chairman and just kick back and relax.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I guess in hindsight you… I mean, could Bitinstant have been the Coinbase as such?
Charlie Shrem: I’ll tell you why no, because Coinbase had learnt from all of our mistakes. Literally Brian Armstrong did! He invited me over to his house in California, without ever telling me that he was starting Coinbase and we sat for three hours and I told him everything about BitInstant. Then he’s like, “oh, thank you for telling me everything. I’m starting my own competitor to you.” That is literally how it went down! You know who else was in that room? Jered Kenna, Tony Gallippi from BitPay and Roger Ver was there.
Peter McCormack: Roger Ver seems to be an all these meetings?
Charlie Shrem: He’s everywhere! We were so close back then. But that was the whole Bitcoin community. There wasn’t many meetings. It was like 10 people, which was the whole space.
Peter McCormack: So it was you, Roger, Erik…
Charlie Shrem: No, Erik wasn’t even involved yet!
Peter McCormack: Wasn’t even involved at that point?
Charlie Shrem: No Erik didn’t get involved till 2012 in the crypto space.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you take the $1.5million, how’s it go to begin with?
Charlie Shrem: The company’s just growing! It’s growing, it’s expanding, we’re moving offices. It’s going crazy. Everything was really good. Then we built our software to operate a certain way and we built our company for a certain way and then the government came out and said, “you need these money transmitter licenses” and that’s when we decided that we didn’t have them. So we shut down the company. It was very difficult to do.
Peter McCormack: Why didn’t you apply for the…
Charlie Shrem: It’s too expensive. It was tens of millions of dollars that I didn’t have and I got a little burnout. I was running BitInstant for almost three years at this point. I was tired. I didn’t really want to do it anymore. So we shut down, we gave back the investors their money. We pay the Winklevoss back their debt and we shuttered. I wasn’t sad about it because I was like… I can admit this and I was able to admit it back then too, but there are a lot better companies that have launched, that are doing what that BitInstant was doing but better, nicer and easier.
I was like, “BitInstant served its purpose.” It was the first company. It had a goal, had a mandate, and it’s mandate was over. Its mandate was, let’s get Bitcoin in the hands of as many people as possible, as cheap and as fast as possible, to get this thing where it can stand on its own two feet. By the time we shut down the company, that mandate was completed and so I wasn’t sad about shutting the company and I wanted to move on to other things.
Peter McCormack: Cameron and Tyler have expressed opinions about how you run the company as well and they’ve not been the most positive about it.
Charlie Shrem: They’re 100% right.
Peter McCormack: So they were fair?
Charlie Shrem: Oh yeah. I mean, everyone’s going to exaggerate. They’re going to exaggerate about me. I’m going to exaggerate them. I was this 21/23 year old kid, running a multimillion dollar startup, in the financial money transmission space. I literally was winging it! Every morning I’d wake up, I’d be winging this thing, no idea what I was doing, but I was terrified. But the adrenaline was amazing.
Peter McCormack: Did you ever suffer from hacks with BitInstant?
Charlie Shrem: We were very fortunate that we only had one hack and we were able to stop it and only lose about $10,000. We kind of joke, me and my friends now, it’s like we are the only Bitcoin company that shut down, where no one lost any money. All of our customers got paid out 100%, they’re all good. We didn’t take anyone’s money or anything. It’s something to be very proud of, because all of these exchanges shut down and they take away everyone’s money!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, of course! I closed down an advertising agency about four years ago and we didn’t lose any money. We took money out of the business and it was a nice thing, rather than running it into the ground, which would have been a bit crap!
Charlie Shrem: I like that.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so BitInstant closes, you’ve still got the Bitcoin bug. What happens next?
Charlie Shrem: I was traveling around the world. I had founded the Bitcoin Foundation a few months earlier and the Foundation was getting really big. It had a really nice budget and the concept of the Foundation, the idea of the Bitcoin Foundation was created actually by me and Gavin. We were sitting in a cafe in Austria together in 2012 or 2011 maybe.
The idea of the Foundation was basically, I was like, “Gavin, our community is growing. But we’re still very fractured. So what do you think of the idea of basically taking all the companies and all the individuals in the space and all the miners and allowing them to put a little bit of money, every year towards a Foundation, that’ll basically use that money to do advertising, to pay developers, to run a conference and allow us not to be like a centralized power authority, but to just be this like trade group.”
He completely agreed with me. I said, “Gavin, we cannot be seen as representing the Bitcoin community as a whole. I want to be seen as we’re representing our members.” That’s what it was started as and the first Board was great. We ran two amazing conferences. We ran Bitcoin 2013 in San Jose, which was the first real Bitcoin conference and then we ran Bitcoin 2014 in Amsterdam, which was a huge conference.
So we were doing really great things, but then eventually the Foundation changed and the people that were elected to the Board were just thirsty with power and cared more about their travel budget that the foundation gave them, than they did about actual growing of the concept. The foundation had changed and I’m okay with that. But a few months later I was arrested and when I was arrested, I actually resigned from the Foundation and I haven’t spoken to them since.
Peter McCormack: All right, we’ll come to the arrest. The Foundation has left a lot of people bitter.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I’m bitter too. It sucks founding something and then it completely changing. I wish it had just died. Not still be there because it’s still there. It’s like a slap in the face.
Peter McCormack: Yeah! So let’s talk about the arrest. I’ve read about it before. I’ve read parts of it, should I say. Tell me what happened.
Charlie Shrem: We were on our way home from a conference in Amsterdam and we were on a planet coming home. As we were leaving the customs area, a bunch of federal agents came up to us and said, “are you Charlie Shrem?” I said, “yeah.” He says, “please come with us” and they took me into a back room and he said, “you’re formally under arrest for money laundering and a bunch of other stuff. Do you want me to read you your rights?” I was like, “I watch enough TV” and he’s like, “can we ask you a few questions?” I was like, “I watch Law & Order, I’m not stupid!”
It was kind of crazy. I was just completely in shock. They made Courtney get the luggage and they put me in like these black vans and they have the handcuffs behind my back and it hurt. I had no idea where I was going or whether Courtney was okay or not and it was just a big craziness. I remember that night, I spent the night in like six different holding cells, in six different places. They just kept moving me all the time, I had no idea where I was like.
I don’t know if I was in New Jersey or Connecticut or New York or California. I’d be ushered into tinted black sedans and taken to the DEA headquarters, then they take pictures. Then they put me to the ATF headquarters, then the IRS, then the freaking NYPD and I’m just being shuffled around like a clown and have pictures taken and throwing me in holding cells all night long.
Peter McCormack: Did what it was about at that point?
Charlie Shrem: I didn’t know until the next day, until my lawyer through the thick glass told me what was going on. He was like, “had you ever heard of BTC King?” So then I spend that night… Finally eventually, it was a Sunday night, I get to my solitary confinement cell in a Metropolitan Correctional Center…
Peter McCormack: But you must have something going through your head, what you think its about?
Charlie Shrem: No idea! I thought it was just that I was running BitInstant and you need to have a license or whatever. I was like, this will be sorted out very quickly, it’s not a big deal. I was in a holding cell with this crack head who had beat up his other roommate, because he peed all over the seat and that’s who they put me with. The next day I spoke to my lawyer through the glass and he had told me, “have you heard of BTC King?” I was like, “who?”
He said, “well you emailed this guy and told him that you knew he was reselling the Bitcoin that he bought from you, on the Silk Road and that’s illegal, because you were selling Bitcoin to him and you knew that he was then using it on Silk Road.” I was like, “okay, how bad is it? It’s just an email?” He’s like, “well, technically and legally, that’s money laundering.” I was like, “oh my gosh, I’m facing 30 years in prison for that!”
Peter McCormack: So have you got a lawyer with you at this point?
Charlie Shrem: I had a civil lawyer, but I didn’t have a criminal lawyer. So a civil lawyer helped me get bail. I basically got an ankle bracelet and I was put under house arrest.
Peter McCormack: Right, because you were providing him with Bitcoin and he was using it to trade on the Silk Road, therefore you are…
Charlie Shrem: No, he was buying Bitcoin from me or from BitInstant and then reselling that Bitcoin as advertisements. So Silk Road had a forum, so he had his own forum post saying, “you need Bitcoin for Silk Road, buy Bitcoin from me.” Then other people were buying Bitcoin from him, that were probably using it on Silk Road.
Peter McCormack: That’s like three steps away?
Charlie Shrem: Listen, I don’t make the laws!
Peter McCormack: So what happens after that?
Charlie Shrem: So I hired a lawyer and went on house arrest and then went through the whole process.
Peter McCormack: Were you contemplating going to prison or were you always kind of thinking…
Charlie Shrem: I was kind of always thinking that I’d get probation. I didn’t think it was like this huge deal. So I pled down to a lesser charge, I pled guilty to aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transmitter business and that carried a maximum five years. Yeah, I was a first time offender, I’m just a kid. It was a one time thing that happened a few months ago. Normally it would have been probation and you would have never even heard about it on the news, but because it was Bitcoin, it gained a lot more attention.
Peter McCormack: Do you think it was also part related to BitInstant and wider Bitcoin, because at the time Bitcoin was new, people weren’t really sure about it. Do you think this was some kind of like fear of Bitcoin or do you think the case was specifically…
Charlie Shrem: The judge said it himself, that he had to sentence me because they needed a deterrence. It’s in my sentencing notes, in the memo, you can read it. He said that they needed to have a deterrence. They need to deter people from doing the same thing that I did. I was made an example of.
Peter McCormack: Like Ross was?
Charlie Shrem: Of course, I mean Ross got the worst deal that you could possibly get. I mean, no matter what you say, he got life in prison without parole. I mean that’s crazy!
Peter McCormack: But they offered you, it was a plea bargain.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: And if you hadn’t taken that, you would have been at risk of…
Charlie Shrem: If I went to trial, I would have probably lost the trial. No one wins a trial.
Peter McCormack: And that’s a much bigger sentence?
Charlie Shrem: Yes, because the court likes it when you admit your mistake and I knew I was wrong. The email was there, clear as day. I knew what I did was illegal.
Peter McCormack: But you didn’t know it was illegal at the time you did it.
Charlie Shrem: Not at the time. But once I realized it, I was like, to my lawyer, I was like, “I’m not going to win here. Let’s just get the best deal we can get.”
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you get your sentence, two years. How long is it between the sentencing and going to prison? Do you have a chance to go home or do they take you straight away?
Charlie Shrem: So there is a chance that they take you away at that minute, but it’s very small chance. Usually they let you self surrender in a few months. So I got sentenced in December and I think I self surrendered in March.
Peter McCormack: Okay. How do you even prepare for going to prison?
Charlie Shrem: You ignore it, until like two weeks before. You just live your life.
Peter McCormack: But it’s coming up…
Charlie Shrem: What you do is like, you have to basically… Any bills that need to be paid automatically, you stop. I put my cell phone in my wife’s name, we didn’t have any other expenses and bills at a time. We gave up our apartment and my wife moved back in with her mother in Pennsylvania, because it was only like an hour and a half drive to visit me in the prison. So that was great, that she was able to visit me so frequently and you just close up your life, you put your life on hold and you just prepare to come back in two years or whatever it is.
Peter McCormack: So you head to prison. How does it work? Are you allowed to take certain stuff with you? Or do you just go in your clothes and they take your clothes and you go in?
Charlie Shrem: So you have a day that you need to self surrender and they start accepting inmates around 8:00am and most people don’t show up to the afternoon, but you want to get there as early as possible, so you can get assigned a bunk. There’s a chance that if the jail is busy and they don’t have room for you yet, that you could end up spending the first few nights in solitary. So you want to be the first one, there so you can spend the whole day.
So we left New York at around 5:00am and got to Pennsylvania at 8:00am. We had breakfast. The last breakfast I had was Panera. I couldn’t eat, I had no appetite. Then I said goodbye to my wife. I said goodbye to my mother in law, who was there and we said our goodbyes and I said, “I’ll see you in a few weeks at the first visit.” I knew the maximum I would have to serve would be around 18 months, so I was like, it’s not going to be that bad.
It’s going to be good. It’s going to be so short, it’s going to go by so quickly. I liked that we were only an hour and a half away from each other, instead of me being like three states away, because I knew that we can watch the sunset together, like we were right there. So that was really nice. I felt good that she was only an hour and a half away.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s one of the fucked things about the prison system, which I found out.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, you have no say, they could send me to California! I’m lucky I got sent to Pennsylvania.
Peter McCormack: So I talked to Lynn Ulbricht about this and she was saying they have a team, they call it “The Hotel Team” and they can move you anywhere. You can have a wife and children and they can move your three states away and there’s no possibility of your wife and children coming to regularly visit, they just don’t care.
Charlie Shrem: They do it on purpose. What happens is, when you’re less than a year left, you’re allowed to request a transfer to another prison that’s closer to your home and that’s the best you can get. But other than that, most of the inmates I was with, I don’t know, they came from Texas, all over. I was lucky that I was able to get to Pennsylvania and the way I was able to do that, was they have these things called prison consultants. Roger Ver actually, I couldn’t afford it, Roger Ver helped me pay for it.
So I will be always grateful to him for that. I called him up and I was like, “Roger, you’re the closest thing I have to a father. There’s this prison consultant that I could hire and he thinks he can help me navigate the bureau of prisons and instead of getting me sent to California or freaking Montana, to a prison close to home, in Pennsylvania.” He’s was like, “how much is it?” I told him and I was like, “I can’t afford all of it. Can you loan me some money and help me get there?” He was like, “no problem. Just tell me where to send the money.”
Peter McCormack: One of the strange things about Roger, I flew out to Tokyo to interview him, spent some time with him, talked about Ross when the microphone’s switched off and like, I know he’s done all these things that people don’t like and I know a bunch of Bitcoiners are pissed at him. Now I know what he’s done for Ross, now what he’s done for you, but there’s other things I know he’s done, which I wouldn’t talk about, but he has done all these other good things. I’m not saying that it gives him forgiveness for the bad stuff. But he’s not an evil person.
Charlie Shrem: It’s nice, he’s not intentionally bad. He’s really not a bad person. There are people that have been… So I’ve been very close with him. So when I got out of jail, I hadn’t seen him in two years, so I didn’t see this transition. It went from the Roger who he was, to the Roger that he became. But I have friends that we’ve been as close, like Eric Lombrozo.
Eric Lombrozo was very close to Roger too and Eric would call me up and say like, “Charlie, I really believe that Roger has had like CIA implants in his head. That’s how much he’s changed.” For Eric, who’s rational, telling me that Roger must be like abducted by aliens, because he changed and he’s not the same Roger as he was. He’s a completely different person.
Peter McCormack: Eric’s also a great person for me. He’s become like a mentor in the background. I don’t know if I’ll embarrass him talking about this. So I’ve only met him once, but he has spent a lot of time… Like he will just message me, he’ll see I’ll put a tweet out or decision I’m making or something I’m doing or I’ll have a question for him, every time he answers. He’s been a real support, because there’s a lot of pressure that comes in the Bitcoin world if you’re doing some of the exposure, to a bunch of people’s opinions and he’s been a real great sounding board for me and like a mentor.
Charlie Shrem: That’s really nice! As busy as he is, it’s really nice that he can do that. So I’ll tell you a funny story and these are types of stories that I tell on my podcast; untoldstories.com. But one day, so I was running BitInstant by myself and Eric called me up and he’s like, “you need help!” I was like, “yeah, I need help with a lot of things.” But he’s like, “no, you need help with this company.” I was like, “all right, well I don’t really trust anyone.” He’s like, “I know this kid. He lives in New Hampshire, he’s really smart. His name is Erik Voorhees and you need to hire him.”
I was like, “Eric, I’m not paying some random guy who lives in New Hampshire a salary, because you told me I need to.” He’s like, “Charlie, I will pay his salary. I’m hiring him for you. If you don’t take him, I’m going to have him do some stuff for me, but he’s a brilliant kid and I want him to help you.” I was like, “all right, let’s see if I like him.” So Erik took the train down from New Hampshire to New York and we instantly became best friends. I was like, “all right, Eric, I’m going to hire him” and he literally became my number two. He ran the company, everything, operations, marketing, he was just the number two.
Peter McCormack: He’s another person who has sadly, I guess… How would you say it. I really like Erik, interviewed him twice.
Charlie Shrem: Like demonized a little bit?
Peter McCormack: A little bit yeah.
Charlie Shrem: We’ve all been! I’ve been.
Peter McCormack: Well walking a perfect Bitcoin path is very hard and he’s done some other things with ShapeShift. He’s been involved in tokens…
Charlie Shrem: That’s capitalism! Capitalism means that you can do whatever you want, as long as you’re not stealing from other people.
Peter McCormack: I think also some of the support he gave for SegWit2x hasn’t really worked out for him. But at the same time, he’s a really great person and he’s also another person, when I reach out to him, he always gets back to me, he always gives me the time of day. Sometimes I kind of hope these relationships get rebuilt at some point, for some of these people.
Charlie Shrem: They will down the road, I think.
Peter McCormack: All right. So listen, you’re going to prison, first day. Is it all kind of a bit surreal? Are you scared going in or are you like, “whatever.”
Charlie Shrem: Don’t laugh, but there was some excitement. Not like happy excitement, but you’re doing this crazy thing and in the background you’re like, “this is just going to be a great story to tell one day.” Let me ask you a question. So imagine if being sentenced to prison. You’re standing in the courtroom and you just went through two years of house arrest and being in the criminal justice system, prosecution, craziness. You’re standing in a courtroom and the judge just says you’re being sentenced to two years. How would you feel?
Peter McCormack: I think I would feel hollow. I think my insides would kind of drop out of me.
Charlie Shrem: So ask me what I felt at that moment.
Peter McCormack: What did you feel at that moment?
Charlie Shrem: Relief.
Peter McCormack: Because you had a time in the future, where it was all over?
Charlie Shrem: You hit the nail right on the head. For two years, I’m going through this tunnel that has no ending. Now all of a sudden, I could look at my girlfriend, who’s now my wife and say, “in two years this is going to be all over and we can live a life together.”
Peter McCormack: Because you didn’t know how long the sentence was going to be?
Charlie Shrem: Because I was facing 30 years.
Peter McCormack: Which is your life fucked!
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, you’re fucked.
Peter McCormack: I still think Courtney would have waited for you!
Charlie Shrem: I still think she would’ve waited for me. So I now had this immense wave of relief that just went over me. Courtney will tell you, we all left and we went to this pizza store and I was happy. I was jovial! I was in a good mood, because one, I didn’t have to surrender early, so I can prepare and plan, but I was like, I’m only going to be in prison a year or a year and a half. It’s not the end of the world. Let’s plan a vacation for two years from now. That’s how I was feeling. So when I went in that first day, I’m like, “alright, day one, I can start counting this down. Let’s get this over with.”
Peter McCormack: What’s the process on that first day? What is that?
Charlie Shrem: It’s a clock! Every hour it sings a song and during Christmas time it does Christmas music.
Peter McCormack: That’s amazing! So you go in the first day, I guess there’s a bunch of procedural stuff?
Charlie Shrem: Yes, so you walk into prison, you say goodbye to your family and there’s this room called R&D. It’s called “Receiving and Discharge.” So you walk into prison, you walk into this room and it’s like a little administration building and you say, “hi, my name is Charlie Shrem. I’m here to self surrender.” They say, “all right. Sit down and wait.” Your family waits with you. Then a few minutes later they say, “all right, are you ready?” You give them your last goodbyes and they’re crying blah, blah blah, and you go in this room. I had known all this because I had read a lot of, not reviews, but I read a lot of forums, of people describing the first day, of what it’s like.
So they drive off and I’m in this room and the guard is there and he was a very nice guy. He was not a nice guy, but he wasn’t just like a hard and mean guard. He was just laughing and joking around and he’s like, “all right, take all your clothes off. I’ve got to search you.” So you’re in this room and you’re just standing around and he does a lot of paperwork that needs to be signed. He told me, “this room, you’re only going to meet me twice. The day you come and the day you leave” and I remember that.
I remember looking forward to that day that I could be in the discharge room and the day I was released, is the second happiest day of my life. The first happiest day of my life was when we got married. The second happiest day of my life was I was released from prison. So you’re in there the first day and you’re stripped naked. They stick their hand up your ass and they check for any cocaine up your anus. You, They give you all these clothes, you get your clothes and your bag with your pillow and all your shit.
Then they give you a bunk assignment and then they open a door and you’re released into the general population and you got to take your shit. You have this big sack of shit, your pillow and your blankets and your stuff over your shoulder. That basically means all the other inmates stop it are doing and they’re all checking you out.
Peter McCormack: That must be a really intimidating entry going in. You must be like, “oh fuck, what’s this going to be like.”
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, you walk in there and you have no idea what to expect.
Peter McCormack: Are you thinking the worst?
Charlie Shrem: The motto of prison is plan for the worst, hope for the best. So yes, you’re planning for the worst. I’m sat on a bench with my shit, a guy walked up to me and he said, “are you a self surrender or are you a transfer?” I said, “I’m a self surrender.” He’s like, “all right, welcome to Lewisburg.” I said, “thank you.” He said, “my name i…” And we’ll call him Belkin for the sake of conversation. “My name is Belkin and I’m going to give you one piece of advice.” I said, “what is that?” He says, “well, if someone leaves candy on your pillow at night, don’t eat the candy.” I was like, “thank you for letting me know.”
Peter McCormack: Is that like, you want a boyfriend?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, it means that you’ve accepted becoming someone’s bitch. So it was like, “all right, thanks.” So I go about my day and that night there’s a Snickers bar on my pillow. I’m thinking that it was just him like fucking around with me joking. So I eat the Snickers, it’s a free Snickers, you’re in prison, I’m hungry. It’s the worst day of my life. So I eat the Snickers and then that night I saw him and I was like, “hey man, thanks for the Snickers” and he’s like, “it wasn’t me!” I was like, “oh.” That first night I was sleeping with my eyes open!
Peter McCormack: What was that first night like?
Charlie Shrem: It was a tough night. It’s very loud in prison and the units especially… In the absence of a currency, there are other things that have value like a good bed or a good bunk or being in a good unit or a good range. So obviously you start at the bottom, you’re in the worst one. So I was in the young, loud, obnoxious one and I slept with earplugs the first few nights. Eventually I got used to the noise and I read. I would read a lot.
Peter McCormack: Is it just people being wild at night?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah wild, crazy and stupid. Just being stupid all night, just being dumb. Then after that, I was able to move to a different range and that was a little bit quieter. I then moved to a whole different building actually, which was awesome. I had a really good bunkie. He was the Imam of the Muslim community in prison and so we had a very good relationship because we respected each other and we talked a lot. I got an immense of Islam during that experience. Hopefully he got an immense knowledge of Judaism too and we always talk about our different religions and stuff.
Him and I becoming friends because he was my first bunkie, there were a lot of other inmates who gave me a lot of respect, because if he accepted me, he was the leader of this whole community. So because of that, I instantly was friends with the Muslim community. It’s not that like Muslim Brotherhood bullshit, like the fake stuff. These are like devout Muslim community. It’s different. There’s two Muslim communities in prison.
There’s that Farrakhan Guy and he has this whole Muslim Brotherhood thing and then you have Islam, it’s two separate religions. In the prison, they’re designated two separate religions, according to the prison administration, because ones fanatical and the other ones are just awesome people. They would invite me into their dinners and stuff and they’d make me gyros and stuff. It was really nice.
Peter McCormack: I’m not sure whether a Jewish guy and a fanatical Muslim guy would’ve been a good match?
Charlie Shrem: No, it wouldn’t have been. The Farrakhan guy is crazy. He’s nuts! But no, we were close for a while. Every Muslim I know is just a great person. Him and I lived together for a year, so we obviously became extremely close because you learn the habits of these people. A good bunkie is one that takes a shower at different times than you or it needs to have the privacy of the cell at different times or you would learn to not wake him up. If I get up early in the morning, I would become like a mouse.
I like to wake up at 5.30 and he liked to wake up a little bit later, but I knew how to wake up and being on the top bunk, not wake him up. I would pre-prepare all my stuff the night before and I take it all with me and go change in the bathroom, just to make sure that he did not wake up. It’s respect and respect in prison is the most valuable currency. Having the respect of others and respecting other people.
Peter McCormack: How much freedom did you have to go in and out of your cell then?
Charlie Shrem: You have pretty much between morning and night, you can do whatever you want.
Peter McCormack: Okay, because it was a lower risk prison?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: It’s not like in the films, where they lock them down?
Charlie Shrem: Only overnight.
Peter McCormack: I always thought if I ever ended up in prison, even though I wouldn’t do it, I’d be trying to almost, as like a way to pass time, to figure out how I would escape. That would be on my mind. I’d be thinking Shawshank Redemption!
Charlie Shrem: In my prison, it wouldn’t it be very hard because there are no fences or gates. You’re on 5,000 acres. You could literally walk off. There are guards and stuff, but they’re not sitting there watching with rifles, because why would you want to leave? Anyone who’s in my prison has less than 10 years and if you leave and get caught… By the way, they will catch you, they’ve never not caught anyone. In the history of America, they’ve always caught the person, but you get automatic time added to your sentence, so why would you do that?
Peter McCormack: So there’s two interactions you and I have had together on Twitter previous to arranging this. You first told me, “fuck that guy” with Crypto Cobain, where I completely missed…
Charlie Shrem: I do that with just about everyone. Courtney’s like, “the mailman’s here.” “Fuck that guy!”
Peter McCormack: So we actually had discussed and agreed to an interview. This was like a year ago and something, I don’t know, with Crypto Cobain and he retweeted and then you were like, “oh fuck that guy” and you were both right. I actually got to know him a little bit better.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah he’s a nice guy.
Peter McCormack: We’re friends now, we’re Twitter friends. There was another time though we had an interaction and the other time was where there was a discussion about something on Twitter, I don’t know if it was me or somebody else, but it was a thread we were both in and somebody said, “I hope you end up in jail” or something along those kinds of lines. Then you came in and said, “you don’t want to wish that on anyone. You’ve got no fucking idea how bad it is.”
Charlie Shrem: Yes, I did say that. I hate when people throw that term around lightly, because I would never wish prison on my worst enemy. No matter how long you spend in there, whether it’s six months or six years, it fundamentally changes you, who you are physically and mentally. For me, thankfully it was for the better, but I suffer from PTSD. I’ve been diagnosed. I go to therapy, we both go to therapy once a week. We take breaks, but we do it. Physically, I saw a lot of doctors after my stomach got fucked up, you’re eating expired food for a year, it just fucks with you. It fucks you mentally, it changes who you are.
You become institutionalized. You like it in there. People like it in there. I had a friend that was getting released and he was in there for 26 years and he cried on my shoulder, because he had no idea what to expect in the outside world. I was terrified for the guy. Imagine that! Imagine 26 years being in prison and getting out and having to compete in the world
Peter McCormack: Because you’re in a system in the prison.
Charlie Shrem: You have free food. You have a good place to live, you have respect of your peers. You don’t have to work. I mean you work, you have a job in there, fulfilling work, but you work for extra money, food and all that other stuff is given to you.
Peter McCormack: But that’s another famous scene in the Shawshank Redemption. Where the old guy kills himself after being released.
Charlie Shrem: I have a lot of friends that went back. They did something stupid and went back, because they wanted to as they just didn’t know how to live a legal life. When you go back out of jail, you’re out and your old friend comes down the road and says, “hey man, good to see you! By the way, if you want to sell some coke on the side for a few extra thousand dollars a week.” You just got out of jail, you’re like, “fuck yeah, I need money.” You don’t work as a dishwasher for $8 an hour. All you got to do is sell a little bit of coke, you’re good to go.
Peter McCormack: So talk to me about the things that change you in prison and why? You say mentally and physically?
Charlie Shrem: In prison you learn to be able to sit by yourself and not be afraid to do that. There would be long stretches of hours where I would plan, I would say… You want to stay very busy. You want to stay as busy as possible. So you keep yourself busy, you do stuff. I’d have my nightly card game with a bunch of guys that I was friends with. I’d play cards with them every night. I’d play spades from after dinner from 6 to 9 and then from 9 to 10 I would sit with another group of friends and chat. Then at 10pm I was in my bed and went to sleep.
Every hour in prison, I would plan. I would wake up in the morning at 5.30, I knew it’d take me exactly from 5.30 to 5.45, I would brush my teeth and get dressed. 5.45 to 6.00, I would call Courtney, because the phones would turn on at 6:00 AM. There’s only three phones for hundreds of inmates. I’m the first one on the phone. I called Courtney. You only get 10 minutes a day of phone time. So you have to use 10 minutes, total.
Peter McCormack: So Courtney had to be up?
Charlie Shrem: We had a system. I would call her up and she’d be sleeping. I would say, “good morning, I love you.” We would only use a minute, you’d time it and then we’d use more of our minutes for lunch and dinner time. Just to say, good morning and to tell her that I’d survived the night. I’d do that and then I went to breakfast and I also went to the computers to check my emails. You had this like fake email system and then everything was planned. But I would preplan multiple hours to just sit by myself and think. You have a lot of time to do that and read. I did read 137 books in prison.
Peter McCormack: Holy Shit!
Charlie Shrem: Yes, I read one book every two or three days. I would have a book everywhere with me. I would literally carry a paper back in my pocket, no joke everywhere, because you never know when you’re going to have downtime. You’d be on a bus or you’d be sitting around or you’d be in work and I worked at landscaping, but I had so much downtime. I just read, read, read, read, read and think and write.
Peter McCormack: In terms of the jobs available, are these jobs where you’re doing work outsourced for companies?
Charlie Shrem: No. So there’s a few different types of jobs that you can do, it depends on your security level. Obviously I was the lowest security so I had to do more jobs. First I worked in education, so I taught students to take their GED to take their tests. I had a bunch of students of mine pass. But it got boring very quickly, so I moved to landscaping. There was another prison about 20 minute drive away that needed lower security inmates to maintain the grounds. It was 5,000 acres.
So me and like 10 or 12 older guys got on a little van every day, driven by another inmate, we had to leave the prison, no money, no phones, nothing. You couldn’t stop until you got to the other prison. We had like a little gas station, which was our office and our garage. They trained me how to drive this street-sweeper thing. During the winter time the street-sweeper was retrofitted with this plow and I would just plow snow. I would plow snow and I would strap salt and that was my job. I’d just drive on the roads for hours and plow snow.
Peter McCormack: Was that like a good escape?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, it was great, because I don’t have to be around other inmates. The best commodity is silence and it’s very difficult to get silence in prison.
Peter McCormack: How much bullshit did you have to deal with?
Charlie Shrem: A lot! All the time. Every day. Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, stress, bullshit, annoying people, constant other inmates, administration, you just got to deal with bullshit. You got to learn to bite your tongue. So what I learnt; humility. You learn how to bite your tongue and learn how to just take it. You think trolling is bad on Twitter, its nothing on prison. Those people are professional trolls. They trained me how to troll and you don’t want me to start trolling you, because I will be vicious.
Peter McCormack: What, just personal attacks? Mental…
Charlie Shrem: Personal attacks, mental breakdowns. I saw someone die. I saw someone run into a wall and die, like crazy shit because he was on drugs. He took a synthetic weed and it was laced with shit.
Peter McCormack: But I’m guessing not everyone in prison was bad?
Charlie Shrem: No, not everyone in prison was bad, there was a lot of good. I had a lot of acquaintances, friends, people that I was very close with. But the administration would set you up to not be friends with these people. They would force you guys to hate on each other. They had all this mental stuff going on. It was crazy.
Peter McCormack: Was there much violence?
Charlie Shrem: Not really.
Peter McCormack: Okay. I guess, because again, lower risk prison, so it was just more, just crazy people?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah no one wanted to leave. Everyone liked it. I saw someone sitting like three chairs away from me in the TV room and a guy walked in with a sock with a lock in it, like a Masterlock and wacked him right in the head. That was crazy.
Peter McCormack: That’s not great to see!
Charlie Shrem: No, I never got into any fights. No one disliked me. I had some guys in there who just didn’t like me from first judgments. Maybe because I symbolized something that they didn’t like, but just you stay away from those people. Other than that, I didn’t really have any issues with anyone.
Peter McCormack: Okay, what does it like in terms of the guards? Were they okay with you?
Charlie Shrem: Some of them were okay.
Peter McCormack: But are there some assholes?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, there’s some assholes that would plant shit on people and fight. You just want to stay off the radar and stay out of the way. You don’t want them to know your names. You don’t want them to know who you are. You just do your time. Just stay away!
Peter McCormack: How prevalent were drugs in the prison?
Charlie Shrem: With money you can get anything you want.
Peter McCormack: It always amazes me though, that it’s that easy to get drugs!
Charlie Shrem: Two ways, guards, who would smuggle it in for them. The second way is they’d have runners. They’d have people that would coordinate with another person on the outside to fill up a duffle bag with a bunch of drugs and alcohol and stuff. Then they leave it off the side of the highway somewhere. Then an inmate would literally escape, go get the stuff and then come back, because it’s an open prisons between counts. Every four hours, they do a count. You have to stop where you are and they’d come around and count, to make sure everyone’s there.
Peter McCormack: Were people doing that stuff where they make alcohol in the prison as well?
Charlie Shrem: Not in my prison. They may make other stuff, like food and stuff. They make a lot of food in prison, because the food is terrible. I could make a cheesecake in a microwave! I make a lot of shit now. I’m not giving you my recipes, otherwise you’ll have a whole podcast of prison recipes.
Peter McCormack: You should do that! What were the treats in there?
Charlie Shrem: What do you mean treats?
Peter McCormack: What were the good things? Would Courtney visit and be able to bring you a bag of Twinkies and shit?
Charlie Shrem: No! So in the visiting room there were these vending machines that you have to put money in and your visitor was allowed to bring money. Then what you’d do, is you’d basically… I couldn’t touch the money or the machine, but your visitor could and they had these machines that sold like microwaveable cheeseburgers. So that was our thing, was when she’d visit, we’d get a cheeseburger from the microwave, from the vending machine, and we put Doritos in it and then eat it. That would be amazing, like best burger of my life! Those jalapeno burgers are the fucking bomb.
Peter McCormack: And you would get to have dinner together?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, we got to have dinner together, which was great.
Peter McCormack: But the food itself was terrible, because no money goes into it?
Charlie Shrem: Some of it was good, some of it was bad. It was all expired, spoiled shit. But inmates ran the kitchen. So if you had a good chef, then you’d have good food and there were some good stuff. I had some pretty good meals in there, but relative, like I wouldn’t eat it now. It’d be disgusting. But I was in there, that’s all I had.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So time moves on, months start passing.
Charlie Shrem: It moves very quickly. In jail, time moves very quick. Every day is the same. So your schedule never changes, every day’s the same. So you just count weekends. You look forward to the weekends, as that’s when the visits are and things are chill. But time just moves fast. I played in sports leagues in there, I was in a ultimate Frisbee league, so I played sports twice a week. I worked out every day, I lost a lot of weight, got jacked, ate very well. I played a lot of cards.
Peter McCormack: I guess you get through the first year and you’re like, “oh, six months to go!”
Charlie Shrem: So I was lucky. I only served one year in there and then the other six months, I lived in a halfway house. So I only did one year in that prison.
Peter McCormack: Did you know that was going to be the case?
Charlie Shrem: No, not until towards the end.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so that was a bit of a bonus?
Charlie Shrem: So that was great. I participated in a program called the residential drug abuse program. It’s like cognitive behavior therapy combined with AA, where the goal is not to make you not an alcoholic or a drug addict. The goal is to make you free of your criminal personality. So there is this mental stuff going on! It’s literally like stuff you see in movies. So the government invented this experimental, behavior therapy treatment, where the bonus by doing it, is that you get to take six months off your sentence and stay in a halfway house instead of in the prison…
Peter McCormack: Which is obviously a lot better?
Charlie Shrem: Mind you, the halfway house sucked. But yeah, so I participated in that program and the program was terrible. It’s really bad. It fucks with you, fucks with your head. You have to live in these specialized units that are only other RDAP people. It was crazy.
Peter McCormack: You get to the end, have you talked about it this much? Have I asked you more than anyone has?
Charlie Shrem: No. I think you are.
Peter McCormack: I find it fascinating to hear from both of you though. Okay, I’m getting to the end of it. So you’re aware that you’ve got this opportunity, is it a month to go? Two months ago?
Charlie Shrem: No, I did it only a half a year in.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you got a six months countdown…
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, you do this whole program. The last month and a half is the slowest month, because time just stops. Every day, just seems like it’s the longest day ever, because you’re really on your way out. You have a month left, you’re on your way out…
Peter McCormack: Does it get progressively slow?
Charlie Shrem: Yes, the last week is the slowest week ever and you’re so close to getting out! There’s a lot of prison bullshit and drama. Just bullshit and drama. You’re living with hundreds of other criminals, who have nothing better to do, than to just fuck with you and just be dramatic about stuff. So something that here, would just be so simple and stupid, would just explode in prison? It would just be the most dramatic thing. It’s so gossipy! So as your time goes on and it’s almost done, you just try to stay out of the way, because you don’t want anything to risk… There are people that would do things to risk you not getting out, like plant shit on you and stuff.
Peter McCormack: Fuckers!
Charlie Shrem: So I would just hide in the corner and just read and stay away from people. I just didn’t want to like risk it.
Peter McCormack: Then obviously you get to your day where you were released?
Charlie Shrem: Yep. Woke up, had breakfast.
Peter McCormack: Is there a routine, do people celebrate you leaving?
Charlie Shrem: They do, they throw a party. They threw me a little party. It was nice. I had my group of guys, that I was really friends with and we had a nice dinner and a goodbye party. It’s sad because these are your best friends and you know like, “I’ll see you on the outside” and I had some friends who got released a few months after me and they called me up and stuff like that. It’s sad. It’s a very sad thing, because you’re leaving your family and you’re getting out, but they’re not and it’s not fair.
Peter McCormack: Have you stayed in touch with any of them?
Charlie Shrem: Some people you can’t really, because they just go to back to bad things.
Peter McCormack: And you don’t want to ever go back!
Charlie Shrem: No, never! It’s sad, but that morning you wake up and everyone’s happy for you and they throw you like a nice party and stuff. I remember going to so many parties for people who are like going to leave and it was nice to have my own. It’s like everyone is having dinner together, potato chips and drinking soda and that’s the party.
So that morning, I had all my stuff packed and I have a box in the garage with all my stuff and you basically go into the discharge room, see the guy again, he prepares you and Courtney was late! They were late. I was like, “I’m not getting out today am I?” So it wasn’t on purpose, it was traffic. Then all of a sudden, they said, “you’re free to go, go out the door” and you literally just…
Peter McCormack: Was it like a “ahhhh” moment?
Charlie Shrem: Well you walk out the door and as soon as you walk out that door and you’re in the parking lot, you realize that everything that just happened in there, was just bullshit.
Peter McCormack: Is there any kind of weird feeling like it almost didn’t happen or is it indelibly in your mind as an experience or is it this like surreal thing like “fuck, I was in prison!”
Charlie Shrem: Oh no, it happened. There’s no doubt in my mind, i’ll never forget that experience. It was just crazy.
Peter McCormack: So you get out, you see Courtney…
Charlie Shrem: Drive to the gas station, change out all my clothes, put jeans on and it was great! Get a snickers!
Peter McCormack: Hello Courtney!
Courtney Shrem: Hello Peter!
Peter McCormack: Thank you for inviting me in your home.
Courtney Shrem: No problem, it’s our pleasure.
Peter McCormack: I’ve got a few questions for you as well, because obviously we’ve touched on the prison story and I think it would be good to hear what it was like for you as an experience. So I’ve just got a few questions. The first one is around when Charlie first got arrested, he’s taken away. What airport you at?
Courtney Shrem: I was at JFK.
Peter McCormack: So they take him away and you’re like, “what the fuck?”
Courtney Shrem: Yeah, I was traumatized. I was crying hysterically. I just couldn’t even imagine what was happening. Then I was questioning Charlie, I was like, “what the fuck did you do? What happened? Is there something that you’re not telling me?” We were both caught so off guard, that we had no idea of what was going on.
Peter McCormack: But they take him away. You don’t speak to him until the next day or do they give him a call?
Courtney Shrem: He got one phone call that he was able to call me and I just couldn’t sleep.
Peter McCormack: I bet, what an awful evening!
Courtney Shrem: It was horrible. Just the fact that he was telling me he’s okay, but he couldn’t tell me anything else and he couldn’t tell me where he was. That was like the scariest part too, that I didn’t know where he was physically. So yeah, it was very, very horrible experience.
Peter McCormack: When did you then next see him? Did he call you and said, “okay, they’re releasing me. Can you come get me?” What happened?
Courtney Shrem: I got ahold of his company lawyer and was able to basically tell them what was going on and kind of just get him out, in that aspect. I saw Charlie probably about, I want to say, it was a good three to four days before I could see him.
Peter McCormack: Oh right, fuck! So a terrible few days, not knowing what’s going on, not knowing when he’s coming back. You finally see him again and then I guess, you have to then live that next two years during essentially the lawsuit. What was that like for you?
Courtney Shrem: I was with him when he was during the house arrest. So he got the house arrest, he paid bail, somebody bailed him out, and then he was on house arrest and then we got to move in together. But before that, he went back to his parent’s basement and he had to hide our relationship from his parents, because I’m not an Orthodox Jew, so I wasn’t accepted in that aspect. So basically I was a secret for a very long time.
Peter McCormack: But then he does end up moving in with you.
Courtney Shrem: Eventually!
Peter McCormack: What are the rules of the house arrest? Did he have to send you down to the shop?
Courtney Shrem: We had to be in by 9.00pm.
Peter McCormack: So he’d send you down to the 7-Eleven if he needed something?
Courtney Shrem: Oh yeah! He was allowed to leave, we had a certain amount of time during the day that we could be away. But we had you back in the house at 9:00pm every night.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So you live through the experience of him going to court, potentially facing up to 30 years. How was that for you? I mean, obviously terrible, but emotionally, mentally. How was that for you?
Courtney Shrem: I’ll never forget when I was at the arraignment. It was my mom, my brother and his wife now, on one side of the courtroom and then it was his orthodox community, it wasn’t even just immediate family, it was like the whole community on the other side of the courtroom. Then there were reporters and so forth.
All I remember is Charlie’s fate is being decided and it was just really hard for me because I’m more stressful than ever, because not being accepted into that community, it was about me in that courtroom and it should have been about him. That’s what frustrated me and made me more bitter about the whole situation. We honestly didn’t expect him to have any jail time. We thought it was just going to be more house arrest and I mean his lawyers were like, “you’re just going to do house arrest, you’ll be fine.” Then it just… It was such a haze for me when that happened, because all that court talk, it’s just in one ear and out the other.
I couldn’t really grasp what was physically was happening and then when I found out that he was going to jail, our whole life was turned upside down! It was horrible.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so he gets sentenced, he has two or three months before prison. It sounds like he ignored it, but I’m going to go out on a whim here and say you didn’t, like he did?
Courtney Shrem: No. I will say his attitude helped me get through it as well, because if he didn’t keep it together, I wouldn’t have kept it together. So I think we really helped each other and that aspect of keeping it together. It’s the only thing we could do.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny, as I was talking earlier, you heard me talking about having the 24 hours before the interview is really helpful, but it’s also helped with the interview. I’ve been observing you two from a distance, the bickering and real love between you, but the real love is really amazing to see actually. I really like the way, I don’t know if you guys know how often you tell each other you love each other? It’s constant!
Courtney Shrem: People joke around about how much we tell each other, but yeah, it’s a lot!
Peter McCormack: You tell each other all the time. It could be like, “oh honey, I’m getting something from the fridge. Do you want anything? I love you!” So look, it’s obviously made you stronger, which is amazing. But anyway, he obviously goes to prison. You have 18 months without him. Again obviously shit, but talk me through what it was like living that from your side.
Courtney Shrem: Well it was terrifying because if there was a storm or something, he would be on lockdown. So I wouldn’t hear from him and we were able to email through the government email or whatever. Then there was only like a certain amount of time that we could speak a day, without going over his time or if we would go over our minutes, there was a time that we didn’t talk for like 12 days, which was horrible. But the unknown is what scared the hell out of me. He’s in this horrible place and I have no control of finding out what’s going on and that was the hardest part for me.
Peter McCormack: Were you worried for his safety?
Courtney Shrem: Absolutely! Especially when you watch these TV shows, it’s horrible!
Peter McCormack: It’s awful! Gangs and violence…
Courtney Shrem: And that’s another thing like when I would get those emails, I would be constantly stressed out. Even though he was physically in there, I felt like I was physically in there, because I was living day to day through him but not… You know what I mean?
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so it was a sentence for you both. Obviously his sentence is different because he’s in prison, but your life equally is on hold?
Courtney Shrem: My life was on hold, just like his life was on hold, but we were in different places.
Peter McCormack: Talk me through the kind of progression of time. Was it really slow to begin with or did the first month go quick or was the ending quick? Or did the whole thing go slow?
Courtney Shrem: At the very beginning, it was very, very slow. But like I said, with Charlie’s attitude, it helped a lot and I just commend him a million times, because I just can’t even imagine being in the position that he was in, how positive he was and that is what makes me fall in love with him even more, because nothing keeps him down. He’s so inspiring that way! In the beginning it was very, very difficult, because of the unknown like I said, it was just very hard, when I wouldn’t talk to him, I wouldn’t hear an email or so forth.
Then towards the middle, he was telling me more about his experiences, how you would have a special dinner with the inmates and so forth. So because he sounded so positive, it made me feel a little bit more relief and it made me feel like he was okay. I don’t know if that was a facade to make me feel better or if he actually physically felt that.
Peter McCormack: Then the last month and week…
Courtney Shrem: We were both counting down the days! Yeah, it was very, very, very slow.
Peter McCormack: And the day he was released?
Courtney Shrem: Amazing! I’ll never forget, my mom and I went to go pick him up and he was literally in the middle of the parking lot with his box in his hand and it had all his belongings in it and I just melted down. I was like, “oh my gosh, he looks so cute!” And I felt so bad because we were late because of traffic.
Peter McCormack: You were late for his release from prison?! Such a typical woman thing to do, you were doing your make up, come on!
Courtney Shrem: We literally went to the gas station and he was like, “I just want to burn these clothes.” So we went to the gas station, I brought him a change of clothes. He changed into his clothes and got rid of his uniform and off we went!
Peter McCormack: So this is the first time I’ve had to record so much, that we’ve split it into two sessions. So morning Charlie!
Charlie Shrem: Morning!
Peter McCormack: So where we left off yesterday, was you’d come out of prison, you’d burnt your clothes, and then you were going to a halfway house and that was worse than prison. So fill in the gaps for me there.
Charlie Shrem: On prison, you’re in a prison, which is categorized by various security levels. You have camps, you have lows, mediums, maximums, super maximums, and then like Guantanamo Bay. Where in a halfway house you’re bunched in with everyone, state and federal prison, all people living in a halfway house together. So you’re with murderers and bank robbers and rapists and child molesters and everyone.
Peter McCormack: Sounds terrible!
Charlie Shrem: The food is better though.
Peter McCormack: How does the halfway house operate? Is it just a house where you have a bedroom each?
Charlie Shrem: It’s usually like an old state prison, so it’s pretty much another prison or it’s like a crack motel in a really bad neighborhood. The way it works is that it’s a secure location so you can’t leave. So the first week you get there, you’re on lock down, you just can’t leave the place. Then after that, if you can get a job, then they let you go out for work and then as long as you’re working and being on time and stuff like that, when you get your first paycheck usually two weeks later, you give it to them and then you get some of it back.
But you give them the paycheck, you get some of the money back. So you’re basically working for free, because they’re taking most of your paycheck to pay to the halfway house and whatever. Then you get some money back and then they start giving you like… You can go home for eight hours a week. Then if you do that and you’re successful and you show back up to the halfway house on time, the next week they let you go home for 12 hours and if that works out the week after that, you can go home for 24 hours.
If that works out, then you go home 48 hours and come back. Then after that, usually about like halfway through, you could actually move home 100% and then just show up to the halfway house twice a week for a check in and a drug test.
Peter McCormack: So it’s like they’re weaning you off the prison system?
Charlie Shrem: That’s what they do. But you really need to have a job set up and a family and people to support you, to keep you out of like the whole criminal lifestyle world. It’s very difficult. Most people end up going back to prison.
Peter McCormack: I guess for you it’s different because you didn’t really come from a criminal background, whereas some of these people may have been career criminals or they may be…
Charlie Shrem: I had a support system on the outside to help me get back into it. So I was able to get back in and have a job. I worked at a restaurant as a dishwasher, ran food to a food runner and it was a great job. I loved it.
Peter McCormack: What was it like in the halfway house itself?
Charlie Shrem: If you’re looking in and you’re just going from your regular life and then having to stay in a halfway house, it would be crazy, because you have to condition yourself. But I was coming from prison, so I was like, “alright, turn on prison mode back on.” So I’m conditioned to it. So you have to adapt your body. Adapting to prison is the same way. When you’re in there, you’re like, “what the hell is going on here? How am I going to keep busy? How am I going to pass my time? How am I going to deal with these people?” But our bodies are very good at adapting.
So within a few days, you’ve adapted to the prison lifestyle and you learn how to laugh and to have fun and how to enjoy your life again, in that lifestyle. Some people can’t, some people get severely depressed, but you just get adapted to the lifestyle. The thing is you’re so appreciative because you’re not in a prison somewhere in the middle of nowhere. You’re in the middle of a city. You’re closer to your family. You can go out for work and the food’s better and it doesn’t feel like you’re in a prison anymore. There’s also no guards. There’s no COs in the halfway house.
Peter McCormack: But doesn’t that put you at more risk then, if you’re surrounded by the worst criminals?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah that’s why other criminals go back in. The halfway house system doesn’t work. They should put you on house arrest instead or put an ankle bracelet on you and have you monitored in your home or you’re out and about like through house arrest. That’s how they should be doing it. Halfway houses don’t work.
Peter McCormack: But to people fuck with you in the halfway house as well, like giving you shit?
Charlie Shrem: Oh yeah, worse! In a halfway house, it’s a lot easier to get away with stuff. In prison, you have to be lucky every day. They just have to be lucky once. In the halfway house, it’s very easy to get away with stuff. You see drugs and cigarettes, alcohol are blatantly right there. But if they catch you, then you’re screwed. You go back to prison.
So it’s very difficult. Also in a halfway house, the people there, they have a lot less respect, because when you’re in prison, everyone has to have respect for each other. So there’s like this common respect, like you don’t play loud music, if you’re loud at night, you’re going to get your ass kicked. In the halfway house, we have like murderers with people like me. So there’s no respect! Everyone does the fuck what they want.
Peter McCormack: What did you do? Just keep yourself to yourself?
Charlie Shrem: Keep to yourself. They put me in a room with bunk beds, with a bunch of other people. There was one guy, his name was Bones. He was a really nice guy. We were talking and he was a little stand up. You learn how to communicate with these people. You show up and you just don’t say anything for a while. You let a few days go by and they see that you’re like pretty normal, you’re not like a child molester, you’re not obnoxious and you’re not stupid and you have respect for them. Then eventually you can start communicating. After a few days we started communicating and I’d say like, “I’m going to the vending machine. Do you want anything?” Or I say like, “when are you going to shower? So I’ll leave the room so you can change.”
You just start offering respect but you can’t be a wuss about it. You can’t be like you’re giving in, you got to just show respect. I’ll say for example, “hey, I’m planning on taking a shower at 6. When are you showering? I’ll leave the room for you.” So I’m implying that I want him to leave the room for me. You have to do that. You got to stand your ground in prison. You can’t give in. It’s not like in a mean and aggressive way, it’s just being assertive. If there’s anything that you learn in prison, it’s being assertive.
You have to learn how to be assertive, stand your ground, don’t give in and don’t whatever. So in the halfway house, this guy, I’ll talk to him, I say, “what did you do?” We were just laughing one day and I was like, “What did you do?” He was like, “I rob banks.” I was like, “really? I thought that’s just in movies. I don’t know that people actually did that nowadays. Were you good at it?” He was like, “I ended up in prison!” He was nice enough. But that room was still… There were a bunch of obnoxious kids and when I mean kids, I was like 27 at that point.
These are like 19/20 year old kids and they’re the worst, because they walk around like their shit don’t stink and they’re whatever. But eventually, because I was working a very stable job and my shift was in the morning and I was giving the halfway house their money, they moved me into this other room which had like six bunk beds, but it was only like half full, only three of the beds were taken, including me.
This room was called the “workers room” and it was only for the best behaved people in the halfway house and the who worked really long shifts and whatever. We had our own bathroom in that room. So that was a pretty big deal. So I was able to sleep really well and be with myself.
Peter McCormack: I guess you gradually did your time here in the halfway house, got more and more time with Courtney, got more and more time to establish yourself and then you get to the point where you’re released from that. How long were you having to still check into the halfway house?
Charlie Shrem: It was a six month process from start to finish.
Peter McCormack: So when that ends, what happens after that?
Charlie Shrem: Eventually your release date comes and you go to the halfway house for the final checkout and then you’re free. Then you have a probation officer, usually in the capital city of whatever state you’re in and they’ll call you up and they’ll just say, “you’re on probation. These are the conditions of your release. Congratulations, you made it. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t be a criminal. Maintain your job if you can and I’ll call you in for random drug tests and if you want to travel outside the state, let me know.”
Peter McCormack: Okay, so that seems kind of reasonable?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, for most people it’s reasonable.
Peter McCormack: How long was that for?
Charlie Shrem: Everyone’s different. I had three years.
Peter McCormack: So you had three years probation, you have the random drugs tests, are you allowed to drink?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: Any other conditions? Weird conditions?
Charlie Shrem: You have to report any communication with a police officer to your probation officer. So if you get pulled over for a speeding ticket, you’ve got to let them know.
Peter McCormack: Okay and the probation itself, was it, you said you’ve got two months left?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, two months left.
Peter McCormack: So say if something was to happen. Say you got drunk and got in a fight and got arrested, does that mean you’ve broken your probation?
Charlie Shrem: That’s a good question. The probation officers have a lot of leeway when it comes to this stuff. I have a pristine record for the past three years almost and so if I were to fuck up and not that I would, like get into a bar fight like you said, I would immediately let him know and I’m sure there would be some repercussions, but I don’t think I’d go back to prison. Now if I took drugs, I failed the drug test. They give you one warning. If you take drugs again, then you’d have to serve out the remainder of your probation in prison.
Peter McCormack: So that could have been three years at the very start, now it would be a couple of months?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: It was quite interesting when we went out for dinner last night and hearing you talk about a real fear of getting into any situation.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I exit from situations if people are being loud, if I’m being loud, if everyone’s looking at me, I need to exit the situation. I have a problem with police in general, so if there’s a police boat coming down the canal or a police car driving by or looking at me the wrong way, I just immediately break out in sweats. I have this big problem. My therapist told me that I need to humanize the police, so if I can, I’m supposed to walk over to them and just start talking to them, ask them how their day’s going.
Peter McCormack: You did that yesterday, when we saw the guy who was on the floor arrested, there was another police officer and you said hello to the police officers.
Charlie Shrem: No, there was a police officer the other night, just in the street by the bar we were at and we walked by and I was like, “good evening officer” and I waved and he waved back. I’m supposed to do that. It makes me feel better. Because there was a time where I couldn’t even drive by a police station. I couldn’t even walk into an airport.
I have really bad PTSD, because I was arrested at an airport. Even nowadays going to an airport still sets off… I’m not settled and comfortable, which sucks because I used to love airports. The energy in an airport is great. Everyone is always having a good time.
Peter McCormack: The same with weddings!
Charlie Shrem: Well yeah, there you go, it’s the same situation!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I’ve been to two weddings since my breakup and one I left early and the other I kind of stayed, but I don’t like them. They make me feel crap. If they’re on the TV, I have to turn them off. I have a very, very similar thing. I tried the therapy thing, it didn’t really work for me though. It worked for you.
Charlie Shrem: You have to be someone who wears their emotion on their sleeves. It’s easier. I’m a very emotional person and so when I go to therapy, I just let it all out, because my thing is I’ve got all these problems inside. With a good therapist at least, not the ones you see on TV, but a good one, at least when you’re talking to them, they’re bearing the brunt of your problems now at least. So it’s like you’re offloading it a little bit and it helps.
Peter McCormack: So you’ve got two months left. Once the two months passes, is there anything else that happens after that or is that it?
Charlie Shrem: I’m still a felon. For life. I can’t vote. Well, I actually got my voting rights back.
Peter McCormack: Hold on, you can’t vote if you’re a felon?
Charlie Shrem: No, but In Florida, they just passed a law last year giving felons the right to vote back.
Peter McCormack: I think in the UK you can’t vote whilst you’re in prison. I’d have to double check that. But I think while you’re in prison…
Charlie Shrem: I can never own a gun. I can never do to jury duty.
Peter McCormack: That’s kind of a bonus!
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I get the letter in the mail and it’s like automatic disqualification as I’m a convicted felon. Do you have jury duty in the UK?
Peter McCormack: We do. I’ve never had it.
Charlie Shrem: But how does that work?
Peter McCormack: Usually it comes in the post and you have to do it, as it’s a civic duty and you have to do it unless you’ve got a good reason not to. So for example, say you have a work trip booked and it’s all paid for, you defer it. But no, I’ve never had it. I know it will come.
Charlie Shrem: If you don’t show up, they issue a warrant out for your arrest. The police won’t go after you, but if you get pulled over for a speeding ticket and they pull up your name, then you’re going to get arrested and show up to the judge and basically tell him why you didn’t go to jury duty. It’s just a pain in the ass.
Peter McCormack: All right, so once your probation is done, there’s a few things you can’t do, but they’re not that big a deal?
Charlie Shrem: No, you can pretty much live your life. You can leave the country, you can do whatever you want.
Peter McCormack: Okay, is that an important date to you?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah!
Peter McCormack: But do you think it will change anything? What will it change for you?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah mentally, because right now I’m still under the jurisdiction of… My balls are in someone else’s hand. So right now, my life is in the hands of someone else. So if someone else’s probation officer doesn’t like me and luckily I’ve had really good ones, or if the judge doesn’t like me and they can do something, they can screw up my life. You don’t have rights when you’re on probation. They don’t have due process. They can pull you in for anything.
Peter McCormack: It sounds to me though with you, that the punishment has been a deterrent for committing crimes in the future,
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, for me of course. But was it a deterrent for other people is the question.
Peter McCormack: Well it’s not, because some people don’t care about prison. Some people accept that…
Charlie Shrem: The point is that that you can make the case that people go to jail as a deterrent for other people to commit the same crimes. It’s not for you. Prison is supposed to be a deterrence for other people to do the same crime.
Peter McCormack: But it isn’t. I spoke to Lynn Ulbricht a lot about the US prison system and she’s now… Her work’s become more than just about Ross, she’s become a campaigner against the youth prison system, because she says, it’s really a business and there’s no real incentive to rehabilitate people because it is a business.
Charlie Shrem: There’s no rehabilitation that goes on in prison. There is no vocational training. I mean there’s a little bit, but nothing on a real level.
Peter McCormack: But she was saying to me that there’s two problems I remember telling me about.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, there’s a big lobby group. It’s an industry. You have the guards, you have… And it’s easier. It’s just, someone does something, send them to prison, have a nice day.
Peter McCormack: But also you get very cheap labor from the prisons.
Charlie Shrem: Oh yeah! So you’re asking me what jobs you could do yesterday and basically every prison has something called Unicor and I worked in landscaping, you earn like $80 a month, which is a decent salary. Education was on like $40 a month and Unicor you can earn $300/$400 a month. Now it’s a lot of money in prison because you could only spend $100 or something a week in the commissary anyways.
So if you’re a billionaire on the outside, it doesn’t how much money you have, you still can’t spend it. Everyone’s the same. So when you work in Unicor, you always get to have the ability to earn more money and then spend it in prison at the commissary, whatever you want. Unicor is called Prison Industries. Basically what that is, is every prison has one or two or three, and they’re basically factories where the inmates work for $300 a month.
So $100 a week or whatever it is or less than that, $80 a week and they do things. So all the furniture you see at any federal building, is built by a prison inmate, at a prison. The computer systems… Basically, it’s all the Labor that’s being done for the federal government, is being done by inmates.
Peter McCormack: Kind of slave labor?
Charlie Shrem: I mean, you tell me? You can’t leave. You’re in the prison, you’re being incentivized by better money. But the conditions aren’t bad, it’s safe. People like working in Unicor. Inmates like it, it’s hard to get a job there. It’s not hard to get job there, but it’s hard to get the coveted ones. I had friends that worked in an upholstery factory for Unicor and they just upholstered chairs and stuff. You can work in basically… Like you have to take apart old prison blackberries, take apart old blackberries that the government used to use 10, 20 years ago. Stuff like that.
Peter McCormack: So how do you reflect on it all?
Charlie Shrem: Talking about it, pretty much.
Peter McCormack: Do you hold anger towards the government?
Charlie Shrem: No, you just accept it and move on. You can’t minimize your crime and you can’t minimize your time, because if I were to minimize my crime and say, “oh, I didn’t do it, I shouldn’t have been guilty.” You’re basically minimizing and you’re wasting the time that you did. I served time, so don’t come to me and say… I hate people that do this. They come in and say, “you got a bad deal. You shouldn’t have been in prison. Your crime was stupid.” Don’t say that. My crime was my crime. I did it. I served my time. So I’m moving on.
Peter McCormack: I didn’t expect to hear you say that.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I don’t like when people minimize the crime. I did what I did, I accept it. So you should accept it. I did my time. Don’t minimize my time, it’s insulting and it’s disrespectful.
Peter McCormack: I hear what you’re saying. But without having heard you saying that, I don’t feel like you did commit a crime when you did it.
Charlie Shrem: That’s your opinion and I respect that, but at the end of the day, I did time. So by you saying that, you’re basically saying that you just wasted your all those years and you shouldn’t have did that. Now I came out a better person out of that time.
I’ve read a lot of books and I reflected a lot about who I am and so I don’t look at that time as a waste. I look at that time, as personal development time that I’m happy I did, because I needed that. I needed to become a better person. The quality of my life is a lot better now. So by minimizing the crime, it’s saying that that whole thing was a big waste.
Peter McCormack: Would you undo it or are you kind of glad you…
Charlie Shrem: That’s a question I struggle with all the time. If I could undo my prison time, would I? I don’t know because I don’t like who I was before. I’m a completely different person now and if there would be a way for me to become the person I am today by not going to prison, then yeah, I would never do it again. But I don’t think that’s possible.
Peter McCormack: Because I was telling you and Courtney over brunch yesterday about my divorce. It’s very similar in that it was the most awful experience, I lost nearly two to three years of my life with depression and feeling shit. The whole thing was awful. My company collapsed. I mean it was truly dreadful, but I wouldn’t be sat here right now doing this interview if that hadn’t happened.
Charlie Shrem: There you go.
Peter McCormack: It set off a chain of events, which meant…
Charlie Shrem: So you regret or you don’t want that to have happened, but you don’t regret and you like where you are now!
Peter McCormack: What you said then, I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like my job in advertising. I was really overweight. I had a drug problem that eventually got out of hand. I thought I enjoyed my job because the company was successful, but what I realized was that I was doing was nothing of benefit. My job now is to travel around the world. My job for the last two days, was to hang out with you, go out on your boat, interview with you, get to know you, spend time with you. I mean, what an amazing job!
Charlie Shrem: It’s the best job.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so I wish I hadn’t gone through all that, but I don’t want to lose this and I’m in a much better place because of it.
Charlie Shrem: So if there’s a better way for you to have gotten to this point you are now, then yeah you would do it, but at the same time you like where you are. So I like where I am now.
Peter McCormack: Sometimes maybe then what we need is something bad to happen to change our lives. It’s like a shock to the system, for a chance to refresh and reflect and yeah, it’s pretty interesting to hear you say that.
Charlie Shrem: That’s like when parents don’t let their kids make mistakes and go through things. That’s a problem because kids need humility training. Especially when you’re going from the 18 to 25 year old years, you need like a big dose of humility training to ground you.
Peter McCormack: Like all the kids at that party yesterday!
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, all the kids there. None of them have been through anything more traumatic than running out of weed one day. That is literally the most dramatic thing they’ve ever had to deal with. What trauma did they deal with? Nothing. Not Getting picked for the football team.
Everything in their life has been handed to them and so if that’s how you want to live your life, that’s fine, but you need… People in life are going to tell you no, and how you handle that is a big testament to who you are. If you’ve never been told no as a kid about something that you’ve actually wanted, then how are you going to take it when you’re older?
Peter McCormack: All right, man. Well I think that’s a good point to talk a bit about Bitcoin, because we’ve barely talked about it! We won’t go too far, because I think we’re both hungry and I’ve got to set off for San Francisco too. But it’d be good to know what you think about the Bitcoin space now, because it’s obviously very different from 2010 and you’ve seen it all and you’ve observed part of it. I guess when you’re in prison, were you able to observe what was going on or did you have like a year and a half block?
Charlie Shrem: No, basically my wife would email me some stuff going on, but I didn’t want to hear about it. Some people wrote me letters and stuff like that and I have those letters, but I didn’t want to hear about what’s going on in the crypto world. But now I’ve resigned, people have asked me, “do you want to start a new company? Do you want to be the CEO? Do you want to be a thought leader?”
I’m like, “no, there are better people that can do that.” I’ve done my time in that respect, I’ve earned my spurs. I’m happy with the legacy that I’ve created for myself in the crypto world. I’m happy with where I am. So if I can resign myself to enjoy my life, do a podcast and then see what else comes along.
Peter McCormack: But what do you make of the space right now? Because there’s a lot going on.
Charlie Shrem: Sure, there’s just a lot more people and different types of people. You have good and bad, pretty and ugly and it’s just a different community. I think generally we’re still on the right track to achieve that whole payment system that’s not controlled by any third party. I think we’re on our way for that. There’s no term for it, I am a Bitcoin maximalist ideologically, but in reality, I’m a capitalist too. So I’ll trade and buy and sell and advise different companies and projects as long as they’re not outright scams.
But I tell these companies straight up, I’m like, “yeah, this is a great experiment.” I always call them projects. I tell them that any project that I advise or I work with, I say it’s a project because there’s a very high likelihood that this is not going to work out as a social experiment long-term. So you may exist as a company, you may be profitable, your token holders may make money, whatever, whatever. But from a sound money perspective, it’s only Bitcoin. Everything else is a scam. Especially Ripple!
Peter McCormack: Especially Ripple! I’ve just been reading this morning about Zcash2.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, they’re all scams.
Peter McCormack: I kind of got there. It took me a long time and I’ve wrestled with that, “well, it’s capitalism. You can’t tell somebody not what to do.”
Charlie Shrem: No, that’s the thing, you can be a capitalist, but also be ideologically Bitcoin. That’s fine! That’s the beautiful thing that people don’t realize, but… I hate when someone says, “I’m an anarchist. I’m a capitalist, I’m a libertarian. You need to listen to me. You need to only do this. You shouldn’t do this.” I’m like, “you need to. You shouldn’t. You should.”
All of these are criminal lifestyle terms, “should statements.” You’re should-ing all over yourself, I tell people. That’s the whole opposite of if you call yourself a voluntarist or a capitalist, that means as long as you’re not stealing from someone, I’ll do whatever the hell I want and you have no right to tell me I can’t.
Peter McCormack: Maybe these scams are stealing from people?
Charlie Shrem: Probably are. A lot of them are.
Peter McCormack: So what’s going to come up for you next?
Charlie Shrem: I don’t know. I want to travel the world. I want to go everywhere.
Peter McCormack: There’s always places on top of your list though. I know there’s places I want to go.
Charlie Shrem: We’ve been to like 40 countries already.
Peter McCormack: So somebody set me a goal once. They said, “you should always try and go to as many countries as your age and then stay above that number.”
Charlie Shrem: Okay, so I’m above that number right now. I’ve been to about 40 and I’m almost 30 now. So I got a little bit of a head-start, but that’s great, I love that.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so I’ve done my count. I haven’t done it for a while and I need to do it again because I went to Norway this year, which was new for me and I need to add that in.
Charlie Shrem: Do layovers count? If you don’t leave the airport, I don’t count it.
Peter McCormack: So I don’t think it does, because I’d never add Dubai and I did a layover there for Mauritius, but I still experienced the country.
Charlie Shrem: But if you still leave the airport for eight hours, then you technically have been to that country.
Peter McCormack: Of course, but then if you’re in the airports, you kind of technically get a small experience. I have once when I was traveling around America, driving from Yuma to San Diego, just across the border into Mexico, just to add it to the list, which by the way, was a terrible idea. We got stuck in a big traffic jam with all the border controls and all these weirdos coming up and down by the car. It was horrible. But then I always wrestled do I include Mexico or not?
Charlie Shrem: You should!
Peter McCormack: No, because I don’t think I experienced it. For me, you have to go experience the country. So I think I’m at about 37, but I’m 40 and my problem is, because I come to America…
Charlie Shrem: I want to be able to freely travel around the Europe. So I want to be able to go and just not have a return home ticket.
Peter McCormack: Have you be to Ireland? You’ve got to go to Ireland!
Charlie Shrem: No, never been to Ireland. Why?
Peter McCormack: Well, so part of my ancestry is Irish. My father lives there. I think they’re the nicest people in the world.
Charlie Shrem: I’d like to go, but I want to go during good weather, like in the summertime.
Peter McCormack: It’s Ireland you don’t get to decide that! But if you go, you’ve got to let me know and I’ll go meet you over there. I’ll take you to… You need to go to a place called Galway. The mistake everyone makes is they go to Dublin and Dublin is kind of just like New York or London with Irish accents, but you go to Galway, you get to really experience Ireland. Have you been to Italy?
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, we’ve been there about five or six times. My favorite city in the world is Vienna, because I’ve been there so many times. I feel like I know it. You know when you go to a city so many times that you feel like you can get your way around, the neighborhoods, the streets, the layout, you pretty much can figure it out? I like that when you travel to the city so much and you start to know your way around. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. So now whenever we travel back there, I know my way around the city and that’s a big thing when your way around the city without having to look at maps or whatever.
Peter McCormack: I’m kind of like that with LA.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, LA, we’re getting there! LA is still so big and sprawling though, it’s so difficult. I’d like to go back to Vienna during the winter time because it’s really beautiful with the snow and the Christmas city. My best friend lives there and my wife and I have made friends with all of his friends, so we have a nice group of people that we’re friends with that are there, which is great.
Peter McCormack: Have you done much of Asia?
Charlie Shrem: When I was younger I did. I went to Thailand, I went to Macau. I’ve been to China, Hong Kong. I’d like to go to Japan.
Peter McCormack: Japan is incredible! I’ve got Vietnam and Cambodia possibly this summer.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, I do want to go to those places, but at the same time, they’re not at the super top of my list right now. I’d like to go to off the beaten path places too, like we’ve been to Morocco. I went to South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, that whole region, Zimbabwe, the southern tip of Africa is a great, I highly recommend everyone to do that. We did that. I don’t know. I want to do Europe a little bit more. I want to go to Russia! Court, where do you want to go?
Courtney Shrem: Hawaii!
Charlie Shrem: That’s in America though! What I really want to do is I want to go to the Virgin Islands and rent a yacht and travel around.
Peter McCormack: That would be cool, that’s life goals.
Charlie Shrem: Yeah, that’s what I want to do too!
Peter McCormack: All right man. Well listen, look, thank you for the invite over. Thank you for having me in your house.
Charlie Shrem: Thank you for coming, it was our pleasure.
Peter McCormack: It was great! In some ways it’s probably my most enjoyable interview.
Charlie Shrem: Thank you! Do you say that to everyone?
Peter McCormack: No I don’t! I have a lot that I enjoy, but I think what happens is, I see this as a craft, as a career and something I’m trying to forge and get better at. Coming and spending a couple of days with the guests before an interview, I think it changes it, it changes the way I approach it, it gives me new questions, it gives me new considerations and it makes me almost want to do this with other people. There are certain other people I’m going to want to interview and do it like this and go spend more time with them.
Charlie Shrem: It’s a nice place here!
Peter McCormack: It’s cool, but thank you. Thank you to your beautiful wife as well for having me and your lovely but annoying dog for jumping on me constantly and licking my feet, for taking me out and meeting your friends and just all your hospitality, it’s been amazing. I do consider you a friend now.
Charlie Shrem: Thank you, I do too now! Let’s go get some breakfast!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, let’s go get some breakfast! Thanks man, take care!