A lot can happen in a year and a half.
The cryptocurrency market has been through a literal rollercoaster in terms of price, regulations, and overall development.
Exchanges imploded, multi-billion dollar ecosystems collapsed, regulators are stepping in now more than ever, banks are shutting down, and whatnot. And it almost seems as if time is flying.
In 2021, Crypto Potato attended Solana’s Breakpoint in Lisbon and had the chance to talk to Brandon Millman – the CEO of the largest self-custody wallet on Solana – Phantom. Fast forward some 15 months later, and we spoke to him again – this time during ETH Denver in 2023.
Why is a Solana-native wallet at ETH Denver? Phantom is currently in its multichain beta, adding both Ethereum and Polygon chains to its wallet experience. Brandon and his team, previous 0x engineers, are returned to the Ethereum community to debut Phantoms wallet.
Let’s dive in.
A Vortex of Ups and Downs: From 2021 to 2023
Q: So, the last time we talked during Breakpoint in Lisbon in 2021. It’s safe to say that the industry is nowhere near where it was back then. Let’s dive right into it – what has changed for you guys since then?
A: November 2021 saw the crypto market cap hit an all-time high. It was an amazing year for all of crypto. One thing that was very interesting was the NFT market on Solana really taking off in 2022. I think it started going in August 2021 and then switched to full gear in 2022.
Up until August or September 2022, there was a lot of NFT activity on Solana (pre-FTX scandal) – much of it by Magic Eden. Together with Phantom, this delivered an unrivaled NFT experience and helped contribute to substantial growth.
What we noticed was that Solana attracted a really different demographic than Ethereum. There was not much overlap – Solana had a much younger crowd, which was a perfect match for new NFT projects that were more affordable and attainable. Not to mention, this group of collectors was predominantly US-based.
Obviously, towards the end of the year, there was the FTX debacle. Due to FTX’s proximity to the Solana ecosystem, some projects were caught in the blast radius. At the same time, FTX caused a massive flight from centralized exchanges to non-custodial products. It was an interesting dichotomy where on one hand, Solana wasn’t doing so great, but we were getting a large influx of people fleeing from not only FTX but also other centralized exchanges – everyone was scared.
Q: Where did the FTX collapse catch you?
A: I was in Lisbon for Breakpoint 2022. It was such an amazing conference – so many developers and builders, and it was really packed with awesome stuff. The news broke when I was on the plane back.
At first, I didn’t understand it – there was a tweet from SBF about the strategic buyout from Binance, and I didn’t understand what I was reading – I thought, “oh, that’s crazy, Binance is buying FTX?” But then more news came out, and I started to worry about the entire industry. FTX was such a prominent public figure in mainstream crypto.
In general, I was glad that the US didn’t take a completely knee-jerk reaction in terms of regulation. I thought the government would try to start shutting all of our industry down immediately.
Solana’s Collapse and its Unexpected Surprises
Q: From one of the quickest-growing ecosystems, Solana crashed and burned in 2022 following the scandal with FTX. How has the community changed since then? What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed?
A: The Solana community has been really resilient. There’s a very strong, genuine core that’s very loyal and has stuck around. Developer activity continued to grow.
But in general, people remain loyal to Solana. There were a lot of competing layer-ones coming out, and some people left, but the majority of people stayed.
Venturing to Ethereum and Polygon: New Avenues for Phantom Wallet
Q: Have you considered adding support for other networks in the aftermath of the bear market?
A: Phantom currently has a multi-chain wallet extension and mobile app in beta with support for Solana, Ethereum, and Polygon – all under one app. It’s being used by 70K beta testers at the moment, and we are moving towards the goal of launching it publicly within the next month.
Once that’s out, Phantom will become the MetaMask replacement for Ethereum and Polygon. That’s the configuration we will be in when we launch, and we are always evaluating the other ecosystems and chains.
Q: What would be your advantage against MetaMask?
A: I would say we have three different core advantages.
Being a multichain-first wallet, users will be able to utilize Solana, Ethereum, and Polygon all at the same time without having to switch networks. They are connected to all of them at the same time and can see an aggregated view of all assets.
Phantom also excels at safety features. We spend a lot of time building features such as transaction simulation before you sign something, automated NFT spam filtering – like how email spam filters work, and many others.
Lastly, we make sure that our wallet has the best NFT features possible – the above security features and also selling NFTs directly from within the app, rich metadata about floor price, purchase price, and so forth.
When Phantom Wallet Token and What’s the Next Big Trend?
Q: How has the broader market decline impacted registrations altogether?
A: During these more bear market periods, the userbase does become quite zero-sum – it’s not a lot of new users, but it’s a lot of the same users from across ecosystems. We will be mainly focused on catering to existing users.
Q: We asked you this back in Lisbon, but I can’t not ask it again – when Phantom token?
A: We want to create longevity, and it’s not clear how a token fits into that. I think there’s more risk than reward with the token at the moment, so it’s not currently on our roadmap.
Q: Where will the big next trend come from?
A: One thing that’s been interesting is that a lot of trends almost always come out from nowhere. There are these very crypto-native ideas that get very popular. People are excited about Web3 gaming. I’m still waiting to see what’s going to happen there.
I could see more niche crypto games, maybe something with a token – that becomes very popular – something more experimental. That would be my guess.
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