It’s about to be easier than ever to take risky bets using ethereum-based financial products, thanks to the crypto wallet startup Argent.
Paradigm, spearheaded by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, just led Argent’s $12 million Series A, along with Compound founder Robert Leshner and Index Ventures. The London-based wallet startup has now raised $16 million since it was founded in December 2017.
“I don’t know what the revenue model will be, but we know it’s going to attract a lot of users.” Leshner said of Argent. “They are creating one of the smoothest on-ramps to DeFi [decentralized finance] products.”
Leshner said he was attracted to the investment opportunity because the startup offers a unique combination of “smart contract architecture” and a “convenient user experience.” Plus, the crypto wallet has social recovery features so users can get their accounts back if they lose phones.
Argent Chief Executive Itamar Lesuisse said there are more than 3,000 active user accounts already during the six-month closed beta, and more than 1,000 people on the waiting list for the public launch in April. He said so far more than half of them use DeFi products, like loans and interest-bearing deposits.
“DeFi was the reason to come to Argent,” Lessuisse described the user feedback as being.
Users can now take out a crypto-backed loan, for example, with just a few clicks of a button. These DeFi products involve technical risks, he added, related to “bugs inside the smart contracts.” But he said the DeFi companies, not the wallet itself, are the ones responsible for disclosures related to specific products.
One such provider, the Maker Foundation, said in a press statement it’s “very supportive of Argent’s work to make it more easy, more secure and more convenient for more people to participate in DeFi.”
Paradigm partner Matt Huang said his firm was attracted to Argent because it “strikes a nice balance between security and usability.”
Lesuisse said his 17-person startup’s mobile wallet is “as simple as Venmo,” and will expand its DeFi product options this year.
The mobile wallet is indeed designed for simplicity. It allows users to purchase crypto with their debit cards or Apple Pay accounts, through partnerships with Wyre and MoonPay. Yet, critics like blockchain consultant Udi Wertheimer say once funds from the wallet are plugged into the DeFi ecosystem, then Maker or Compound manage funds and the funds can be taken away from users at any point.
This wallet has a unique identifier associated with the phone and a back-up recovery method set up with either Argent or the user’s friend or relative, which is unique compared to similar mobile wallets with private keys. However, the DeFi loans and contracts taken with the wallet are still arguably under the realm of various providers such as Compound. Last month, the DeFi project bZx, which isn’t accessible through Argent, was hacked through a smart contract vulnerability that led to a loss of just under $1 million.
“Although we make the experience simple, these are still complex financial products,” Lesuisse said of DeFi.
Argent is not currently focused on monetization. Instead, it receives some small fees from DeFi providers like the Kyber exchange. So far, Lesuisse said, the average user has roughly $2,000 in their Argent wallet.
“It’s an easy way for consumers to interact with DeFi. Argent can’t prevent some of the risks that might occur in the DeFi space overall,” Huang said, acknowledging the risks associated with smart contract bugs. “As a user, you’re still exposed to and should be comfortable with the actions you take.”