Better Know A Startup: IceVault (@swissicevault)

Bitcoin. Even if you don’t fully understand how it works or what it even does, you’re probably aware that it’s kind of a big deal. If you want to know why you should care about Bitcoin then I’d check out this article from Marc Andressen. It’s hard to ignore the recent influx of large VC investments into Bitcoin companies such as Coinbase, BitPay, Circle, which is understandable from a crypto currency that has grown from 0 to $7 billion market cap in just a few years. It’s not only that impressive growth, but also the general consensus regarding the disruptive nature of the Bitcoin protocol as a means of payment and for opening untapped opportunities yet unfathomable.

BitcoinHowever as one expects, with any young crypto currency with global ambitions, comes security issues. While the protocol itself is safe, many Bitcoin-related services, such as wallets and exchanges, have been repeatedly hacked and subsequently lost their clients money. And on top of that people are reckless and they throw things away. In this particular case, someone threw away a hard drive with over $7.5 million of bitcoins stored on it.

icevault has just released a solution that stores private keys offline in Swiss vaults, a concept, which they coined “deep cold storage” in the Bitcoin space. Icevault seems to be the answer to long-term storage needs with security at the highest level, acting essentially as your Bitcoin savings account, where you can receive funds safely from any third parties (clients, employers, etc.) and from any of your existing wallets.

“What icevault does differently is to give every user a segregated and secure account, and protect their private key in the safe, stable, and more private jurisdiction offered by Switzerland” says founder & CEO Frederic Thenault. This is clearly beneficial for the currency and not just for the rampant security issues it faces but also world because a majority of current Bitcoin owners do not spend any of their bitcoins, but mostly hoard them, which increases the importance of secure storage.

icevault

Here are more details on how icevault makes it happen:

  • The vaults are located in Switzerland

Switzerland is a country well-known for its asset storage history as well as its strict regulations on privacy. Swiss privacy regulations are the main reason why BlackPhone maker Silent Circle recently moved there. While any vault in the US can be opened easily by the authorities, Switzerland has a stricter process to authorize such access.

  • icevault accounts are segregated, not pooled: Your money is your money

This means that all accounts are personal and icevault customers can monitor their balance without having to rely on the provider: by simply verifying the public address state on the block chain. Fund segregation is fundamental as it maintains transparency by making independent verification possible. icevault offers security and reliability without grouping users’ accounts. Unlike most banks and Bitcoin wallets, icevault never uses customers’ funds nor do they access private keys unless requested by the customer.

Icevault logoicevault was founded in mid 2013 by tech entrepreneur and former banker Frederic Thenault, Laurent Bischoff, a Swiss VC and former Swiss Private Banker and with the help of veteran security expert Gilles Gravier (Oracle; Sun; Swiss Crypto company). icevault released a beta version in early 2014 and has since launched a revamped version with help from early adopters.

Currently, the company is raising a seed round for its next steps: expanding its commercial side, reaching out to the USA, and developing upcoming releases. In the future, icevault intends to use its Bitcoin safe storage technology to expand its solution to other valuable digital assets.

“At icevault, we envision a world where all your digital data are kept safe and private. It would be foolish to think that this type of environment would become available overnight, or that one company alone could “change the world.” We’d rather think of ourselves as just one part of a rich ecosystem of start-ups and companies that will disrupt the status quo and solve important problems related to security and privacy. For now, we offer a simple solution to a real security issue: by placing Bitcoin private keys in safe offline vaults in Switzerland, and thereby solving the problem of hacking, loss and unauthorized access.” remarks Frederic.

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