Genesis: The Birth of Ryder

April 16, 2021

Our team is happy to announce that we just raised $100,000 from the Stacks Foundation. This initial seed will ensure Ryder meets every deliverable before we meet our next fundable milestone. We thought that now is the perfect opportunity to officially introduce the team behind it as our dream of bringing web 3.0 to everyone is closer than ever.

Most innovation stories have a point of origin. Ryder was no different. It was back in early February of 2020 when we began discussing the use of digital identities and how users should manage risk when dealing with their personal information, such as their private keys.

“Storing private keys on a computer connected to the internet in any form is dangerous, and stories of people losing their crypto tokens due to private key theft are plentiful.”

It’s been shown before that it can be relatively effortless for attackers to steal private keys within many popular multi-user dApps. This particular security issue made Marvin very curious about decentralized identities and their current challenges. As he went down the digital identity rabbit hole, Marvin uncovered more issues:

  • How can we safely use and carry our digital identities?
  • How much information do we provide to dApps?
  • What if the users of the dApp or even the dApp developers have bad intentions?
  • How application private keys could be compromised
  • Entering seed phrase to a website is never a good idea
  • Setting up your DIDs on other devices is always difficult

And the most asked question of all time, How do we protect our private keys? These problems were no stranger to crypto users; thus, Marvin came up with the idea of making a hardware keychain for digital identities, a device that could be more consumer-friendly than current existing solutions. He firmly believes that none of the private keys — be it master, identity, nor app — should ever exist on the user’s machine. Instead, they should reside on a separate hardware device, much like the many existing hardware wallets out there. No bridge software is required and all crypto operations are performed by the hardware. No private keys ever leave the hardware keychain. A simple solution to crypto complex problems. Such an approach is better than the current model. He pitched the idea to Louise, whom he had met in the Stacks community a few months prior due to their similar interest for fundamental digital rights and the don’t be can’t be evil memento. Both of them firmly agreed that the need for a hardware device for digital identities is evident to solve these problems.

Marvin half-jokingly said he would make one for them. Louise smiled and responded that he would like to see it. Not an easy task, but Marvin presented him with a first working prototype a couple of months later. From that point on, their journey to create the first hardware identity device has begun. For a project of this kind to succeed, it should tick a few boxes such as Portability, Usability, and Security.

Portability. For example, in the old Blockstack Browser, the master private key is stored, and using your identities on different devices is not straightforward. Granted, you could bring your seed phrase with you, but that is rather dangerous. What if the computer you are entering your seed phrase into has a key logger installed, for example?

Usability. Hardware devices add a layer of complexity to an already intricate system. Signing in should be as straightforward and easy as plugging in the device, unlocking it, and approving the signin.

Security. No private key should ever leave the device. The user can then signin on any machine without having to worry about identities being stolen.

Taking this into consideration, Marvin divided the Stacks hardware identity keychains into three types which you can find here.

ryder-first-bootup

Ryder-prototype-v1

This proof of concept is a type 1 hardware keychain that takes the app private key out of the dApp. It is a proof of concept on the path to a type 3 device which is the envisioned final type for Ryder, a smart wearable device that manages your decentralized identities for all crypto-related operations. No bridge software is required and all crypto operations are performed by the hardware. No private keys will ever leave the hardware device.

In May 2020, Marvin dropped the second update that focuses on user experience, API, & the first prototype. Ryder v01 prototype already functions as a full, 100% compatible drop-in replacement for the Blockstack Browser. It currently features new wallet generation in hardware, recovery via seed input, identity selection, and more. We did not strive for perfection toward creating the initial hardware design and took every opportunity to make it less complicated. Ryder v01 prototype was created by cutting up a cardboard box and taping it into our ideal Ryder’s shape. We learn more than we can expect by putting together a few pieces and then iterating on them. The process gave us insight into the possible form factor and components for Ryder in the coming future.

ryder-single-sign-in

Suddenly Ryder was a thing you could hold in your hand, a real extension of your digital self. Louise knew exactly what to do and put all of it in front of the Stacks community to face the ultimate early-market test. We were thrilled to have such a device, but how about the rest of the space? Is this something that they need?

Skip ahead a few months, and the Ryder has been discussed and shared by key figures in the community and crypto space at large. We were bombarded with messages filled with enthusiasm, the occasional rightful criticism, feedback, and more. The support is overwhelming, and it is humbling to be working with so many people who are intensely passionate about the crypto future we all aim for.

Since then, we created a Ryder v02 prototype, started building our maker community, and shipped ten units to key community members; we call the Ryder Pioneers, dedicated to bringing Ryder v03 into reality from contributing code, reviews, making PRs, providing the product, and growth insight.

The Ryder pioneers are here to build for our collective digital future. Our upcoming blog will show who these people are!

Along this journey, we’ve realized that our mission is bigger than the crypto space; with Ryder, we can eliminate current DIDs complexity that hinders mass adoption. We firmly believe that we can make web 3.0 accessible to everyone by abstracting its current authentication architecture’s underlying flaws.

“Blockchain is a complicated technology, and it’s made even more so by bad design. The industry does a terrible job of explaining itself.”
-Connie Yang, Coinbase’s Director of Design

“The importance of the wallet security problem is great, and it should not be underestimated.”
-Vitalik Buterin, Co-Founder, Ethereum

“Bad UX is everywhere in this space, and the consequences are users losing large amounts of money, sub-optimal user adoption, and woefully insufficient levels of security.”
-Jeff Axup, PhD.

“Re-structuring identity is one of the most interesting opportunities on the web today.”
-Nick Grossman, Partner, USV

With so many crypto technological shifts in such a short time, understanding the human perspective is more important than ever but finding a product designer that can bring order to all this chaos is a complex challenge, especially in the crypto space. Our team was specifically looking for someone who already launched consumer-facing products that have proven demand. As we all know building the initial team is always difficult for any startup because aside from skills and abilities, synergy and team dynamics are essential to be successful. After countless hassles to find the right product person, we’ve eventually crossed paths with Kiki Grammatopoulos. Kiki’s human-centred approach to product design caught our attention. We believe that we will achieve true simplicity and create a product where you, as a user, is not even aware of the complexity. As Kiki leads Ryder’s product development, we will develop an inevitable product and leave you with the notion that it’s the only possible solution that makes sense.

“The success of Ryder is not measured in performance or security, it is measured in the improvement of life we can enable by making web3 easily accessible for everyone.”
-Niclas Wimmerstedt, Ryder Pioneer

Ryder’s Founding Partners

When you have a tough problem, we believe that it often helps expand skill domains beyond specialists in a single sphere, especially in crypto! We believe it is just these kinds of unlikely combinations that are key to coming up with breakthroughs. Our diverse team wants to improve existing DID capabilities in the web 3 space, and we have a pretty clear idea of what problems need to be solved to bring adoption to the masses.

Marvin Janssen, Technical Lead (@marvinjanssen)

Marvin has worked on projects related to digital identities, DeFi, and blockchain integration for various players in the crypto space. Recent notable clients include Hiro PBC and OpenSea. Throughout the years, he also operated his own crypto projects, one of which reached 60,000 users at its peak. As a department head and teacher at a private school, he had the opportunity to make people excited about the field of application development. Marvin holds an academic degree in philosophy from the renowned KU Leuven University.

His background prompts him to question the fundamental nature of identity. He believes that in the not too far off future, we will live in a world with hundreds of daily micro crypto interactions—going far beyond what we see today. Crypto will not only redefine value transfer but also our position and relation to the world. It will permeate our lives much like the internet and smartphones do today. One’s decentralised digital identity will be the centrepiece through which personal and interpersonal activity takes place; fundamentally private, secure, and self-custodial. Marvin, therefore, considers a device like Ryder to be the next logical step for the crypto space.

Kiki Grammatopoulos, Product Lead

Kiki Grammatopoulos is a Product Designer inspired by the worlds of fashion, vehicle, industrial, and product design. She began her design experience having studied at Central Saint Martins School of Design in London, and worked in a broad range of companies such as Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover and Ace & Tate; through this experience, Kiki developed a delicate ability to translate peoples needs into sophisticated products that tell a story, for any market. As a multi-disciplinary designer, she applies these different aspects of her experience to bridge the gap between industries.

Kiki was particularly interested in the crypto space technological constraints and how the current products are struggling to resonate deeply with the mainstream audience, which ultimately hinders its growth beyond its current stakeholders. As crypto becomes more integrated in our daily lives, Kiki is looking to build products that aren’t just advanced but also readily acceptable.

Louise Ivan, Growth Lead (@louiseivanvp)

ryder-louise-ivan

Louise Ivan got his start as a passionate Stacks community member before becoming a Consultant to Hiro PBC (fka Blockstack PBC) and Freehold, playing a key role in both community and token growth. He helped expand the community to more than 50,000 dedicated community members spanning 32 countries. Louise has a Master’s in Green IT and a deep personal interest in technology and how it converges with society, arts, and economics.

Louise firmly believes wherein the current context of society—where the forerunners of wealth creation turbocharge globalization but failed to create shared prosperity. He concludes that these forerunners (current internet giants) “democratize” our access to information while invading our privacy and misusing the term sharing economy. Passionate about the user-owned internet, Louise Co-Founded Ryder to accelerate the mission of building better internet on Bitcoin and capturing 100% of the value we create on the Internet today through decentralized digital identities.

The future of a user-owned internet is coming, and we at Ryder want to bring it to the masses. The time will come where we can access any web 3.0 applications such as DeFi, DEx, NFTs with Ryder. Join our maker community now!

Sincerely Yours,
Ryder Founding Partners

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Louise Ivan

Co-Founder, Ryder