Wallets & Crypto Adoption with Nestcoin's Yele Bademosi & WalletConnect's Will White

June 8, 2023

In today’s episode, we’re joined by Yele Bademosi, the Co-founder and CEO of Nestcoin, and Will White, the COO of WalletConnect, to talk about a critical piece of crypto infrastructure: Wallets.

When talking about wallets here, we’re talking about non-custodial wallets - where users have full access and control over their private keys, unlike a custodial wallet which relies on and trusts third parties. 

In the context of web3, we’re excited by the opportunities enabled by connecting a wallet and a user’s tokens or transaction history to a decentralized application. At the same time, we hear a lot about user experience challenges in the crypto ecosystem and wallets, of course, are central to that conversation. 

03:11 - Intro to Yele, Nestcoin and Onboard.
04:05 - Intro to Will and WalletConnect.
06:45 - WalletConnect as web3 infrastructure. 
11:04 - The UX challenges with non-custodial wallets. 
22:48 - The question of localization in the global crypto sector.
27:40 - The crypto ecosystem’s focus on Africa.
38:39 - Use cases.
50:13 - Follow Yele on Twitter.
50:36  - Follow Will on Twitter.
51:01 - Follow crypto@scale on Twitter.

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[00:00:00] Yele Bademosi: I used to say stuff like I didn't get into crypto because of decentralization. As an African on the continent, I didn't experience like the Lehman Brother experience or 2008 financial crisis. For me, my own experience came in 2022 with FTX. I mean, most people on the continent know our story very well. We put our trust in the centralized exchange. When you think about it, it's actually worse than regulated finance, right? I really believe that on the spectrum of regulated finance and like self-custody, the worst thing is actually unregulated centralized sort of crypto. And so, it made me then take a step back and say, "Why is it that people are still using centralized platforms?" What do we need to do to create something that is a little bit more accessible for the everyday person? We believe in the future of on-chain finance and we want to make it as simple as possible. You should feel like a traditional financial application.

[00:01:02] Justin Norman: Hello and welcome to crypto@scale. My name is Justin Norman. And in today's episode, my co-host, Gwera Kiwana, and I are talking about a critical piece of crypto infrastructure; wallets. 

When talking about wallets here, we're talking about non-custodial wallets, where users have full access and control over their private keys unlike a custodial wallet, which relies on and trusts third parties. 

In the context of Web3, we're excited for the opportunities enabled by connecting a wallet and a user's tokens or transaction history to a decentralized application. But at the same time, we hear a lot about user experience challenges in the crypto ecosystem. And wallets, of course, are central to that conversation. 

So to talk more about wallets in today's episode, we're joined by Yele Bademosi, the co-founder and CEO of Nestcoin. And Will White, the COO of WalletConnect. 

If you enjoyed this episode of crypto@scale, please subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast app and share with a friend or a colleague who you think may enjoy it as well. 

Crypto@scale is not investment advice and is for entertainment purposes only. This episode of crypto@scale is brought to you by Ripple. Anyone who sent money across borders to or within Africa knows how cumbersome, expensive and slow the process can be. When it comes to remittances, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most expensive region to send money to. And for businesses, trapped capital, slow settlements and high failure rates pose major challenges. 

The current financial infrastructure just doesn't work very well for the modern global economy. Ripple believes that crypto-enabled payments can help. Ripple's payment solution, on-demand liquidity, enables organizations to settle global payments in real-time at a fraction of the cost and without tying up working capital and destination accounts. 

By leveraging the digital asset, XRP, as a bridge currency, funds can be sent and received in local currency on either side of a transaction. And across Africa, Ripple is partnering with local financial institutions and fintechs to bring the benefits of better cross-border remittances to the region. 

To learn more and get in contact with the Ripple team, head over to ripple.com.

[00:03:04] Justin Norman: Yele, good to have you here. Can you give us a brief introduction to yourself and Nestcoin and what you're building with your wallet product on board? 

[00:03:11] Yele Bademosi: Sure. Thanks, Justin, Gwera. Happy to be here. I'm Yele, founder of Nestcoin. We're creating a product called Onboard, which is the first social sign-in wallet for Africa. So it does away with the need for private keys. And we also created what we believe is one of the first implementations of smart escrow swap that allows to you go from a non-custodial wallet directly to your bank account or mobile money account without having to send funds to a centralized exchange. 

So you can think of it as a Uniswap for cash and crypto. And the goal is to onboard, hopefully, a billion Africans to sort of on-chain finance for the next 10 to 15 years.

[00:03:56] Justin Norman: Thanks, Yele. And, Will, good to have you here as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and the path you took to what you do at WalletConnect? 

[00:04:05] Will White: My path is winding. I'm a Brit based here in New York. What's WalletConnect? We quite simply connect wallet swaps. At the absolute core, that's our aim. Our aim is to make it very, very easy for a self-custody wallet to connect to any application known any application to connect to any wallet. Like that has always been our aim. 

We came up through the Ethereum space. But we are now multi-chain and always looking to figure out ways to make the industry – to make that interaction better. To make it kind of closer to what exists outside of crypto. Because we're all so familiar with Visa, and Plaid, and Mastercard, and PayPal and any other ways to get from where you have your things of value to use them where you want to use them. That's always been WalletConnect's aim, is to figure out how to make that smooth as possible. 

My background, I did nine years actually in bank restructuring including Lehman Brothers. One of those drove me to the European Central Bank, which actually drove me to Bitcoin because I was so fascinated in – I did Lehman Brothers in 2008. I did something in the European Central Bank in 2012. And a group of us got bored once the Eurozone crisis slowed down and we discovered that there was a thing that didn't have a central bank. 

Couldn't see a path into crypto at that point. So went off and worked in fintech. Extremely lucky, the Bit hit London at the time when it was taking off. Very, very lucky to be early at Monzo. Went to a competitor where we were building it for students. And our smartest engineer was a guy called Pedro Gomes, who is now my boss so. He was one of the guys who came up through the 2017 bull run and he peeled off with a lot of those guys like Hayden at Uniswap or the guys at Rainbow. They all kind of started in a bundle of people who were working at the same time sometimes on the same projects. 

And Pedro split off around the thing as a foundation for three years by himself, which I think was a brutal personal experience. But an amazing opportunity for us to prove that there was a demand for the pain point to get solved. And then since 2021, we've raised capital and gone from Pedro and the odd call-out random advisors like myself to a team where he's my boss. And we work hard. And we're now in – I think we have about 3,000 connections in total, wallets and apps. We're used in every country apart from about three, with the three we don't want. 

The reason that it's a tiny bit vague is we're just at the end of moving to our V2. We built our V1 so privacy-preserving. We just knew it was getting used a lot. But adding a new server every week. Now we've moved to a point where we actually have some kind of understanding about which projects are using it where. We've definitely kept it incredibly privacy-preserving for the end user. But we do actually have an understanding at that kind of project level what. What wallet? What apps? In what countries? So that we can start to actually provide data that is genuinely helpful to everyone who's kindly using WalletConnect and we can improve the service. 

[00:06:45] Gwera Kiwana: Thank you, guys. So let's start with the primer on wallets. Will, WalletConnect isn't a wallet itself. But instead, it's the infrastructure that sits between apps and hundreds of wallets. So with that broad perspective, can you give us a bit of a high-level introduction to non-custodial wallets and why people use them? And also, really, the cons of using one and as well as maybe the pros as well.

[00:07:05] Will White: It's that old meme of like not your keys, not your coins. I think I try and kind of – we try and look forward. Yeah, we're a messaging there. We're a protocol that enables messages to run between wallets and applications. No different, really, bluntly. And I know I keep using the Visa example. But all the Visas is a messaging layer. Basically they're saying, "Do you have a thing in your bank? Great. You got the thing in your bank. Have the coffee." You know, that's all that's going on. 

What we have in this new world is the same thing but there's actually a lot more you can do. As you say, it could be your identity. It can be more than just simply your cash. It can be any number of things that are coming forward. So what we need to do is you need to have ownership of that. And that seems like kind of highfaluted. But you need to have ownership of it. If you don't have ownership, if the exchange goes down, as we all know, you're in serious trouble. That probably wasn't a thing we would have thought of as massively problematic 18 months ago. It's hugely problematic now. But if it's here, it is literally in your named account. 

We are enormously familiar with this in a very narrow world, which is like existing banking. If you have a named account, it's your named account. And if it is – the bank is required to give you that money when it goes. It's not co-mingled anywhere else. It comes back to you. 

Depending on which country you are, there's insurance and all the rest of it. This is taking it one step further. This is like having cash in your wallet. No one can come in and take it out your wallet. They can't take it out your bank. 

Now, I'm always going to come from a banking background. So this is always going to be skewed with payments and banking stuff. I am very much an outlier in the team because the team is hugely interesting in the other ways you could use this and how you could use your identity. And you should have control over that. 

And if your identity isn't just your ID document that the government wants to show. But it might be like how you present yourself on LinkedIn. There is a whole load of identities you have in your world that you may want to open and close in the future. And you want to have control over that. You don't want somebody to be able to touch it. You should have complete control over how you share it and how it's used. So we think self-custody wallets are hugely helpful. 

Now, what are the cons? The cons are really easy. Take anyone, sit anyone down and try and get them on a wallet today. So I'm very happy to have Yele on the call because it sounds like you guys are fully focused and the thing we've got to do, which is actually been very much WalletConnect's aim from the beginning. Let's just stop it being like a hobbyist thing and start it being part of your life. 

You know, we are still at the point – we're still in – I'm depressingly old enough to remember '97 and my Uncle John's saying like, "I'm going to go surf the web." You know? And we're in surf the web stage. And I always use the same example because I can still remember that day, he was surfing the web and told my mom we're going to – he's like, "By next year, everyone's going to buy their flights online." And mom driving away was like, "It's never going to happen." 

Like 10 years later, he was wrong because it didn't happen the next year. It happened like seven eight years later. And he was wrong a second time because he did not predict Uber, and Snapchat and what we're talking about here. So I think we're at that point where we're still surfing the web. There's a lot of hugely excited earlier users who are prepared to deal with the clunkiness. 

Number one clunkiness that everyone talks about is seed phrases. We've got to figure out what sliding scale of privacy people want. If you're in the incumbent world, you can live entirely on cash. But you're going to have to probably get a gun and a safe and you're going to have to hide it under your bed. And you're not going to be able to pay anything online. That's completely legitimate. Because you doing that, it's not because you're a bad person. It's just that's what you've chosen to do in life. You may use it to tax evade. But you can also do criminality through the ACH system and the international wallet structure in Swift. 

But what we have to work out is, the reason I don't mind giving some privacy away to Chase, is because I can walk into any store and buy coffee and I don't really kind of care that much. So we've got to stop working that out. And if we're putting more of our identity and more of our assets into wallets, we've really got to be serious about who owns that and clear on where everything's made available. And we've got to make it – we've got to design it better. It's got to be like human. That's the biggest con right now. It's not human and understandable. 

[00:11:04] Gwera Kiwana: Totally agree. We talk a lot about the UX and how it can be improved to really onboard the next billion users. But on that note, Yele, Nestcoin is building a wallet product called Onboard. That's gained quite a bit of attention across African crypto Twitter who also tend to be the early adopters. In Will's analogy, the people who are surfing the web. People who are early adopters of crypto in Africa. So can you provide context on the needs Onboard is serving to African users? 

[00:11:30] Yele Bademosi: I really enjoyed sort of hearing Will describe WalletConnect because we launched our wallet without actually the support for the apps. I think in the next – sort of in the near term, a couple of streams, we'll be launching our WalletConnect integration. Super excited to be on this call with you and kind of hear this theory on the background. Thanks, guys, for putting us together. 

I've been in crypto since 2017. And I think the first time I used Trust Wallet and Metamask was maybe 2020. But I've always used custodial products. I used to say stuff like I didn't get into crypto because of decentralization. You know, I didn't necessarily – as an African on the continent, I didn't experience what it was like to like the Lehman Brother experience or 2008 financial crisis. 

For me, my own experience came in 2022 with FTX, right? I mean, most people on the continent know our story very well. We put our trust in the centralized exchange. When you think about it, it's actually worse than regulated finance, right? I really believe that on the spectrum of regulated finance and like self-custody, the worst thing is actually sort of unregulated centralized sort of crypto. 

Because we've seen what happened with SBV and the other banks. They went down [inaudible 00:12:52]. But in crypto, if something goes wrong with a centralized platform, like you're going to lose your money. 

And so, it made me then take a step back and say, "Why is it that people are still using centralized platforms?" Right? What do we need to do to create something that is a little bit more accessible for the everyday person? And it really boiled down to two things. 

I think my biggest inspiration is actually Tesla, right? If you look at the history of cars, this notion of electric cars has been around for a very long time. But people didn't choose to get a Tesla because they wanted to do the morally right thing of getting a car that is friendly to the environment. They just got a Tesla because it was the best, one of the best cars available for the money that they could pay, right? 

And so, our thinking is we believe in the future of on-chain finance and we want to make it as simple as possible. You should feel like a traditional financial application. In fact, some of the feedback we've gotten from Onboard users today is this feels too simple, right? They're used to sort of all the steps you have to go to centralized products. And we are now like, "Okay, what can we add that makes – that kind of adds that element of friction so that doesn't feel like this is just something to move your funds in and out into fiat, right?" 

So we know we're successful when creating an Onboard wallet feels like creating signing into Facebook or signing to Instagram, right? And it's really interesting because we've known this notion of protocols for a while. But most protocols end up building their application interface because nobody is really like, "Okay, we're going to focus on the application layer and make it really easy to use." 

And so, at Onboard, we see the future of wallets almost like a meta application, right? We're very familiar with the notion of super apps in the sort of Web2 world. We think the Web3 world is going to be like a meta application. 

For instance, the swaps on Onboard is part directed by Uniswap, right? And a bunch of other interesting kind of protocols that are coming out that we're going to be integrating and sort of creating this unified user experience. And we don't need to talk to any of these guys, right? We're integrating WalletConnect. And I've never spoken to anybody at WalletConnect. We integrated Uniswap and all these protocols. I'm not asking them for permission, right? 

When we are done – success to me in five years is when a 14-year-old African in Zimbabwe or in Angola has an Onboard wallet before they have a bank account, right? And that's kind of like the vision for what we're trying to do. And we started with probably the most difficult part of the equation, which was how do we allow you to go from crypto into fiat in a completely peer-to-peer unchained manner without having to send funds to a centralized exchange? 

Now it doesn't mean that we don't support other on and off ramps. And we actually kind of building out support for various on and off ramps in over the next couple of weeks. But we solved that problem first. And the escrow itself is so powerful to date to on and off ramp. But in the future, if I'm trying to buy something from Will online – maybe Will is a consultant. I don't know if I'm going to get that service or that good. I can send the funds into the escrow. You can see the values stored on-chain. And then when the transaction is completed, the funds can get released to him, right? 

And so, this notion of enabling trustless commerce across the world and making the world feel more economically connected and sort of open. That's sort of like the future of Onboard. And we're still day one and super, super early. Excited to sort of take our pains and lessons from FTX and build, hopefully, truly innovative product not just for Africa but for the world. 

[00:17:05] Will White: Now one of the things I find really interesting is that – well, two things in there really, really interesting. One is that I think people can dismiss crypto because it's – we are speed learning a lot of the lessons that have existed in banking for some time. But I think what people misunderstand about that is, by speed learning them, the questions are getting asked first principles, right? 

So the easiest way to currently make your name – one of the easiest ways if you want to dump on the industry, if you're a politician, is you just say, "Ah, everyone's FTX. Or it's all Luna." There are names that I'm not going to discuss here that are really making their time there. But if you actually listen to people behind the scenes, people are figuring out, "Yeah, there is a need for regulation." 

UX isn't just a nice to have. One of the biggest problems is the easiest way to commit fraud for over five years in this space or at least defraud or criminalize it is to produce good UX. That's been one of the craziest things is that – that's how the crypto queen did it. That's in 2017. It's how FTX did it. 

And they always start the same way. They start making the UX better. And then, often, they slip into gray area or pure criminality because they realize that people can be fooled by their stuff. So we do need regulation. But we've got to start first principles because we are currently having a call. This is our number one thing from sitting here at WalletConnect. Don't be with – look at our map. There's literally I think – I think it's just three countries that aren't being used by us. 

So if you come out on the very narrow space of how do you think about classifying a wallet, for example, if we don't classify yourself custody wallets, we're going to get two classifications, good and bad. And it's basically going to – everyone's going to predict that anyone who's privacy-preserving is bad and everyone who isn't is good. 

And that goes back to my point about if you have cash and you're not necessarily a criminal, you just need not to be on any database. So we've got to figure this out. But we're not going to solve this by sitting in DC, or sitting in Brussels, or sitting in Singapore, or, God bless my home country, sitting in London believing that we're going to be able to set rules for the whole world. It's nonsense. This is a global thing. 

So you've then got to start first principles. What are you trying to do? What are you trying to do from a classification? What are you trying to do by stopping criminality? So the fact that we're learning these lessons at speed is sometimes super painful and I wish it didn't happen. But I'm also really happy that it is happening because, as a result, people are getting mature and figuring out no country in the world is – fundamentally, everyone's trying to do the same thing. Protect customers. Stop criminality. Look after people's data. And we've got to do this as an international – and there are certain international bodies coming. But we've got to really work on this stuff. 

And then the question I would do and the reason we certainly find Africa super interesting for WalletConnect is because, to your point, these are real applications. We can see the stable coins moving around. We can see what's going on. The interesting thing is it's not just remittances. It's when it doesn't come out the other end. It's when people then start actively choosing to onboard from fiat to stable coins.

And what I love about that – to your point about using an escrow. An escrow is not a brand-new concept. But bringing it in first principles is amazing. I always say to people, crypto is only interesting when people roll their eyes and go, "It's just a dollar." Like that was five years ago. Everyone's like, "Oh, you made a dollar? That's so interesting." 

Right now, NFTs is going through that stage and everyone's going, "All right. It's just a rewards card. It's just an access card." And you're like, "Yeah. But just wait. Because that stable coin that was just a dollar, to somebody in Zimbabwe not having to use the Shilling right now, if you don't think that that thing is five years later, the Zimbabwean government trying to create – have their own stable coin, that's because – that is a geopolitical thing that is going on. 

If you think DC is actually anti-crypto, you are not listening to the noise behind the scenes. Ignore Elizabeth Warren and listen to the people who are actually doing stuff. Listen to what's going on at the state level. America has one thing that every other – North America, sorry, has one thing that every other continent doesn't have, which is it has a competitive regulatory environment. 50 states competing to throw the thing up to federal. I would love to see that in Africa. 

I have no idea how you do it. Because the one sad thing you cannot do in Africa is if Ghana is being really smart. And Ghana is not. I'm not dumping like that. That is a hypothetical. Just to be clear. But you cannot move between two countries. Whereas if Wisconsin is being smart and Ohio isn't, you can move, right? 

And I think that in the same way that, at a usage basis, it's so exciting in Africa. Because we can see in Africa, and Southeast Asia and Latin America, we can see certain countries where people are just simply using this stuff because it's better than what exists. 

And if that could then roll the speed – anything that can be done to clear the path of that. And so, just because people, it's like, "Oh, it's an escrow. Like escrows have been around for, I don't know, probably 3 decades or something." I'm sure – maybe four or five. I'm sure there's like history of it for a millennia, right? 

But if you can apply it to this, then it becomes a building block. To your point, it's a protocol. The more this stuff is open, the easier it is to fit together, then it becomes interesting. And where it's easy to dismiss it in Europe and North America as a side hobby thing. This is not a side-hobby thing in Argentina and Zimbabwe right now. We know that. We can see it. 

For us, that's where it becomes interesting. And just because it's first principles regulation, or first principles financial products, or first financial commercial products doesn't mean it's a bad thing. It just means, "Cool. What are we trying to figure out? And how can we make that same thing 10x easier to use?" And I would argue right now a stable coin – a USDC is the most boring execution in the world. But, my God, is it helpful. 

[00:22:48] Justin Norman: Thanks, Will. I want to talk to you a little bit more about your interest and what you're seeing from WalletConnect on the continent. But before we do that, Yele, I just want to come back to you. Because what I also think is interesting, you talked a little bit earlier about being able to plug in permissionlessly to Uniswap and to WalletConnect. And I think one of the sort of interesting premises is, obviously, crypto being default global, and borderless and permissionless. And you're now building a wallet that's like specifically for Africans. And there's questions about what localization looks like perhaps in the context of on and off-ramping. But perhaps beyond that as well, solving – building wallets to solve specific problems in this context. 

Yeah. I mean, I'm curious about what it looks like from a user perspective as opposed to just if I'm Nigerian going to Metamask and I don't know if you can on-ramp straight into DeFi as easily in Nigeria. But can you say a little bit about that and why the localization from a wallet's perspective is particularly important for you?

[00:23:44] Yele Bademosi: I'm not sure it's like localization in the sense of the traditional [inaudible 00:23:48] world, right? It's more about like having a user in mind. An understanding of the pinpoints. Understanding the market dynamics concerns and trying to solve a problem for them, right? 

It's not dissimilar to Facebook launching and saying, "Okay, we're only for students in Harvard." But also, understanding that, at some points in the future, this thing can be used by different people. 

We believe that Africa – I think it was Yusuf Ali that said that crypto needs Africa, modern Africa needs crypto. Because it's going to be on the continent. I would see sort of true use cases. I'm not dunking on meme coins and things like that. But I see that as a spectrum and a use case that gets a lot of people excited and the speculative kind of like fever, which to me it's like a feature in crypto. Not a bug. 

But I see this boring stuff of stable coins, and trustless comments and unchained reputation and credit and the opportunity to create a parallel, more meritocratic financial system that can uplift millions of people out of poverty and expand access to economic opportunity as a generational kind of mission and vision. 

I think for me as well, like when I think about Onboard, one of the reasons why – someone was like, "Okay, how come you didn't change Nestcoin's names Onboard?" And that's because I want Onboard to be built by Africans. It can allow Onboard to become its thing and Nestcoin is just a founding contributor to the protocol. That's the wallet itself, right? 

We're going to open source everything. We're going to have sort of contributors who are adding more applications, adding more unwraps. I'm very inspired by kind of like the work that Victor did at Trust Wallet in the early days. Because something that is lacking – and I've been in the crypto space on the continent since 2018 professionally, is we have a ton of activity. Adoption is high and things like that. But what is something that we've built for the world? 

You look at the success of like Polygon, Sandeep. Or look what Michelle is trying to do with [inaudible 00:26:10]. As Africans, we've not also contributed to the crypto ecosystem, right? It's more about us using these products, right? 

And so, this is the first time when there's been a technological shift whereby Africans have access to the same tools, information, ideas. And end users, anybody else, like I said, is a global phenomenon. So our thinking for Onboard is not about, "Oh, let's build this thing for Africans." It's about how do we create a project that Africans can be a part of and sort of contribute and change the narrative about how it would think about the role of Africa within the crypto ecosystem. 

And, again, I like to always say what does success look like to me? Success is when people that I haven't met before are contributing to the Onboard ecosystem. Obviously, I'm a big fan of Tokenomics. We've not released anything about that. And it's just because I was curious to see what the use cases would be, the ideas that would have. But what I can say is we're very inspired by optimism and this notion of retroactive public good funding and a lot of what we're going to do and how we can get the ecosystem to kind of contribute and support sort of the work at the protocol level will be based off some kind of retroactive public good distribution model in the coming months. 

[00:27:40] Justin Norman: Thanks, Yele. And, Will, I'm curious to know just also from your perspective how you're thinking about the region. Obviously, there's this sort of personal interest, I think. And then WalletConnect has a very sort of broad purview. But you mentioned before, you see transaction figures. And I guess the activity is in the data to some extent. But how are you thinking about the continent in general and what that means for WalletConnect or wallets in general in terms of an area of focus or opportunities to go capture? 

[00:28:10] Will White: It's firmly – and our top five priorities right now is to figure out – when we split the world apart, like the places that we think wallet innovation is going to come, and Africa is right at the top of that list. And as priorities for the business, figuring out how do we keep enabling that couldn't be higher if we tried. Because we do believe that in Africa, Southeast Asia and some parts of Latin America, we are really going to see how this is used. Which parts of the stack are going to become universal? 

I think that there's a difference between the universal functionality that wallets have and then maybe the end user needs, right? Because there's 6,000 languages in the world. And there's different ways that people interact with their – subtly interact differently with their money, with their things of value. That is a strong cultural human phenomenon that's not going to change. And if people don't believe that's the case, then explain to me why there's thousands of banks in the world. 

And the truth is people have different languages. They have different ways of investing and thinking about their money. People can speak the same language. And the banking system in the UK and the US is wildly different. There is zero concept of a community bank within the UK that is in anybody's living memory. In the US, most people have got a relationship with it. It's kind of concept that's super local. 

The fact that all it's fundamentally doing is keeping your money and allowing you to spend it. But the ways people want to interact with the brand, some people want big international brands. And some people want something that is in their language or in the concepts of [inaudible 00:29:43]. And where this is going to get tested in the real world first is going to be in Africa. Not bluntly here in New York City. 

We're very, very clear on that. You don't have to apologize on the meme coin thing. I'm not a fan either. I agree that it's actually more of a feature than a bug because it's like a way to keep froth to – you're always figuring out within the froth what's the 2%, 5% percent of really relevant things that are coming through. But it doesn't – it isn't what gets me excited.

On a personal interest front, I used to live in Kenya when I was younger. Sort of always been fascinated with the pre-M-Pesa Kenya. So I've always been fascinated to like follow it. My first job when I came out of college was I used to work for Barclays. I used to work with Barclays but on Africa team. And it always used to fascinate me that one big clunking problem, and that is certainly The Goldfinch guys have been looking at, is that you – if somebody sets the credit risk in Canary Wharf London, they may not understand the credit risk requirements in Nairobi or Darussalam. 

And you can have incredibly high-quality people working in those banks. But if they are hamstrung by the rules that are set and that – the mismatch that someone like Goldfinch is trying to figure out is actually how do we not push good businesses into the hands of exploitative capital providers who are just working around it? How can we democratize that at both ends? That kind of stuff is really interesting. 

I had a very personal thing, which was last year. And I'm not going to name what the brand was. But there was a very well-known US brand that a lot of our investors understandably didn't understand we were collaborating with rather than competing with. And they just saw the press release. And my phone blew up. But I happened to be in Cape Town where my sister lives. 

And I was standing in the street and my phone is blowing up with people going, "Oh, my God. This brand is going to come after you." And we were going back to them and saying, "No. No. No. We collaborated them. It's all good. We understand fundamentally where we work with these people." 

And I was standing in the streets. I was in the City Bowl. I'm looking up at that building, which I know it's a centralized exchange. But the most prominent building currently in Cape Town is Luna. And I'm looking at Luna and I'm like, "Firstly, that's the biggest building. Secondly, there's not a person on this, street even in downtown Cape Town, working for like standard bank who probably has even conceptually thought of this incredibly well-known US brand." And that's not that we were happy with the collaboration in the US. But we know because our data increasingly shows us where we're being used. 

I'm also wandering around Cape Town. Having not been there for three years because of COVID. And there's barely a cash payment going on right now. So sure, it's happening on the incumbent rails. But it is not a big lift to put that onto a decentralized ledger. Like it's just not. 

So I'm sitting there and I'm going, "You're not necessarily wrong to be worrying about this well-funded brand that is incredibly dominant and successful and deserves respect in the US." But like this is not relevant to the full WalletConnect story. 

Now we've made that case clearly and all the rest of it. And it was a communication thing. But it was a moment I came back on the flight and I was like [inaudible 00:32:45]. Yeah, it's like a real moment. You sense out there looking at the building, thinking about stuff. And you're thinking people are using WalletConnect around here. They just don't care about this brand. 

For us, the reason that there's a little vagueness to it right now is, as I say, once we have our V2, we will go from having some data to data that will clearly demonstrate us where we have a very firm hunch that obviously Nigeria is an outlier on usage. We have a very firm hunch that Zimbabwe. And we have some data to support that. But come July, August, September, October and from there onwards, we will really be able to come to people building and say, "Hey, this wallet is taking off in this country." And maybe there's a huge gaming scene in Senegal. We will be able to say this wallet is being used on this game in Senegal. And that will enable builders to use that data. 

As I say, we are always privacy-preserving. We do not see who the end user is. And we have a very firm view on that that's driven by us wanting to put messages not to aim at Wales. And that gives us permission to look at where are the message volume. That's what we care about. Number of messages. Raw number of messages matters. We care about raw numbers of messages not how much dollar value is being transacted on each message. That gives us permission to start asking questions. 

And then that gets us to ask questions, "What are the messages could you put through?" If you can do a sign for a transaction, we're in the public domain talking about the fact that we're looking at pushing and notify functionality. Because if you can send a signed message, you can send a text message. And if we've got the connections to every single and self-custody wallet, we can enable you to send the equivalent of a Twilio message or – and we've thought of it actually as a b2b, b2c functionality. Not as a peer-to-peer. 

We think the interesting part is this is probably going to be a regulated space. And sometimes you need to speak to the customers, right? Being able to have intercom and Twilio is super helpful. And we have the last mile. We may not – where we – how far – how close we get to the consumer is a debate. Because we always were prepared to collaborate with people. But what we care about is more messages. Yeah, if you're going to name me a continent that we care about, Africa is right at the top. Because we see usage, we see innovation. It's real stuff. 

[00:35:07] Yele Bademosi: Will, I have a question. When is V2 going to go live? 

[00:35:11] Will White: June. We were a little over ambitious and trying to put it out on March. But we now have – I can't tell you. Today we now have – as of Monday morning, we have pretty much every wallet. It's always chicken and egg. So we go all the wallets cross and then that enables us to go out. 

We made it very, very simple for the apps to just switch to V2. And so, we hope actually quite early in June. But definitely, by the end of June, everyone will be on V2. And that is – on the back end, that gives with them figuring out what data will be useful for people. 

But on the front end, it's where we can start enabling things like the push functionality, the chat functionality, the whole notify suite. It's where we can start pushing closer to things like OAuth and all sorts of functionality that we've announced. It's all built. V2 will enable us to do that. 

[00:35:59] Yele Bademosi: Rather exciting. 

[00:36:02] Will White: Thanks. 

[00:36:02] Yele Bademosi: [inaudible 00:36:02] that's probably one of the – by far, the most requested feature. It's like when is that coming? [inaudible 00:36:13]. 

[00:36:14] Will White: Right. And by the way, if anyone on a – actually oddly. We have some people – the reason we have some data is that we actually went – we went multi-chain. And of course, anyone who wasn't on EVM, they could come on immediately. And if we got both ends – so bluntly, the Stellar guys, we got the most popular wallet. And suddenly, that was the moment that we switched the map on. We thought we were – we didn't think we were in 206 countries or whatever it is. We thought we were maybe in 40. And just by having the Stellar chain, we were able to go. 

And really interesting thing, and I don't think I'm saying anything I shouldn't. It was Stella's tie up with a very well-known incumbent brand that was the huge driver of that. Because it was – that was a huge – it was a huge remittance player. I mean, I think it's in the public domain. Which one it is? 

[00:37:01] Gwera Kiwana: MoneyGram. 

[00:37:02] Will White: Yeah. Right. I was to say, I'm 90% sure that's in the public domain. MoneyGram is kind of driving the traffic. And it's kind of interesting that we could suddenly – as I say, we can't see what the user's sending or who they are. But we could see that they were here. This user was sending stuff. And it was appearing. And then that's what started to get us thinking, "Wait. We can see it's not – people are then transacting between each other at the end of the remittance corridor." If I was going to say where's the most interesting innovation? It's at the end of very tight remittance corridors. 

I would be sitting in East London and I would be sitting in Sylhet, Bangladesh right now. That is an incredibly tight remittance corridor. And Sylhet is famously where a lot of the community from East London trace their roots or have a first generation. If the money is going back to Sylhet, I would be fascinated to get on the ground in Sylhet and find out are they seeing a cost saving from using stable coins? And once they get there, are they remaining within it if everyone's got a smartphone and can transact in the dollar economy? Are they all choosing to go straight into the rupee? It's on my list to get on the plane and do. 

And there are equivalents in Africa, for sure. I think people sometimes look at it as like the whole continent. And actually what you actually want to do is specific countries. And within specific countries, specific communities that have particularly strong needs to use this. And that's where we're going to see the innovation. 

So this is an informed group. But it's amazingly frustrating how often I see sort of broad-brush discussions. If you're in Nigeria, where within Lagos? And which communities within Lagos are you going to be focusing on specifically that have a functional need for this? And then let's see what the wallets are doing there. So that's what we're really excited to see more. 

[00:38:39] Gwera Kiwana: I guess, Yele, I'll follow up with that. Where do you think – which communities in Nigeria are using stable coins or at least are using P2P and in more of a utility function rather than like for trading? Where are you seeing the most use in your work? 

[00:38:57] Yele Bademosi: On the retail – so I divide it into two in terms of like retail and sort of business use case. On the business side of things, that, by far, has a lot of the volumes. Because people need to be able to go from sort of fiat into stable coins. And usually, the stable coins are kind of like a medium of exchange as opposed to like assessment layer. 

Majority of sort of like the stable coin volume is traced into kind of the aggregation of liquidity from small players all the way to larger players. [inaudible 00:39:34] firms using kind of like global channels to convert stable coins into USD and then to any other sort of like global currency. 

Retail use case though is still – in my opinion, still primarily driven by speculation. You do have some people who understand the notion of like devaluation and things like that. But if you look at the innovation of fintech, I think something that we don't really talk about a lot is that, from a utility perspective, the biggest competition for crypto in Africa is actually fintech. Like traditional fintech, right? Or TransFi products. 

If I'm offering somebody a stable coin account and then a country whereby there's a fintech that is offering a USD account, then – and that fintech can allow you on-ramp directly from doing a transfer to virtually into like a narrow virtual account without being P2P, then you're competing, right? So you don't then ask yourself and be like what is the white space, right? Ad that's something that we've been thinking a lot about ourselves as a business. 

I wish this was maybe like three or four weeks later. But the most important thing to note about the P2P ecosystem is that crypto is – or the swap between fiat and crypto is where the spread is the most minimum. So if you can remove the layers of intermediaries between the end what the user wants to do and what the – and who supervised that service. Instead of something costing in Nigeria for instance or something costing – instead of a dollar costing 780 for one dollar, it can cost users 746, right? And that's where that Innovation really, really, really begins to come in.

Generally, we are very clear about – even for instance, like we know our strengths, right? Our strengths and kind of the products that we built as a team has actually been on the retail side. But because we initially started off at the protocol layer, we were initially focused on doing things with like businesses. But we realized like, "You know what? We're kind of doing the reverse of [inaudible 00:41:54]." Right? 

[inaudible 00:41:55] builds an API and then also add [inaudible 00:41:58]. And kind of [inaudible 00:42:01] wasn't really the main focus of what we're doing. We've built the wallets, which is almost like our own kind of wallet neobank product. And then we've now created an API that we're now exposing to various players that will begin to use the escrow. 

So even instantly as well, we kind of separate sort of transaction volumes over $10,000. Because if we did that, the volumes that we've processed, and we've done millions of dollars in transactions, I would say like 99% of it is definitely on the sort of business kind of real perspective. So we're very inspired by companies like boost technology that create technology and then offer that to like entrepreneurs who can then go and build what they want to do. Almost like kind of like what WalletConnect is doing in a way, right? 

That way, we can get the volumes. But we're very excited about this – the application layer. Because we think that that is where the pack is going. The notion of making money on transaction fees in an on-chain environment is a race to zero, right? Because fees are like non-existent. But that idea of trust is where you can actually make money, right? 

We spend a lot of time thinking and saying what kind of transactions can we enable for the first time whereby that escrow actually makes a ton of sense? And then when you have that on-chain escrow, it's an on-chain transaction, which means that people can build on-chain reputation, right? And when you then have the on-chain reputation and that is produced in a self-cost of the environment, a lot of interesting things can happen. So that's kind of like, you know, how we're – we're thinking about stuff. 

And I'll be honest, we didn't start off with this big, grand vision, right? It's kind of like what do we wish somebody built for us? And I – I had to go back to the basics. Because when we started Nestcoin it was like, okay, we don't want to do anything that has to be speculation. We're going to build products that are not just trading and we'll figure out something that works. And it's definitely been a long journey. But I think that we're slowly getting to a very kind of exciting points that is useful for the continent but also is a white space that we are best positioned to solve for. Not just in Africa but across the world. 

[00:44:27] Gwera Kiwana: Yeah. I think I really like that stream of thought because that's how we think at MFS Africa. MFS Africa is like an OG incumbent fintech player. Me joining to do crypto was a bit of a gamble for them. But it's hopefully paying off. 

And, yeah, I kind of started off with like the no-brainer on and off ramps. But now we're thinking a little bit more about like how can we serve basically what you've just described as your compete fintech is competing with crypto, right? And fintech has really great UX. A lot of the fintechs around on the continent right now. Like impasse is probably one of the shining examples of that. How can we – as MFS Africa who serve fintechs, how can we actually use crypto to actually enable them and give them the opportunity to give better user experiences by lowering fees? Maybe like building trust. Whatever it is. And then use using – we're evolving in that direction. 

I want to come to Will with this last question before we wrap up. What are you thinking at WalletConnect? And you as an individual as well with regards to institutional use of wallets in Africa or just in the global south in general and the enterprise use case? 

[00:45:34] Will White: I smile because we're kind of lucky because we're deliberately agnostic. So we have been used by Fortune 500 businesses. One of our biggest challenges is – and we're extremely lucky to have this. Everything's been inbound. And because it's open source, you suddenly discover that Twitter's using you for a particular bit of functionality. 

I'm trying to think which is in the public. There's a bunch of them that are in the public domain who've used this from payment providers, to social media companies, to all sorts of players. And a lot of it has been – so I don't know how to think about it. By the way, just on the fintech thing, having misspent my career in corporate real bank, like traditional banking, fintech at this, one of the things that annoys me more than anything else is people pretending it's a different world. Because it's not. 

And one of the most exciting things that I see right now is, at the top of the bubble, we saw a lot of really high quality fintech people move across. And then my fear was that they were going to stop. What we're still seeing now is when a high quality fintech person comes to a break in their career right now, they still choose to go take the punt in crypto. And that is an incredibly positive sign. Because whether they're coming with their legal expertise, their business expertise, their UX expertise, whatever it is, they're suddenly coming into the space and we're seeing that again and again. 

By the time we get into next year and the year after, we can move out of these bull and bear markets. It'll still be hyper not. But we can move into this is just a thing. This is just an account. It's just where, "Oh, cool. I've got a dollar account in Nigeria." That's it. Like you stop thinking I'm doing crypto. You know, we're not like surfing the web anymore. That's hugely exciting. 

On the institutional thing, we've seen another really positive trend. The end of the bull market, they were all desperately trying to put together teams that were doing R&D. Really interesting thing, not one of those big brands has put those teams to zero. Even the ones who have announced it publicly that they have, they quietly have kept a team working on it. 

We're still a little at the proof of concept thing. Probably the biggest blocker right here is they're just freaked out about the regulation stuff. So we as an industry, like as individual, national, supernational global organizations have got to work hard to give them ways to get comfortable with using this stuff. That's the biggest block of these teams have got. But not one of them, not one big brand has put the team to zero. And if I wasn't under NDAs, I would love to tell you who's coming inbound. 

Every type of business that you'd want to have thinking about infrastructure with one exception is inbound to us right now. And they're usually are inbound to us – it's kind of interesting. Sometimes they inbound to us in a way where they're like we – what's really weird is sometimes they turn off and they want to sort of test it. We get two things. We either get testing and then they disappear for a little one. Then they suddenly get it and they're like we want to go headlong at theirs. 

Or we get the other thing, which is a massive global brand will suddenly arrive at us and they'll be like, "We saw your brand somewhere. We've figured out where we think you fit in." And they're almost always right. There was a little – and then we kind of always get hitched up. 

For me personally, the biggest block of right now is they don't know what a good and bad wallet is. And actually – and the problem is we don't need to have good and bad. We need to have like a ranking. You know, like one to five. And five's not bad. It's just really privacy-preserving. So you can't use it on a Fortune 500 business. Well, that's okay. And then one is like a little less privacy. But we've got to get comfortable with what that looks like. We've got to get everyone alongside. It's got to work technically. We've got to get – so that's the biggest unlock. There is no reason that there will be brand-new brands that come through and win. But it's not like every incumbent brand is not going to succeed. 

We all know the M-Pesa story and it doesn't start with two guys on a couch. It starts, I think – was it Vodafone? Is that right? 

[00:49:20] Gwera Kiwana: Yeah. Vodafone. 

[00:49:22] Will White: The story next time around is new brands, new infrastructure, fintech guys coming in and figuring out that they're the front end – and they've done all this. They've done 10 years again and their heads smacked against the wall to do the UX at the front and the UI. And then the back end is appearing. Link it up. And then let's make sure the bigger the brands, it doesn't need to just be brand-new brands. It's going to be a combination of brand new brands and incumbents figuring out how to get scale. We firmly believe that. And we don't pick winners. We just go where the market goes. 

[00:49:54] Justin Norman: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I would love to talk for another 30 minutes or an hour with both of you guys. But I think we're actually a little overtime right now. So I think we should wrap it up. Will and Yele, I really appreciate you guys taking the time to join us and to have this conversation. 

Where can people find out more about you and your companies and what you're building? Yele? 

[00:50:13] Yele Bademosi: Our website is Onboard XYZ. On Twitter, Yele Bademosi. Twitter for Onboard is Onboard_XYZ as well. Yeah, just check this out and give us feedback. We're trying to build this in the open. And, yeah, always would love to have a contributors to join us on this journey. 

[00:50:34] Justin Norman: Awesome. And Will? 

[00:50:36] Will White: We're walletconnect.com. And if someone wants to find me on Twitter, it's Will White 003. You can just see me occasionally wanging on about crypto and fintech. But yeah, that's where I am. And then I'm always happy to work with any teams. Please come inbound. Please contact me anywhere you can. We've got a full team to help anyone with any questions. We're always up for advice. We're always trying to build – co-build with the community. And thanks so much for having us on today. It's great. 

[00:51:01] Justin Norman: Awesome. Yeah. And we're also on Twitter at crypto@scale. And if you enjoyed this episode, please do hit that follow button on your favorite podcast app and share with a friend or a colleague who you think may enjoy it as well. Yele and Will, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.