My chat with Will O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of BITGO
ERIC: What is BitGo? What exactly does BitGo do?
WILL: BitGo provides a secure enterprise solution for companies, institutions and investors seeking to safely store and transact in bitcoin. BitGo Enterprise allows businesses to enjoy the speed, flexibility and cost benefits of Bitcoin while also relying on bank-grade security and reliability.
BitGo pioneered multi-sig technology in 2013 and currently offers the world’s most secure online Bitcoin wallet. BitGo Enterprise™ (bitgo.com/enterprise) is the first multi-sig, multi-user solution for corporations and financial institutions to manage their Bitcoin holdings with institutional-grade security. We also enable exchanges, marketplaces, and e-commerce players transact safely and securely using Bitcoin.
ERIC: What makes BitGo so unique compared to many bitcoin startups our there? What’s your advantage over your closest competitor?
WILL: Standard bitcoin wallets are secured using one private key, creating the single point of attack that led to many of the well-publicized security breaches in recent years. BitGo developed a “2-of-3 key” multi-signature wallet in which three keys are issued, and any two are required to sign a transaction – the digital equivalent of a bank safe deposit box.
BitGo has developed and promoted standards for bitcoin security, including BIP16 (P2SH) and BIP32 (hierarchical deterministic wallets), which together enable both financial privacy and the highest standards for security.
ERIC: Who are team members now at this stage? How did the team form or meet ?
WILL: BitGo’s co-founders include myself, CTO Mike Belshe and CPO Ben Davenport. Each is a seasoned technology entrepreneur with deep expertise in bringing innovative and disruptive businesses to market. I have degrees from Harvard University and MIT Sloan and has built businesses in the consumer, payments, financial technology, and publishing industries.
Mike Belshe is a veteran technologist who invented the multi-signature protocols used at BitGo. Prior to BitGo, Mike worked at Google on the founding team of Google Chrome, was the co-inventor and driving force behind SPDY (which has now become HTTP/2.0), and co-founded Lookout Software, an email search company acquired by Microsoft.
Ben Davenport is a technology entrepreneur and investor who has been deeply involved with Bitcoin since mid-2011. Prior to BitGo, Ben co-founded Beluga, which was sold to Facebook in 2011 and became Facebook Messenger. Prior to Beluga, Ben worked in engineering at Google and Microsoft, and spent several years doing algorithmic trading at high-frequency firm Hudson River Trading.
Mike, Ben and I believe that Bitcoin is one of the most powerful transformational technologies that has ever been created and are passionate about seeing Bitcoin fulfill its promises to change the world.
ERIC: What hope to accomplish with BitGo, short and long term goals?
WILL: BitGo’s mission is to secure the world’s Bitcoin. So far BitGo has deployed its multi-sig security platform in the form of an enterprise suite. You can expect us to continue expand our platform to empower businesses – from exchanges to remittance to marketplaces – operating in Bitcoin and hopefully accelerate the commercial adoption of Bitcoin.
Ultimately, we want every business that operates in Bitcoin to be “Secured with BitGo.” In 1994, it was not safe to enter your credit card number on a website, until companies like Versign made the Internet secure for commercial transactions. We plan to do the same for Bitcoin through our security-as-a-service platform, the products we build on the platform, and the products we enable other companies to build.
ERIC: Tell us about your products and services?
WILL: Typical Bitcoin wallets have a single private key, making Bitcoin holdings susceptible to theft and loss. BitGo’s multi-signature technology issues three keys for your wallet, two of which are required to transact in Bitcoin. BitGo holds one key, you control a second key, and a third key is stored offline as a backup. If a single key is compromised, your Bitcoin can’t be stolen. This makes our wallet virtually hack proof.
BitGo’s multi-sig based platform also allows businesses to use Bitcoin in the same way they use traditional bank software. By using BitGo Enterprise, businesses will be able to set spending limits and other corporate treasury policies on holdings, and require approvals by more than one person for larger transactions. BitGo Enterprise acts as a security layer on the account without BitGo ever having control over the funds or retaining access to more than one key.
ERIC : Tell us about some difficulties or headache moments you had with BitGo?
WILL: We want the world to adopt multi-sig to make Bitcoin safer for all. Read Will O’Brien’s essay about ending the cold storage ice age: https://medium.com/@
ERIC: Tell us some of your moments of happiness and joy with BitGo
WILL: We have an amazing team, we are passionate about the industry, and serving our customers is very rewarding.
ERIC: Does BitGo have a website & mobile app?
WILL: www.bitgo.com. We will eventually also release a mobile application.
ERIC: What are BitGo’s thoughts on bit license and possible more government regulations for crypto- currencies?
WILL: There is room for improvement in the BitLicense as it was originally proposed. BitGo is concerned that BitLicense will impose an unnecessary burden on entrepreneurs working to create new businesses in Bitcoin, or they may have to exclude New York customers from using their services.
ERIC: How do you feel about IBM and Samsung teaming up and creating their own blockchain?
WILL: No comment.
WILL: During his State of Bitcoin address in May of this year, Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen proclaimed, “This is the year of the multi-signature wallet.” We all know security is a fundamental threat to bitcoin, yet nearly five months later, many of the largest players in the ecosystem are still not using multi-sig. Today, less than 1% of all bitcoins are stored in P2SH addresses, the underlying technology that is used in multi-sig. That needs to change.
Several wallet providers are starting to roll out basic multi-sig offerings and we applaud those efforts while encouraging more companies to adopt the standards BitGo is pioneering, both in terms of financial privacy and safe storage.
Bitcoin will need both security and mobility to thrive. We believe it’s time we come together as an industry to end the cold storage ice age and adopt multi-sig.