CoinGecko Podcast - Ep 40 - Brandon Millman, CEO and Co-founder of Phantom Wallet

Primer: In this episode of CoinGecko podcast, the host Benjamin Hor interviewed Brandon Millman, CEO and Co-founder of Phantom wallet, as he talked about what Phantom wallet is all about, highlights the differences compared to other wallets and shared their upcoming plans. Phantom wallet is a user-first crypto wallet based in the Solana blockchain.

Who is Brandon Millman

Introduction

  • Co-founder and CEO of Phantom Wallet, a Solana based crypto wallet

  • Launched around April in 2021

  • Formally an engineering leader at 0x

  • Before 0x in 2013, he was the senior engineer at Twitter

How did he switch from an engineer to this?

  • His experience was probably similar to many who worked in Big Tech companies

  • Became disillusioned with the typical work-loop found in such companies

  • After 4 years, the magic of working in such companies was gone and he wanted to do something different

  • Decided to join a nascent industry, got to knew Ethereum and was blown away

    • Instead of signing in with email and password, everyone just logs in with their wallet

    • Has a huge database that is shared with everyone - something different from what he is used to

  • Starting reading the White Paper around 2017 and wanted to join more on the consumer side of things e.g. decentralised Uber, decentralised Twitter

  • Realised that the tech is too early for these types of applications, so started to look into the infrastructure side and ended up in 0x

  • 0x is an interesting blend of infrastructure and consumer app

Crypto Wallet

"Now a wallet can actually help you do stuff with your crypto too, by giving you access to a world of blockchain applications and DApp. Nowadays a wallet is more of an access point to those types of applications more than it is just a way to store your crypto."

Brandon Millman

Uses of Crypto wallet

  • In the past, a wallet is just a piece of software to hold your crypto or digital assets

  • The definition of a wallet has been changed to include access to DApps and other blockchain applications like Uniswap, OpenSea

  • It is a gateway to all sorts of application

Changing the mental model of the future's Crypto wallet

  • Able to connect to all DApps from the wallet

  • Possible to integrate social media in wallets

  • Can be a sort of identity in the Web 3.0 world

Phantom wallet

Why Solana blockchain?

  • Spend 4 years doing a deep dive on Ethereum with his co-founders

    • All of them are experts in DApps in the Ethereum world and had helped in the launch of several large-scale widely used DApps

    • Wanted a solution for a wallet that is also a gateway to blockchain applications

    • Wanted to take a bet on a nascent ecosystem that is missing its flagship wallet for applications

    • Every other new blockchain is pitching on the chain being faster and cheaper

"Our medium to long term goal is to become a multi-chain wallet that gives users access to a world of DApps no matter where they live. So we're sort of starting our journey with Solana, but our first foray into becoming a multi-chain wallet will be our cooperation with Ethereum which is going to be later this year."

Brandon Millman

  • At that time, Solana had a lot of early signals that it would be a big winner

    • Solana has a small and genuine core of community development around the technology

    • Had adjacency to big players like FTX and Jump Trading

    • There is a large deployment of native USDC on the chain, which is the lifeblood of decentralized exchange activity

    • Large overlap of users from Solana on other chains. Many came from Ethereum and got priced out because of the high fees

  • Long term goal is to become a multi-chain wallet

    • Launched with Solana first, but will be starting on Ethereum later this year in 2021

What separates Phantom from other wallets like Sollet or Metamask?

  • Features

    • Can view NFT in the wallet

    • Able to stake and swap in your wallet

  • The key differentiator is not in the features but the DNA envisioned for the product

    • Taking a user-first approach in everything they do in Phantom

    • Not just in the app itself but also support, messaging, content, social media etc

    • The goal is to form a brand and experience that users come to love - something that is missing in the industry

  • Have a second-mover advantage so they get to design a lot of the crypto trends, like DeFi, NFT, multi-chain, in mind when they are building the product

    • Metamask came out around 2016/2017 and a lot of these terminologies had not even existed yet so they cannot design a wallet around it

Any plans to capitalise on NFT hype?

  • Help the Ethereum NFT space by having a wallet that they can view their NFTs - underserved at the moment

  • Also will be building mobile apps so that people can participate in NFT drops on the go

    • A lot of drops happened at a certain time, so might not have ready access to the computers or laptops

    • Especially for the Solana side

Usage stats for the month of August 2021

  • 180,000 monthly actives

  • 2.3 million SOL stakes total, about $260 million in value

  • $105 million going through their in-wallet swapper

  • 1.8 million times of DApp transactions to the wallet

  • Reasons for this huge growth in August:

    • There is an NFT hype in Solana, so a lot of growth comes from there

    • Star Atlas IPO

    • Raydium did a campagin

    • Mango Markets did their token launch

"I think you kind of see that when you read some of the reviews or look at some of the hype, a lot of it is about a user having an amazing first time experience with the product."

Brandon Millman

Wallets are essential to chain survivability

  • Does not matter how fast or cheap the blockchain really is

  • The first experience by a user matters - will colour the whole experience moving forward

  • A person's experience with a blockchain and with a wallet is actually one and the same

    • If a person's experience is very slick and polished, he will likely stick to it

    • Not consumer friendly User Interface because the industry has a mindset of developers making apps for other developers, not consumers

  • Overall in the DApp space, the User Interface is improving compared to 2017

    • But it's more like a local maximum - high but overall still low standard

    • No incentives to make it better as a developer - faster to copy and paste and grab cash than to thoughtfully hone a product and experience

    • Phantom intends to redefine the standard for the industry

Wallet based tokens

  • Heard the rumours that Metamask might be having tokens

  • Tokens are on the table but do not really have any concrete plans to do so right now

  • In his opinion, the design goal of having a token is to decentralise the wallet and cede control over to the community of users

  • Makes no sense to decentralise a wallet right now because the environment is changing and so it requires a lot of tight focus and iterations to get things done

    • Hard to happen in a decentralised community environment with the baggage of having to vote for changes all the time

    • Better to create a token when the protocol is worth governing - not anywhere near there now

Plans for Phantom

For 2nd half of 2021

  • Push and perfect the user experience in Solana, e.g user safety, education and features in general

  • Include Ethereum so that it will be their first foray into becoming a multi-chain wallet

  • Develop mobile apps

For 2022

  • More open-ended goals - to include more networks and chains

  • Been playing catchup with other wallets so in 2022 they will be pushing the boundaries of what a wallet is and go beyond what is expected of a wallet

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