By Jon Matonis
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
backing startup Armory Technologies, Inc. The $600,000 seed round investment will go mostly towards funding and expanding development.
Interestingly, this placement brings into focus a much larger issue: the monetization of bitcoin wallets.
It’s no mistake that Armory
founder and CEO Alan Reiner told CoinDesk: “This first 12 months is
more about developing a quality product than it is figuring out how to
monetize it.” An effective wallet monetization strategy doesn’t exist
Even lead investor Trace Mayer agrees. Wallets being in dire
need of improvement is “actually very problematic and a tragedy of the
commons problem which I fear will likely only get worse because it is so
difficult to monetize wallets,” he wrote. Mayer also said: “There is no immediate plan for how to monetize Armory.”
wallet development may get funded, but revenue and profitability are
different issues. Here is how I see this market playing out.
It may be comforting to wallet investors that open source Mozilla Firefox has 18.29% worldwide market share of the free browser market, but receives $300 million per year from a Google search deal. Similarly, eyeballs from bitcoin wallets could steer exchange choices but that’s in the long term.
is an open source bitcoin wallet with a strong reputation for security
and it is considered a ‘thick client’, meaning that downloading the
entire block chain is required to verify transactions.
For low overhead and faster mobile applications, future releases will support a spectrum of block chain access options and the desktop-to-mobile interaction will be important.
as with web browsers, the client front-end (or wallet) is part of a
grander play in the space. With the online wallets of traditional
payment methods, the grander play for transactional and value-add
revenue is currently being executed by the technology giants, telecoms,
But what’s the main driver for bitcoin wallets and payments, especially given that tech brands like Apple may actively be blocking certain bitcoin features for their own strategic benefit?
answer lies with the bitcoin service providers. Today’s hosted wallet
services, merchant processors, and integrated exchanges offer the best
near-term choice for wallet monetization, but it will most likely
involve a third party and a mobile app.
Bitcoin exchanges already
experience a good portion of their customer base using the exchange as
an online wallet of sorts. As the bitcoin economy matures, service
providers will be searching for unique differentiators to gain a
Either the service providers evolve into
turbo-charged, sophisticated wallets or the bitcoin wallets themselves
emerge as premier service providers as seen with the Send Shared mixing service from Blockchain’s My Wallet.
it’s a convergence either way, the future of wallets probably includes a
combination of both approaches. Armory’s management team has a tabula rasa
business model in front of them now and they will no doubt be presented
with several promising opportunities to build or partner. So let’s
focus instead on the evolution of the third-party service providers
becoming sophisticated wallets.
For corporate security reasons,
there’s probably a place for desktop wallets in the future, but the
majority of innovation will be in the web-based and mobile wallets.
Hybrid wallets, where the user maintains the private keys, and hierarchical deterministic (HD) wallets offer two of the most promising areas for development.
To see where all of this is headed, just look at the feature set of the Blockchain Android App for My Wallet and that doesn’t even include P2SH and split key support.
for example. The company operates a hosted bitcoin wallet with two-way
exchange capabilities and it smartly realizes that consumers are also
merchants, and vice versa.
A Coinbase-Armory mobile wallet app
could broaden out the Coinbase offering by allowing customers more
direct control over their coins using different hosted wallet scenarios.
Their primary downside right now is that they only provide a domestic
exchange service for the US.
LocalBitcoins is a decentralized approach to trading bitcoin because it matches buyers and sellers in various local regions for trade clearing and settlement.
maintaining bitcoin balances on the LocalBitcoins wallet is the
preferred way to operate. With greater functionality, the site could
easily evolve into a primary hosted wallet service in its own right. The
company is already offering support for multi-currency and has a global
Not wanting to get left behind, exchanges like Mt. Gox
and Bitstamp could see themselves adding robust and mobile wallet
features that are quite separate from the exchange business.
In addition to exchanges expanding into the wallet space, the merchant processing operators like BitPay and BIPS both benefit from increased functionality at the wallet level.
more bitcoin balances are kept by the merchants rather than exchanged
out to national currencies, the merchant processors start to resemble a
hosted wallet because the exchange services become less important. The
online secure access and management reporting capabilities of the wallet
become the wedge for competitive differentiation.
outside of the bitcoin ecosystem, it’s easy to imagine commercial banks
and portfolio managers offering specialized bitcoin custodial services
to their client base, including branded hardware wallets. When the online casino world
goes full bitcoin, the wallet integration issues will be front and
center. All present excellent revenue opportunities for leading wallet
vendors, not excluding transaction-based revenue.
As new companies and new business initiatives enter the bitcoin market, they will look to the well-known wallets.
wallet leaders with reputable brands and diverse offerings will be able
to leverage that into a service-oriented model. With integration,
maintenance, and even hosting potential, the superior bitcoin wallets
like Armory have a bright future.