Episode 317

From Side Project to Center Stage – The Story of MyEtherWallet & MyCrypto

Many people find that the crypto-finance space is quite difficult for non-technical people to understand and interact with the technologies. Some projects and people have made tremendous progress in creating tools and interfaces that allow a broader audience to participate, speculate, and learn.

Taylor Monahan started MyEtherWallet as a side project in 2015, only for it to grow into one of the significant pieces of software people used to participate in the 2017 ICO boom. She has since “design-forked” the codebase and created MyCrypto, an open-source tool for generating ether wallets, handling ERC-20 tokens, and interacting with the blockchain with a clean and intuitive design.

Topics discussed in the episode

  • Taylor’s background, and how she got into cryptocurrency
  • What her experience was with Ethereum so early in the projects lifecycle
  • How Reddit comments helped guide the feature list in the early days of MyEtherWallet
  • How the DAO hack got her working full time on MyEtherWallet
  • Building a project before “founding a company”
  • Experiencing the ICO boom as the main wallet used to participate in token generation events
  • Where MyCrypto is at today
  • How Taylor wants MyCrypto to change the user experience in cryptocurrency
  • Taylor’s view on centralized exchanges and view of the future

(7:07) Taylor’s background in film

(9:08) Entrepreneurial drive

(10:24) From building home-pages to programming

(11:54) Finding crypto, from the bull run to MtGox era

(15:46) Shifting focus from Bitcoin to Ethereum

(20:31) Transitioning into building a company around MyEtherWallet

(23:19) Concerns around creating a tool that enables people to exchange currency

(25:32) Going full-time, and excitement over the DAO

(29:14) After the Hack

(31:51) The split between MyEtherWallet, into MyCrypto, and forming an LLC

(37:49) Business model and fundraising

(42:49) MyCrypto’s current product offering and dashboard beta

(46:06) The biggest impacts for UX

(47:47) MyCrypto dashboard and native dApp interaction

(50:48) Estimated guess on size of user-base

(53:09) Advocacy for hardware wallets, and the future

(54:35) How far does abstracting of technical bits go?

(56:15) Shifting crypto values

(59:20) overcoming the difficulty DEX have competing with centralized exchanges

(1:01:14) Crypto dreams for the future, and paths to avoid

(1:04:23) Where MyCrypto hopes to be in 5 years


Brian: So we’re here today with Taylor Monahan, she’s the founder and the CEO of MyCrypto, which is, one of the most popular Ethereum wallets that probably many listeners have used, or perhaps MyEther, which is a similar product with the same background history. And we’ll get into a little bit of the details here. So she’s also been very outspoken on many topics, such as usability and security. Yeah. So thanks so much for joining us today Taylor.

Taylor: Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Brian: So, I heard a little bit about your background, and in some other interviews that you were originally you studied film. Tell us about that. How this was I go from film to, running a crypto wallet company.

Taylor: I don’t know. I ask myself that question a lot actually. I was really passionate about film and storytelling, and in the production side of things in both high school and then University, and then yeah, I dropped out of film school after a couple of years, not because I suddenly lost my passion for film or anything, but just because I wanted to focus all my energy on creating these, these films that weren’t necessarily for school. I was over going to classes and doing homework. And I did that for a bit more time. And it was an interesting time, obviously of my life because I think everyone goes through huge changes, when they’re that 18 to 22 range, they grow up a lot, and I certainly did. But it was also an interesting time, just in terms of the economy because 2008 and happened, there weren’t really that many jobs floating around. And, when I picked my head up and looked around, I realized that I was this liberal arts school dropout, with one of the highest rates of unemployment that we had seen in a long, long time. And so I basically just started hustling I guess I got a job, assisting with marketing and creating product videos and shooting product images and updating the website and, just whatever I could get my hands on. And it really just grew from there. I quickly realized that, the skills that I learned and the things I’ve enjoyed about making films and telling stories… film was just the medium. I found that with marketing and with making websites, and all of this stuff, there’s a lot of overlap.

Brian: Yeah, totally. I’m curious, where does that entrepreneurial drive of yours come from?

Taylor: Probably my dad, he has always had at least one business going. And he’s an engineer. And so he’s, very logical, very much a creator, very much a problem solver. When I have boy drama in high school, I would not go to him because he would try to logically solve the problem. Yeah, his brain operates in that way. And I definitely take after my father a bit in that regard, but my mom is the polar opposite. She’s a teacher, she is highly empathetic. She gets people just inherently if you come to her with a problem, she will not try to fix it. She will empathize with you. So I think that mixture of, yeah, I mean, my entire life was this very, highly empathetic on one end and then highly logical on the other. And they always encouraged me to, to do whatever it was that made me happy. They were never, don’t go to film school get a real job and they were never, that’s a terrible decision. They, they’ve always let me find my own path and just guided me, rather than forcing me to do something.

Friederike: So you got into programming via building home pages, is that so?

Taylor: Yeah, essentially, I was updating the website… first there was figure out how to change this text or change this image, but very rapidly, I loved it. So very rapidly. I was teaching myself how to build little single page size little landing pages. Obviously, I was quite desperate for money. I wanted money to go out on the weekends, I wanted money in my bank account. So I started doing anything family or friends, I needed a website, I would hustle my way and convince them that I could build it for them and that stuff. When you learn how to program and that way, it’s interesting because you don’t necessarily have the full breadth of knowledge that the CS students have, but you have a lot more knowledge about how these things are used and put into practice and you realize that at the end of the day. Yes, having the best code, or the prettiest code, or the most elegant code is really nice. It makes things more maintainable in the long term. But if you don’t have an end product or whatever you’re building, if that doesn’t serve a purpose, that doesn’t solve the client’s problem, you’re not going to, it’s not gonna matter how pretty the code is.

Friederike: Yeah, I see. So what’s the first time that you heard of crypto blockchain?

Taylor: I don’t know the exact date or what article or anything. I’ve looked for it endlessly because I’m so curious as to what struck me and pulled me in. But it was obviously it was during the first sort of, I guess the second but my first bull run, that 2012 2013 2014 era. It was before Mt Gox happened. It was that time where there was a lot of excitement in the air and a lot of the mainstream media or the Mashable and the Gizmodo, and they were all talking about the blockchain. And I remember I read a couple things, but I didn’t get sucked in. And then more and more people started talking about it. And at some point, yeah, I just completely fell down the rabbit hole. And then of course, shortly thereafter, Mt Gox happens and the price falls off a cliff and the entire ecosystem was… It wasn’t depressed. But it was pretty angry. I would say there were a lot of really angry people around and it wasn’t really the happiest time. It was jarring how fast that all happened.

Brian: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting when I think backwards at time I also discovered Bitcoin around a similar time which I think it’s maybe me 2013 and in the thing is, to me, it made so much sense Bitcoin. And I was convinced that everybody is going to start to recognize the same thing and everybody was going to start, getting on this thing as well. And then it was the same time that the price started increasing and people started getting into it and I was okay, it’s obviously happening now, everybody soon going to be using Bitcoin. And then when a crash when instead of Mt Gox and all this stuff happened, it just didn’t really register for me. I thought this was just some blip and then it would be right back up. And these whole years of depression that came after it. It took me ages to realize that there’s really a deeper sense of crisis going on.

Taylor: Yeah, it was a crisis. And it was a I think it was a reckoning for all of us.

It was interesting because at that time, Bitcoin was seen as the next payment layer. You could buy things in a vendor would start accepting Bitcoin and everyone would go and run and buy their products with their Bitcoin and stuff. Yeah. And then as the price crash happened, and, the fallout from Mt Gox was the way that the news was slowly delivered over time to not help anything. Yeah, I think that everyone had a recognition of what are we doing, is this going to happen? What needs to change? And there was definitely a collision of the very early, the OG’s of Bitcoin who were very anarchists, they had very strong philosophies in terms of privacy and in terms of identity and stuff that. And then you have these people that were the people that saw Bitcoin is the next payment layer, and buy coffee with Bitcoin, buy everything with Bitcoin. And then you have the ‘get rich quick’ers’ that were just flushed out. But when I think back to that time, I think a lot about I draw comparisons to that time and today, just because there are similarities, we haven’t had a huge Mt Gox crisis, but we have had a bit of a crisis of identity, I guess, or reckoning with, hey, are we going to be able to do this? Or what are we trying to do? What are we trying to accomplish?

Brian: Yeah, for sure. To go back a bit in time, but we should maybe come back to this state today as well. So you’re most known for your work in the Ethereum space, when did you switch your focus from Bitcoin to Ethereum? And what was your early interactions with the Ethereum community?

Taylor: Yeah, in 2014. So during this depression era of Bitcoin, the Ethereum whitepaper started being, I guess, passed around. I think that’s the best way to put it just because the way that I first heard about Ethereum, and then the white paper and vitalik the first link, I actually, clicked was some YouTube videos, it was a Google Hangouts, that was recorded, and they were all sitting in the living rooms, and they were talking about staking and proof of stake and the potential and the possibilities, and given the context of where Bitcoin was at the time. It just made sense to me that things were going to evolve and there was going to be a next step. And I was also just sort of, I wouldn’t say I was over Bitcoin, but I was over the community. I wasn’t spending as much time on Reddit. I was never really a fan of Bitcoin talk. But it’s just sort of, yeah, I wasn’t fully engrossed in it, I had been previously. So I was checking out the area, or seeing a lot of good things. We had amassed a very, very small collection of Bitcoin during this time.

I think we just, I don’t know how much we put into the presale, but we just took some of that pile of Bitcoin that we’ve collected over time. And, yeah, and put it in the Ethereum presale. And then Honestly, I kept up to date on stuff but I really went back to my regular life, for a while there, until Ethereum launched. And when Ethereum launched, it launched without any user interface to manage your funds. You just had, the clients, the nodes, the command line interface, and literally I was trying to figure out how to, move my funds from this presale wallet file that had been emailed to us. And I was Oh, this is not ideal, this is not going to work. I used terminal before, I typed commands in, but there was no way I was about to move money by typing in commands. And so we literally, we put together we did what we had been doing basically for the previous three years in our real lives. And we put together a super simple little application, little website, whatever you want to call it, that would just basically put buttons on top of the on top of the command line interface, right, it was very one to one interaction style. And that allowed me to create a new paper wallet and then it allowed me to send from my existing presale wallet to that paper wallet. When we first quote unquote, launch day, it wasn’t MyEther wallet, it was just a thing. It was just this tool that solves our problem that wasn’t supposed to be anything else.

Friederike: So that was back in 2015. Right?

Taylor: Right. So this was the Ethereum presale in August 2014, or something. And so then fast forward a year there and launched in July of 2015. And so during that whole period of time are not really super. I was in and out of the ecosystem. I was watching what was happening, but I was not. I was not sitting there obsessed, watching everything or reading everything I could anymore.

Friederike: You had a co-founder back then, right?

Taylor: Right. So when I talk about we, it was Kosala Hemachandra and me, we work together and our regular traditional office jobs, building random things for clients. Basically what our clients wanted. And Kosala is full stack back end. He’s an engineer, he’s a real engineer. And I’m the front end, the product person in the interface between the user and the program that makes things happen but I was also the interface between the engineers and the C levels at the company, and I was the interface between the engineers and the client. And so I think that dynamic it worked well at the company were working for but it also worked well for the blockchain space as well because it turned out to be very similar problems.

Brian: And so I how did you go from Okay, we’ll build a little tool that’s useful to okay let’s go ahead with this and build a company and take it forward as a startup.

Taylor: So there’s never a decision I think to push it forward. It was we have a problem, we solve that, and then we shared it with some friends and then we shared it with Reddit and then Reddit told us that we should build this feature or that feature, or give us feedback. And I think early early versions, we had an email address in the footer. There was probably MyEther wallet at gmail or even just my email. And we got these emails from people who were trying to figure out the blockchain, right, trying to figure out what the hell this thing was. And I didn’t necessarily know the answers. I don’t know I would say I was one foot in the space in one foot out, I got it, I understood it. I liked it. I could see the potential but I was not fully obsessed. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t super technically knowledgeable about all of the inner workings.

How I transformed from being one foot in one foot out to being all the way in was, people would ask me questions, and then I would go and find the answer for them. And in that process, I would learn the answer and I’d ask in our last call slide be I remember one. In the very early days, I asked Kosala Why does everyone else need gas to send ether? But we don’t? And he was you do? And I was What? And he’s Yeah, I just just hard coded you don’t see it. We don’t have a field for it. It’s just hard coded. And I was Oh I know nothing, it was one of those moments. And really that progression of interacting with people learning ourselves learning what people wanted learning what people were struggling with, watching the space evolve, watching the realization as so when Ethereum launched right you have proof of stake was the hottest thing we everyone wanted it. And also this concept of everything would be abstracted away in their contracts. At some point.

Friederike: We are still waiting for that

Taylor: Right? Everything would be a contract. Yeah, we are. So really during this time, I assumed that contracts would take over and We wouldn’t be able to keep up and I assume that Mist would launch and we wouldn’t be needed anymore. And, and so it’s always very ephemeral building experience, we were very much just building for right now. But the DAO happened and we got our reality check, I suppose.

Friederike: Was there any hesitation to build a tool that lets people interact with money or values? So blatantly? I mean, we all had to wizened up from a legal perspective at some point when that happened for you guys.

Taylor: So my biggest concern, the first quote unquote, version that we put on Reddit, the biggest concern I had was, if our code is written poorly, and say, it doesn’t generate wallets properly, then that could hurt everyone. And that was my biggest concern. And very early on, we made the decision together that we would never touch the magic that generates a wallet. Because there have been so many issues with other wallets. And, yeah, there’s just been really bad things that happen. And if you derive the key pairs improperly, you can basically give people an address that doesn’t match the private key. So they can’t access the funds in it. But you can also, if you don’t use enough entropy, all of the wallets that you generate could eventually brute force or be hacked down the road. And so that was my biggest concern was how can we not do that? I was even still the same today, right? I knew enough to be terrified. But I didn’t know enough to really understand what was happening. And so I would just basically be a nervous Nellie messaging calls. Hey, I saw you change this line of code that has no potentials for fucking anything up, right?

Friederike: That’s exactly what your programmers like hearing. {laughter}

Taylor: So they’d be Yeah, no, that’s not it’s not anywhere near, what are you even talking about? But I think that paranoia, yeah, it can be it can be obnoxious. But it can also prevent bad things from happening. And I think that paranoia lives with me today lives with the team. And I think it’s one of the reasons that we’re so obsessed with security is basically I’m a super over anxious person who’s scared of things.

Brian: Yeah. And so was this just a gradual thing that, the volume of these requests and emails, was increasing. And then I guess, the Ethereum started taking off no one does, especially with the Ico bubble that happened that then at some point, you had to drop everything else and then it was full on MyEther wallet. What was that transition?

Taylor: Yeah, so it’s somewhere I left my job and I started freelancing for clients. I was building marketing websites for a whole diverse range of people. And I eventually joined a remote team of a remote web development shop where I didn’t have to deal with the invoicing. I didn’t have to go and find the clients, I could just build and bring ideas to life and that stuff. And so that was one half of my life. And then, I don’t know, it wasn’t one half of my life. It was I had all these different projects going on. And MyEther wallet was just another one, right? I have client one, client two, client three, my cousin wants the copy updated on his website. Oh, and some dude on Reddit told me that we have a typo on the help page. it was just another piece of things that I did every day. And the biggest change actually was when the DAO happened. That’s really when I went full Ethereum where it started taking over my life. Because it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to anyone ever, you know that the mentality of the DAO the entire ecosystem the entire community was sitting in the DAO slack Griff was inspirational, right? you just you can’t help but be happy around him and be inspired and believe that the world is going to change and stuff that.

Brian: What excited you so much?

Taylor: I think that again, it was the optimism and it was the potential it was for so long we had seen Bitcoin and Ethereum as maybe a payment layer or maybe a way to to buy things or maybe a way to send money but it hadn’t really been realized. Right? you occasionally got the opportunity to pay your crypto friend back. that was the extent of using crypto and the Dao flipped everything on its head because all of a sudden, you could put that money to use, at least that’s what it felt like. right now, looking back, maybe not. Right, because even if the DAO hadn’t been hacked, would that have been successful? what would have happened? Would the wisdom of the crowd make good choices?

Brian: Yeah, I mean, it was much ahead of its time, I guess.

Taylor: Yeah, it was very much ahead of its time. But I think that idea that just surrounding capital allocation and the fact that, that you could do something, and the fact that there’s a whole new set of problems to solve, right, because it was there was technical things that needed to be overcome in order to, interact with the DAO or buy your tokens or whatever. But there was also this very human problem where, when you’re voting for something, you’re you can be very easily influenced and since votes, and the outcome of vote is often a zero sum outcome, a little influence can go a long way. Yeah, I did a lot of research on voting and interfaces and stuff on the DAO was going on because I found it fascinating.

Friederike: How did you sentiment change as soon as it was hacked?

Taylor: I don’t think it hit me. I remember being this is big. And I remember being like “Fuck”. So I had had a conversation with Stefan Tuol we’d hopped on a phone call to talk about something maybe three days before it was hacked. And it had gotten big, right the pile of money that was in the DAO was far bigger than anyone ever imagined. And I remember we were just at the end of the call, we’re just shooting the shit and yeah, we I can’t remember exactly what he said. But he basically was this is a very, we’re in a very precarious position because nobody expected To get this big, it’s dominating the ecosystem. It’s no longer this, this experiment to see, if we can more efficiently allocate capital. And if it goes down, that could be a Mt Gox type crisis. And I knew it right. I knew he was right. And I was worried. And then when it happened, he was yeah, it’s in your bones, Oh, my God is happening. But I immediately went into problem solving mode. Right? a lot of people, especially the people that heard about the DAO hack immediately, sent all of their DAO tokens to an exchange and tried to get out. That never crossed my mind. I just wanted to help solve the problem in whatever way which was mostly trying to not have everyone panic, and trying not to have the community devolve into trolls and insults. And hatred and anytime you have a crisis or scary things happen, the worst in people comes out, very much. The worst in people comes out.

Brian: No, that was definitely an intense time. Well, let’s go a little bit forward. I don’t know, maybe it was last year or two years ago, there was a split, right where you and Kosala ended up going separate paths. And then, my krypter emerged from that and MyEther wallet, this, is still around today. So what happened back then?

Taylor: Yeah, I mean, so this whole time that I’ve been talking, you may have noticed, I never talked about getting a lawyer or setting up corporate documents or anything. We don’t even have an LLC for half of our existence. I don’t think.

Brian: was no company even at all.

Taylor: There was nothing. It was just there was me and Kosala on hangouts talking. And, and at some point, my dad found out that there was not LLC and he’s no, you’re idiots you are you are susceptible you put an LLC in front of you, so that if something goes wrong with your product, people won’t sue you personally. And I still had pretty much no money. So I was Well, what am I gonna get?

In that context, the LLC was set up to have an LLC. This LLC was not set up to ensure that Kosala and I had proper expectations about the company, or our responsibilities within the company, or anything at all right. it was just a company to protect us if things were to go wrong. And so between the DAO period and the split Ethereum went from, price wise, it went from $10 to 1200 dollars in MyEther wall became the de facto way to interact with Ethereum it was the way to get into Icos. It was we went from, a couple emails asking for features or asking questions about the blockchain to maybe 1000 emails a day. During some of the Icos our support didn’t even have a rate limit or anything, but they do prevent you from using their system to spam. And so there’s a limit of you can’t send more than I don’t know, 500 or thousand emails a day. And we would hit that because we were we get 1000 tickets and maybe 90% of them the answer was, hey, here’s how you can look at your transaction and the network’s really clogged right now because of the BAT token sale and just give it some time or whatever it was, and we would rapid fire we have us Standard response for those things that had the top three solutions in one answer. And we would basically just reply spam to everyone.

And yeah, Kosala I, nobody ever asked us what we wanted out of MyEtherWallet. And I don’t think we ever asked ourselves either. And so, how I react to situations where people rely on me is I double down. And so if there’s 1000 emails in the support box, I’m Well, I have to answer 1000 emails. Let’s go get me some coffee. And that’s not everyone’s way of dealing with stress and dealing with pressure. Kosala handled much differently, and due to just the fact that we’re different people and we weren’t really communicating that much and everything was on fire. our relationship and pretty much everything around. This thing just broke down. And then lawyers got involved. Once lawyers were involved, everything’s hopeless, it’s all a waste from there.

So I had hired people. I think we were maybe there’s eight of us at the point where the lawyers got involved and are still dealing with all the Icos and all the crazy things that were happening in the space and there were hackers going after us. And fishing was the thing. It was a crazy period, it was just insane. But so many different law firms and lawyers, and a lawyer opinion or take on winning. I don’t know, logically winning the case is winning to them. Right. Okay, so what we go and do this stuff. And then we and the court says you’re right, you win. And that’s going to be a year, two years from now. I’m going to pay you just a boatload of money. And for what? Who wins from that? I looked at what I wanted, right for the first time in a really long time. What does Taylor want?

And the things that I wanted the most was I wanted to not have to lay off the people that I had hired, because people had quit their jobs to work for me. People had dropped out of school to work for me. People were relying on the salary that I paid them. And so I didn’t want to have to, just shut everything down or lay everyone off. I didn’t want the community to suffer. I didn’t want there to be a void. where I’m you know what, screw this. it’s not worth it. Let’s just walk away. I was so scared that was a real possibility. And I in doing so the, the fishing the fishers and the scammers and the hackers and all the malicious actors that are, just that flood, the crypto space would they would win. And that was probably one of my biggest concerns was What can we do to try to limit the amount that the scammers can win, because if they win the We all lose.

At some point, someone told us we’re an open source project. And that there was a weird third path that we could take, which is, just start a real company and call it something different. And I figured that outcome allowed the most parties to win, right? Because in every other path, there was always a huge loser. But in this path, there wasn’t really a loser. Right? I lost the brand the domain name that was MyEtherWallet, my last Twitter handle for a while, which was a fat pile of drama. There were all these little losses that happened, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty much that way. And I actually think that looking back. everyone has one, right.

Friederike: So at that point in time, MyEtherWallet didn’t have a business model, right.

Taylor: We were basically sustained on the very earliest donations that we had received in 2015 and 2016. And the fact that those donations had increased in value so much, so people who had donated a cup of coffee back in 2015 had actually donated a month of server time in 2017. And then we had we still have the affiliate programs with the hardware wallets and we have the swap functionality which gives us a kickback we had via on ramps, which gives us a kickback, and all of these paid out and either ether or Bitcoin, which then just kept going up in value. So that kept the lights on, but it definitely was not. It was not sustainable. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t even clear during that time how much money we had made, because, you know how much Bitcoin you’ve made, how much ether you’ve made, but what how much USD is that especially when the USD values doubling every day.

Brian: When you switched, and started MyCrypto as a separate company did you raise money at that point? Tell us a little bit about the journey that you’ve gone through from it is rough and tumble little bit chaotic improvising world to running a proper startup in it. Yeah. And I think you had some VC money afterwards as well at some point.

Taylor: Yeah. So I’m actually starting in the, I would say maybe mid 2017. That’s when I was I was basically I couldn’t do anything but MyEther wallet had completely taken over my life. And I started hiring people. And they’re all these problems and none of the problems that I was encountering, I didn’t have any idea how to solve any of them. I didn’t know how to manage people. I didn’t know how to… I didn’t know anything. I literally knew nothing. my dad, I was talking to him one day and he was well go find the experts who have done this before. And have them tell you how to solve it because nothing that you’re running up against right now… I know, it seems a really big deal, but nothing that you’re running up against is original or new.

so, over the course of building, building MyEther wallet, I had a number of relationships with really smart people in the ecosystem, and a few relationships with investors but not as investors they also investors also bought into the DAO, if you guys didn’t know, you know what I mean? So I went up to SF and I sat down with Brayten and Adam from boost VC, who I had, I had talked to a few times previously. And I sat down with Olaf, who started Polychain by that point, and I asked them, I asked them all the questions that I had. Asked them all the things that I didn’t know, and we talked for hours about everything that was happening, about, about contracts and things that can go wrong and risk and products building and team building and remote teams and, on and on and on.

So then once we establish the MyCrypto and the new company, and… thank goodness for Olaf… and Olaf had called, we were texting when and he’d called the bear market so frickin early. And he was Look, the biggest thing that you need to figure out right now is how you’re going to be sustainable. When we go through another market cycle we went through. And he’s so he’s go find a numbers person, figure out how much money you’ve actually made or figure out what your business model is, and see what you can do to survive, the next couple of years that are going to be pretty rough. And I was wait, what are you talking about? Everything was so hyped, it blew my mind. I was that’s not it’s just going to be good. It’s going to keep being this. And no, it was not going to keep being that we were going to go through another market cycle, of course. And so yeah, the goal was to survive to figure out our business model to make sure that, the team could keep building and thriving and being employed and things like that. And so we raised, actually it was a Series of rounds, just because the point that we were hot as a company, even though the company had existed for I don’t know, a month. But yeah, all the ambassadors or people that had already been helping me for months or years at that point, it was fantastic.

Brian: Cool. congratulations! Such an awesome story. And well done.

Taylor: Yeah, it isn’t over yet, we’ll see what happens.

Friederike: So tell us where you’re currently at or where the product is at, currently. What does the MyCrypto offering currently entail?

Taylor: Yeah, so okay, so MyCrypto, when we first split, the product was almost the same. I had a different logo. And that was that was pretty much it. And over time the product has evolved. One of the biggest things that we had decided pretty early on was that I didn’t want to do this whole private keys and keystore files and mnemonic phrases all these, these little bits of information, I really didn’t want to keep those on the web or on websites. That was the entire thing was you, went to a website and pasted your private key, and then you sent your money around. That was it that was the entire concept, which turns out to be really dangerous for so many reasons. And so once we had decided that we didn’t want to do that anymore, we realized that okay, we need an application or we need to up the interactions with hardware wallets or whatever. There’s a whole bunch of different solutions. And we also realize that the code base had not been written for the long term. So we rewrote everything using react. And we wrote documentation. And we thought about the architecture and all of these things that you do when you have a team of engineers instead of, two people, randomly building for tomorrow. And then we built the desk, we had the one code base that build two different versions, the desktop application, and the website, and they have slightly different functionality.

Then, during this time, simultaneously, we had started working on new designs, which are in beta right now. Because the biggest thing that I want to, I guess solve or the biggest thing that I that I, I want MyCrypto to be able to do is I want it to transform from being this tool and this, this you go to MyCrypto and you interact, and then you leave. I wanted it to be useful on an On a number of different levels. So if you go to beta.MyCrypto.com, right now, you now have a dashboard. And every time you can add an account. So every time you unlock your wallet, your ledger, your mouse, whatever it is, you’ll have, that account will be added to your list of accounts. And then you can see the balances across all of your accounts. And when you send you select the account you want to send them from. And we have a pie graph that shows you all the breakdown of your tokens and oh, transaction history. So you can see the transactions for all of your accounts, all on this dashboard. I’m super excited because that’s, that changes everything it changes from being a open source tool that you use when you need it to being something that hopefully can actually serve you on your day to day life. Or it can more closely mimic the patterns that we’re used to when we’re using products that are that are fun and that are useful and that are enjoyable to use.

Brian: What do you think is the biggest thing these changes will improve the user experience or ones interaction?

Taylor: One of the biggest problems in the Ethereum space right now is that we went through this period of time, a very, very heavy speculation, right of the ICOs and the capital allocation or whatever you want to call it, right. But where that leaves us today is that you have everyone who has a pile of tokens that are maybe useful, right, some of them are useful. Some of them have governance properties, and some of them hypothetically will be used and adopt somewhere down the road. But for the most part, you simply hold these tokens because you have them and there’s no use for them right now. And I Want to push people down a path of understanding why these tokens have value rather than, assigning a USD value to them or just speculating on them? Because that’s where we’re at right now. And that’s why most of the ecosystem doesn’t look at their portfolio because it’ll tell them that they, you know that they’re down 99.9% and not there. Everything is red and everything is a bloodbath. But the reality is, is that the tokens, not all the tokens, but the tokens that you actually have utility or will have utility, or do have value. Those are going to be the drivers of the Ethereum ecosystem. And someone needs to tell people what the frick, they can do with them at some point.

Friederike: So does the dashboard facilitate native dApp interaction?

Taylor: Yeah, so one thing that we’re going to be that’s done is we have a really robust style guide or document that lays out our whole thinking about dapps and interactions, so that not only can we build little interaction layers, little micro interactions to say, lend your tokens, or lend your eth on compound and gain interest by other people. But, since we’re open source, other people could hypothetically do that as well. The idea is that everyone’s dashboard can be a little bit different, and it can serve them. So if people are more speculative, they’re going to want to see their pie graphs and their increases and all the money numbers, right, where people are super into all the DEFI stuff that’s happening today, they’re gonna want to see how’s that CDP doing? How you know what’s going on with compound, all of these different layers.

The other interesting thing is that I have to be careful how I talk about this because it can get really creepy, but it’s not. You’ll see. Okay, so the dashboard knows, the client write the code knows what tokens you hold. And if you can write code to determine what any user has done or has or holds or whatever, right. And if we were Google or Facebook, we would just take all that information and hoard it and sell it and exploit everyone. But luckily, we’re not. And so I want to figure out ways to give people useful and valuable information about their state, give them options or give them information that can help them make the most of their crypto situation.

One good example of this, that we have this I think the only thing we have implemented right now is if you hold a boatload of ETH in a private key, it will pester you and poke you to get a hardware wallet, or to consider running, offline, basically saying hey, this private key has a lot of money in it. And you would be very well served by getting a hardware wallet and being safe. And the most interesting thing about all of this is that it all happens within the application. So it’s not the server is not processing this, we don’t even know this. We don’t know you. We don’t know what is going on. We just code that. If a person has a private key type and the value is greater than x dollars, then show them a message that tells them to stop holding all of their money in a private key.

Brian: That’s super cool. Actually, that brings up a question to me, do you know how many users MyCrypto has how many transactions they say and what value is held in those Is that data that you have access to?

Taylor: We’ve never really collected data for a number of reasons. But most analytic software’s are another security hole that you’re just opening up. And then obviously, there’s immense privacy concerns.

We’ve always had limited information that tells us where we are relative to where we were. And so a good example of this is how much does the server bill cost every month? Because it turns out if you have way more users than you did last month, the server is going to cost you way more. And so we have those stats. We’ve had some short lived counters, on how many transactions get sent through our node, and that stuff.

So what I can tell you is based on all the information that I have, which is super limited, where we are right now is very different from where we were two years ago. The interactions that people are taking are remarkably different. The types of people that use our product are remarkably different. It seems most of the people that are using our products, which are I suppose, people that didn’t leave MyEtherWallet, but also people that are still actively doing stuff in the area of space, right? That type of person seems to be someone who is very, very ingrained, I would say in the ecosystem. And they typically are sending very deliberately, right, the things that they’re doing are deliberate actions, rather than in 2017. It was everyone’s just running around, a chicken with their head cut off.

It’s just different. Some of its the state of the ecosystem. A lot of it is that the question is what, what can you do right now with your ether, right, Where can you get value, and d phi is obviously one of the most exciting things but it’s also an infrastructure layer. Lending your Eth is not Something to write home about or it’s not an ICO. It’s not one of those hyped up things. It’s a default state I would say.

Friederike: Yeah, money markets aren’t really all that sexy. We already touched upon this briefly earlier. You are an enormous advocate for hardware wallets. Do you think that is user experience we should be aiming for, or this is just a stepping stone?

Taylor: It’s a stepping stone. The reason I’m such an advocate of hardware wallets is that it is a good balance between usability and security. You can use a hardware wallet, it’s not that hard. And if you think about what a hardware wallet actually does, it essentially gives your average person access to true deep cold storage, which is not something that traditionally people do, but it also makes it easy enough to do so. It’s very easy to make a cold paper wallet not so cold anymore. They’re also the interaction layer is, is still this layer one, right? We’re still talking about keys, we’re still talking about signing your transaction and sending that transaction. And I think that in the future, we will see much more complex authorizations and ways of proving ownership and ways that we send our funds. And those will probably be, a smart contract based. However, I’m still not convinced that we are ready to have everyone put all of their money in a smart contract wallet.

Brian: Do you think at some point people, they’ll use MyCrypto but they won’t even know they’re using Ethereum. And it will all be abstracted away? Or do you think it’s important that users will continue to have some understanding of what happens underneath?

Taylor: so I think that with MyCrypto since we are, at least in our current form, a wallet, I think that the existence of Ether and the existence of the network and the blockchain are important. And those things are also empowering. And I do want to, educate people more about why this all matters and what’s actually happening rather than than abstracting it away.

I want to abstract away the technical stuff, but I don’t want to abstract away the fact that you’re controlling your money, that’s a powerful thing. I do think that most if you’re building a product in the space, if you’re building a game or a dapp, or if you’re solving a different problem number one we’re solving then I would say that the ideal state would be that the blockchain and the Ether and the tokens and the gas, and all of that matters far far less, like ideally whatever your product is doing that should be what the user gets out of it right like they should land on the dapp not to buy your token, send it to the dapp, but because they want to get that decentralized Uber or that decentralized AirBNB or play that game. not interact with the blockchain.

Brian: That brings up another topic that has been on my mind quite a bit. When you started MyCrypto, when I became interested in blockchain, it was very much the idea of you control your own keys and this was hell this is something very crucial seems over the last years centralized exchanges have just amassed enormous power gigantic resources, they increasingly doing more things. Besides just trading you have a futures and derivatives now exchanges are starting to do staking. Exchanges, they want to maybe offer access to DeFi products and features and do so many different things. How would you look at that? Do you think we are moving more towards as crypto assets being custody? How is that going to play out?

Taylor: We’re on that path. I guess one of the things that I regret when I look back at 2017, and the amount of people that were using MyEther wallet was that we did a lot to educate them on how to stay safe. And we were, relatively speaking successful at that, I would say, I wish that we had done more to give people access to information about why the blockchain is different and why it matters. Because we had the opportunity to take people who were using our products simply because a regulated exchange did not allow direct investment into an ICO smart contract. We had that, we had all of these people that were not only using our product, but also using our products for exactly what the blockchain was built for. But they didn’t know that status in the other they are getting out rich.

I think that we do have to get better at explaining why the blockchain is different and what value that adds and what the competitive advantages are. Because at the end of the day, we’re very close to having the quote unquote blockchain become just another word, and it probably probably already has, but it still holds meaning for me at least. We’re very close to forgetting that the value of the blockchain is that it’s an immutable ledger, right?

The value of the blockchain is that you can be in control, that you can hold people accountable that you can provide transparency. And if we’re using centralized custodian services for everything that we do, then, why are we doing that on the blockchain? Right, because you’re not getting any of the advantages of the blockchain. If you’re, if everything’s happening in the exchange. It’s you’re getting all the worst bits you’re getting this weird user experience, you’re getting this terrible regulatory space, you’re not getting the power and the control into the hands of individuals, you’re not getting the transparency, you’re not getting the accountability, and then just throw the security issues on top of it. And it’s realistically, why Coinbase over PayPal Venmo or your bank?

Friederike: If you look at the entire dex space, I mean, there’s many dex out there. But if you look at the volumes, they can’t really compete with centralized exchanges currently. Do you think that’s going to change? And do you think that’s going to give the blockchain back, meaning?

Taylor: Maybe. So I actually had the most fascinating call yesterday with these guys who are more involved in the OTC and the market maker side of things, which is a side of the industry that I really have very little information on. And one of the things that I learned was that with dex it’s not just the volume that increases the spread or or gives users Worst price than centralized exchanges. There’s this whole other layer of the market makers are taking on additional risk. And there’s front running because everything’s on chain, and there’s now gas. And now there’s gas to cancel an order. And basically, a lot of the reasons that the prices aren’t competitive with centralized exchanges is due to all of these things collectively. It’s not just the volume. When you think about competing with a centralized exchange, you have the competitiveness on price, right? Am I getting the best price for my token, but you also have the user experience, and then you have the security. We have to figure out how to solve all three of those problems before it’ll compete with the custodians.

It’ll be very, very interesting to see how this plays out. Because the most natural solution is to take everything off-chain, right if you don’t want gas, then you take it off chain. If you don’t want gas for cancellation fees, you take it off chain and So is there a way to take certain interactions off chain without sacrificing the other values, right without just putting in a database somewhere? And it’ll be interesting to see how these problems get solved. I definitely do not have the answers though.

Brian: Let’s say it happens that way. And, you dreamed for how the blockchain space turns out and for the change it brings to the world, all come true. What does the world look like?

Taylor: Most of all, I want a world where the existing power structures are flipped on their head. I want a world where individual people, the humans, the me, is in the US and everyone’s where they have more power and more power flows to them with the products that they use, not the other way around. Right now, if I use Facebook, literally in doing so I’m giving more power to Facebook and that flow is always in all the products and services we use. I mean, all the structures and the systems that we interact with everywhere in our lives, the flow of power, the flow of control is always from the individual to another entity. And if we can build products and services and systems that even just curb that flow, but ideally reverse it, then I think everyone will be better served, right? Because you’ll see incentives aligned differently. And you’ll see people make choices that are actually good for people rather than, the bottom line or whatever. I think we’re starting to see this a bit with Brave, it hasn’t all come together. But when I talk about realigning incentives and redistributing the power, that’s probably one of the most interesting or exciting things that’s happening in this space right now because it is flipping a lot of the natural structures and the natural flows of power and money, literally honest, hot from the traditional way of doing things.

Friederike: So your hope for the future of blockchain is that it will empower individuals, are there things that you think could reasonably happen, that you’re afraid of.

Taylor: My biggest fear is we end up building the exact same systems we have, except that now it’s on a transparent blockchain so are more easily exploited, oops, there are some aspects of the blockchain that it’s valuable that you can have a transparent ledger, it’s valuable that anyone can verify the record is powerful that you can use that record to ensure that x company is is being transparent and you can hold them accountable. Or you could use that data to collect a very vast pile of financial data on every person in the world and then, manipulate them into you’re doing your bidding, or things that. I think that we have to be very careful and very aware of what the technical features of the blockchain are and then what the human features are or the human values because the blockchain is not empowering, the blockchain is transparent and that transparency can be exploited or it can be valuable. It’s only how we, the builders and the users and the people that are in here doing this stuff, building the space is how we choose to use the blockchain that matters.

Friederike: So how does MyCrypto fit in there? Where do you hope to be in say, five years time?

Taylor: That is something that I think about a lot, we talked about a lot. I’m so used to solving problems, right? I’m so used to seeing a problem and identifying that problem and solving it.

I know that we want to keep doing that. The question is, what are the biggest problems that people are going to have? And are the problems that people have? Are they aligned with our bigger vision for what we want the blockchain to be? Because as we all know, getting into the space and holding your own funds and remaining secure, these are all hard problems to solve. One way to solve them is just, have a custodian hold them for you. There’s a lot of grappling, there’s a lot of conflict. What I want, I guess MyCrypto to be is the thing that allows people to get into the space successfully with confidence to understand why they’re here. And to do whatever the hell the blockchain empowers them to do at that point in time, whether that’s, a payment layer or an Ico or the next dao or whatever it is, that’s most valuable to them. That’s where I want to be.

Brian: there will be lots of people listening to this podcast, who are working in the blockchain space or maybe interested in working in the blockchain space. And you talked about the good place where you could go and maybe not so good place, or there’s some problems that you feel maybe that are beyond the scope of MyCrypto that you wish people really worked on and tackle so that it ends up going in a good direction.

Taylor: I would see that everything around privacy is something that’s a bit beyond what we can do. But the deep layer one infrastructure, privacy solutions for Ethereum, those are going to be huge. Because, as I just mentioned, the blockchain is transparent, and that transparency can be valuable or it can be abusive. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with the ZK Snarks, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with mixers. There’s a lot of interesting research being done. I’m super interested in seeing how this plays out. So that people can have the ability to not just, necessarily send a single transaction, anonymously or privately but that you can when you start up a new account, or you start up a new identity, or you spin up this thing that’s going to interact with this data or this game that needs to be completed. Least operate from your last identity. Because otherwise, we could just all use one address forever, and everything would be fine. But especially as dops evolve, I think that it’s going to be more and more important that you have separate, isolated little areas for you to do your interactions. Otherwise, the comprehensive profile that people can collect, that anyone can collect about you, it’s going to be huge and the value of that is so huge that it will be exploited this. You can’t not exploit that. I mean, I won’t exploit that. But that doubt is immensely valuable.

Brian: You fear that probably the worst outcome is to create some perfect surveillance machinery. Well, Taylor, thanks so much for coming on. It was really super awesome to talk with you and to learn a little bit about you in your history and MyCrypto and all the fantastic work you’re doing. So yeah, thanks so much.

Taylor: Thank you for having me. And this is super fun to talk to you and share all these stories of my life.

Brian: And, of course, we’ll have links to the beta thing so people can check that out and the main MyCrypto, and yeah, so hopefully those who haven’t checked it out yet, we’ll have a look at the product.

Taylor: Definitely check out beta.MyCrypto.com. If you find any, little weirdness, or feature things that aren’t quite right, find us anywhere on social media or email and tell me all about it, because yeah, we’re at that point now we’re putting the polish on and making sure that it’s actually useful and valuable to people. So I need you to tell me what’s wrong with it.

Brian: Okay, cool, then, thanks so much.

Taylor: Awesome. Thank you guys.


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