- Use Cases
Welcome to Amberdata's Podcast series featuring leaders in the Crypto space where we go in-depth and dive into various topics.
In this episode, Chris Martin, Amberdata's Principal Analytics Engineer, interviews Bryce Ferguson on Turnkey and private key management. Bryce is the co-founder of Turnkey, a platform providing private key management solutions. He previously lead the crypto launch and expansion of Trade Republic, product management for Coinbase Custody, and strategy at Stitch Fix.
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Turnkey Founder Bryce Ferguson’s Crypto Career Path
Bryce Ferguson has had an exciting career journey that led him to co-found Turnkey, a crypto startup focused on developer tools and private key management. Ferguson started consulting after college but quickly realized he wanted to build products, not just PowerPoint presentations, which led him to take a role at Stitch Fix on their strategy team.
While at Stitch Fix, Ferguson began having conversations with friends at Coinbase and became fascinated with the crypto industry. He joined Coinbase in 2018, first working with their BizOps team on projects like improving customer conversion and exploring staking, which led to working as a product manager, helping to launch Coinbase's first staking products, governance products, and governance token.
After three years at Coinbase, Ferguson was ready for a new challenge and moved to Berlin to lead the crypto team at Trade Republic. There, Ferguson built the crypto product from scratch and gained perspective on how mainstream companies view crypto. He realized the custody solutions available, even those he had built at Coinbase, weren't adaptable enough for developers building on-chain.
Ferguson reconnected with former Coinbase colleagues who shared his perspective. They co-founded Turnkey in March 2022 to solve these problems.
Enabling developers through APIs and security controls
Turnkey provides developer-focused tools and infrastructure for managing private keys at scale. Although the crypto industry has matured since 2018, Ferguson believes "we're still early" in enabling developers to build on decentralized networks. Turnkey aims to power that next wave of crypto innovation.
While individuals can use tools like MetaMask or Coinbase Wallet to directly control their own private keys, institutions have additional needs and constraints. Some are regulated and require qualified custodians to hold crypto assets. All expect robust security, permissions, and risk management tools beyond what a personal wallet provides.
Institutions need to handle multiple users, set detailed permissions, and integrate at scale with programmatic systems. Crypto products increasingly need to onboard many end users through intermediary platforms managing the experience. MetaMask and Coinbase Wallet suit one-off manual actions but not the programmatic access or high volumes institutions require.
Turkey as a tech infrastructure provider
Though Turnkey overlaps with custodians, their approach differs. Turnkey sees themselves as tech infrastructure providers, not regulated custodians or money transmitter. The crypto landscape has changed radically since institutional custodians emerged in 2017-2018 with web apps that enabled large-scale crypto transactions and holdings. Now, far more on-chain actions and programmatic access are needed.
Turnkey takes an API-first, flexible building block approach versus the web-app-first model of most custodians. While custodians typically require lengthy sales and integration processes, a developer can sign up with Turnkey, get their API key, and complete their first signature within five minutes. Turnkey offers fully flexible signing for any transaction type to keep up with fast crypto evolution.
Turnkey's other secret weapon is its policy engine, which offers highly customizable security versus the simpler, fixed withdrawal limits common among custodians. With Turnkey, access to specific contract calls, on-chain actions, and transaction values can be restricted to suit any business need.
The pace of change in crypto infrastructure needs surpassed what early custodians built. Turnkey recognizes more robust, flexible tools are now required to serve developers building the latest crypto applications. By taking an API-first, transaction-centric approach with a powerful policy engine, Turnkey aims to provide a scalable layer for crypto progress.
Identifying trends in institutions, retail, and regulation
On the institutional side, Ferguson notes that financial firms are becoming more active in on-chain activities like staking and governance. This allows them to add value and participate in the ecosystem. He also sees how improvements in scalability and cost have enabled crypto companies to shift from “omnibus” products to more on-chain experiences.
Meanwhile, the retail side is grappling with the shift from the “super tech-forward” innovators to the early adopters. This new wave of adopters wants a simpler onboarding and user experience—they don’t have the time or technical knowledge to go through 106 steps to secure their assets.
Speaking on compliance and regulation, Ferguson says that while Turnkey aims to provide tools for compliance, it is not itself a compliance solution. The team built Turnkey with security-conscious organizations in mind, enabling tight controls and governance over crypto products. Regulation remains an area Turnkey is monitoring closely; he sees increased regulatory clarity as ultimately positive for crypto, though the path there may be challenging.
Turnkey currently focuses on the U.S. but aims to expand internationally in the future. Their vision is to make it much easier to get started with crypto, especially private keys, and transactions. They want to expand both broader (into areas like transaction construction) and deeper (enhancing the policy engine, and adding more blockchain support). In the long run, Turnkey hopes to progressively decentralize—but as a small startup, they're still early in that process.
One area Ferguson thinks deserves more discussion is the trade-off between decentralization and usability. While long-term decentralization is the goal, centralized or semi-centralized options may benefit mainstream adoption in the short term. Different products may suit different levels of decentralization. The path to greater decentralization over time needs to be explicit and intentional.
User experience remains a barrier to mainstream crypto adoption that will improve over time. When users can easily onboard and access integrated crypto experiences, it will hugely benefit the industry—even if people don't fully realize they're using crypto.
Tag(s): Defi , Amberdata Podcast
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