Bobby Lee Returns With Ballet, a Crypto Hardware Wallet for the Masses

More than a year after he sold one of China’s longest-running bitcoin exchanges, Bobby Lee, co-founder and former CEO of BTCC, is back.

Announced Thursday at CoinDesk’s Invest: Asia event in Singapore, Lee’s new venture, Ballet, is rolling out a hardware wallet supporting multiple cryptocurrencies.

To differentiate its product and spur adoption outside crypto circles, Ballet will generate public addresses and private keys for users in advance.

Lee believes this design will make it easier for people who have no exposure to crypto to get hands-on experience with the asset without having to go through the set-up process most hardware wallets require.

“We wanted to create a wallet that is simple and elegant. And that is what we’ve done,” Lee said on stage Thursday.

Handheld

The wallet, also dubbed Ballet, is a piece of metal the size of a credit card that prints a QR code associated with the cryptocurrency wallet address set up by Lee’s firm.

On each wallet, beneath the QR code, there is a string of printed encryption code. At the bottom of the card, there’s another string of encryption code that’s coated, which a user must scratch off in order to see.

Only the combination of the two through Ballet’s iOS and Android app, also launched Thursday, will allow the user to see the private key, which will be the same key to access all cryptos on different blockchains that Ballet supports.

“I’ve been working on this hard since January of this year,” Lee said during his presentation. “We’ve gone through six iterations of this hardware wallet design.”

Currently, the firm’s product supports native cryptocurrencies on the bitcoin, litecoin, XRP, and ethereum networks as well as tokens that have been issued on specific blockchains such as all ERC-20 tokens.

Mockups of the Ballet wallet presented at Invest: Asia. (Image via Zack Seward for CoinDesk)

Low price

To further the goal of fostering mass adoption, Lee said the pre-order price of Ballet will be $29, less than what existing hardware wallets with more advanced cold storage security measures cost. The company now eyes October for shipment after taking in pre-orders.

In a fireside chat at Thursday’s event, Lee said the project started in late December and has raised an undisclosed amount of capital in a seed round backed by Ribbit Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in crypto exchange Coinbase. Lee said Ballet has 20 staffers worldwide with a global headquarters in Las Vegas.

The company does the pre-setup for each wallet being sold to generate blockchain addresses and the associated private keys, but Lee said the firm deletes the data after production.

“We generated the keys for you in two locations thousands of miles apart,” he said. “[After that] we manufacture ourselves out of the process.”

Lee is mostly known in the crypto industry for running BTCC, one of the earliest crypto exchanges in China. He joined BTCC in 2013 as a co-founder and CEO, two years after the exchange was launched by Yang Linke, and helped the firm secure a $5 million Series A funding round backed by VC giant Lightspeed.

In January 2018, BTCC was sold to an unnamed blockchain investment fund based in Hong Kong, just months after China’s central bank issued a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) as well as fiat-to-crypto trading.

Bobby Lee image via Zack Seward for CoinDesk

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