EXCLUSIVE: Nicolas Bacca: "Nobody imagined that Ledger would reach this size".

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EXCLUSIVE: Nicolas Bacca: "Nobody imagined that Ledger would reach this size".

A key figure in the crypto ecosystem, Nicolas Bacca has just left Ledger, which he co-founded in 2014. In an interview with The Big Whale, he looks back at his role at the French nugget, his vision of the cryptocurrency market and, of course, his new projects.

A figure of the crypto ecosystem, Nicolas Bacca has just left Ledger, which he co-founded in 2014. In an interview with The Big Whale, he looks back at his role in the French nugget, his vision of the cryptocurrency market and, of course, his new projects.

The Big Whale: You've just left Ledger which you co-founded almost 10 years ago. Why?

Nicolas Bacca: I think I've reached the end of the adventure. Obviously it feels strange, especially as a co-founder, but I think a smaller structure will suit me better.

When things get too big, I feel less comfortable. I'd like things to move faster, but that's not possible with companies of this size. I think a lot of co-founders who have seen their companies grow feel the same way.

Some say your departure is linked to a strategic disagreement. Is this the case?

I have other projects that require a very small and independent team.

Before talking about these new projects, what do you remember from all those years at Ledger?

That it was incredible. Starting an adventure with three people and managing to create a company of 600 people capable of supplying more than 6 million digital wallets around the world is really something special.

Humanly, it was very rewarding because crypto touches on so many areas. It allowed me to meet people from very different professional backgrounds.

What are you most proud of?

It's hard to answer, but I think it's still making smart card technology usable for the general public. For a long time, this technology remained one of the best kept industrial secrets by governments and banks. In the end, we managed to breathe new life into a technology that hadn't evolved much since the 1980s.

With hindsight, what could you have done better?

I think we could certainly have done more in terms of decentralisation. I'm aware that the more a company grows, the harder it is to decentralise things, because centralisation seems more efficient, but nevertheless I think Ledger can be more decentralised.

When you talk about decentralisation, are you referring to the governance of the company?

No, I'm thinking more about the way we've developed our products and our company. I think that we should have created more independent branches that only come together when necessary.

What got in the way?

Introducing more decentralisation is not always easy to defend, especially with investors. And it's even more complicated when market conditions are not favourable. You have to get results, and in those cases the temptation is to centralise everything.

You are the last co-founder to leave. What does that say about Ledger's history?

At the time, we got together to create a company. No one could have known what Ledger would become, but I think we're all happy with what we've done.

Actually, what are you going to do now? What are your new projects?

I'm obviously still in crypto, that's what I love, and my new project is right in line with what I've always wanted to do, which is to enable people to access cryptos and Web3 as easily as possible.

We're going to start with a team of 5 people with very different profiles. The idea is to create Web3 tools for users of what some call Web2, in other words the Internet we all use today.

One of the barriers to adoption is private key management. This is one of the reasons why many novices are still reluctant to buy a wallet like a Nano (Ledger's flagship product, editor's note). We're going to offer a wallet that can be accessed from a website using conventional authentication, so that the user doesn't have to manage the private keys.

In practical terms, how is this going to work for the people who use your services?

This will be a service that we're going to offer to businesses. The companies we'll be targeting first will be brands that want to offer NFTs.

The wallet will be fully integrated into the website so as not to change the user experience. The aim is that they won't even notice that there's blockchain behind it.

The other interesting point is that even if they change website, the user will be able to access the same wallet.

But who will manage the private keys?

They will still belong to the user, but they won't have to bother with managing them. On the other hand, if you lose your access codes, it will always be possible to recover them by logging into your Google or Apple account, for example.

What you are proposing is quite the opposite of the philosophy of self-custody...

The question is where to put the cursor to democratise crypto as much as possible. I'm still a very fervent supporter of self-custody, but I'm also a pragmatist.

Our solution is aimed at those who aren't comfortable with the idea of managing private keys themselves. Furthermore, I am also interested in ZKPs that will enable in the future...

Will you accept all blockchains?

I want to be agnostic, so as long as the blockchain can execute smart contracts, we'll accept it.

You mentioned wanting to start with 5 people "with very different profiles". Who will they be?

In the first instance, I'll need someone to develop the web user experience. I'm also looking for a cryptographer who can work on-chain, a skill subtly akin to embedded cryptography. I'm also looking for someone with contract optimisation skills. And obviously someone who is more commercial than me! (laughs)

Are you planning to raise funds?

I haven't decided yet.

You are one of the pioneers of the crypto ecosystem. What are the main changes you have observed since 2011?

Today, I think cryptos have proved that they are fulfilling their mission, which is to be a financial resource that crosses borders.

Today, we see that people in countries hit by inflation are protecting themselves by investing in cryptos and particularly in stablecoins. Before, to protect themselves from inflation, it was often necessary to physically go through the black market. Today, this is possible directly via the Internet.

The other point that is rarely mentioned is the non-financial aspect. The technological development of cryptos has enabled major advances in terms of cryptography for authentication and pseudonymity on the Internet.

And if you had to remember just one thing?

It's difficult, but I would say the adoption by traditional finance. Honestly, I thought for a long time that crypto would remain a geeky affair. I had no idea that traditional institutions would be so interested. Today, we even have the biggest asset manager on the planet, BlackRock, which wants to offer a bitcoin ETF.

What is missing from the ecosystem to further encourage adoption?

Beyond the user experience, the ecosystem generally lacks a security culture, as evidenced by the numerous hacks that many decentralised finance players regularly fall victim to.

It also lacks standardised processes for mapping risks with clear roadmaps to mark out the development of a project. More simulation tools are needed. This situation can also be explained by the youth of the entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. But at the same time, that's also the beauty of crypto that you can still launch your project even when you're very young!

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