In this episode of the DAO Talks podcast, host Tim Delhaes sits down with Ivo Georgiev, the Co-Founder and CEO of Ambire, the visionary web3 company behind the revolutionary self-custodial smart contract wallet, Ambire Wallet. Ambire was launched in 2017 after a crowdfunding campaign that raised 40,000 ETH ($12 million) in under eight hours. Their aim is to make self-custody easy and secure for everyone.
During their conversation, Tim and Ivo discuss all things account abstraction. What exactly is it? Why does it benefit crypto natives as well as new web3 users? And what problems, that can be solved by account abstraction, haven’t been solved yet? Plus, the pair talk through the future of web3 wallets, what the multichain future has in store for us, and why I believes Bitcoin and Ethereum are here to stay.
Tim - 00:00:02: This is Tim Delhasse and you're listening to the DAO Talks Podcast. In each episode, you'll hear me talk to builders and makers of Web3. Together we'll be exploring our multi-chain future, share personal stories, and discuss how we're investing, experimenting, and failing with the startups that define the future. So join me on this journey of discovery as a chat with these leaders, change makers, and misfits about tech, life, the universe, and everything. Talking to Ivo, co-founder, CEO of Ambire, a smart contract wallet, leveraging account abstraction. We're going to be talking about what account abstraction does not only for like new users and Web3, but to so-called Crypto Natives. We're going to be talking about the multi-chain future, Bitcoin, Maximalism, Ethereum Maximalism, and what it all holds for us and the future of Web3 Wallets. Hey, Ivo! How are you? Good to have you on the show!
Ivo - 00:01:11: Hi, Tim. It's great to be on the show indeed.
Tim - 00:01:14: Where are you?
Ivo - 00:01:15: In Sofia, Bulgaria. All right.
Tim - 00:01:17: That's scheduling across time zones for you. I'm currently in Indonesia, as I mentioned. Ivo, obviously you are with your project with Empire, very deeply involved in what user experience does and can look like for end users. Account abstraction has been on everybody's mouse and everybody's ears for the last few weeks or so. I want to start there. What's the cool thing about account abstraction? Why should anyone care?
Ivo - 00:01:47: I would say that it's a fundamental shift in Web3 user experience. And all of us, whoever touched anything Web3, we know how much more difficult and convoluted it is than Web2. For example, let's say you want to use Uniswap with MetaMask, or let's say you're starting your user journey and you want to swap a token on Uniswap. You learn you need a wallet, then you install an extension, then you write down a seed phrase, which is completely foreign concept to you. It's really easy to mess up. Then you find out you don't have to eat for gas. Then you have to answer your own questions in terms of how do you get this ease for gas. And mind you, you don't even know what gas is. I'm talking about a new user here. And this is fundamentally different from something like Revolut or Robinhood, where everything is super seamless and super self-explanatory. So basically Web3 is the way of the future, but right now it's extremely difficult to use. And this is the problem that account abstraction solves. And this is why it's becoming more and more popular. It's not really a new thing. It has been around for a while, but with ERC4337 and Ethereum Foundation's involvement in this, it has sparked its Skype in a way and leads popularity. And what I mean by a shift in user experience, a fundamental shift in user experience is account abstraction can eliminate seed phrases. It can eliminate the need to install a browser extension even because accounts are programmable. So you can have accounts powered by multiple keys. And the security could come from the fact that you are signing on your phone, as well as your PC, rather than having to protect a single private key on one device. Not to mention you can have stuff like spending limits, account recovery also, so that if you lose your credentials in some way, you can recover your account. It solves the problem of gas fees because you can pay the fee in pretty much any token. So you can solve the problem of having to like look for ETH and then register on a centralized exchange just to buy ETH. So it's a huge improvement in UX.
Ivo - 00:04:07: Well, we're focusing on pretty much all of the aspects that I mentioned. We are not doing any of the more exotic account abstraction use cases like multi-sigs for DAOs or like, for example, there is a Lending Protocol called Gearbox, which also works through account abstraction where it's not a lending protocol, actually it's a leverage protocol where the wallet itself has built in leverage. We're not doing any of that. What we're doing is we're bringing to the table a wallet for Crypto Natives, which has all of the UX improvements that I mentioned, because we believe that UX is not just for newbies, the UX is not just for newcomers. The good UX is absolutely necessary for Crypto Natives as well, because we know so many Crypto Natives, those people are our friends and we see them struggling with MetaMask every day, even though they've done this for years. So we are doing this. We are improving the UX for Crypto Natives. And when you say how Ambire came about, that's a really cool story. So it's one of a different project called AdEx Network, which we founded, which is an advertising network focused on user privacy and transparency. And it works on top of Ethereum payment channels and like every impression is a separate payment. But in order to get people onboard on AdEx, we basically, the backstory here is that AdEx is built for publishers and advertisers. So the people who are going to be using AdEx are not Crypto Natives and are not technical in any way. So in order to onboard them onto AdEx, we had to leverage account abstraction. And that was back in 2019. We were one of the first companies to ever roll out an account abstraction wallet, even though it was built into AdEx network itself. But it solved all of these problems. It gave people an ability to log in with an email rather than a seed phrase. It gave them the ability to pay gas with stable coins, to batch multiple transactions in one, and basically all of those UX hurdles that a traditional wallet like MetaMask has were solved in AdEx. So then at one point we figured out that this has more potential than just being part of an advertising network and it has to be spun out into its own product. So that's how Ambire was born.
Tim - 00:06:30: The future of wallets in that sense. Okay. And when you started laying out like the problems that account abstraction can solve for end users, you really started with problems of users that are just onboarding into Web3, right? Like wallet do I choose? Then I generate the seed phrase. How do I store this securely? Right. And then I have a wallet and then how do I get like, I want to play a game on Polygon, so how do I get the token? And now I need a gas token. And we all know the headaches, what it means for new users. And I'm very optimistic as well from what I understand so far, and you're clearly the expert here on how account abstraction and new types of wallets, like Ambire can reduce the friction there. So that's extremely exciting. I have a few more questions on that, but before I go into that, you just said you're focusing on Crypto Natives first. Okay. And there's one question. The first question is why on Crypto Natives first, if the most evident benefits is for new users, right? Because there's no further question asked. And then I would be very interested specific to Crypto Natives. And the second part of this question is take me as an example. I'm a builder in the space. I'm not highly sophisticated. I use a Ledger and I use MetaMaskly like 99% of people. What are the problems that you think that somebody like myself has every day that account abstractions and bar as your product and solve, but let's go back here for a second, if the benefits of account abstraction and this ability to build new kinds of wallets is so attractive to solve problems and users that are just onboarding into Web3, why focus on crypto native?
Ivo - 00:08:21: So I don't agree that the problems that account abstraction solves are just for new users. Let me elaborate. So first of all, a very big thing is having the native asset for gas and Crypto Natives and power users and people such as yourselves have a bigger tendency to use multiple chains, multiple networks. And so in MetaMask, if I have Ether on Ethereum and then I want to transact on Polygon or Arbitrum or whatever, I have to figure out a way to get the native assets on the different chain. With Ambire, what you can do is top up your Gas Tank, which is like a concept where you just top up a Gas Tank on any network, on any chain, and then you can use the same funds to pay for gas on any other chain. So you would be solving this problem immediately. And it's a huge UX improvement. Arbitrum is you don't have to look for formatic tokens. You don't have to do any of that. You don't need a centralized exchange because usually the way to jump from chain to chain without sampling prior assets on that chain is a centralized exchange. And in Ambire, you just fund your Gas Tank and then you can pay gas on any network that Ambire supports. So that's just one example of how it helps Crypto Natives.
Tim - 00:09:39: The feature that you're pointing out is cross-chain gas payments from a Gas Tank in one chain, right? So I have a Gas Tank on whatever it is and I can automatically pay gas on any other chains from that tank. Is that correct?
Ivo - 00:09:56: Indeed, that's correct. And also the fact that you can pay gas in multiple tokens, so you don't necessarily need ETH at all. And that's also something that CryptoNative struggles with. And it's also a privacy benefit, because when you create a new wallet, you have to fund it with ETH somehow. And this almost always compromises the privacy of the account, because you have to fund this from an exchange, and this exchange you've presumably done KOAC on it. So this initial funding with ETH for gas is in many cases as usual, and that's something extremely important for crypto-natives. In Ambire, you can use any Stablecoin, and you can also use the Gas Tank. So this is hugely important for people who have multiple accounts, who use multiple networks, and those people are crypto-natives. And then another thing is transaction batching, where you can do multiple things in one transaction. This is, I would say, almost exclusively a feature for power users. We've seen a lot of our users use it, but almost all of them are power users. And this is where you can do, for example, multiple unit swaps in one transaction, or you can do a swap and then send, or you can claim rewards and then stake them again in one transaction, claim rewards and sell them again in one transaction. So that's something that's important to crypto-natives. And perhaps the most important thing would be the transaction simulation feature, which is extremely important for security. So, for example, let's say I want to do a swap, and Ambire, the moment I have the swap in the transaction queue, I would see how my balance would change after this transaction. So this is a huge security feature, because if I'm interacting with a non-contract, I would be able to see how my balances would change after the transaction that I'm about to make. So if this contract is malicious, I would be able to see that it takes my USDC or whatever, and I will not sign the transaction. So that's also something specifically for crypto-natives. And even though it sounds like the benefits of account abstraction are more beneficial to newcomers, as I said, we strongly believe that UX benefits are not just for newcomers and crypto-natives are also struggling on a daily basis. We have hard data to prove this, and the hard data is that many of our investors in the initial seed round were crypto-natives actually created an account with email, simply because they don't want to deal with the seed phrase anymore. Simply by giving them something better, by giving them something more intuitive, they are choosing the more intuitive thing, even though they already know seed phrases.
Tim - 00:12:31: I'm very interested in going a bit further there into Ambire. So given that account abstraction is obviously a standard, first of all, right? I'm just thinking out loud, like what we are going to likely see, once of these kinds of smart wallets using account abstraction emerge, right? And I would also somewhat raise the question if a lot of the benefits that this account abstraction produces might be implemented or somewhat how you've done it in your ad system inside of a specific tab or protocol, right? So trying to put this into question is maybe the first one is how do you think or what are features that are very unique to Ambire that you would say today sets Ambire apart from other projects that are already and will be emerging in the space to provide smarter wallets?
Ivo - 00:13:25: So I would say that's something absolutely unique to us up until Avocado Wallet is the Gas Tank. So we launched this over half a year ago, actually, I think around a year ago. And Avocado is so far the only other wallet which implemented something like that, which is I already mentioned it's a way to pay gas fees cross-chain. So you will top up your Gas Tank once and then you will be able to pay gas fees on any network. Then another unique thing about Ambire is the self-custodial email account. That's something that we haven't seen so far. And one of the reasons is that many new wallets, they focus on mobile first. We're taking a different approach. We think that Crypto Natives currently like using laptops and generally desktop platforms, mainly laptops for managing their funds, even though a lot of the people that we're interviewing, that we're doing user interviews with are saying, I'm not using anything on mobile simply because all of the mobile wallets suck. But what I'm trying to say here is that many of the new account abstraction wallets are on mobile and specifically focused on new users. And this is why they're not attracting this crypto native audience. And on mobile, you don't need email authentication. You have enough security that the phone can give you. You have face ID, you have biometric authentication, and you don't need this. Meanwhile, in Ambire, which is a web wallet, we were the first wallet pretty much to roll out self-custodial accounts powered by email. So you will be able to log in as on any web application. And you can also set two factor authentication and basically use it exactly like a web application, but under the hood, it's a smart contract wallet.
Tim - 00:15:09: Very clear on that. How do you think this wallet space will evolve? This is kind of like my last follow-up question, I think, because I think it's very clear what you're presenting. How do you see this landscape evolving? Like one of the questions that was bounced around in the team a few weeks back when looking at smart wallets like yours, the large player in the space. And let's take consensus like, made a mask. Okay. The prime candidates to just extend based not just on the technology, but extend into account abstraction and providing smarter wallets and basically take over the market. Is this from a founder perspective and CEO perspective of a project? How much of a threat do you think this is? Because I get the proposition, obviously the value proposition that you have. The question would be if there would be an equivalent from made a mask tomorrow that integrates with the existing wallet product, that would likely be a very significant threat. Do you see this the same or do you think that's not going to happen? Or what's your perspective?
Ivo - 00:16:14: Do you mean the chance that MetaMask would roll out their own account abstraction wallet?
Tim - 00:16:20: Yes, obviously.
Ivo - 00:16:21: Well, that's a very interesting topic because I do know that the founders of MetaMask are really interested in account abstraction, but I have heard from people from their team sort of thoughts about account abstraction, which is interesting. What I would like to say about this is that, yes, obviously there is a chance of this happening, but it would be, it's harder for them to do it than a new wallet. And this is because the accounts that you already have in MetaMask, you cannot magically migrate them to account abstraction accounts of different addresses. I mean, for the same private key, it would have a different address. So like if you're using your Ledger, it would have one set of addresses for EOS and then another set of addresses for Smart Accounts. So it is a challenge to combine both of those in one UI and it would be a UX challenge to explain this to people. I do think the momentum that they already have and the way that the product is built kind of relies on accounts being key always, of course, I'm not saying that they cannot implement account abstraction, but I'm saying that it will be way messier than a brand new wallet, which is only account abstraction.
Tim - 00:17:35: That makes sense, Lili. Question for you there. I'm just curious about that as well. So going back to this feature that you explained earlier on about this cross-chain Gas Tank, right? How do you actually, how do you deal with the bridging of the value there is this like separate tanks and you just kind of like level them out internally. So if I have used ETH on Ethereum in my Gas Tank, and then I'm paying Matic on Polygon in gas, what is happening actually there in the background is I don't think, are you actually bridging and swapping tokens or is that...
Ivo - 00:18:20: No, so first of all, the first important point to clarify is that the Gas Tank behaves like a separate network, but it does have separate assets. So like you cannot spend Matic if you have USDC in your Gas Tank, but if you do have USDC in your Gas Tank, you can spend it on any network. So like you cannot top up the Gas Tank with USDC and then spend Matic, but you can top up your Gas Tank with USDC and then spend USDC for gas on Polygon or Arbitrum or whatever. So the way it works in the background is you do send money to the relair and that's the topping up part and then the relair basically has its own off-chain Ledger, which knows I was being overpaid that amount and therefore that person can now spend that amount on future transactions.
Tim - 00:19:11: So you're maintaining an off-chain Ledger or this Gas Tank, which is a separate protocol that is integrated. And that protocol for that Gas Tank is part of Ambrosia or are you using a third-party network or system for that?
Ivo - 00:19:25: It's a Uniswap implementation, basically.
Tim - 00:19:27: Interesting. I was just wondering about that and how that works. Okay. That is somewhat of a great transition into a topic that I really wanted to address with you guys because obviously, just like other wallets, you work across different EVM chains. But specifically, because I know you have a swap integrated, I know you have this cross-chain, multi-chain Gas Tank at the protocol, as you just described. I'm wondering how you are looking at this multi-chain future of Web3. And what I mean by that is you obviously have Bitcoin fundamentalists that are saying everything except Bitcoin is not going to work out. And then you have Ethereum fundamentalists, which go like everything except Ethereum is not really going to go anywhere. And then I guess you have people that see a very diverse ecosystem of hundreds or thousands of blockchains and then you have anyone somewhere in between. And what I would like to hear from you is what you think the future is going to look like. On one side, a little bit far out, where are we heading and what chains will exist and what chains will not exist in categories? And then second, I want to hear from you. What chains are you currently supporting and why? And what are you really looking forward to add to the product? But as a separate part. So if you want to start on, are you a Bitcoin fundamentalist or where are you positioning yourself and how do you see the future?
Ivo - 00:20:57: So I have a bunch of comments here and I'm really strongly opinionated. So I want to start with the fact that Ethereum maxis or as you call them fundamentalists. They do not believe that Ethereum will be the only network, the only chain that exists. They also believe in the rollups. So don't forget that. So in the mind of an Ethereum fundamentalist, you have like tens of rollups or five rollups at least. And then you have Ethereum and you have the Multi-chain Paradigm, right? In the mind of a Bitcoin maxi, I would say that there is something similar because you still have Side Chains and they still believe in Side Chains really strongly. So even in the minds of fundamentalists, you still have this sort of multi-chain future. So that's the first thing I want to say. Second, personally, I'm a very big believer in both Bitcoin and Ethereum. I feel like at one point on Twitter, the sentiment was that this is a really rare point of view. But by talking to my crypto friends, it turns out that it's a really common point of view. It's just that the people who believe in Bitcoin and Ethereum really strongly, they're not that vocal on Twitter because that seems to be like the most common sense take that Ethereum and Bitcoin are going to win over anything else because they both have like their own advantages and disadvantages, but they're clearly the only ecosystems that have adoption. You could argue about Solana, but it's very difficult when you compare Solana to Ethereum to argue that that's permanent and proven traction. Obviously, you have the roll-ups, you have the layer tools, but those are part of the Ethereum ecosystem. So those two ecosystems are the only ones that are clearly winning for now, I would say. And the ecosystems that I'm definitely certain that they're going to exist for the next 20, 30 years or whatever. My point is that those are here to stay. So with all that said, I really doubt that there are going to be hundreds of networks that people use. Even though both Ethereum Maxis and Bitcoin Maxis, they both believe in Side Chains in their tools. I don't think that there are going to be hundreds of those because it simply doesn't make sense from a UX perspective. But I do believe in tens of those or maybe things will consolidate to like fives, maybe like Bitcoin, Ethereum and a couple of roll-ups. And basically, that's the way I see things. From a UX perspective, it makes sense for things to consolidate because Ethereum is really built on composability. And this is one of the main value propositions of Ethereum that one thing can call a different thing. And within one transaction, you can have so many contract interactions. Even with account abstraction, this is amplified because imagine that they have an account abstraction transaction that swaps a token for another token and then sends it to you. And then this one transaction, I would call the wallet contract. The wallet contract would then call, Uniswap would then call each individual pool. So like that's maybe two or three pools. Then those pools would call the tokens in order to move them around. Then finally, we would call the token again to move it to you. So that's composability. And there's a really strong point of DeFi, which is arguably one of the strongest use cases of Ethereum. Actually, it's not that arguable. One of the strongest use cases of Ethereum, arguably the strongest. So the strength of Ethereum is really composability. So composability doesn't work cross-chain. And that's the fact of the matter. So we either have to move all of the dApps on one roll-up and use them there, or we have to keep using them on mainnet. So I do believe in roll-ups, but I think that this will consolidate to a really small number of chains that people use.
Tim - 00:24:44: Just to follow up on that. So I follow on what you're saying. Roll-ups and layer 2s and sidechains on Ethereum. And saying that there might be another five or 10 other chains in some form. You mentioned Solana. I think that's all good. Where does it leave all of the non-EVM chains?
Ivo - 00:25:01: Well, with Solana, we're talking about in particular, because I would say Polkadot and Cosmos are the strongest and they also have EVM on them. So.
Tim - 00:25:11: So that's exactly the point. So you would see as long as they become EVM compatible and by that become part of this composable future is fine, but they, that is the future on how things will, the chains will integrate. That's your perspective, right?
Ivo - 00:25:29: Correct. And I really do believe in EVM superiority in ways, even though Web Assembly is really a fantastic addition. But so far the ecosystem works that way that it really consolidated around the game. So it's really hard to imagine for me, even though you could argue that wasn't superior, it's really hard to imagine for me that it will replace the EVM simply because of the momentum it has. It's really about momentum here. And by the way, to answer the second part of your question, which chains are we integrating and how is this going to be decided in the future? I'm really proud of what we're doing. We're basically integrating every big EVM chain and it's kind of a subjective thing, which one is big, but think about it that way. We have over 13 chains integrated right now, which is the most out of any account abstraction wallet. I think we even have more than Safe. So no one even comes close. For example, Argent is really sticking to Ethereum. No one even comes close to our number. And the reason for this is that we believe that a wallet should never restrict you in any way. There is no way to get people to use your wallet. It's restrictive and opinionated in some way like that. For example, let's say that you're using Optimism and Arbitrum, and then you also use Binance Smart Chain, but most account abstraction wallets do not integrate Binance Smart Chain because they're opinionated in their kind of Ethereum fundamentalists, so to say. So they haven't integrated Binance Smart Chain. And in MetaMask it's so easy to add it, but in account abstraction wallets you generally don't have the custom chain functionality. We're thinking of ways to implement that. Probably we're normally going to be the first account abstraction wallet to allow custom chains, but every single account abstraction wallet right now doesn't have custom chains. So you're stuck with whatever they're giving you. And obviously they're not giving you a chain where if you have funds on, you're not using it. So.
Tim - 00:27:26: So let's appreciate your opinion and insights on this, what the multi-chain future could look like. To kind of go back for a few minutes just to account abstraction, what do you think are account abstraction use cases or what are problems that can be solved with account abstraction that haven't been solved yet? Where do you think is this standards, this technology's biggest opportunity for impact overlooking? What are you excited about?
Ivo - 00:27:56: Honestly, I would reiterate the same benefits that I already mentioned. In my sense, they're not solved yet, even though technically they're solved and we've rolled out the product that solves them. And other people have also rolled out products that solve some of those that already have some of those benefits. But it's not solved until everyone is using it. So that's where I stand. I believe that 90% of what you can do with account abstraction to improve your access is already built. But the problems are not solved until everyone uses an account abstraction wallet. And this is the big challenge that we have. Figuring out a way to get those wallets adopted, figuring out a smooth transition for people, allowing them to easily migrate funds. Because as I might have mentioned, I think I didn't mention it directly, but I implied it. Since you have a different address for account abstraction wallets, the same private key would have a different address for an EOA and a different address for a smart contract wallet. Because of this, you cannot just import your accounts from MetaMask, which is something that in Ambire has been a huge issue for our growth, even though we're growing quite decently. But when people figure out and realize that they cannot import the same accounts that they have on MetaMask, they kind of get cold feet, honestly. So that's a big problem to solve. And account abstraction currently solves eight problems and introduces three new ones. So now we have to figure out a way to mitigate those three new problems, which I would say are different addresses, funds, migration, and maybe custom networks, let's say.
Tim - 00:29:31: Ivo, very good insights, eight problems solved, three new ones, least five solved, new ones to solve. It's obviously a never ending cycle. I really much appreciate your time and your insight here. This was a real learning experience for me. I obviously also have an Ambire wallet. I got to keep playing and exploring it, see what's heading and what you're releasing there. Thank you so much for your time.
Ivo - 00:29:54: Thank you very much.
Tim - 00:29:56: DAO Talks is brought to you by Grindery. If you enjoyed this podcast, consider subscribing to DAO Talks on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, or any other platform you fancy. To find out more about Grindery, visit Grindery.io. Thanks for joining me, Tim out.