As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, DCC interviewed thought leaders who will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in San Diego on December 14-16, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Brian Nelson, the Co-Founder and CEO of Sig3.
Tell us about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
In 2011 I was working for a guy named Mike Caldwell. Mike was supposed to be working on upgrades to the software he developed for his company, but instead came to the office preaching Bitcoin every day. At the time I couldn’t understand what the appeal was so I wasn’t about to wire money to a random company called “Mt. Gox” in Japan to buy the digital currency. I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of waiting up to two weeks to receive my USD after selling bitcoin so I didn’t get involved. Mike ended up becoming a legend in the ecosystem after creating the Casascius Physical Bitcoins, the first physical bitcoins while I moved on to do other work. By 2013 I had left Mike’s company and was working as a surety bond broker in the money transmitter space. It was in March of 2013 when FINCEN announced that Bitcoin administrators and exchangers were money transmitters. I knew right away that my knowledge of Bitcoin and experience in the money transmitter industry could be leveraged to provide value to the ecosystem. After attending the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose with Mike as my traveling partner I began working with companies seeking state money transmitter licenses and was the first broker to write surety bonds for bitcoin exchanges. Although I enjoyed working in that capacity, I felt like there were other opportunities I wanted to investigate within the ecosystem and left the surety bond business earlier this year to co-found Sig3. I should also mention that I lived in the Dominican Republic for two years in my early twenties where I experienced issues with money remittances and saw extreme poverty. It wasn’t hard to see how Bitcoin could address both.
What led to the genesis of Sig3? What makes Sig3 unique?
Sig3 was born from the idea that multisig should be accessible to all users. Only the most sophisticated users were implementing multisig security and only with wallets that held large balances of bitcoin. My team and I decided to create a product that would make using multisig technology simple and accessible to users of all levels. We should be able to transact with bitcoin as if we’re using a single key wallet, but with multisig security. We’re really at the intersection of security and usability.
Sig3 is unique because we are completely independent of the wallet. We are a 3rd party add-on to multisig wallets so there is never a single point of failure. Another thing that sets us apart is that we have security controls built-in that makes it impossible for Sig3 to join a multisig wallet where a signature from Sig3 is required for a transaction to be processed. For example, we won’t join n-of-n or 1-of-m wallets. Sig3 is also unique because of our focus on providing a consumer facing product. Other companies that are working on this type of product are focused on B2B applications, which is a great tactic, but we believe bitcoin will be used for day-to-day transactions where users will benefit from our service.
What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?
I’m excited about remittances and closed-loop digital currency economies. The ability for an immigrant worker in the US to remit funds back to their family in Tonga where their family members could transact with those funds digitally without “cashing out” is an example of what I’m talking about. In this scenario, users will need hot wallets that are easy to use and have the security necessary to ensure they don’t lose their funds or get them stolen by hackers. Sig3 could play a major role in making this a reality.
In regards to blockchain technology outside of the digital currency and financial applications, I’m most interested in reputation systems, voting applications and global educational platforms. There are many use cases where blockchain technology could be beneficial, but I’m most excited about applications that carry the promise of solving the world’s greatest challenges.
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry?
We’re still in the early days of this fantastic experiment. As we get deeper and deeper into the technology and begin testing more and more use cases for bitcoin and blockchain technology we’ll inevitably find solutions to the challenges we’re faced with. With that being said, I understand there will be challenges that seem impossible to overcome, but at this point I’m not convinced there are any challenges that will stop this movement towards decentralization. We have some of the brightest minds in the world working in this industry so I think we’ll always find solutions. I just hope that more people will focus on solving the human side of the challenges we’re facing. Software is great, but we need individual people to feel more empowered so they are prepared to take on the responsibilities of being their own bank, managing their own medical records and controlling their own reputations, which are being made possible thanks to blockchain technology.
What’s on the horizon for you and Sig3 in 2016?
Currently Sig3 is integrated with the Copay wallet. We’ve been pleased with the response from our users and the ecosystem, but we have a much larger goal of becoming the go-to multisig service for consumers no matter what type of transaction they’re involved in. We are in the middle of developing our API as well as integrating with Coinkite and Electrum. I anticipate the release of additional integrations with Bitcoin 2.0 applications in 2016.