INTERVIEW – Eric Larchevêque returns for BFM Crypto to his discovery of bitcoin, the turbulence of the year 2022 and his vision for the future of the ecosystem.
Éric Larchevêque, the most smiling jury member of the show “Who wants to be my partner?” on M6, he is also one of the most notorious bosses in the crypto ecosystem. After discovering bitcoin in 2013, the following year he founded La Maison du Bitcoin (which became Coinhouse in 2018) and then the French unicorn Ledger. In this interview, the latter explains his discovery of bitcoin, discusses the impact of the fall of FTX on the cryptocurrency market and provides his predictions for the future of cryptocurrencies.
BFM Crypto: How did you discover bitcoin?
Eric Larcheveque: It was 2013. I had just sold my start-up Prixing and was looking for a sequel to my professional adventure. Seeing mentions of Mt Gox and other platforms on the internet, I was intrigued by this “magic internet money” and came across bitcoin. At first I even thought it was a scam, but after several readings of many different resources, I understood the impact bitcoin could have on society. I knew that I would dedicate the next few years of my life to bitcoin. It was a revolution for me in the same way as the internet revolution. My first approach to bitcoin was to mine it myself in my office. I then bought my first bitcoins on Paymium.
A year after your discovery, you founded the Maison du Bitcoin (today Coinhouse)…
I quickly realized that mining was complicated and industrial. I had the idea of opening the Maison du bitcoin, in 2014, as a place of dissemination on bitcoin and blockchain. There was also a counter, where people could buy bitcoins by paying small amounts. I had to explain bitcoin, mining, blockchain to hundreds of people. My goal was to open their eyes to this technology, we wanted to evangelize. Then the need for a physical place had its day, with its closure in 2020. Today we would no longer come to a physical counter to buy 10,000 euros of bitcoins. Now, to learn about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, there are many other channels. People make explainer videos, there are also crypto influencers. But we must not be naive: some influencers are sellers of scams (scams) who use the desire to understand to manipulate people.
You have experienced 3 down cycles (“bear market”), how do you see 2022?
I think it’s good that there are cycles that allow people not to be in some sort of permanent speculative fever, it’s beneficial for ecosystem building. I remember from this year 2022 that the Wild West is not over. After the second crash, I thought we were starting to build an ecosystem on solid foundations, but there was the downfall of FTX. After Mt Gox in 2014, we had FTX in 2022. It looks a bit like a clown ecosystem. What pains me isn’t so much the decline of bitcoin, it’s that the ecosystem still can’t be taken seriously. The FTX case will cost us 2 or 3 years before rebuilding everything. The good news in this bear market is that Bitcoin doesn’t change, the fundamentals remain. What I believed 10 years ago is still what I believe today. Nothing will shake my faith in bitcoin. The same “1 BTC = 1 BTC” is still valid and calms me down.
With the collapse of FTX, there is an awareness of the “not your keys, not your coins” mantra. This necessarily benefits Ledger, which you also founded in 2014.
Ledger’s value proposition has never been more understood and important than in 2022. We understand that if FTX fails, no one can be trusted. When you don’t need to grow your cryptocurrencies, you have to leave them in a hardware wallet (cold wallet), Ledger or other. The mantra “not your keys, not your coins” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a real necessity. Afterward, Ledger will always rather be in a bull market than a bear market.
Where did the idea for Ledger come from? Have you lost bitcoin yourself?
I haven’t had any incidents along these lines, but I understand that there is a need to ensure the need for private key retention. It seemed to me that offering a secure solution with a quality user experience was essential to support the development of Bitcoin. This responds to the basic philosophy of Bitcoin which is decentralization. We built the world leader in private key protection and never looked back.
You left Ledger in 2019 and joined the M6 show “Who want to be my partner?”, which first aired in 2020. Has this taken you away from the cryptocurrency world?
Let’s say I moved from the entrepreneurial world to this show. I had heard about the M6 project, which interested me. I remember M6 telling me, seeing my geek side “Warning, crypto is incomprehensible to Mr. and Mrs. Michu”. So, initially, I was chosen as an understudy, but eventually I was selected as a jury member. This experience opened me up to other horizons, made me want to expose myself to other worlds than cryptocurrencies. However, I haven’t moved away from cryptocurrencies. Although I left my position as CEO of Ledger in 2019, I remain its largest shareholder and am also on the board of directors. I also remain a significant shareholder of Coinhouse. I also make investments in crypto companies, like Metav.rs recently. I have no cryptocurrency operating business, but most of my holdings are still in bitcoin. I also sleep much better at night with my bitcoin assets than with euros.
What predictions do you make for the crypto ecosystem for the next few years?
I strongly believe in the user-centric notion of web 3. Finally, the user moves from product to actor. We will have true cryptocurrency adoption the day people don’t know they are using these technologies to access services. The challenge is that the user experience must be extraordinary and that people no longer ask themselves the question of what they are using to pay for. However, I think we are still a long way from using bitcoin to pay for baguettes in France. The next big step in the ecosystem for me will be when major states have cryptocurrency reserves. It could happen in 5 years. I also think that this is already the case in some states, except in the case of El Salvador, even if they don’t dare to admit it. I think this will happen due to a major economic disintegration of currencies.
You talked a lot about bitcoin, but little about ether, which is widely used on the web 3.
It is true that the Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains do not meet the same need at all. I’m not a bitcoin maximalist, and I think Ethereum answers other questions, essential for building the web 3. On the other hand, when it comes to the more financial and monetary aspect, bitcoin plays a role that Ethereum does not. For example, I would clearly be less comfortable if I had all my reserves of Aether.