On 20th October, 2022, Hashstack’s community team hosted an AMA with Motty Lavie(Co-founder, Braavos). In this conversation, we journeyed through Motty’s early days in crypto, Braavos, and the challenges faced along the way. Towards the end, Motty shared his perspective on the future of Starknet, Web3 & the role he expects Braavos to play.
Below is the link to the recorded space if you’d like to jump right in
Motty’s Background [07:12]
My background is the classic computer science and maths. I was a Web2 guy at a company working in the Web2 space in fields like AI, machine learning, cloud software, embedded software and even physical hardware. I’m what many would call a late-comer in the Web3 space but quite a veteran in Starknet.
Early days in Web3[08:55]
I heard of crypto around 5–7 years ago, but back then, I didn’t really have the time and focus to understand the space. But luckily, a little over a year and a half ago I had the luxury of having a few months to dive deep into the space and very quickly, I fell in love with the space as I saw the great potential it has for many aspects of life. So I decided to get along with my co-founders to devote the next years of our lives to this space.
We believe that we can solve the problem of self-custodial wallets (in crypto) being intimidating and unwelcoming to everyday users. So we set out to create a user experience that everyday users can enjoy.
State of crypto wallets[25:45]
We have two kinds of solutions in crypto, Custodial solutions, which are usually centralised exchanges like Coinbase and Binance. Here, you give your money to these corporations, trusting them to get your money back when you ask for it.
In self-custodial, there is no centralised entity. Hence you don’t need to ask for the money back since you control your money, and only you can move your funds. That’s the key difference between the two approaches. At Braavos, we believe that everyone should have at least some of their funds in a self-custodial manner and have full control over their funds.
Self-custodial wallet solutions[28:25]
When we look at the self-custodial space, there are mainly 3 types of solutions.
- Pure Software Solution.
- Hardware wallet.
- Smart contract based wallet.
It’s a dedicated physical device that you have to buy, and this device generates your seed phrase allegedly without ever being online. In order to sign transactions, you need to have the hardware wallet with you, and you’ll have to physically click on it to verify that you’re willing to sign the transaction.
Smart contract based
I think these are probably the most underrated in the crypto space today. In theory, you can combine the benefits of the two wallets. A short explanation of what a smart contract based wallet would be; Imagine your wallet divided into two; there’s a client-side, such as the browser extension. The other side is a smart contract which is deployed on-chain, which represents your account on-chain.
This helps to open up a full design space of what can be done with accounts with smart contracts based wallets in order to improve the user experience. Putting in power and even beyond what the user is presently used to from traditional financial solutions by centralised solutions.
The problem with Seed phrases [32:00]
Seed phrases are an extremely poor form of security for average users.
First, it’s widely agreed that plain text passwords not only get lost but also get hacked easily through phishing and social engineering. Adding to that, most users loose their seed phrases without a way to reproduce them, leaving billions of dollars in crypto that’s either stolen or lost.
One of our goals at Braavos is to make the complete experience of handling your assets much smoother and more convenient. At its core, it’s how to make securing your account easy, and intuitive, not having to rely on seed phrases or plain text passwords but go much more into the kind of behaviour that users are used to from the web2 solutions. This is a journey and not something that will happen in one day, but with Braavos you’ll start seeing the first steps towards this journey in the very near future.
We’ll add multi-factor authentication and account segmentation that can limit the amount spent that you can do from certain types of accounts, allowing delays to certain types of transactions and allowing you to revert them. At the end of the road, we plan to get rid of the seed phrase without compromising account security, decentralisation or the self custodial nature of the solution. Ensuring you are still fully in control of your funds.
Why Starknet? [35:50]
The basic thing is the core technology. If you listen carefully to the leaders of other chains, whether it’s other zk rollups or even other optimistic rollups, they will all converge eventually to Starks. This technology has been very good for years now, so this isn’t an experimental technology that might or might not work. Starkware, the company behind Starknet has another product called StarkEx, which is based on stark proofs, and it’s already being used on dedicated applications such as DyDx.
These proofs have already validated billions of dollars of user funds. We’re talking about a battle tested technology. While there’s still a lot of work being done to make Starknet faster, cheaper and add some more features etc. The core technology already has proof that it works and it’s future safe. Thus these being the key elements to decide to build on Starknet.
On Starknet community. [38:20]
Not only is the Starknet community one of the most supportive, the level of development in the community is rapid! When we first started, there were a handful of teams, and today we see a significant number of people & projects that are constantly joining the space, as well as the libraries that are being available for developers to write are the things that have helped make things a reality. The community is a really strong factor for Starknet.
On Cairo? [39:30]
I used to say Cairo is like dark chocolate and beer, it’s an acquired taste. You don’t like it at first, but it grows on you. I think the language itself has evolved rapidly in the past 12 months and what we are going to see with Cairo 1.0, it’s going to be a significant, out-of-magnitude kind of improvement for the language itself, so it’ll be much easier to develop, test, validate and deploy. The tooling around Cairo is getting mature, and I encourage anyone who is considering trying it, to definitely give it a try.
On challenges building Braavos [41:30]
We actually like challenges, especially as we enter uncharted territories. I refer to the past few months for Braavos as the bread and butter period. You may ask why? The reason is we’re catering the basics. We released the wallet extension across many web browsers as well as releasing a mobile app on iOS and Android, which is the only way to access starkest today from a native mobile application.
We’re trying to extract most of the value of a smart contract based wallet. Not only are we ensuring cutting-edge technology but also trying to provide the right user experience to bring this technology to life. It’s definitely a challenge that we’re happy to take on.
On Securing Braavos[46:00]
Our goal is to cater for every user with every set of behaviour. Our assumption is that users can make mistakes, and that’s okay. The wallet needs to be there to protect the user and alert them from making mistakes. The wallet needs to make sure that the mistakes are prevented completely or at least minimised.
So in terms of security, this is our state of mind. On the technical side of things, I think it’s crucial to understand Cairo virtual machine and how it works. One should be very mindful of how they write the contracts and also audit your smart contract, preferably with more than one auditor. I think if you combine internal security experts with external security experts and ensure that the wallet tries to protect users from making a mistake, that for us, is the right approach.
About Hashstack: A money-market protocol that provides on-chain loans upto 300% your collateral for personal & trading capital needs
About Braavos: A self-custodial, StarkNet wallet in your Browser purposed to meet all your web3 needs.