There is a steady drumbeat of these stories happening with worrisome regularity:
- In December 2018, Gerald Cotten, the founder of the bitcoin trading exchange, died (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) resulting in the loss of $250M and the exchange going bankrupt. Gerald was only 30 years old and had not created an inheritance plan, nor were instructions of how to access the centralized assets ever found.
- In April 2018, Matthew Mellon, heir to Mellon family banking fortune and former chairman of the NY Republican Party finance committee, and cryptocurrency proponent, died. Prior to his death, he held an estimated $1B in Ripple (XRP) – all of this remains were inaccessible as he left no instructions, even though he protected the cryptocurrency via cold storage in multiple locations around the US in different people’s names.
- In 2017, an unidentified young crypto investor in Colorado died with a small fortune in cryptocurrency held in a coinbase account. The family, however, had no access to the account and eventually had to petition Coinbase directly. Eventually the assets were released after a lengthy process. If the account holder had not been a U.S. Citizen, this would have been a much more complicated process.
Our CEO and co-founder, having spent time working on early crypto industry deals at Andreessen Horowitz (one of the first VCs in the blockchain space), it became very clear there was no end-to-end solution for backing up and securing seed phrases and private keys, but also that in the event of death or incapacitation, there was no mechanism to directly pass on assets to a designated individual– that is the genesis of Vault12.
One of the painful consequences of such “death events” in the crypto economy is that they permanently and forever remove large amounts of coins from circulation, reducing the total available resources for all future users. Left unchecked, this might develop into a far bigger issue for the crypto industry as a whole since right, when the industry enters mainstream use in the coming years and decades, the supply of resources available to new entrants, as the industry enters mainstream use in the coming years and decades, the supply of resources available to new entrants will continue to shrink.