5 Bitcoin Entrepreneurs That Are Taking It to the Next Level

By on May 27, 2014
5 Bitcoin Entrepreneurs That Are Taking It to the Next Level

The surge in Bitcoin’s value has made millionaires out of people who stockpiled them early on. What’s the attraction? For some, it’s the idea of a currency that exists outside the control of governments for one. For others, some would argue it’s a way for savvy entrepreneurs to invent a cash frenzy. Bitcoin has been growing in popularity, but it remains controversial. It came to widespread prominence in 2012, and has been in the headlines ever since. Plagued by security breaches, lawsuits, and arrests, Bitcoin’s advocates are still pressing on. Check out these five Bitcoin entrepreneurs who are taking it to the next level:

1. Charlie Shrem

Entrepreneur, speaker, Bitcoin pioneer, and evangelist, Shrem is founder of the Bitcoin Foundation and worked on the standardization, protection, and promotion of Bitcoin. During his senior year at Brooklyn College, Shrem discovered Bitcoins on a website in 2011 and made his first purchase of 500 Bitcoins from www.tradehill.com. At the time of his initial investment, they were worth around $3 or $4 each. He continued in entrepreneurial fashion by buying thousands more and, while still in college, he started his own company, BitInstant. The start-up company, based in New York City, provided a means to rapidly pay traditional funds to Bitcoin exchanges, allowing its customers to purchase the digital currency from more than 700,000 stores, including Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Duane Reade (WAG). (The website is no longer available, as of January 2014).

As of January 2014, Shrem has found himself in a heap of legal issues. After giving a talk about Bitcoin at an e-commerce convention in Amsterdam, Shrem returned to New York and was arrested at JFK airport on January 26. Prosecutors allege that Shrem and Robert Faiella conspired to launder $1 million worth of Bitcoins to help users of the Silk Road marketplace anonymously make illegal purchases. Shrem was also charged with failing to report suspicious banking activity and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. He has pled not guilty to both charges.

We’ve been keeping up with Shrem on Twitter @CharlieShrem. On May 19, he tweeted “I walk the streets again!”

Charlie Shrem Tweet

On May 22, he tweeted, “No longer under 24-hour house arrest! Woot Woot!

Charlie Shrem Tweet

And on May 23, he tweeted, “Back to business"

2. Roger Ver

Otherwise known as ‘Bitcoin Jesus,” Roger Ver is a virtual currency millionaire, investor, and former politician. Charlie Shrem affectionately calls Ver "Bitcoin Jesus" for the way he used to give coins away freely. As one of the most prolific Bitcoin start-up investors, Ver has funded the seed rounds for such Bitcoin startups as:


Ver began investing in Bitcoins in early 2011, and made his first million from the virtual currency that same year. At the time of his initial investment, he bought his Bitcoins for $1, as we watched prices skyrocket from around $0.30 to $32 before settling at $2. Ver has served as the full time CEO of MemoryDealers, the first mainstream business to accept Bitcoins as payment.

After losing a bet with the world, Ver made the largest ever-charitable Bitcoin donation—a million dollars to the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), “the organization that published the books and articles that allowed me to understand just how important Bitcoin would become.”

He has set down roots in Japan and his full time employment is based on Bitcoin. Ver sees Bitcoin as a vital tool for removing government control over money and economic activity.

A screen shot of Ver’s investments to date:

Roger Ver's BitCoin Investments

3. Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss are American twins, Olympic rowers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists that are best known for their legal battle with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. They led a $1.5 million in seed funding of Shrem’s BitInstant in 2013. Although the website is no longer available, the twins claim to have been “passive investors.” In April 2013, the twins announced that they had acquired $11 million worth of Bitcoins. The announcement came on April 11, the day after the virtual currency hit a record high of $266 and then plummeted to $120. The Times reported that the brothers "began dabbling in Bitcoin last summer when the dollar value of a single coin was still in the single digits." With one single Bitcoin being worth $525 US currency, the math is astonishing!

In 2014, the twins launched Winkdex, a financial index that tracks the price of Bitcoin. According to a press release issued by the “Winklevii,” the Winkdex is a “blended price index that is designed to reflect the true price of Bitcoins.”

4. Jered Kenna

Jered Kenna is the chief executive officer of Tradehill, (the company where Charlie Shrem made his first Bitcoin purchase) the world’s second largest Bitcoin exchange. Co-founded by Kenna in 2011, Tradehill is a virtual currency exchange platform specializing in Bitcoin and Ripple transactions. Jered also owns 20Mission, a “Hacker Hotel” in the trendy Mission District of San Francisco, as well as a co-working space for start-ups. Prior to these endeavors, Jered served in the Marines and spent significant time in Chile and Afghanistan. He was inspired to create Tradehill based on the challenges he saw surrounding payment solutions for merchants in South America. Kenna says he bought his first batch of virtual currency, 5,000 coins, at 20¢ each. Kenna is young and humble, not one to exploit his experience or wealth. He has been quoted as saying, “I’m happy to be considered a member of the Bitcoin millionaires’ club," but he doesn’t go into much detail about his actual wealth. He is in investor in Blueseed, TradeHill, Bitcoin Magazine, Strip and Go Bare.

5. Peter Vessenes

A serial entrepreneur and Brown University alum, Vessenes has founded startups, created an international development corporation in Africa, and has served as a board member for tech companies. Currently, he is the chairman of the board at the Bitcoin Foundation, whose mission is to standardize, protect, and promote Bitcoin. Vessenes is also the chief executive officer of CoinLab, Inc., a U.S. venture-backed company dedicated to making digital currencies more accessible, widespread, and easy to use around the globe for individuals and international corporations. The partnership between Mt. Gox and CoinLab, has devolved into a horrible $75 million lawsuit nearly a year ago, that appears to be by far the biggest Bitcoin-related lawsuit ever.

I did enjoy one of his recent tweets @vessenes:

Peter Vessenes Tweet

Bitcoin is definitely under pressure as well as scrutiny, but these entrepreneurs aren’t throwing in the towel just yet! As Peter Vessenes would say, “Drink more entrepreneur Kool-Aid!



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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right .