The cofounder of MyEtherWallet and CEO of newly launched MyCrypto walks us through the nuts and bolts of how MyCrypto works, how it differs from a company like Coinbase, why the keys you get from the site even enable to work offline — and how the company makes money. She also describes how the crypto community changed in 2017, her crazy sleeping schedule during that year, and how she responds when users ask questions like whether or not an initial coin offering will really deliver on the returns promised. We also cover what it’s like being a CEO when running a company was never in her game plan, how she got into crypto after starting off in film school and what her tips are for not losing your crypto.
Hi everyone, welcome to Unchained, the podcast where we hear from innovators, pioneers and thought leaders in the worlds of blockchain and cryptocurrency. I’m your host, Laura Shin and independent journalist covering all things crypto. If you love Unchained, be sure to let the world know with a review on apple podcasts. Those reviews help new listeners find out about the show. Also, spread the word on facebook, twitter, slack, telegram, and wherever you discussed crypto. And don’t forget to follow me on twitter @laurashin.
This episode is brought to you by Start Engine an ICO platform focused on issuing securities tokens in compliance with SEC rules. Start Engine can help your business launch a regulated ICO. Go to startengine.com/unchained for a 20% discount. Start Engine does not provide legal advice.
Today’s guest is Taylor Monahan, CEO of MyCrypto.com and co-founder of MyEtherWallet. Welcome Taylor.
Taylor Monahan: 00:00:57
Thank you so much for having me Laura.
Laura Shin: 00:01:00
Let’s start talking about both MyEtherWallet and MyCrypto. Since you recently left MyEtherWallet to start MyCrypto. What does MyEtherWallet do and how does MyCrypto differ from MyEtherWallet?
Taylor Monahan: 00:01:11
That is an excellent question, Laura. So we have to kind of go back in time a little bit to get the full story of how this evolution occurred. And it really comes down to me as a founder just being completely unprepared for everything. Doing things right in the company structure side of things. So for example, setting up a company, having all the paperwork done and signed. None of those were priorities because we just wanted to build a product. So, over the past six months, the end of 2017, beginning of 2018 we really wanted to frankly get our shit together and make sure that the company, the team, everything was really put together in a solid manner. And the reality was is that nothing was set up right. So a lot of the differences between MyEtherWallet and MyCrypto are actually things that the end user doesn’t care about at all. They are things that give us security. They are things that give us the legal standing to be protected. There are things like we can now have bank accounts and potentially do stock options for employees and have real employees and all of these things that were limited beforehand. From a product standpoint and the things that users might actually care about, with MyCrypto we’re really looking to just go full steam ahead and deliver not only the web interface that we have right now, which is very, very similar to MyEtherWallet, but desktop apps, mobile apps, just enhanced security, enhanced deploy systems, a whole bunch of really fancy stuff that makes the user experience better and hopefully help cut down on some of the phishing issues that we’ve encountered over the last two years pretty much.
Laura Shin: 00:03:14
And so just for people who aren’t really even familiar with the product at all. When you were talking about like the web interface and stuff. So what is it that you do on MyEtherWallet or MyCrypto? What is it that somebody can do on that site?
Taylor Monahan: 00:03:28
Absolutely. So we’re basically this interface that interacts directly with the Ethereum blockchain. I compare it to Coinbase just because they’re really well known name, but when you’re using Coinbase, you go to Coinbase.com, you can login with your username and your password and then you can do things like buy bitcoin or sell bitcoin. You can look at your balances, you can look at your transaction history, all of these things. With MyCrypto you can do similar things, but instead of using Coinbase’s backend or any hosted wallets backend, you’re actually interacting directly with the blockchain. And this is really, really key because it means that you are in control. So you’re in control of your keys. And while Coinbase is really legitimate and you know, they have a great team, they have great leadership, they have great vision, a lot of these other exchanges that are holding your funds and holding your keys for you. They may not be as reputable. And we hear about these hacks in the space all the time and it’s such a disappointment. And so that’s really the benefit of MyCrypto is that you can be in control and you can control when you send your money, you don’t have a third party deciding whether or not you can send it. When you can send it. And then obviously there’s no risk of a third party being hacked and their entire hot wallet being drained like we’ve seen so many times before.
Laura Shin: 00:05:05
So then I like this contrast that you drew with Coinbase. So essentially when I create an address on MyCrypto, what is that doing exactly because like I know for instance, that I can even use MyCrypto or MyEtherWallet offline. So what is happening exactly?
Taylor Monahan: 00:05:19
So the way that the blockchain works and cryptography works is you have these private keys and these public keys and together, they’re called a key pair. And every private key has this corresponding public key. And the public key is your address. So that’s that string of characters, in Ethereum it starts with 0x and then it’s about 40 characters long. And this is just simply how cryptography works. This is how your SSL certs work. This is how a lot of the infrastructure of the internet revolves around this cryptography. We’re just kind of putting it into this financial means. And so with MyCrypto, when you go in. You’re creating an address. What you’re doing is you’re driving this key pair and the hardest part about that is just truly randomly generating this key pair for you. And then you take that and you decide to use it. It’s actually quite simple relative to say Facebook or Gmail or Coinbase where you have a user account, user e-mail, you have information that’s tied to that account, whether it be addresses or your credit card number or your email address or whatever these pieces of information is. With MyCrypto you just go and we’re going to handle all the hard math and the cryptography for you and we’re just going to give you that address. It’s all cryptography. This is all just based on really fancy math. It’s not based on the server side authentication like you have with Gmail or Facebook or Coinbase even. So when we say you can generate a wallet offline or you can send offline. As long as you know what type of math is being used, it doesn’t matter if you’re online or offline because you don’t need to go access a server somewhere and you don’t need to go check with it. You just know that as long as everyone’s doing the same math problem, they’re going to get to the same answer. And it’s really quite remarkable how it all works and it’s just really different. I think that’s the best word for it. It’s really different from say, your traditional login systems with Gmail and Facebook and Coinbase.
Laura Shin: 00:07:32
So essentially what’s happening when I go on there is that the service is creating a pair of keys for me, one public and one private. Is that correct? On the Ethereum blockchain.
Taylor Monahan: 00:07:45
Right, exactly. And then really what you’re doing is you’re simply deciding that you’re going to use this key pair. You’ve decided this is my address. And so these key pairs are totally randomly generated. There’s about a bazillion of them that you could choose from and you’re just saying, hey, this is mine, I’m going to use this moving forward. And that’s it.
Laura Shin: 00:08:07
OK, and then when I create a password on there, what exactly is that doing?
Taylor Monahan: 00:08:11
So the password is encrypting the private key and the reason that we encrypt it for you is because this single piece of information is essentially controlling either hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars or potentially millions of dollars. And so by encrypting it, we just put another layer of protection on top of the private key so that ideally, let’s say you store it somewhere a little bit insecurely, someone gets their hands on it. Ideally, they’d also need that password and they wouldn’t have it. So they couldn’t steal your money. That’s obviously in an ideal world.
Laura Shin: 00:08:47
So I also know that it’s possible for me to connect my MyCrypto address or MyEtherWallet address to say Ledger or MetaMask or some other service. So what does that mean at that moment? Does it mean that I have in essence sort of like two private keys to access the same funds?
Taylor Monahan: 00:09:06
Sort of. So when you’re using MetaMask or Ledger or Trezor, essentially instead of using a private key that you generated on MyCrypto, you’re actually using this private key that’s stored in this external place and it’s one of the reasons that we love hardware wallets so much is that they essentially have this private key on the hardware device itself and It’s not on your computer, it’s not on your cell phone, it’s on this dedicated device. And so you still have one private key and it still has, In the case of ledger you have like multiple addresses, but there’s still one core private key. What ends up happening is that MyCrypto talks to the ledger and they communicate back and forth, but at no point is the actual private key that’s very, very important piece of information ever sent to MyCrypto or even your computer. And that’s why we love hardware devices so much is that it’s this worry free device that you can just use. If you go to a phishing website or if you get a key logger on your computer or something terrible like that. Your funds are still safe because the funds are stored on the blockchain and then the device is storing your access to those funds.
Laura Shin: 00:10:29
So the MyCrypto address sort of enables me to interact in a web environment but with funds that are maybe contained offline, is that what you’re saying?
Taylor Monahan: 00:10:39
Yeah. Essentially. it’s a bit complicated because there’s nothing in this world like it, It’s really, it’s quite hard to explain. I haven’t gotten, the best at it, but because, how do I say this. So because you have this hardware device and the hardware device contains this one piece of really, really important information, which is your private key. It can communicate with MyCrypto or another interface without sending the private key itself, it can send the data that you need. So whether that’s your account balance, whether that’s your address or whether that’s the fact that you want to send this transaction. So, I want to send one ETH to this address, the ledger can handle all of that and then we will just communicate just the public information out to the world so that your transactions actually broadcast and you send your funds.
Laura Shin: 00:11:38
OK. So let’s go back to when you first started MyEtherWallet. What were the options out there for interacting with the Ethereum blockchain all the way back then?
Taylor Monahan: 00:11:49
So back then it was just GETH, which is the Go Ethereum client. And then there was a C++ client and that was it. And these are both command line interfaces, meaning that you had to open terminal and type in commands in order to generate a new wallet, send your funds from one place to another, et cetera. And so the tool that we built was really just a response to the lack of graphical interfaces out there. We didn’t plan on this becoming this huge company. We didn’t plan on this kinda taking over our lives and the way it has. We’re like, “Hey, I want buttons, other people probably want buttons too. Let’s make a simple interface with buttons.”
Laura Shin: 00:12:40
So I think that sort of gets to your personal story, which is pretty interesting to me. You started out in film school, which isn’t really the typical background for someone in your position now. So how did you end up getting into crypto and founding MyEtherWallet?
Taylor Monahan: 00:12:55
It’s definitely been a remarkable journey. My mom has always said that, I kind of find my own path in life and I never take the easy path. As you said, I did go to film school. I eventually dropped out of film school and I was basically just looking for anything interesting. Literally anything interesting to do. And this was in 2010 and so the economy just wasn’t the greatest. We were still recovering from the recession. Especially for a liberal arts school drop out. I was pretty convinced I was going to be a broke college drop out for the rest of my life. And so what I did was I found a job that enabled me to utilize my skills that I had learned in film school. And then I just basically expanded my skills as much as I could in order to try not to be fired. Like really, that was my goal.
Laura Shin: 00:12:55
What was your job?
Taylor Monahan: 00:13:56
So it was for this company called the Americhip. They do like a lot of ad tech stuff. We worked with a lot of Fortune 500 companies. It was a really cool job with a really diverse set of projects. During that period of time is when I learned about cryptocurrencies just because I was soaking up all the knowledge I could and just really trying to do anything remarkable. I was so in general just bored and wanted to do anything that was about creating and telling stories and helping people. That’s what I’ve always been about. So, yeah, that’s how that got started.
Laura Shin: 00:14:38
So two questions. Why did you drop out of film school and then how did you even learn about crypto in the first place?
Taylor Monahan: 00:14:43
So I dropped out of film school because as much as I enjoyed making movies, a lot of film school is not actually about, hands on work, it’s about, for example, the semester I dropped out, I was taking a class called Italian cinema in the nineteenth century. It was a six hour class that you just learned about Italian cinema. I was not about that. I wanted to create things. So, I dropped out in order to really focus on just creating rather than these classes. And I honestly, I assumed that I would go back at some point and then when I got my first job and started working and seeing sort of how the real world operates because college world, college jobs, college world, that’s a whole different environment to be in. And so when I started working I found that OK, people actually need problems being solved, like actually being solved. And people have different needs and different desires. And you can create things, whether it’s film or a simple website or some marketing piece and that will adjust their needs and that’ll adjust their goals. That’ll adjust, you know, whether it’s something that is lacking or a new product that they’re launching or whatever it was. And I found that really interesting. I found it satisfied my same, like wanting to tell the story that I really enjoyed in film school but in a much more like real world tangible sense. So it was during that time that I read a Mashable article that I read about bitcoin and I just got intrigued and I think everyone’s story is about the same from there, but you fall down this rabbit hole of just like seeing the possibilities open up in front of you and seeing all the different things that this could change the world or these could change these inefficiencies or whatever it was. And I was so drawn to that. I was just, my imagination was completely captured. I was down that rabbit hole pretty fast.
Laura Shin: 00:16:53
Do you remember when you read that?
Taylor Monahan: 00:16:57
So I remember that we started like reading about Bitcoin and really like me and a couple close friends started sharing information as it was going up to that $1200. So that first bitcoin bubble, but we didn’t buy any until it started going down. So it was definitely not the most ideal time to get into Bitcoin, but, it was definitely a good learning experience.
Laura Shin: 00:17:25
So it sounds like that was late 2013, early 2014.
Taylor Monahan: 00:17:29
I believe so it was, yeah, it was right during the initial Bitcoin bubble and so we ended up buying a, getting into it on the way up and then we were buying on the way down, which obviously is not the ideal way to do things, but was a really great learning experience.
Laura Shin: 00:17:47
And then what were you trying to do on the Ethereum blockchain in 2015 that got you, you know, just start MyEtherWallet?
Taylor Monahan: 00:17:56
So we had participated in the Ethereum pre-sale and so honestly we weren’t trying to do anything fancy, we just wanted to safely store our Ether somewhere. And so we created this little tool that would just allow us to do that without having to trust my personal abilities using command line. That was really the only goal was like, OK, we’re gonna take a really simple problem. We’re going to make a really simple solution. That way. I don’t have to type in commands to move this Ether around, which is a good thing and then we’ll go from there. And honestly it was really that simple. So that was like mid 2015. It wasn’t until during 2016 that everything sort of changed and things started getting a little bit more serious. So the DAO happened, the DAO got hacked. The hardfork happened and all these different things happened. And, we just kept iterating and responding to feedback. That was just, that was it. It was just, people needed stuff. We built stuff. That was it.
Laura Shin: 00:19:02
You keep saying we who is we?
Taylor Monahan: 00:19:05
So the original two of us. His name’s Kosala. He goes by the username “Kvhnuke”. It was me and him and that’s it. All the way through… god almost all the way to the end of 2016. And then when stuff started getting kind of really hectic, my husband jumped in and started helping out as kind of like a life raft more than anything else, just trying to keep us afloat. And then during 2017 when stuff got really, really rough, that’s when Kvhnuke, there’s always sort of a breaking point if you want to call it or a turning point. And, for him it was during this ICO [Initial Coin Offering] madness that for one reason or another, things started breaking down in our communication and our partnership. And I really can’t, I can’t really put words into his mouth or say what he was thinking or what he was feeling. But, I can say for me personally during these crazy ICO times in mid 2017, it was probably one of the most stressful periods of my life and everything was being thrown at us. We were kind of like responsible for an immense amount of money being moved around whether or not that was actually, we don’t hold people’s keys, we’re not actually sending the money, we’re just enabling people to do this. But people don’t see it that way. So we still take the blame. So there’s a lot of different factors that went into it. But it was about in June or July that, that he kind of tapped out and, and you’ll have to ask him exactly why that was, but it was definitely a stressful, stressful time.
Laura Shin: 00:20:55
And so you sort of alluded to this, but as we all have seen, 2017 was a breakout year for crypto, probably the biggest year in the history of the space and the craze took off super fast, but we got some inklings of how quickly things could take off in 2016. And MyEtherWallet was really one of the main entities in the center of the whole storm. So can you just describe for me how crypto seemed to change both across 2016 and 2017 from the vantage point that you had?
Taylor Monahan: 00:21:28
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it was… the best way I can describe it is just kind of like, we approached everything as whatever fire is the biggest and the closest, to put that one out. So instead of thinking about the long term, instead of thinking about the potential of the blockchain, you know, in 2019, 2020, in 10 years, whatever it is, everyone’s attitudes was really short term and ours included. And I think that, that’s really one of the biggest shifts that we saw was how fast this all happened, and once it gets going and once that momentum gets going, there’s no way that you can stop it. And part of that is due to, that there really is real potential for the blockchain, right. Like there is remarkable things that people can build and it can enable a lot of remarkable things. Another part of it is that, a lot of what we’re seeing these days even today is highly speculative. And so people, when they’re speculating on things and they all get going. That’s called the bubble and that sort of what we’re seeing and for us, we’re not, we’re not big fans of the price shooting up quickly because it means that everything else shoots up quickly too.
Laura Shin: 00:22:56
What do you mean by that? Everything else. What else?
Taylor Monahan: 00:22:59
I mean like support tickets shoot up, the servers go down and so therefore the amount of time it takes to maintain the servers goes up. Just every time the price goes up I think we’re like, Oh god, OK, what’s going wrong? How can we fix it? What do we need to address? Who do we need to hire? That kind of stuff. It’s not super enjoyable anymore to be honest.
Laura Shin: 00:23:28
Over that time period, how would you say the people interested in the crypto space changed?
Taylor Monahan: 00:23:35
I would call it more diverse. I wouldn’t say that the people entering the space, were any one specific type of person, but what we had seen up until that point was like really highly technical people that were really interested in the technology, interested in the space, interested in the potential. Now we have this diverse set of people that were, maybe more speculative, maybe around for the short term, but we also saw people like grandmothers enter this space. People who were from the more traditional Wall Street type world who are interested in this space in the potential of it. And so, we definitely weren’t prepared for that. I think up until that point, whether I was making user interface choices or copy choices, I was pretty confident in my ability to do so because if I understood it, chances are our users would understand it because, we had similar traits. And during 2017 that all changed. It pretty much hit me over the head pretty hard when I would make a copy update that I would think like, “OK, this is now more clear.” And we would get hundreds of support tickets telling me how wrong I was. And I would just accidentally create this confusion. And I was like, OK, we definitely need more people here. We definitely need to analyze our users. We definitely need to sit back and figure out how we’re gonna scale this to be maintainable and be a useful tool for everyone. Not just these sort of technical people who’ve already have cryptocurrencies.
Laura Shin: 00:25:14
And what were the kinds of questions you were getting?
Taylor Monahan: 00:25:22
It was really broad. Sometimes people have questions about, what is the blockchain or what is a private key? Sometimes they’re more like, how do I get rich? or I heard about this ICO and I want to get in, help me. Our favorite questions are definitely ones that we can take some time answering, because you actually care and you actually want to know what’s going on with this crazy cryptography or the blockchain or whatever. Our least favorite ones are when people ask us, they email support and they’re asking us to speculate on the markets, which happens really frequently actually.
Laura Shin: 00:26:02
Like meaning, asking you for which coins are the next hot coins and stuff like that?
Taylor Monahan: 00:26:06
Yeah, exactly. So whether or not we think that this ICO will show the returns that the ICO is promising. Or, do you think x, y, and z would be the next Ether? Those types of questions.
Laura Shin: 00:26:19
Do you even respond to those?
Taylor Monahan: 00:26:23
We have a policy that we respond to all emails, so we do actually respond to them. But for those types of questions, we don’t actually answer the question obviously. We don’t tell them like, yes, this is going to be the next Ethereum or something like that. We very graciously, kind of point them to some really awesome resources that we have about investing and good choices and due diligence and those types of things and ask them to be responsible regardless of the investment choices that they choose to make.
Laura Shin: 00:27:01
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Laura Shin: 00:28:33
My guest today is Taylor Monahan, CEO of MyCrypto.com. So how much in transactions was MyEtherWallet doing at various times over the year?
Taylor Monahan: 00:28:43
So we have very little analytics just because so much of our user base is really privacy minded. We frankly don’t really want that information. We do have some transaction counts, meaning that we know how many transactions were going through our nodes. But one of the awesome things about MyCrypto is that you can actually send a transaction through our nodes or other infrastructure, like infura, etherscan and giveth. So essentially, even if our nodes were to be offline, you have these other points of infrastructure, these other API endpoints that you can interact with. So at the beginning of 2017, we were sending about 5,000 to 10,000 transactions a day. And then, June 21st, which was during the Status ICO, we sent almost half a million transactions that day. So that’s growth for you right there. That’s why things were stressful, right? That’s a big number difference. Luckily after the Status ICO, things did cool down a little bit. People were a little bit more responsible. The ICO’s, they just weren’t filled with as much FOMO [fear of missing out]. In about November, December when CryptoKitties hit, we were right back up to those levels that we had seen during the Status ICO. But, just more sustained and no end in sight. And then that’s almost more scary than an ICO, right? Because you’re like, when is this going to end? Is this the new normal? How do we learn to sustain this? When are we going to scale Ethereum? Those types of questions.
Laura Shin: 00:30:36
And so for a service like yours, is it something where if you scale that, that helps alleviate it or is it more limited to what’s actually happening on the blockchain? And so your just sort of dealing with, whatever capacity constraints are set by that blockchain?
Taylor Monahan: 00:30:36
It’s definitely two fold. There’s definitely things that there’s a limit that the Ethereum blockchain can handle. The amount of transactions held per block and the amount of blocks per second or minute or hour or whatever. That all have pretty hard limits. Where we can do things to improve is how our nodes receive traffic. How they process that traffic. How fast they respond to requests. Like, “What’s my balance?” or “What are my token balances?” And so it is two fold. We were definitely going down while the Ethereum blockchain was just chugging away. In December, January we started seeing the limits being hit on the Ethereum blockchain itself though. And so then, you know, now we need to talk about, “When is proof of stake? How is that going to be rolled out safely? What can people like us do to assist that process, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” So, we’ll see.
Laura Shin: 00:32:07
Is there something that people like, companies like yours can do for that?
Taylor Monahan: 00:32:16
What I’m encouraging the team to do really is be just more involved and talking more to the core people that are working at the Ethereum foundation or doing research. With Ethereum we have this EIP process which is basically these Ethereum proposals of how things should work in the future. And some are really high level, some of them are low level, some of them are in between. But, I’m encouraging our team to just be more involved. Things that matter to us, comment on and stay positive and stay encouraging towards those who are working on solving these really, really hard problems. And if there is an opportunity for us to help in any way, to do so. Because I think that one of the reasons I love this space so much, but especially the Ethereum space is just how great everyone is at working together and encouraging each other and being supportive. That’s why we’re here. I don’t know if we can do anything but hey, we’ll do our best to try.
Laura Shin: 00:33:18
I want to go back to how you were talking about how things got super crazy for you in 2017. And just remind me again, when was the Status ICO? Was it June?
Taylor Monahan: 00:33:31
Yeah. So the Status ICO was June 21st and that was really that peak. That when the graph went all the way up hockey stick style and that Status ICO was that peak right there. And then it kind of leveled out and chilled for a little bit.
Laura Shin: 00:33:44
So what did a day in the life of Taylor Monahan look like at that time?
Taylor Monahan: 00:33:49
Oh god. It was not, it was not a good life. I would essentially wake up whenever, one of my emergency alarms would go off. Meaning if it’s someone on the team called me. Of there was something really bad happening or if the servers were offline. And it really just depended. But, it was usually about three hours after I’d gone to sleep. So if that was at 9:00 AM, I’d wake up at nine. I put out whatever the fire was that, that was that fire. I would try to either prepare for the next ICO. I would try to answer support tickets because our support staff was not fully up to date at that point. I think we had two people working support during the Status ICO and we would just try to crank through as many tickets as we could. We try to update the site in as many ways we could in between ICO’s to inform people about the important things. So they didn’t have to email support and then I would basically repeat those sorts of tasks. So either updating the website, updating the knowledge base, answering support tickets, talking to people in the community about things that were going on. We had phishing websites. So a lot of times I’d be sendng take downs for that or finding them. And then at some point, I would take a nap, meaning I would just fall fast asleep, like pass out for a couple hours and then repeat that. And so I was essentially sleeping on a cycle where I’d nap periodically. Whenever I could catch a couple hours worth of sleep. That’s when I say like, it wasn’t healthy, like it was not fun. My husband would literally just bring me food. He was helping with support tickets. It was just rough. We didn’t have enough people to help. There were too many people to help. We were seeing people lose heaps of money. It was, you know, whether it’s the phishing sites or like not being educated about how to invest in an ICO or whatever. It was terrible to just be constantly inundated with emails about people who entered the space hopeful, and then suddenly had their funds lost. That just really, really sucked and I really wanted to fix it and it’s not an easy problem to fix.
Laura Shin: 00:36:13
Given this experience in all the problems that you saw people were facing, what do you think are the main issues in the crypto community or around Ethereum, I guess, specifically and what needs to be solved next for wider adoption to happen?
Taylor Monahan: 00:36:28
I think education is really, really key and I used to think that just educating people more and having like a better user interface would solve a lot of the problems that we’re seeing. But, more and more I’m thinking about, what are the practices that we allow? So for example, allowing people to connect via their private key in their browser by going to a website. That’s something that people are kind of taught that is OK because we’re like, OK, yeah, go to MyCrypto.com, typing your private key off you go. And then when they go and an ICO promises them free money or they end up on a phishing site accidentally, they never have that stop moment. They never have like, “Oh hey pause. Is this the correct website? Am I in the right place? Is this a scam?” They never had those moments. So I think that, educating the user is massively important and we need to do a better job with our user interface, with the language that we use. Even not language things, things like icons or illustrations to really get our points across and warn people about the dangers of crypto currencies. And I also think that instilling best practices in our own website would be immensely helpful and that’s one of the reasons that we’re literally building as fast as we can on desktop and mobile apps. So we can start really educating people and be like, “OK, private keys in the browser are not necessarily a good thing and you need to think twice before you do it.”
Laura Shin: 00:38:06
So here’s something that I don’t understand because I actually have not actually used the service. I’ve generated a private key, but then obviously I didn’t have money attached to it or anything. So I never used it again. But if I go back to the site and let’s say that I do have funds in that address, then how does that work? And then how does a phishing site get me to give them the money accidentally?
Taylor Monahan: 00:38:33
With the private key options, and this is if you enter your private key or your key store file. If you’re on our site, it just unlocks your wallet and it gives you access to: It’ll show your address, it’ll show your balance, it’ll show your token balances, et cetera. And unfortunately, even though we don’t transmit your private key at anytime because it’s not necessary, if you’re on a fake website, the fake website will transmit your private key to their servers. So essentially, we’re seeing very creative versions of both MyCrypto and MyEtherWallet. We’ll see three l’s instead of two l’s. We will see Zeros instead of O’s. Those types of things. If you accidentally end up on one of these sites, when you go and you unlock your wallet, instead of everything remaining on your computer, it’ll send that private information out. And so once they have that private key, then they have access to your account and they can do whatever they want. And that’s obviously incredibly detrimental to your average user.
Laura Shin: 00:39:36
Yeah. And I remember that there was a phishing scam with MyEtherWallet where instead of the two l’s, it was two capital i’s, But in SanSerif font which is what our browsers use, you can’t tell the difference. So one other thing I was wondering about is how did MyEtherWallet make money and how is MyCrypto going to make money?
Taylor Monahan: 00:40:01
So MyCrypto relies exclusively at this point, on kind of these rev share models. So we have agreements with Coinbase, Shapeshift, Ledger, Trezor and Ether Cards. And essentially if you either purchase a hardware wallet or an ether card through our affiliate links. Or, you buy Ether with USD via Coinbase. Or, you trade Ether in tokens via shapeshift, we get a really small, small amount back due to that transaction. And so that’s awesome. And we do actually pretty well off of those. I was surprised. I think it’s because, I don’t know, it’s because we make it easy, but I also think that it’s a huge… our users are like really big fans of us. Like I’m pretty sure they’re really like clicking those affiliate links with purpose and I just am super grateful for that. Moving forward though. I’m really excited to start playing with other monetization strategies that find the right balance between giving users really useful features and also monetizing so that we can have a sustainable business. And some of the things that we’re talking about are things like delayed transactions and that’s a good example because, it’s something that you don’t need to do, you don’t ever have to. I don’t want to just put transaction fees on things. But, if you find that feature useful. So if you find the feature of, “Hey, I want to send money in in an hour or a day or a week.” useful, paying a really, really small transaction fee for that would be awesome. And there’s a lot of things that smart contracts enable us to do that, hopefully will help not only our business be sustainable, but also smart contract developers and other developers in this space help them have sustainable businesses and keep building awesome things.
Laura Shin: 00:42:00
It’s sort of like scheduling payments or something like that, like if you have bill pay but you don’t want to pay it until later?
Taylor Monahan: 00:42:08
Exactly. So delayed transactions, they can be used for things like bill pay, they can also be used, let’s say that you’re on a plane during an ICO that you really want to get it on. You could schedule that transaction upfront and be like, “Hey, send this transaction during this time.” There’s a lot of different use cases for it, but to build it in a decentralized fashion that then kicks out a very small fee back to the person who helps broadcasts that transaction. That would be really, really awesome. It’d almost be like I’m a little secondary market and it’s not necessarily paying out to us. It can be paying out to any people who want to make money sending these to delayed transactions, which is I think even more remarkable and cooler.
Laura Shin: 00:42:54
For an earlier story I wrote about these quote-unquote “bidding rings” that enabled people who were, for instance, like asleep during the Gnosis ICO to participate. Is that kind of what you’re talking about there?
Taylor Monahan: 00:43:06
Yeah, exactly. So the way that it works and this is why I love the blockchain, right. Because you take this really simple concept of like, “Hey, I want someone to send my transaction later.” And then someone creates this super fancy smart contract that becomes this decentralized way. So what these would do is essentially you decide you want to send a transaction at a certain time. You would fill in the details and send all the necessary information and then any party on the Internet that was kind of watching for these types of transactions could pick that transaction up and then broadcast it at that time. And this could be done like almost automatically. So just like, almost like mining, right. This is not, they don’t go and like actually manually do the math themselves, like their computer just does it. It could be set up sort of like that. And MyCrypto could be one of the people that send these transactions at the specified times, but there’s also other parties and so you’re incentivizing these parties to send the transactions for these people and at the end of the day everyone wins. And it’s decentralized. I just think it’s the coolest thing.
Laura Shin: 00:44:16
Yeah. I thought that was an interesting detail when I reported that. You’ve also said in other interviews that you hate Initial Coin Offerings. Why?
Taylor Monahan: 00:44:32
I do. And I have to remember to balance it because, it’s not that I hate the concept of them. I think that just like everything in this decentralized future land, they’re perfect in the sense that you allow this decentralized crowd funding mechanism to reward people who are building things. The reason I hate them in their current form is that most of these projects are raising far too much money with far too little work and really the greed is overpowering, but also just the flat out scammers and fraudulent ICO’s. And so while I’m a huge fan of say, the Gnosis team, the Golem team, the Status team, these ICO’s. I think that they have good intentions and they want the best for the ecosystem. A lot of what we saw in 2017 was just flat out scams and that’s where my hatred comes from is just people taking advantage of other people for really no reason except for money.
Laura Shin: 00:45:34
As a reporter. I also saw how much the space changed in that fashion and it was also really disheartening. And what’s the word? Disgusting frankly. Anyway, you’ve also said in other interviews that it was quote unquote, “Not in the game plan to run a company ever.” Which I thought was pretty funny. And you also said you’d never been an employee before and that you don’t even know what it’s like to be an employee. So how did you learn how to run a company and what principles are you using to guide yourself?
Taylor Monahan: 00:46:09
So I’m definitely flying by the seat of my pants. I definitely look, I listen to the feedback from my team more than anything else. I talk to other people who have run companies, but at the end of the day it’s a lot easier to make decisions on what is best for my team by just asking them, “Hey, what do you guys think is best for you?” And it’s really quite interesting because I think that in a lot of traditional businesses, like my dad for example. He’s laughing at me when I told him this. Because he just couldn’t fathom asking the people who work for him what they think is best for the company. But I really rely on the people around me and especially my team to sort of guide me and tell me things like, “Hey, what benefits are valuable to you?” For example, “Would you rather be a contractor or an employee? How do I incentivize you? How do I make you happy?” And they’re really best suited to answer those questions. And then in terms of making hard decisions and figuring out the long term. How do I make this a sustainable business? How do I make this not something that is going to fail in a couple of years? How do I make this so I can rely on it for income? But also, everyone that’s now relying on it, the team, how can they rely on it? How can we be sure that it can be relied on? Those types of questions. I am just so fortunate to have a number of key people around me that have given me advice, who’ve watched people do things right. They watched people do things wrong and they’re very willing to share all of those experiences with me.
And I would say that my dad is one of my biggest fans and he has such an immense amount of experience that I draw from. Talking to my dad is such a great reminder that at the end of the day, we’re all humans. And that regardless of all the things that we’re disrupting, the lessons we can learn about how to be better and how to be more responsible and how to be more efficient and how to be more effective in what we’re trying to do. Those are all universal things. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a traditional company, a blockchain company, a decentralized company, none of that matters. You know, we’re all humans. We’re all kind of driven by the same sorts of things. And if you can get to the sort of the core of what people need and what people want, whether that’s people on your team or just users of your product or whatever. If you can understand that, you’re going to be in a good position and it’s just finding out how to balance those different needs and desires to make it work for everyone. That’s the hard part, but it’s really important to keep that in mind that we are all at the end of the day, the same and trying to do the same sorts of things, and incentivize those quote-unquote “good behaviors” I guess.
Laura Shin: 00:49:11
And so this sort of leads us into the little controversy that occurred when you moved over to MyCrypto, which is that I guess you changed the MyEtherWallet twitter handle to MyCrypto. And then after, there was an outcry over this, you reversed course and gave the twitter handle back to MyEtherWallet. So why did you keep the twitter handle initially and then why did you give it back and launch a new one?
Taylor Monahan: 00:49:35
Right. And this, I have to be careful here. So I’m going to do the best I can. As I spoke about earlier Kvhnuke during mid 2017 and the ICO madness, really just wasn’t involved in the day to day anymore. And so, as we’re trying to get this company situated, as we were trying to figure out the best path forward, we were trying to work with him. We were trying to figure out really any solution we could. You know, I was able to sort of let a lot of my personal and emotional attachment to the MyEtherWallet brand and the MEW family go in order to make some really, really tough decisions. But I really just never felt comfortable giving the twitter to someone that wasn’t going to use it. And that was really, kind of my greatest fear was we tweet every single day about security issues. Whether it’s related to Ethereum or the larger blockchain space or even the specter attacks and what people should do to be safe about those and things like that. And it was our assumption that because he had never tweeted before that would continue. When he did decide that “Hey, I am going to tweet and I am going to be involved and I am going to try to do things.” Then I really didn’t have a problem with giving it back and it was much less about the backlash, although people were definitely very, very upset and I definitely heard them loud and very, very loud and clear. But it was really like, OK, if you can be dedicated to this and say that you’re going to keep these people informed, then OK, go for it. Keep being that MyEtherWallet, keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last three years. Go for it. You know. And obviously every single day of my life is a learning experience. And this has been, one of the biggest learning experiences and really just filled with a lot of hard decisions. And I definitely do not delude myself into thinking I’m always right, I am most certainly not right. And I do not handle things right a lot of the time, so I’m doing my best.
Laura Shin: 00:51:57
So this is a question that has less to do with MyCrypto and MyEtherWallet and I get asked this sort of question a lot and it can be a little bit annoying. But it’s also important to bring up these questions to get the perspectives of people like you and me. How do you view being a woman in crypto? Do you think we need more woman in this space and if so, how do we get more women? What’s your take on being what is perceived as a minority in the space?
Taylor Monahan: 00:52:30
You know, how do I say this, definitely there’s days that I feel very sort of alone being a woman in this space and there’s definitely days like during the transition from MyEtherWallet to MyCrypto, some of the choices we made, like the twitter. I definitely really felt my “woman-ness” was front and center during a lot of the comments on reddit and twitter. And it’s really just that blatant sort of misogyny that otherwise is pretty rare or much more subtle at least.
Laura Shin: 00:53:01
So I don’t want to bring up something unpleasant, but just for people to understand what that’s like to be on the receiving end of that. Can you give us an example of some comments?
Taylor Monahan: 00:53:11
Oh yeah. I mean it’s not necessarily like any one comment, but it’s just a flood. I have over 500 reddit messages. I have over 200 twitter DM’s and they’re just all, “You’re woman. You’ll never make the right decisions ever give back the flipping twitter.” They’ll use words like whore and cunt and bitch. They’ll say that because I am a woman I’m not equipped to run a company or do anything really. A lot of name calling and a lot of really just putting me on blast not for my choices, which I actually don’t have as big of a problem with. If you want to say that you think that I did something wrong or I made the wrong choice. But because I’m a woman, that’s what caused me to make that choice and that’s what’s wrong with me. That’s when it hits me the hardest I think. OK, if I was a man and I made this choice, that would be the what you perceive to be the wrong choice, That’s fine. Tell me that. OK. But don’t tell me that I made that choice because I am an emotional woman that’s on my period. It’s absurd. It’s hateful. It’s disgusting.
Laura Shin: 00:54:28
To get back to the original question of how do we get more women in this space and all your thoughts on woman in crypto…
Taylor Monahan: 00:54:40
Don’t call them names! [Laughing] I will say that for the most part in this space, I’ve experienced very little just like the outward hatred comments that I was just talking about. That’s a pretty rare occurrence and really limited to when you’re making hard, controversial decisions and that’s fine. To get more women the space though, I think that we just need to encourage more women and I think that everyone sort of needs to get on board with acknowledging that more diversity. And I liked the word diversity more than just like women because it’s not just women, it’s everyone that’s a minority in this space. Everyone just needs to acknowledge that there are minorities. There are people whose views are not being heard or seen or being used to build products. And I think one of the most important things about having diversity when building products is with more diversity comes more experiences. It’s more perspectives, it’s different solutions to problems. It’s all of these different things that, if you only have one type of person or one person’s background, you’re limited by the potential solutions that you can come up with. Earlier I was talking about how it was really easy for me to make decisions early on because I was essentially the user of MyEtherWallet. When I was building or making a choice. As long as I understood it, it was probably OK because the user would understand it. Today, that’s not the case. And so having more women but also having people from different cultures, different societies, different upbringings, different age demographics, those are all going to make every product stronger. And everyone’s experience better. And I think that in order to get that, we have to all acknowledge that first. That’s one of the biggest problems I see right now is that people are saying, “Oh, it’s not a problem, that there’s, there’s such a lack of diversity here.” That’s the biggest problem is that people think that it’s not an issue and it is an issue. Having only one perspective is going to limit the potential of any one product or any one solution or anyone, anything to replace the financial system that we all are fighting against right now.
Laura Shin: 00:57:05
I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. I have a lot more to add on this, but we’re running out of time. And I want to ask you another super, super important and more practical or not practical but, but just I guess more nuts and bolts question. What is your advice for what people should do to not lose their crypto?
Taylor Monahan: 00:57:25
That’s an excellent question and I think that my best advice is to take it slow. And that means when you make the choice to invest or dive in or fall down the rabbit hole or however you want to describe it. Go as slow as you can and maybe start with $10, maybe start with $50. And, kind of go through the steps. And so whether that’s making the purchase on Coinbase and then moving to MyCrypto. Whether that’s making a token transaction with shapeshift. Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you start with a little amount, you can kind of go through and experience the whole thing. And if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world and that’s a good thing. So, I think that for me personally, I wasn’t really comfortable with a lot of the things on the blockchain until I had done it over and over and over again. But what sucks is that, we’re seeing people that are diving in so deeply with so much money that when they do make a mistake, which is a pretty common thing. I think we’ve all made mistakes. They’re doing so with a lot of money and a lot more money than they can afford to lose. And I think that’s the key here is start small and don’t lose more than you can afford to lose.
Laura Shin: 00:58:42
I agree with all of that advice. That’s great advice. Although nothing we say on the podcast is financial advice. It’s been great having you as a guest. Taylor, where can people get in touch with you or see more of your work?
Taylor Monahan: 00:59:01
Yeah, if you go to MyCrypto.com at the very bottom in the footer, there’s a whole bunch of our social links and you can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org that’s my personal email, I’m always just like having conversations in that inbox these days. And yeah, I really love twitter, so @mycrypto and then I’m at @tayvano_ on twitter. So it’s pretty easy to find all my links. You can do it.
Laura Shin: 00:59:31
All right. Great. Well thanks so much for coming on the show.
Taylor Monahan: 00:59:34
Thank you so much for having me, Laura. This is really an excellent, excellent experience.
Laura Shin: 00:59:39
Thanks so much for joining us today. To learn more about Taylor and MyCrypto.com, check out the notes inside your podcast. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter @LauraShin. New episodes of Unchained come out every single Tuesday. If you haven’t already, rate, review and subscribe on Apple podcasts. If you liked this episode, share it with your friends on facebook, twitter, or linkedin. Unchained is produced by me, Laura Shin with help from Elaine Zelby and Fractal Recording. Thanks for listening.