At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading just below $30k USD, and its market cap is approximately $580 billion. Less than 12% of BTC is held on known exchange addresses, the lowest since 2017. This follows a turbulent year for cryptocurrency in 2022 which saw the implosion of crypto exchange FTX, which went from being valued at $18 billion to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after losing an estimated $8 billion in customer funds. This caused many to question the safety of investing in cryptocurrencies and led to a renewed focus on self-custody, or holding one's private keys. The concept of self-custody reflects the belief in Bitcoin's innovation of individuals being their own bank, without third-party risk.
Self-custodying Bitcoin is not without challenges, including the ease of losing access to private keys without any central authority to retrieve them or "print" new Bitcoin. This risk leads many to outsource custody to third parties, which, as we have seen, can result in the loss or theft of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin keys can be self-custodied through various means such as hot-wallets, cold storage, or seed phrases, each with unique issues. Hot wallets are considered insecure due to their internet connectivity, and even air-gapped cold-storage systems have experienced breaches, exposing customer wallet information and home addresses or suffering intrusive software upgrades from the cold-wallet provider.
Recent advancements in security have given rise to multi-signature (multi-sig) options, allowing for multiple keyholders and requiring a specific number of them to sign a transaction. While this elevates security, it may complicate accessibility since the keys are often held offline. Enter Theya, innovators of a mobile multi-sig solution that embraces the convenience of multiple keyholders on mobile, even offering the option for Theya to hold a third key as a backup. This unique approach ensures robust security while preserving accessibility—a feature that resonates strongly with mobile-native users. Furthermore, this solution may captivate parents aiming to support their children in owning Bitcoin. Through Theya's multi-sig mobile platform, they can shield their children's wealth while maintaining secure access to their Bitcoin assets.
This technology shift represents a growing trend towards individuals taking control of their Bitcoin, aligning with the underlying philosophy of decentralisation and autonomy in the cryptocurrency world. Statista states that there are approximately 81 million Bitcoin wallets in use worldwide with an estimated increase in the global cryptocurrency user base of 190% between 2018-2020. Theya is a Bitcoin-only service and their solution is likely to entice a significant number of existing Bitcoiners who want the benefits of security with the ease of mobile. In addition, there is a large untapped market of mobile-native consumers who are not yet onboarded to Bitcoin. This market segment is likely to gravitate to the service that is most convenient, but due to the recent fraud that has occurred in crypto they will also be looking for strong security, and may well opt for multi-sig.
In addition, there are several companies that offer multi-sig solutions, the best-known of these is Casa who offer a 3 out of 5 signature vault as well as white-glove custody solutions and Unchained who offer cold storage vaults. None of these providers support mobile currently.
This leaves a large gap in the market that Theya is looking to fill.
Theya’s founding team consists of Smeet Bhatt, a seasoned tech entrepreneur and investor from traditional finance, Vikas Choudhary, the Co-founder and CTO, previously leading the successful trucking marketplace, Porter, and Sriram Bhargav Karnati, an experienced technology veteran and blockchain engineer from Google and Robinhood. Together, this dynamic trio is guiding Theya toward new frontiers, establishing a self-custodial Bitcoin private bank.
Theya was part of the W23 cohort of YCombinator and the only Bitcoin company. They raised an undisclosed seed round.
The company aspires to become a Bitcoin private bank, or the "UBS of Bitcoin," as they refer to themselves. With aggressive interest in Bitcoin from major financial players like Blackrock and Fidelity, coupled with a growing mistrust of third-party custodial services, Theya's timing may prove to be impeccable.
In a landscape littered with Bitcoin companies whose technology stack or operational procedures have failed, one of Theya’s greatest risks is the adoption of self-custody as the form factor for securing Bitcoin. They are aiming to offer a delightful user experience without compromising on security. To this end, they are strongly considering open-sourcing their security model, which will engender trust through transparency and allow the ever-vigilant Bitcoin community to scour their service for any bugs or flaws.
Regulatory headwinds could present a problem, but Smeet has expressed on recent podcasts that he is confident that they are operating well-within the accepted frameworks of regulators and app providers such as Apple, on whose app store they are initially launching.
Recent events have emphasised the importance of good security and self-custody of Bitcoin, enabling Theya to emerge as a pioneer with its innovative multi-sig mobile solution. Echoing Bitcoin's core principles—decentralisation, autonomy, and individual control—Theya's approach balances robust security with convenient access, attracting mobile-native users seeking secure Bitcoin ownership. Despite technological and regulatory risks, the company's proactive measures, including potential open-sourcing of their security model, demonstrate adaptability. Supported by a strong management team and well-positioned in a changing market, Theya's journey to become the default Bitcoin-native consumer fintech platform is a promising venture, embodying the self-sovereign principles at the core of Bitcoin's ethos. The waning trust in third-party custodians, combined with a growing preference for self-custody, uniquely positions Theya to lead in secure, accessible, and responsible Bitcoin ownership.