Gone crypto: From Revolut to Zeal

Making the jump from FinTech to Web3, Hannes Graah’s out to solve Web3 wallet pain points

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A major impediment to Web3 mass adoption remains the friction of using a crypto wallet, one that makes the user experience convenient while also keeping assets safe.

Some of the problems are technical — private key management, multiple blockchains, fiat on-ramps — but many shortcomings stem from unintuitive design.

Zeal, a new entrant into the wallet space, aims to tackle both. Developed by an 11-person team of product and engineering pros from Revolut, Spotify and Coinbase, the wallet demonstrates features that should appeal to Web3 newcomers and veterans alike. 

Project lead Hannes Graah (pronounced like “gray”) first became curious about the crypto scene in 2015 while working at Spotify, and got more engaged with Ethereum in 2017 as the growth lead at neobank Revolut. But it was only on the heels of 2020’s DeFi summer that his crypto journey began in earnest.

Read more: DeFi summer is over. Will it ever return?

“All of a sudden, all these things that used to be promises on white papers or ideas turned out to actually be tangible products,” Graah told Blockworks.

“The financial building blocks of traditional finance now existed also in decentralized shapes and forms — the zero-to-one moments of trading as an AMM, of lending as lending protocols — those are the core pillars of traditional finance, and now they existed also in a decentralized shape,” he said.

Graah and a few colleagues first launched DeFi protocol Gro, which was a decentralized risk and yield tranching protocol, organized as a DAO. But as interest rates fell, it became difficult to attract capital and make fully automated on-chain strategies competitive with off-chain options. 

The Gro DAO recently voted to wind down and is allowing members to redeem capital from its treasury. 

“We always had an idea that we wanted to build something that lets normal people access DeFi, and we started thinking about that in the context of yields, but now DeFi yields and [traditional finance] yields have to some degree converged,” Graah explained.

As interface builders for Revolut, the next logical step was to tackle the broader challenge of how to make DeFi apps more accessible to newcomers.

“Revolut experiences, like neobanks in Web2, are highly curated. They are king-made specific services, often built by the developer of the neobank,” Graah said. “Web3 is open finance where you have access to all kinds of products that are built, and right now we don’t do any curation of that.”

Zeal is a browser wallet, like MetaMask, and will connect anywhere MetaMask does. A mobile version is also in the works. But there are some key differences.

The wallet will route token trades via 1inch and 0x aggregators to find the best price, and it handles multichain transfers with built-in bridging using Socket.tech.

It launches with zero-fee fiat on- and off-ramps to connect to users’ bank accounts in the UK and wider Europe.

Today, most users must use a crypto exchange intermediary that sometimes raises red flags with banks, or dedicated on-ramp services that charge fees.

“What boggles my mind is that now, 15 years after the Bitcoin white paper [which] said that it was going to be peer-to-peer digital cash — and I still can’t just send you some digital dollars today,” Graah said.

Read more: How Bitcoin has evolved since Nakamoto’s white paper debut

But he goes much further.

“Why shouldn’t you be able to pay for a coffee with tokenized treasuries? Why are there these weird walls between different asset classes, when all asset classes should be liquid and interchangeable — you should be able to use your asset classes to spend on whatever.”

Addressing wallet pain points

Zeal is a self-custody wallet but users don’t need to store a seed phrase. It onboards users with a passkey, such as one generated by the fingerprint sensor on a phone or computer.

In the background, the wallet deploys Safe smart contract wallets to every EVM chain it supports. It also abstracts away gas tokens — the smart contract deployment happens without the user having to worry about obtaining any ether.

If you want to use a new EVM chain, the same wallet address will be there waiting. That’s a neat trick — dealing with cross-chain Safe deployments once tripped up major market maker Wintermute, resulting in a multimillion dollar loss.

“We’re now at a point where all the technologies are finally in place to build the product experiences that can deliver things for people,” Graah said.

Safe itself is also working on bringing better UX for end users, with integrations like Gnosis Pay that provide users an IBAN and physical debit card.

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Zeal plans to offer cards for point-of-sale transactions as well, but its first iteration focuses on the wallet experience, including things like “safety checks” to help users avoid scams and mistakes — features which currently require additional extensions such as Fire.

By using Safe, an open-source standard securing billions of dollars, users gain peace of mind.

Read more: Safe wants Ethereum users to create wallets with emails — not seed phrases

“If, let’s say, the worst case scenario — Zeal disappears off the face of the Earth — then it’s still just a normal, good old Safe,” Graah said.

All of this boils down to making cryptocurrency more useful to normal, non-technical users. That’s not just good business, but good policy, and will appeal to regulators, Graah said.

“If we keep on building wallets and treating cryptocurrencies like it’s a casino, then it’ll also be considered a speculative asset in a casino,” he said.

“We have to make cryptocurrency into money and make it useful so that it’s not just something that’s exciting during a bull market, but it’s something that I can use in my daily life.”


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