Two Big Crypto Startups Are Out to Build One Universal Wallet

The two startups are offering developers $50,000 to build a wallet that would support almost any token, even those that haven’t been created yet.

AccessTimeIconApr 25, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:52 a.m. UTC

If the future is to bring an endless variety of cryptocurrencies and tokens, the world will need a wallet that can hold them all.

Now, two of the most prominent startups in the sector are teaming up to entice developers to build just that. Announced Wednesday, decentralized internet startup Blockstack (through its venture capital fund, the Blockstack Signature Fund) and exchange platform ShapeShift are jointly offering a $50,000 bounty to the team or developer that makes the best open-source "universal" crypto wallet.

Contestants need to use Blockstack’s authentication, storage and encryption technology combined with ShapeShift’s API for token exchange. The goal is to build a wallet that supports almost any native token, even tokens that haven’t been created yet, before the deadline on June 29.

Xan Ditkoff, a growth partner at Blockstack and producer at Blockstack's Signature Fund, explained:

“We're super early in this space. There are undoubtedly winners that have yet to even appear yet. It’s important that a wallet can support digital assets that have yet to be created."

Most cryptocurrency wallets only support at most a handful of tokens, forcing enthusiasts to juggle multiple wallets and sometimes keep their tokens on custodial platforms like exchanges.

The Jaxx wallet added ShapeShift support in 2016, although that wallet provider is known to have some security vulnerabilities. Plus, it can’t support all tokens the way this upcoming wallet aims to.

Hedging bets

Notably, the partnership says much about the changing demands of crypto consumers, as it grew out of Blockstack's concern that not supporting certain coins could cost developer interest.

"You shouldn't be deterred from building on Blockstack just because your community's atomic unit of use, or wealth, or whatever, your token, isn't represented on our platform," Ditkoff told CoinDesk.

"As soon as we came up with that idea, ShapeShift was an obvious partner. They've probably done the most of any project ... for users to hold, exchange and add new tokens," he continue.

The partnership also is good for ShapeShift's bottom line, since the platform will earn revenue whenever wallet users convert their tokens through the API.

"Much like you don't have a website that serves all of the needs of an individual, you won't have a single wallet or decentralized application that serves all of the needs of an individual as well," a ShapeShift spokesperson said.

More broadly, in Ditkoff's view, sometimes cryptocurrency tribalism can create familiar silos centered around specific tokens. But cooperation between teams often produces more innovative results than niche experiments, he said.

Submissions won’t only be judged based on the quality of the code. Judges will also consider how easy the wallet’s code is to audit and use.

“We’d love to see other developers use this going forward,” Ditkoff said, concluding:

“This space, in general, is going to succeed, or it’s not. It’s not going to be a winner take-all-type thing.”

Crypto wallet image via Shutterstock


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