The world has evidently grown more comfortable with the industry of cryptocurrency and there has been a rise in both the number of cryptocurrencies as well as consumers willing to explore the unknown. This has worked out exceedingly well for some investors but considering the risks that are involved with investing in something unfamiliar, for others, the risks haven’t paid off quite so nicely. Just as with any technology, the uprising of a new avenue of a digital presence comes with alien risks and vulnerabilities that are designed to exploit those without a comprehensive understanding of the technology they are working with. With the hefty size of investments that are made in crypto, a loss can burgeon into something quite painful for an investor who falls prey to some of these attacks, highlighting the importance of security in every move that you make online.
Launched in 2022, Harpie, a company that provides on-chain crypto security solutions, has been one of the good guys looking out for the consumers’ safety needs online. Backed by leading Web3 names like Dragonfly Capital, Coinbase Ventures, and OpenSea, Harpie’s services help defend against security vulnerabilities that you might not even know to look out for, from bait and scam sites to phishing attacks that could cause big losses before you even realize it’s happening.
From the humble beginnings of a college student with an understanding of a gap in the crypto industry, the company has worked hard to build up trust in its services with time. Daniel Chong, CEO and Co-founder of Harpie, has helped the company grow its services and steadily reach more investors, providing crypto security to ensure their wallets remain safely in their possession where no straying hands can make a malicious attempt at accessing their data. We were able to get a quick interview in to hear all about his experience with Harpie and the expansive world of cryptocurrency.
On Harpie and the Future of Crypto Security
Technowize: Beyond preventing theft and scams, how does Harpie envision evolving into a broader security suite for Web3?
Stopping theft and scams will always be our core focus but as we grow, how we do that will evolve. We’re not necessarily going to grow by piling on features, but by making our product really accessible and helping people understand its necessity.
Right now, we are very focused on investor education. Most people understand that they should have wallet protection once they know that it’s available–but they don’t necessarily feel the urgency to put it in place right now. That typically comes only after direct experience of a scam or accidental transfer–and by then, it’s too late.
Near term, we want to do more outreach and onboarding, helping people get started with Harpie and showing them how easy it is to add meaningful protection for their self-custodied assets. In the long term, we aim to strengthen our enterprise relationships so that users don’t even have to proactively install Harpie themselves. If these tools are built directly into wallets, everyone can rest a bit easier.
Technowize: With the increasing institutional adoption of crypto, where do you see Harpie catering to their unique security needs?
We have the most advanced security tools in the market, but right now, we’re all about protecting individual investors. Banks, hedge funds, and other institutional actors need very specialized tools, which isn’t our current development focus. Still, we’re watching the enterprise space. If we see an opportunity to address their challenges with our technology, that could be a part of our evolution.
Technowize: The on-chain firewall concept is cutting-edge. How are you planning to stay ahead of constantly evolving crypto-threats?
The crypto scam economy does evolve rapidly–but those mutations take place at the social engineering level. Bad actors are constantly innovating ways to get people to click on the wrong link or accept the wrong smart contract–but once they do, the asset transfer mechanisms remain the same. Our technology is futureproof, to a certain extent, because it’s a low-level service operating very close to the blockchain itself.
Harpie detects when assets are being moved to an unknown or suspicious wallet and prevents the transaction from executing. No matter how sophisticated the scam, that trigger remains simple and hard to defeat.
Technowize: How do you see regulations impacting the landscape of crypto security in the coming years, and how is Harpie preparing for it?
The crypto industry as a whole is watching global regulators very warily right now but crypto security companies are unlikely to be directly impacted by any current or pending regulation. Scam and theft prevention are unambiguously good: regulators don’t have any reason to interfere with what Harpie is doing.
Still, in a rapidly changing landscape, it is important to diversify. We have developed multiple different methods of on-chain asset protection. If an unforeseen new regulation suddenly made one method untenable, we have other, proven solutions ready to fill that gap.
On Entrepreneurship and Leading in the Crypto Space
Technowize: You started Harpie while still studying at Duke. What unique challenges and advantages did this present, and what advice do you have for aspiring crypto entrepreneurs?
Starting Harpie while studying at Duke was a difficult and unique challenge because let’s face it: I was a college student building a security company. Security requires a lot of trust, and I had no money, no connections, and no track record. It was, frankly, really hard.
I am fortunate, however, to have an excellent support network including Duke—a world-class institution that enthusiastically supports entrepreneurship. It was also an advantage to be operating in the crypto space, where youth isn’t automatically seen as a liability. If you can talk the talk and walk the walk, the crypto community will treat you as a peer—even to the point of offering support and funding.
To other young tech entrepreneurs, my most valuable advice is to focus on the problem you are solving for your customers first and foremost, rather than improving some marginal technical disadvantage. A lot of people get very excited about technical capabilities and optimization, but none of that matters if your customers don’t have a reason to care.
Build a clear picture in your mind: Whose problem are you solving? Where are you going to solve that problem? How will you price your solution? You won’t have everything figured out right away, but seeking and refining these answers is even more important than writing your code.
Technowize: Harpie has secured funding from renowned investors. How did you navigate the early fundraising stages in the dynamic crypto market?
A lot of startup entrepreneurs have a pedigree that they rely on to get funding. That wasn’t me—so instead of a pedigree, I offered proof.
My co-founder and I built a prototype web app entirely under our own steam as a side project. It wasn’t perfect, there were outages and growing pains, but we found an audience. People used the app, which brought in some advertisers, and eventually allowed us to transition to a paid subscription model. By the time we were seeking funding, we had proof that we could build a product people actually wanted and were willing to pay for. That is more than what a lot of more seasoned, well-connected entrepreneurs offer.
One of the lessons here is that if you have a good understanding of what problem you want to solve and how; you don’t need much else to get started. You don’t need huge amounts of funding to create a proof-of-concept for a blockchain project: I knew what I wanted to build, so I learned the skills required and built it. If you have a great solution, the funding will follow.
Technowize: Leading in a fast-paced, often volatile industry like crypto comes with its own set of pressures. How do you maintain a work-life balance and ensure sustainable growth for Harpie?
I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the CEO “grindset.” Many tech entrepreneurs think they have to set an example of constantly working 12 to 16 hours a day so they can hold their staff to the same standard. I don’t believe that’s fair, sustainable, or necessary. There are diminishing returns for long hours: I suspect that very few of those 16 working hours per day are actually productive.
I aim to keep my working hours steady. Periods of heavy work and overtime happen: That’s part of the nature of any startup. You have to prepare by giving yourself time and space every other day. By maintaining a steady, manageable schedule most of the time, I preserve my own capacity and my team’s for those all-in moments.
Technowize: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you face as a young CEO in the crypto space, and how do you address them?
Actually, working in the crypto sector, I haven’t been faced with many misconceptions or prejudgments. I view it as one of the major advantages of this industry: I’ve always been respected as a young CEO in crypto, which I can’t imagine would be true in many other fields.
Exploring the Broader Industry and Web3
Technowize: Harpie focuses on empowering investors. How do you see individual ownership and responsibility evolving in the Web3 world?
I hope to see the conversation shifting from individual to communal responsibility for preventing scams and thefts. Right now, there’s a lot of finger-wagging at anyone who is the victim of a crypto scam, but is that really fair? Crypto consumers can receive 10 scam texts per hour—we are asking people to take on a massive burden of research and responsibility.
I believe crypto security is everyone’s problem. The social platforms the community uses have a responsibility to crack down on bots and fraudulent accounts. Security providers need to educate users about both risks and live threats. Security tools need to be more ubiquitous and built into more platforms. We need to make it possible for people to use crypto securely without themselves being crypto security experts.
I also see self-custody emerging as the best way to hold and transfer value in the developing world. In the Western market, there are a lot of options for holding money securely – but in the growing market, a crypto wallet is the best option, especially with respect to receiving aid or sending income to family members across borders.
Technowize: Decentralization is a core tenet of Web3. How do you ensure Harpie maintains its own neutrality while providing robust security solutions?
Decentralization is an important value for a lot of organizations, but it’s not always the highest possible good. Harpie values transparency and agility above decentralization. That is why we are a centralized company, and always will be.
As a centralized company, we can make decisions, respond to threats, and communicate our actions quickly without needing to navigate voting processes or community guidelines. When it comes to security, that degree of responsiveness is essential.
Technowize: Do you see a future where centralized and decentralized security solutions co-exist and complement each other in Web3?
It’s difficult to imagine what a successful decentralized security solution would look like—that aspect of Web3 will likely always rely on centralized organizations. However, solutions like Harpie do protect both decentralized and centralized assets and will continue to do so. Both have their place in the market.
Technowize: Looking beyond crypto, what other areas of Web3 do you find most exciting and ripe for disruption, and why?
I believe NFTs are a really interesting technology, and that we will see a resurgence in their use—albeit in a new form. What an NFT does really well is signify membership in a community. Up till now, these have tended to be speculative investment communities, but they don’t have to be. An NFT could signify your professional credentials, association memberships, union affiliation, and more.
I find digital identity in general to be a really interesting space. We need identity solutions that can be shown publicly while protecting privacy and can’t be lost or spoofed. Blockchain-based digital identity could accomplish all of that, improving safety and privacy online and in the real world.
Bio: Daniel Chong is the CEO and co-founder of Harpie, the crypto security platform. Daniel began using Bitcoin in 2012 and has been developing on Ethereum since 2018. While pursuing a Mathematics degree at Duke University, Daniel worked as a development and security consultant for a variety of crypto companies, leading award-winning projects to victory at conferences including ETHDenver. After closing a funding round in 2022, Daniel left Duke to focus on Harpie full-time. He’s dedicated to ending the threat of crypto theft and making smart contracts safe and accessible to all.