Brandom Millman (Phantom): The Future of Crypto Wallets
Brandon's journey to web3 and what's next for crypto wallets
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In our interview, Brandon covers:
How Phantom grew to 3M+ users in just six months
What the future of crypto wallets looks like
You can read my notes below or listen to the conversation here:
Can you share your web3 journey and what led you to start Phantom?
I started my web3 journey in 2017. I was working at Twitter and became disillusioned with the typical web2 growth loops (A/B tests, time spent, etc).
Wallets are very powerful. Wallets are often people’s first experience with crypto. A great wallet can 100x how many people we onboard to this space.
Multichain is the new reality. Just a few years ago, it was hard to imagine using any non-Ethereum chain to build apps. But as Ethereum became more slow and expensive, alternatives like Solana became more viable.
We decided to build Phantom as the best-in-class crypto wallet for Solana.
Phantom scaled to 3 million users in just six months. What drove this growth?
It’s been a crazy ride for sure! There have been three drivers:
NFTs brought a new user segment vs. people who were into DeFi. DeFi users are more technical while NFT users are more casual. As NFTs took off, so did our wallet.
Solana grew like a rocket in 2021. Phantom became the wallet of choice for that the Solana community was proud to use and share.
We shipped Phantom for mobile. We shipped on iOS in January and just entered Android beta. NFT users are more likely to use mobile.
Phantom is a wallet known for its great user experience. Did you have any core principles while building the product?
Yes, we have a few product principles:
Polish matters. We’re a design-led company that takes time to craft polished products. When Phantom launched, its polish surprised many crypto people.
Consumer focus. Previous wallets were developer-centric because crypto was very much built by developers for developers from 2017 to 2020. Our focus is on consumers. We want to onboard the next 1B people to web3.
It’s not just about the product. Onboarding more people to web3 also requires a great brand voice and customer support.
How do you stay connected to your customers?
As you know, web3 people are very vocal. The go-to customer support channel in crypto has been to throw everyone into a Discord and hope it works out.
We spent the last six months building a better support process:
We use Zendesk, and all support requests come in as tickets
We tag tickets by category
We respond to tickets to close the loop on our user requests
I thought the state of the art for support was Metamask Google forms? (kidding)
Future of crypto wallets
How can wallets provide a better web3 onramp for the next 1B users?
There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to address in the short term. For example:
Moving tokens from an exchange is painful. I think this process will become the past. People will buy crypto directly from a wallet using their credit card.
Many people don’t know how to secure their secret phrase. They take a picture of it on their phone or send it to themselves through an unencrypted channel. We need to educate users better (e.g., 1Password integration). There might also be a way to eliminate the secret phrase altogether.
We both used to work at Twitter, and it’s still the platform of choice for web3 people to follow and connect with each other. Do you think wallets can build a separate web3 social layer?
People have been trying to create a web3 social layer for a while now.
Twitter has been serving this need well and is starting to lean into crypto features like NFT profiles. So far, I haven’t seen a lot of issues around web3 censorship and de-platforming on Twitter.
That being said, I think there’s a big opportunity for wallets to own this space moving forward. Wallets are the identity layer for web3 after all.
Yeah, I think a web3 social layer would have to be an order of magnitude better than what Twitter is doing.
I think you’re right. It has to be a step function improvement to dislodge people from the network effects of web2 social networks. It’ll be interesting to see how this space evolves.
Today, most people get a wallet to buy an NFT or use a dapp. Now that you have 3M people using Phantom, can wallets drive discovery of NFTs and dapps instead?
A user’s journey into crypto starts with basic onboarding and ends with discovering and using different dapps. Wallets play a central role in this journey.
The fact is, dapp discovery is scattered across random Twitter threads and other channels. I can definitely see a world where wallets recommend dapps instead.
What are some other ways to onboard the masses to web3?
It’s still very early. Metamask’s 30M users and Phantom’s 3M is extremely small compared to the hundreds of millions that use web2 social apps and games.
I think we need to build new use cases in web3 beyond DeFi and NFTs.
Two that I’m excited about:
Payments. With mobile-friendly wallets and chains with faster and cheaper transactions, I can see web3 payments taking off.
Gaming. There are already many great teams working on web3 games. Games take longer to build but could have a huge impact if one takes off like Fortnite.
It’s funny you mention payments because the original Bitcoin whitepaper was all about peer-to-peer cash. Why hasn’t this vision become a reality?
I think consumers are ready for peer-to-peer cash using crypto, but a big missing piece is merchant acceptance. Retail and mom-and-pop shops simply don’t have the infra (e.g., point of sale) to accept and manage crypto right now.
What are some ways for beginners to start exploring Solana?
Where’s Phantom going next?
We’re investing in a few areas:
Improve performance. We want to make sure our wallet works with different phones, network speeds, and user types (e.g., people with many NFTs).
Try new use cases. We’re interested in more novel use cases like Solana Pay, social, and internationalization.
Expand to another chain. This will happen sometime this year.
How can people get involved in Phantom?
We’re hiring across the board - engineering, product, design, marketing/BD, growth, etc. Check out phantom.app/jobs or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t see a role that you want.
I’m glad that Phantom is building great consumer experiences in crypto. Thanks for your time Brendan!
Also, check out Odyssey’s Phantom company profile.