Pirate Beachbum

Bitcoin Editor at Large

Bitcoin Security Lockdown: Interview with Jeremy Welch Founder of Casa

Jeremy doing a presentation at Blockstack Berlin 2018

One of the most challenging aspects of owning Bitcoin is securing it so you do not lose it or get it stolen. There are no second chances in this game, and no one is perfect. One stupid move can result in catastrophe.

Over time some people have accumulated a lot of Bitcoin that has increased significantly in value over the years. Holding large amounts of Bitcoin on a hardware wallet in your home or office can be a scary proposition and opens you up to a host of potential liabilities.

I became interested in Casa shortly after they launched in 2017. They touted themselves as the “premium HODL software” offering multi-signature protection for your Bitcoin. This instantly caught my attention, and I have been watching them evolve ever since.

Casa offers Casa Premium their multi-sig bitcoin storage solution built around their “Casa Key Shield” designed to secure large amounts of Bitcoin. They also recently launched Casa Node which is a plug and play Lightning node that sold out as quickly as it launched.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into Casa and reached out to Jeremy Welch, the founder and CEO, to learn more about him and the products they are developing. Jeremy is a really interesting guy, and over the last few months between product launches we managed to put this interview together.

Online Identity:

Twitter: @jeremyrwelch on Twitter

RJ: (Real Job)

Founder + CEO at Casa, the best personal key system on the planet.

Years in the $BTC game:

inb4 HODL was a term

How might people know you?

Casa, the best personal key system on the planet.

Premium multisig today. Lightning Node. More soon :)

What is your background, education or formal training?

I worked in IT and programming gigs growing up, then studied Political Philosophy at Duke University. Dropped out my junior year, moved to NYC during the financial crisis to join a startup, and learned a ton about the Internet built on advertising. We sold that to Google, then I went back to Duke to finish up my degree.

When did you become interested in Bitcoin and crypto?

I’ve always been interested in philosophy and systems. I later came to learn the term cybernetics, for what I’m most interested in designing and thinking about.

So I always had an interest in currency systems and capitalism. After the financial crisis and my time at Google, I had a lot of questions about how the global capital system worked. So I went back to Duke to finish. I was mostly doing independent studies and spending time with grad students and professors, following my own course of inquiry. I found Bitcoin during that period.

What is the single best experience you have had in this space?

No single experience. The path and process is its own reward, both the challenges and the big wins.

Tell us your biggest Bitcoin or crypto fail.

Ha, no major fails here.

Well not buying more. But everyone says that.

Where do you personally get your Bitcoin or crypto news?

Crypto twitter of course.

I try to limit my news input generally, and read books over random news.

What do you do for fun when you are outside the Cryptosphere.

Writing, gym, films and family time. And music. Lots of music. I played in a metal band with a few of my friends from Google, our album is still floating around somewhere on the interwebs. I want to play in another band eventually.

Jameson Lopp’s site has a ton of great Bitcoin learning resources.

Best tips you can give anyone new to the Bitcoin world?

Be patient, plan for the long-term.

And read Lopp’s intro here:

https://lopp.net/bitcoin.html

Where are you guys based out of?

We’re based all over. East and west coast US, and now Europe too. I’m constantly on the road now to support clients and partners.

What motivated you to launch Casa?

Personal need + concern for friends and family. I’ve known people that were attacked. I also see many companies centralizing services and we can’t let that happen.

I see it as a failure if we’re in a centralized Bitcoin world.

But it’s also a failure if we end up in a decentralized Bitcoin world where you can’t walk down the street or talk to people for fear of getting attacked.

We’re solving that.

How did you come up with the name?

It evolved from an early version of the product that was an app on Blockstack.

While building that app we gained a clear view into the architecture and tradeoffs of the new Bitcoin based compute stack. We knew that nodes and key management were critical for this world, so we dropped the app and focused 100% on that.

And Home is a clear part of computing history, especially personal computing history.

So Casa as the next evolution of personal computing. Digital home. Safe. Legally and logically protected.

Explain to the non technical person what services Casa offers?

Casa is a wealth security company.

Our mission is “to Maximize Personal Sovereignty and Safety.”

Casa helps you protect your wealth (both money and data).

A peek into the Casa wallet.

What is key management and why do you believe you are better than anyone else at it?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies use cryptographic keys to manage access to funds.

So managing your money is a function of keeping track of your keys.

Companies like Square Cash manage these keys for you. But to have true control over your funds, it’s important to manage keys yourself.

Not your keys, not your Bitcoin.

Casa is the best personal key system on the planet because we give you protections and powers that no other key system can.

Multi-signature, multi-location, easy to use, with a 24/7 client service group backing the system. We can also handle inheritance better than anyone else.

How is your service better than existing hardware wallets or other cold storage options?

We use existing hardware wallets from Trezor and Ledger in our system. They’re great products and companies.

Casa goes one step beyond these systems by enabling our clients to sign with multiple devices instead of just one (this is multi-signature). That means that multiple signature are required to send a transaction. In our case, three keys of a total five keys are required.

Existing hardware wallets protect you from an array of online attacks, but they can expose you to physical in person attacks and even accidental loss.

Casa takes this one step farther, protecting you against physical attacks and accidental loss of keys. Further, we can also help clients with inheritance.

Very few cold storage options give you the same mix of usability with protection.

Jeremy spends a lot of his time on the road supporting customers and clients.

10k per subscription seems kind of steep. Why does it seem you are focusing on elites only?

$10,000 is not expensive if you need to secure $1mil+ in funds.

We’ve always been clear that we aren’t focusing on elites only.

We started with the wealthiest HODLers because they have the biggest need. They are the ones getting attacked the most.

But our goal has always been to take the new technology we build for our 3-of-5 clients and make it more widely accessible.

The Casa Lightning Node is a perfect example of that. We built the node initially for our premium level clients, but opened up purchase access to everyone.

We have more products launching this year that will make this easier to understand.

Do you feel like custody challenges stunt adoption for Bitcoin?

Definitely. All the work we’re doing will enable more people to adopt Bitcoin, and will enable new computing experiences to be built.

What other coins does your service support besides Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is the only thing supported with multi-sig.

We also have Ethereum support, but it’s single signature because existing Ethereum multisig options are not secure enough.

What are the risks of your service getting hacked or someone’s private keys being exposed?

Our service could get hacked, but the attackers won’t get much.

The strength of the Casa security model is in the 3-of-5 setup where Casa holds only one key. That means that Casa or anyone attacking Casa can NEVER gain access to client funds.

We have a few company principles, and one of them is “CAN’T BE EVIL.” I believe Muneeb at Blockstack was the originator of this term, and stands as a counter to Google’s “don’t be evil” principle (which Google has now abandoned.)

The important point from this principle is that we are always evaluating how to minimize the risks of dependence on Casa.

What if Casa believes their customer is under a wrench attack and is asking Casa to sign a transaction?

I can’t go into exact details, but we have a pretty extensive security procedure when evaluating a Casa signed transaction. That includes protocol for if clients are under duress.

(For those that don’t know, Casa holds one key out of five keys in the multisig setup so that we can help in emergencies).

What if a customer is legally declared mentally incompetent?

We haven’t encountered a client declared mentally incompetent yet, but we have the process in place to handle challenging legal scenarios like this.

Casa has inheritance protocols built into the system as well. The client and the executors of their will are in control here.

What if Casa goes under?

We’ve also built to mitigate this issue.

We already have a “Sovereign Recovery” feature that automatically sends out all required information to clients anytime they create a multisig KeyShield, so that they can recover funds without us.

Any of these recoveries will take much longer than using Casa tools, but the important point is that we design the system so that clients are always in full control.

What are your thoughts on Lightning network?

Promising.

We’re expecting to see a lot built off of Lightning network.

We recently released the Casa Lightning Node, which is the easiest way to run Lightning. We’re excited to support the network and give people easier access.

Jameson Lopp shows why he is the wrong Cypherpunk to mess with.

What is Jameson Lopp’s involvement with Casa?

Jameson is one of our lead engineers, heading up Infrastructure.

What is it like working with the bearded veteran cypherpunk?

Legendary. Everything you’d expect.

He’s mostly a normal guy, but he also has these flashes of something far into the future. I’ve really enjoyed learning and building with him.

Has he inspired you to grow a cypherpunk beard and is that a job requirement to work at Casa?

Yes. We all have ZZ Top beards

Any cool stuff on the horizon you care to discuss?

So much coming. Can’t reveal anything yet, but expect the Casa Node to do a lot more, and also look to see other price points and key schemes from Casa.

It’s going to be a very fun year.

What are you thoughts on other coins besides Bitcoin?

Wait, there are other coins besides Bitcoin?!?

What do you think of the various coin politics in the cryptosphere?

What coin politics !?! Everything seems civil and peaceful to me haha.

Do you think that the Bitcoin community is adequately civil, too civil, or not civil enough?

Civil in the grand scheme of things. One day wars will be fought over Bitcoin policy. Today’s community is peaceful in comparison.

Have you ever thought about giving up during this journey and what has stopped you?

Nope. Never.

The only way out is through.

Any tips for aspiring developers?

Take Jimmy Song’s course Programming Blockchain.

Don’t work for shitcoins.

Do the dirty work, earn your place.

What advice do you have for other founders out there?

None. I don’t like to give advice.

Every journey is unique. If the mission is important enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.

Zero to One

What books can you recommend to aspiring developers and founders?

Zero to One.

Zero to One.

Zero to One.

Sovereign Individual.

Founders at Work.

Hard thing about Hard Things

And Zero to One. It really is my top recommendation for startups.

Who are some people that inspire you?

Come find me at a conference and I’ll tell you.

Inspiration is personal. You shouldn’t be looking to who I find inspirational. And you also shouldn’t be finding inspiration in other people.

Find inspiration in yourself. Your ability to solve problems. Small problems first then bigger and bigger problems. Build off that. We’re all capable of far more than we realize.

What made you recently launch the Casa Lightning node?

We’ve always encouraged our clients to run their own full nodes. We looked at other products on the market, and also heard some interest in Lightning, so decided to put a full product together that is both a Bitcoin fullnode and Lightning node. Over time we hope to shift more and more Casa tools and functions to be used on the Casa Node.

Casa Lightning Node’s 3rd batch are back in stock.

Why do people need a Lightning Node?

For the same reason they should have a Bitcoin full node. To have full control over their finances and their future.

What has the response been like?

Amazing. Much bigger than we expected, and we’re thrilled with both sales and the broad community support. The team worked insanely hard to put this together, and everyone is excited by the strong demand. Makes all the hard work worthwhile when you have such amazing customers and clients!!

Will you be coming out with any other nodes?

Can’t say much on details now, but in short yes.

Will always be called Casa Node, but it is already built to be able to run OTHER chains. The first alpha version of the Casa Node was built in 2017 and we ran Blockstack, Bitcoin, Litecoin and others. So we already have the experience and code to run other chains, and are building the underlying architecture of this product Casa Node device to handle others in time.

Stay tuned…

Anyone you want to throw a shout out to

The Casa team!!

Literally the smartest, hardest working, best team on the planet. It’s an honor to work with every single person on our team. It’s the best part of the job, spending time learning from these amazing people.

Any last words?

Buy a Casa Lightning Node or

Apply for Casa Premium Multisig service!!
You can also now evaluate your personal security with our free Security Checklist product.

If you like this interview, check out some of my other articles and interviews Hackernoon/@piratebeachbum or find me on twitter @piratebeachbum or 
@coin_strategy or coinstrategy.io

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