BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem to banks: “We want to work with you”

Danny Bradbury
Jul 30, 2013 at 16:33 UTC
Updated Oct 16, 2013 at 18:22 UTC

BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem extended a conciliatory hand to the traditional banking community in his keynote conference at the Inside Bitcoins conference today. He likened bitcoin to the early days of the web, adding that the early days of the cryptocurrency were like the “wild west”, but added that it is now evolving.

In the early days of the Internet, few people knew what was happening, and much of the infrastructure still had to be built, he said.

“We’re seeing all this infrastructure and entrepreneurs springing up,” he said. “It’s our job to build the infrastructure; the roads and the tunnels.”

Things are beginning to change, however, Shrem added. There are hundreds of bitcoin startups, he said, adding that the startup community is already entering its second wave of greater innovation around bitcoin services, citing one initiative to create a Bitcoin ATM as a good example.

He also encouraged the community to explore bitcoin as a form of payment between countries in emerging markets, rather than as simply a bridge between bitcoin and developed markets.

He reserved part of his talk to address traditional financial services companies. “We want to work with you. BTC is not going to shut down banks. There’s huge potential for large comapnies, even SWIFT,” he said, arguing that bitcoin could be a way for banks to avoid covering debt differentials when conducting interbank transfers.

“Don’t be scared of it. In terms of know your client (KYC), sure, you have to know your customer. It’s really important that you follow the laws in the country that you’re based in. And if you don’t like them, try changing them.”

This was particularly poignant given the launch of a self-regulatory body for Bitcoin this week, of which Shrem is a member.

Finally, Shrem answered a question from the audience alluding to the website for BitInstant, his two year-old company, which was launched to offer payment processing for exchanges and merchants. The site has been down for several days after customer complaints.

“We are really excited to be launching this week. There are a lot of changes. We have been building this company layer on layer over the last two years,” he said. “Imagine a house that keeps getting built and it keeps getting wings attached to it and there’s no one set of blueprints anymore. We moved out of the house, demolished it and rebuilt it.” He promised a new site, and a new, cheaper fee structure from BitInstant this week, along with new products.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” Shrem continued. “Some of the best BTC startups are second versions.”

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