web3 by Ian Rogers, Ledger

A privacy-centric web3, reminiscent of “the beginnings of the internet”.

They didn’t launch a blockchain or token. However, Ledger stands out as the French technological champion of a still developing web3 ecosystem. The company took advantage of the recent crypto-asset bubble to become a unicorn and strengthen its management. Ian Rogers, who previously worked for Bernard Arnault, Tim Cook, Dr Dre or the Beastie Boys, joined the company in January 2021 as Chief Experience Officer. He shares with us his vision for the future of the Internet.

You are a specialist in securing crypto-assets thanks to “hardware wallets”, types of secure USB keys. The topic may seem very technical: how to create buzz around such a product and in general how to create a strong and attractive brand in this context?

Ian Rogers: Keep in mind that it takes time for an innovation to be accepted. Many people remember the iPod as a huge success, but if you look at the sales charts, it took years for it to become a mainstream product. Becoming a “cultural object” is important, but culture develops at its own pace. This is why fashion brands are rarely sought after by capitalists: they take time to catch on.

At Ledger, we listen to what’s happening in the world and react to issues that don’t directly affect us, such as inflation, the fact that those without access to banking services want alternatives or that our governments increasingly demand know-how we manage our money, how we seek to escape poverty, what opportunities we take… Similarly, we have nothing to do with success from NBA Top Shot or Bored Ape Yacht Club. All of this happens with or without Ledger, but we are part of this global cultural movement and have things to offer in this context, like securing crypto-assets.

This way of using culture is what you did while working in the music or luxury industry, especially being the CEO of Beats Music, then the director of Apple Music or even the Chief Digital Officer of LVMH. What connections do you make between these companies and Ledger? And how do you use these experiences today?

IR: What impresses me is the difficulty to conceive that a particular sector can become mainstream. When I started working in digital music in the early 90s, few people believed in it. We didn’t yet have an iPod, a high-speed internet connection or a smartphone that really changed the dimension… And there again, some people told me it would remain reserved for the rich. You have to keep your faith in technology. Many smart people have been myopic in recent years about what it offers in the long term, and yet here we are today with 6.5 billion people connected to the Internet via mobile!

And beyond the technology, you have to believe in the uses and the culture. For me, MySpace was far from revolutionary at first glance. It was so ugly! But what allowed him to be popular and “cross the chasm”, according to the title of the famous book [Crossing the Chasm, publié par Geoffrey A.Moore en 1991, se penche notamment sur la façon dont les innovateurs peuvent accélérer le cycle d’adoption de leur technologie, NDLR], is that the network was carried by music. Everyone over 30 thought it was stupid, and everyone under 30 had to be there. It was the beginning of what we then experienced with Facebook, Instagram, Snap and TikTok.

You often compare Ledger to Netscape, in the sense that Ledger is a gateway to the web3, in particular thanks to Ledger Live, its decentralized app store. How do you analyze the company’s strategy, given what you just described?

IR: The Netscape analogy is a good one because what we do is both simple, yet as necessary as it is powerful, and is part of the evolution of the web. Web1 allowed us to access online content through a search engine and we had to log in with a password. We have done more and more things online and produced more and more content and data that says a lot about us, our identity and our consumption habits. But we have lost our sovereignty over this data, even our identity, by using Facebook, Google, Twitter or iCloud login.

Web3 allows us to recover them. It is “privacy-centric” and the future of identification is through owning our data, through the wallet, which stores our identity, our money, or simply an NFT that proves we are members of a club. We can draw a parallel with a classic wallet, which contains your money but also your driver’s license or your Sephora membership card. The wallet will be something common and necessary for everyone in the future. Also, I don’t think you should say wallet, “hardware wallet”, “cold wallet” or even “signing device”. We should say Ledger, in the same way we don’t say “tissue”, but directly Kleenex!

Ledger means “record” in French, but we often speak of “Leader”. In your marketing strategy, you multiply collaborations with luxury players like Fendi to create, for example, Ledgers that are also jewelry, or even to do product placement in rap clips. Culturally and symbolically, can we say that you want to make owning a Book a sign of success? Is this a key to success? And how can this image be reconciled with that of a common product for everyday use?

IR: This is a difficult question… I will answer you by mentioning the principle of the “culture of generosity”. As a skater, I have seen many brands try to adopt the codes of this sport, take its values ​​and integrate it into their marketing, without giving anything in return. When I come to eat at your house, I bring flowers or a bottle, it’s natural! The same should be done in culture.

When we collaborated with the fashion brand The Hundreds, Bobby Hundreds, one of the co-founders, told me that he didn’t see it as advertising, but as a way to educate, bring security and peace of mind to the brand’s fans. who used software wallets vulnerable to hackers. People need to understand why they buy our products. I think the key is there. When I leave your house after dinner, I want to be invited again because you had an interesting time, not because you are relieved to be leaving!

So yes, it may seem like a sign of success, but it’s a side. You should stick to your role and not be disappointed by making false promises. People do whatever they want with their money, they can spend it on partying or making the world a better place. Our goal is to provide them with security.

As you said, it can take years for an innovation to be widespread on a daily basis. What services do you use every day through your Book?

IR: I am very interested at the moment generative art. I think this trend is really underrated and we are still struggling to realize the change that is happening. From this point of view I really like the Art Blocks community, and I also spend a lot of time on the Objkt.com market where I find a lot of works that are very accessible.

Otherwise, I occasionally use Tokenproof, a token gating app that gives me access to certain places if I have the NFT connected. It’s crazy to think that the technology I recently used to get to a Halloween party in Los Angeles is more advanced than what allowed me to get into the country…

I also use Satisfy running, a French brand that recently launched shoes under the Norda brand. They are linked to an NFT that you can link to your Strava account. It evolves according to your performance and gives you access to challenges. These new practices are quite interesting. These NFTs are not meant to cost thousands of dollars. It’s just fun, useful or community.

Finally, I just received a piece from the Roll Forever project, by photographer and skateboarder Dave Bachinsky. I am very proud of it, I have no idea how much it will be worth in the future, but I think it is beautiful and that is enough for me! It all reminds me of the early days of the internet, where anything was possible, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we were a community and we felt like we were sharing something special.

You mention generative art. Everyone was surprised by the rapid progress made in artificial intelligence by platforms like DALL-E or Midjourney. When do you think the web3 theme will become more democratic? Do you think it will still take years or will we be surprised?

IR: I think we will experience a development similar to that of the Internet. After the bubble burst in the early 2000s, some believed the industry would not recover. However, since 2003, when I was at Yahoo, we saw big things come out. We thought the web was on fire and we were still in the pre-iPhone and pre-App Store era! Currently there is a lot of new talent involved in web3 development and we have to see what is happening on the Reddit or Instagram side, etc. You never know who will take the movement to the next level. But here we are going, and we have no idea what this will all look like in twenty years.

You mentioned the bubble. Despite the price drop, Ledger continues to grow and has surpassed the bar of 5 million devices sold this year. How do you explain this development?

IR: The news has worked in our favor! Self-care, the fact of direct access to its funds and the insurance of assets have always been at the heart of our strategy. This summer, platforms that froze access to funds deposited by their customers gave us the best publicity. And we have to add the Solana hack… Crypto-asset owners are increasingly aware of the risks of software wallets, and as a result, the number of assets held on the Ledger has exploded this year.

What is your market penetration rate? And don’t you think you need to pivot your business model as this rate increases and there are fewer and fewer crypto owners to cater to? How do Ledger Market, your NFT marketplace launched this summer, and Ledger Live, your decentralized app store, fit into your strategy?

IR: Our business model is very similar to Apple’s. We sell hardware and allow third-party developers to build services into our operating system, and beyond that we have these transactional platforms and provide business services. Apple does not completely dominate its market, but it is the most valuable company in the world! People love their offering, they love the brand, and they continue to stay loyal with each new generation of products because they bring value to them every day. In addition, there may be an interest in having several books, especially within companies that want to share funds and associated risks. And to answer you about the penetration rate, we have indeed sold 5 million Ledgers, but estimates speak of 350 million crypto-asset owners in the world. Many can only have some Dogecoin in Robinhood…Why not! But people who are seriously involved in the ecosystem use Ledger. We already hold 20% of all crypto-assets in the world, and between them, 25% of all NFTs! And it will continue, you just have to be patient. Some people told me in the 90s that they would probably never have an e-mail address… It’s understandable, you have to be in tune with the times, don’t get carried away and offer what the market wants at the moment. moment.

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