MyEtherWallet COO: We won’t just be a wallet in the future

Quick Take

  • MyEtherWallet COO Brian Norton talks about some of the ways the firm is managing growing competition from large technology companies
  • He notes the Ethereum ecosystem is “underutilised” and wants to increase access points
  • Norton also recapped the fallout and “rebuild” that followed co-founder Taylor Monahan’s departure last year

The digital wallet space has received considerable press in the last month as the likes of Samsung revealed plans for a new phone complete with private key storage. The landscape is diversifying, and competition from non-crypto specific firms is on the horizon.

In response, MyEtherWallet, one of the most widely used Ethereum-based wallets, has told The Block that it will need to stretch beyond its namesake and diversify its business model.

“Being just a [online] wallet isn’t going to be enough”, MEW COO Brian Norton said in an interview earlier this month following its V5 platform-redesign.

Already, he notes, MEW has begun its foray into the smartphone world. Its new mobile app allows users to host a free “hardware wallet”, using the secure element on the phone to encrypt the private keys.

“We do believe the technology has advanced to the point where a mobile wallet can be secure,” Norton said.

He also said MEW was confident it could retain a core audience of privacy enthusiasts, given the firm’s dedication to protecting its customers’ anonymity. Indeed, MEW doesn’t even collect individual data on user numbers, Norton says. Meanwhile, a recent partnership with Swiss finance provider Bity also claims to allow European users to legally bypass KYC measures when withdrawing up to $5,000 in euros and Swiss francs. In theory, this means the wallet owner’s identity does not need to be verified; only that they own the private keys to the wallet (although Bity does ask for a bank billing address and phone number).

Another way MEW is hoping to address the Samsung & co. mobile influx is to eventually provide an Ethereum dApp platform or store.

“We are looking into creating more robust dApp support. Right now, we feel like there’s a lot of protocols and projects in the space that have been neglected because they’re hard to find and difficult to use independently. Certainly, via mobile. The whole Ethereum space is still very, very web-based. What we want to do is start helping those projects integrate with us.”

He says he hopes this will help newcomers get better ingrained in the Ethereum ecosystem.

“We can help expose people to a lot of these other use cases.”

Different directions

Norton joined the firm a year ago in the aftermath of co-founder’s Taylor Monahan’s departure in 2018 amid what he recalls was “fear and panic.”

He says his role involved rebuilding the MyEtherWallet team, after the departure of various developers alongside Monahan, who set up her own spinout, MyCrypto.

“We were getting support tickets in and we were handling them ourselves…We had to get the message out that we hadn’t gone anywhere.”

Today, the new staff reportedly got customer support responses down to an average of 24 hours. And the firm’s wider bounceback has been positive, he says.

“We’ve seen pretty steady growth, we never saw a dip in traffic,” specifying that they only monitor aggregate data based on metrics like the number of customer support claims and website visits.

He noted that traffic had also not slowed “at all” during the ongoing bear market, although according to traffic-analytics web Similarweb traffic has dropped by around 40 percent since October 2018.