User-friendliness and design are big focuses of yours at Casa. Why?
Design is a big focus at Casa because it’s the only way we will enable broader adoption of key management and nodes.
Design is one of our three core areas of expertise. The other two core areas are security engineering and top-tier customer service. It takes a very rare mix of design, security engineering and customer service to solve the core problem of key management. We think that’s why no one has achieved it before.
You’ve put together a team with a pretty impressive background. Can you describe what they bring to the table?
We have the best team in the industry. Bar none. That’s a big claim, but it’s true. I’m incredibly lucky to learn from, support and collaborate with this team every single day.
We have not one but several team members that were previously responsible for big breakthroughs in the industry. Jameson Lopp, our CTO, is a prominent member of the community that worked on multisig at BitGo. Alena Vranova, our Head of Strategy, is another example. She was previously CEO and cofounder of SatoshiLabs, maker of Trezor (the original hardware wallet). So without Alena’s previous work — the entire category of hardware wallets might not exist.
We also have many team members that did impressive work outside of the cryptocurrency industry. For instance, our Head of Design Scott Hurff is well-known in the design community and authored the book “Designing Products People Love.”
You’ve named seven guiding principles, and one of them is Bitcoin first. How can you be so certain about Bitcoin when it’s this early in the game?
Because Bitcoin is one of the most resilient systems on the planet.
In addition to its resilient architecture, Bitcoin has a full 10 years of market dominance across hashing power, decentralized validating nodes, transaction volume, mining infrastructure and distribution, overall brand awareness, and much much more. And it keeps getting stronger.
Many in Silicon Valley are scared to admit this for some reason, possibly because some of them missed the boat. But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in SV after Facebook hit global traction saying “Oh, Facebook isn’t dominating.” If Myspace hadn’t sold, it’s possible that Zuck and team wouldn’t have had the shot of true global monopoly. But the momentum and dominance was so clear with Facebook after around 2007/2008 (4 years after founding). In college I actually interned at StudiVZ, a dominant European competitor to Facebook, and I clearly remember the Silicon Valley confidence around Facebook. But that’s still not the best analogy because these were centralized software sites.
Bitcoin is something entirely different. It’s an incentive system and computing platform that looks like a currency and digital cash. It’s a cultural movement. Yes, it is possible that it could lose the mantle if developers and the community aren’t careful or fight too much internally — but it is definitely Bitcoin’s to lose (not some other project’s to win). Many have already tried to take it down, and the honeybadger just keeps getting more resilient.
We are strongly Bitcoin focused personally and professionally because of the above points, but we use “Bitcoin first” as a company principle at Casa because we do recognize that more computing systems will be built on top of Bitcoin. Lightning Network is one great example, and there will be other types of data (and even real world assets like art!) also tied back to the use of cryptographic keys. We will always focus on Bitcoin first, but will also add support for other types of data that our customers request.
Of course all of this feeds into our #1 principle of “Sovereign Customers First”. Our customer safety is paramount so any other types of data we do add will be thoroughly tested and slowly developed. This means only a few currencies and other app data projects per year max, not hundreds like some of the exchanges. We have no interest in broad altcoins listings (many of which haven’t delivered ANYTHING of value and thus will be worthless in the long-run).
It seems from the business choices you’ve made so far that you’re targeting a niche customer — one that wants to take on the responsibility of managing their own private keys. Not the everyday person who is already busy with family, work, health, etc. and would this responsibility as a burden. Do you plan to only service this customer or do you plan to target a more mainstream customer in the future?
Actually no. We are strongly targeting the everyday person.
Our longterm plan is simple — a Key Manager in every pocket, and a Node in every home. We can rebuild most of the Internet and consumer apps to be more resilient with this architecture of end-to-end encrypted data and local validation.
The problem we’re solving is so hard that our market dominance today is primarily amongst a niche group that already has a key management and security interest. So you’re still correct in your initial observation about niche customers using it today, but we are definitely designing for the broader market already.
The Apple II was always built for everyone, but only early programmers and enthusiasts were interested the first few years (before there were more apps). We’re in an Apple II stage with the hardware and probably an early AOL stage with the broader decentralized internet. But that will change quickly. We’re seeing so much excitement around Lightning Network. It’s going to be a great year in 2019.
Keep an eye on our blog ( https://blog.keys.casa ) and Twitter ( twitter.com/@casaHODL ) the next few weeks as we’ll be making some exciting announcements in-line with this question.
To wrap up, since you’ve thought a lot about security, how would you recommend everyday people who aren’t Casa Premium members keep their crypto safe?
First off, buy a Trezor or Ledger hardware wallet (you can get one at https://store.casa with fast and free shipping).
Even if you don’t put all your funds on the hardware wallet, just setting up the device and testing it will open your eyes to the real power of cryptocurrency and the potential security issues. It’s like jumping from using AOL keyword search to exploring the real Internet via a Google search.
No one should keep all funds on an exchange or a custodial account like Coinbase or even Square. I do think that right now it’s acceptable to keep some funds on custodial accounts for totally new users. But you want to move into managing your own keys as quickly as possible.
Ask customers of Quadriga exchange (who now may never get their funds back) if they will be keeping funds on an exchange in the future. As Casa and other companies continue to improve multisig and key management software, I will began recommending that no one (not even beginners) keep funds on a custodial service. Ever.
For broader security recommendations, we built a totally free, general security check-list that anyone can complete by going to https://app.keys.casa/