In a recent episode of Flywheel DeFi, Sean Hackett, the founder of Radical Semiconductor, showed off his latest product, the LiteCard, and talked about his company's inception and future growth.
Radical Beginnings: From Stanford to Finding PMF
Sean studied physics and economics at Stanford and while there, he partnered with two co-founders who had hardware specializations. Sean was interested in crypto while at university, but didn’t really dive into it until afterwards when he and his team got together to launch Radical Semiconductor. Crypto was the ideal proving ground for what he was wanting to build because crypto is an industry that is at the cutting edge and iterates at a fast pace. His team had explored moving into Defense or the banking sector, but those relationships take years to develop. It naturally made the most sense to build for crypto first and then adapt once market fit is found.
Radical’s first product is the LiteCard, a mobile, portable hardware wallet built for day-to-day use. The LiteCard looks like any other credit card… and it kind of is. It can be used for contact and contactless NFC communication, paying with a simple tap. But what truly sets the LiteCard apart is its unparalleled security. The card boasts advanced hardware and software security measures, ensuring that cryptographic keys remain impervious to even the most advanced threats. Sean and his team are taking trusted hardware used by banks and governments alike to build a generalizable cryptographic computer that fits in your wallet.
Their long term idea is to build a day-to-day payment card connected to the crypto world.
The current wallet market has a lot of gaps. Many existing wallets are tailored for specific use cases, such as keeping money on a CEX, DeFi, or cold storage.
However, Sean pointed out that these wallets are often too specialized. For example, there isn't a wallet designed to help Web3 brands grow or facilitate easy in-store payments that mirrors the convenience of credit cards. We all want a seamless crypto payment experience, but it’s a massive product development UX issue. No one has solved it yet and that’s where Sean believes Radical can make its mark.
How Radical Plans To Make Crypto Payments Seamless
Sean explained, "What we've done is taken the little chip on this smart card and replaced the software with a little applet that functions as a crypto wallet. This chip can sign messages, much like how your credit card operates when you make a purchase. But the difference is, this stores the private key for your wallet." The card can be paired with phones, offering a secure experience akin to a ledger-style hardware wallet. Users can transact using their phones via the NFC channel.
The prototype, which Sean distributed at a recent event in New York, is just the beginning. He highlighted the advancements Radical is working on, stating, "The chip we're developing will have 10 times the memory of a standard credit card chip. It will support any cryptographic signature, be it BLS, ZK, or even post-quantum cryptography." This upcoming custom silicon chip, set to be released in 2024, promises to revolutionize the way we perceive and use crypto wallets.
Sean further elaborated on the chip's capabilities: "The upcoming chip will allow for more application memory. Imagine having the Visa payment app for fiat currency transactions at a store and a crypto wallet on the same card. Additionally, it's designed to run any cryptography, not just what's available today but even emerging cryptographic methods." Continuing he said "The big value add that we think the smart card form factor will bring to the space is introducing crypto protocols, primitives, and products to the point of sale counter."
Radical is using a unique cryptographic algorithm called Shamir’s secret sharing or threshold signatures. In essence, this algorithm allows a private key, such as a wallet private key, to be divided into multiple parts. To reconstruct the key, not all parts are required; for instance, only two out of three pieces might be needed. This feature offers a layer of security and flexibility. Sean gave a practical example: "One of the things credit card users benefit from is fraud protection from the issuer. With our system, you can tap our card to a point of sale system, and your card holds one of the three shards. The vendor then seeks permission from your issuer to validate the transaction."
This means that in the future, Radical will be able to offer a way to reissue cards with lost crypto. While the protection measures are similar to a service Ledger proposed offering this past year which was met with massive resistance, it is a UX improvement that broadens day-to-day activity potential. And at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing if stablecoin enables crypto cards are going to be the future of money.