Building the browser of a new decentralised economy – Micah Winkelspecht, Founder of Gem

Micah Winkelspecht - Gem

Hi Micah, Great to have you back on Chain Reaction.

Last time we interviewed you, around a year ago, Gem was very focused on healthcare but now you are building something new, can you tell us a bit about how your focus has shifted?

When I started Gem back in 2013 there were only really two cryptocurrency wallets. Some of the current wallets are now easier to use but still act more like a bank in terms of custody of users’ funds. With others you can control your own funds but the user interface is not always that easy to navigate. There always seemed to be a trade off between controlling your own money and also having a service that was user friendly and would empower individuals to use digital currencies like bitcoin more easily.

Currently users of cryptocurrencies end up with a variety of wallets due to some wallets offering certain features and not others. Will users be able to amalgamate wallets in the future so they only need to use a single wallet?

Our dream now is to create “one wallet to rule them all” so that users will have a single tool suitable for mainstream consumers to adopt and handle cryptocurrencies.

 As there are a number of wallet services and trackers out there, how will Gem’s product differ to what is already in the marketplace?

Gem is creating a universal wallet combined with a portfolio tracker with API connections to as many exchanges as possible. It will be a one-stop shop for managing your holdings – be they the more established cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, Ether or Litecoin as well as managing ERC20 tokens for those getting involved in token generation events. It will allow users to track their activity across the entire crypto experience and will integrate hardware wallets like Ledger and Trezor as well as existing software wallets. This is a product aimed at average consumers anywhere in the world who want to try using cryptocurrencies and making it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Handling cryptocurrencies is still a relatively tricky process. If we want more mainstream adoption, how do you see these user interfaces becoming more user-friendly?

The new wave of users will need a much smoother ramp and much more handholding. Currently 8% of Americans hold some kind of cryptocurrency but 40% are not convinced. We need to attract that sceptical segment of the market and show that using cryptocurrency is secure, is not hard to manage and can be open to everybody. Having this kind of one-stop shop experience and a very nice-looking and simple to use interface will make a big difference to how users view the process.

Will the wallet be available to users globally?

Currently 30% of Gem users are outside the USA. With our wallet we are currently still product focused. Our portfolio tracker is in beta and we are receiving great feedback but once we fully launch the product at the end of this year we will be looking to attract users from all over the world. First we need to build a really great product and then acquire and keep our customers. Success will be driven by user adoption at the individual level and I see that we have a huge opportunity to establish a bridge between the consumer and the crypto world as we create the browser of the new decentralised economy.

 The word ‘decentralisation’ gets bandied around a lot in blockchain circles, what does it mean to you?

Decentralisation as a concept is an antidote to lot of social and economic problems we have today which have arisen due to the centralisation of money, data and power. That could relate to dysfunctional governments, the banking and financial systems, or Internet centralisation. I see decentralisation as aligning stakeholders for the mutual benefit of everyone involved. In the future, I think we will begin to see more community coins in a digital universe allowing self-empowerment.

Last but not least, a fun question, I understand the team at Gem love unicorns – what’s your favourite unicorn-based item that you have at the office?

The unicorns are really fun but they are actually also a major point of differentiation for us in terms of how we see Gem as a company so they have a serious side too. Cryptocurrency as a concept and as a tool can be so hard to navigate and so off-putting. Something like the game Cryptokitties – a blockchain-based game where you can collect and trade cute digital cats – had an enormous impact on getting people to use Ethereum and making it fun. We want to bridge that gap by attracting the next wave of mainstream users of cryptocurrency who are non-technical. This element of a fun, accessible, popular thing like a unicorn shows how we want people to view cryptocurrency as something we can all use, enjoy and understand. But to answer your question, I’d have to say the Papertrophy unicorn head that was gifted to us by one of our Telegram members. It’s so unique as an art piece and even more special since it came from one of our users.

 You can find out more about Gem here or follow Micah on Twitter.

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