This week Ledger, the French maker of the most popular hardware wallet for securing crypto assets, have announced
the closing of a $75 million Series B round led by Draper Esprit and with the participation of a very international syndicate. The round was unsurprisingly highly contested, despite the company not having relied on any broker.
If you want to dig deeper on Draper's investment thesis, read their post announcing
This is fantastic news for the ecosystem, which now has a well funded participant working on one of its most critical issues (security), and for Europe, that has demonstrated it's ability to generate category-leading tech companies.
We were lucky to grab Ledger CEO Eric's attention and ran a few questions by him, which he has kindly addressed "between pear and cheese", a french saying apparently ;) 🍐🧀TE: Huge round of funding and significant milestone last week, congrats all around. Despite all that, it still feels early days when the largest security player in the industry is barely servicing a million people. Where do you think you are in the journey and where are you aiming to get to in the next 5-10 years?
EL: Ledger has defined a 5-year roadmap in three phases. The first step, almost completed, is about scaling our operations to achieve a global leader status with our hardware wallet product line and make sure we can fulfil the ever growing demand of the market. We will then focus on creating more value in our ecosystem by leveraging our millions of users through new application use cases (decentralized exchanges, account management through governance, etc). We are also launching this year the Ledger Vault, a SaaS solution catering to the needs of financial institutions. Finally, in the longer term (2-5 years), we plan to distribute our technology in all relevant IoT and industrial spaces.
Ultimately Ledger aims to become a large technology provider, designing infrastructure solutions for all cryptocurrency and blockchain application. The last decades have seen the golden age of the internet protocol, seeing the dominance of American based GAFA. A change of paradigm is coming forward, with the emergence of the blockchain protocol, powering a new generation of decentralized applications. It is in this context that Ledger is building itself as the next technological giant.TE: When a European tech company makes the headlines, particularly if French, there are always naysayers casting gloom with the obvious cliches. Let's debunk them. What are the challenges of scaling a global tech company from Europe, and France specifically, and how are you tackling them? Also, if I may dare, what are the benefits?
EL: Ledger is building all its stack on top of a French technology: secure chips & smartcard. We therefore have a very strong legitimacy on addressing the crypto security market from France and Europe. All relevant engineering talents are in France, and it wouldn't make any sense for us to move to the USA (or elsewhere). Nevertheless, we have been positioning Ledger as a global company from day one and opened a San Francisco office in early 2015. Most of our customers and partners have really no idea that we are a French company. Finally, we also demonstrated that being European didn't prevent us from raising a large Series B round.TE: Participating in the crypto economy still feels daunting and scary for most new comers. What are your plans from a product perspective to reduce frictions?
EL: One of the main mission of Ledger is to make cryptocurrencies accessible by comforting users through the best experience possible. We are seeing the enormous work ahead and we know it won't be easy. The first step on the road of improving our user experience will be the release of our new Ledger Wallet set of interfaces: only one application for all cryptos, with a massively improved UI and flow. We'll also eventually add in our interfaces the most the basic requirements for new users, such as buying/selling/swapping cryptos.TE: From a strategic perspective, how do you see the demand for hardware-based security evolve as both retail/institutional investors and, ultimately, corporates enter the market demanding more user-friendly hosted solutions, and how are you positioning to service it?
EL: Our hardware wallet line of products is catering to the individual usage, personal or professional. One device equals one user. If you are an institution with a large amount of cryptos to secure, you could of course use a Nano S, but then the question arises regarding who has access to the PIN code, or to the device itself. It becomes a single point of failure, akin to securing physical gold in the company safe. How long until you get a hostage situation? The solution is governance: multi-signature, delayed opening, etc. Our new product Ledger Vault is bringing to the market this missing link, providing a turn key integrated solution for enterprises and financial institutions, onboarding all the necessary governance model. It is an enabler for professionals to invest into cryptocurrency markets.TE: What's your perspective on open-source and will Ledger ever go fully open-source?
EL: Ledger's core technology is an operating system for secure chips. Most of it is open source, with the exception of the bare metal parts (drivers of the chip) which must stay closed source due to strong NDA enforced by chips manufacturers. Our ambition is to bridge open source and secure chips, by providing the most open possible operating system. We are working to reduce the closed source parts to the minimum, and certify them as deterministic black boxes doing exactly what they should be doing and nothing else.
TE: We've noted the news about the Radar Relay integration with huge excitement. Should we expect more integrations with relayers coming soon? Is 2018 the year decentralized exchanges take over?
EL: Decentralized exchanges are providing frictionless and censorship resistant solutions to swap cryptos between each others. It is also moving the security responsibility from the centralized exchange to the end user. Ledger is therefore committed to provide a fully integrated and secure experience, allowing users to create swaps easily and without any hurdles. EtherDelta has been one of the first integrations, now followed by Radar Relay. Other relayers integrations are on the way, and different protocols such as Airswap or Kyber Networks are as well in development.TE: Thanks Eric!