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Interview with Itamar Lesuisse, CEO of Argent

By 19-Feb-2020 February 20th, 2020 No Comments

Interview with Itamar Lesuisse, CEO of Argent

By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.

February 20, 2020 – 5 min read.

Itamar Lesuisse has a Masters in Computer Science and Electronics Engineering, holds four payment-related patents and has previously worked at Boston Consulting Group, Amazon, and Visa. Itamar has also previously founded Peak Labs prior to leading Argent as CEO.

Argent is a mobile smart contract cryptocurrency wallet for Ethereum and Ethereum-based apps. The company provides the ease-of-use and security of the best new banking apps – without the bank. Argent is non-custodial so the wallet never holds user assets.

In this post we share a conversation with Itamar about the origin of the Argent app, the features and functionality, and the several integrations that give Argent their edge in the market.

Daniel Dal Bello
Itamar, thanks for speaking with us. Can you tell us about how you got involved in the blockchain industry and the story of how Argent came to be?

Itamar Lesuisse
Argent has three founders: myself, Gerald (who was my co-founder at Peak too) and Julien (whose background is in quantum information/cryptography). We’d been following the crypto space more and more as we could see the underlying tech was groundbreaking. But it wasn’t until we sold Peak in 2016, then I made my first ETH purchase the next year that I knew I had to work on it. We were super excited but could see the usability and security were a very long way from mainstream adoption. We thought our combo of consumer mobile and cryptography could be a great way to solve it. In doing so we hoped to give people control of their assets and identity.

Daniel Dal Bello
On the surface, a mobile cryptocurrency wallet is not new or innovative, however, you have a distinct vision which is different to a lot of wallets out there. As a wallet provider, you are clearly focused on user experience and not just catering to the crypto-adept.

Usability and simplicity are focal points in the app design and we can see that through your integration of Ethereum Name Service addresses and ‘Guardians’ for security.

What motivated you to create this wallet and focus on abstracting away blockchain characteristics like seed phrases and gas prices many of us are accustomed to?

Itamar Lesuisse
We started from our dream user experience and then built the tech to achieve it. We’ve always felt that for 1bn plus people to benefit from crypto it had to have all the complexity abstracted away. Most people simply won’t persevere with crypto if their first taste is plagued by seed phrases and so on.

Daniel Dal Bello
Let’s talk about security. It goes without saying that providing a secure wallet will always a top priority, and users need to trust that their funds will be secure.

Can you explain what a smart contract wallet is and why this is an attractive architecture for users?

Itamar Lesuisse
With a smart contract wallet your funds are held in a smart contract and a private key on your phone acts as a remote control. This changes everything when it comes to security as you can now implement security logic at the smart contract layer, it’s like bank account running on Ethereum.

You can add features like recover, lock and unlock, and set a daily transfer limit – all without having a custodian.

Our architecture is modular so the wallet can evolve as we add new integrations. And lastly another benefit is that we can use smart contracts to automate a lot of processes a user goes through, so you can start earning interest in a tap or two, for example.

“You can add features like recover, lock and unlock, and set a daily transfer limit – all without having a custodian.”

Daniel Dal Bello
A standout feature of Argent is that you do not have any seed or recovery phrase process to store and keep safe on setup of the wallet—something that might perplex experienced crypto-users. This is because you have completely removed this as a recovery measure should your device break or become unrecoverable.

Tell us about your ‘Guardians’—who are they, and how can they help recover a lost wallet without a seed phrase?

Itamar Lesuisse
Guardians are people, devices or third parties you trust to help you out with your wallet’s security. They never have access to your assets. Any Ethereum account can be a Guardian so you can choose between friends, hardware wallets, MetaMask account or a third party service.

If you lose your phone you contact your Guardians and they help you regain access to your wallet. It’s like with a bank if you lose your card. You call them, they freeze it and send a new one. Guardians are similar but for a non-custodial world.

Guardians can also help you lock your wallet and approve large transactions.

“It’s like with a bank if you lose your card. You call them, they freeze it and send a new one. Guardians are similar but for a non-custodial world.

Daniel Dal Bello
Another great element of the design is your work to abstract away common characteristics of blockchain technology—namely gas fees, but also complicated addresses, and recovery processes which we’ve touched on.

Why was it important to design this wallet in such a way that your users don’t need to comprehend long Ethereum addresses and transaction fees? How do you cover the costs of transaction fees for all of your users?

Itamar Lesuisse
As I mentioned earlier we wanted to strip away all the complexity from crypto to make it more accessible to people. For the fees, we cover the ‘gas’ for in-wallet actions, such as using our natively integrated exchange. Gas is just another infrastructure cost for us (and one that’s not that big) yet it can be very alien to someone new to the space.

Daniel Dal Bello
Aside from your portfolio balance, users might notice the ‘Finances’ tab on the home page of the app. Talk to us about your integration with Compound and Maker and how easy it is to start earning interest on your token holdings.

Itamar Lesuisse
Compound and Maker’s Dai Savings Rate let people earn interest on their Dai. While it’s still early days, they show how powerful crypto can be: anyone, anywhere with a smart phone can access the equivalent of a dollar savings account.

We’ve integrated both projects at smart contract level so you can use them in just a tap.

Daniel Dal Bello
Another integration I want to touch on is in regard to dApps and specifically your work with WalletConnect. What does this mean for your users, and how do you maintain your security-focused ethos while interacting with third-party dApps?

Itamar Lesuisse
Integrating Wallet Connect lets people access a much wider range of dApps from Argent. We want to give people access to a variety of use cases, and don’t feel every dApp needs to live inside Argent.

Security was our main focus when we integrated WC and we’ve made sure to make it compliant with our security model. In particular, interacting with a dApp through WC is no different than sending funds to an external address: it must be under your daily limit or approved by your Guardians. Thanks to this, users of Argent can explore web3 and be assured that a malicious dApp will not drain their account.

Daniel Dal Bello
A final core feature to highlight is the in-app buying and selling feature. How does this work behind the scenes? Is all of the in-app trading facilitated through your cooperation with Kyber Network and their decentralized exchange?

Itamar Lesuisse
Yes, we integrated Kyber in Argent. We cover the gas involved.

Daniel Dal Bello
What does 2020 look like for Argent?

Itamar Lesuisse
First, our focus is making DeFi much more accessible. So in the coming months we’ll integrate a LOT more projects. Second, we’re growing the team. We’ll stay lean but we are hiring and we’d encourage applicants to check out our positions on the site. Third, another priority is making it much easier to interact with Dapps whether you have an existing wallet or not. Last, we’ll have some pretty exciting announcements in the next month or two so stay tuned!

Daniel Dal Bello
Thanks for your time, Itamar.

Itamar Lesuisse
Thanks Daniel, I really enjoyed this.

Argent is a mobile smart contract Ethereum wallet. No paper backups are needed, transactions are free, and addresses are simple. For more information about Argent and to download the Argent app, visit https://argent.xyz.