Institutions Are Definitely Here: ConsenSys’ Harriet Browning (Interview)

ConsenSys is an Ethereum blockchain innovator and the company behind the leading MetaMask wallet. The Brooklyn, New York-based Web3 company has raised over half a billion dollars in late series seed capital in the last six months.

Meanwhile, its MetaMask wallet and Ethereum Dapp OS have grown to over 30 million active monthly users as of writing these lines.

Harriet Browning is the Lead for Business Development and Strategic Sales for ConsenSys EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa).

Browning is an accredited CFA with a background in derivatives, mutual funds, structured finance, equities, foreign exchange options, fixed income, and investment banking, she brings a wealth of experience to the blockchain industry with her work at ConsenSys.

During the Paris Blockchain Week conference, CryptoPotato got a chance to speak with Browning about ConsenSys and the recent seed raise, MetaMask,, in regards to Web 3.0, what differentiates the institutional MetaMask from the personal, and why she is not worried about the ongoing crypto bear market.

ConsenSys Is Growing Rapidly: $450 Million Seed Round

ConsenSys recently raised $450 million in a round led by SoftBank, Microsoft, and Case-Mate. Previous Series C investors who took part included Third Point, Marshall Wace, TRUE Capital Management, and UTA VC, United Talent Agency’s venture fund.

Harriet Browning, ConsenSys

Browning sees these giant names venturing so much capital to invest in the blockchain space as a sign of another major step toward mass-market adoption of cryptocurrency by high tech and finance sector incumbents:

“I think undoubtedly, we’re seeing large investors moving into this space and having an interest in this space. And we definitely see it as a signal for the adoption of decentralized web, Web 3.0 in general.”

And it’s not just all the skin these corporations are putting in the game in hope of reaping rewards from blockchain’s growth.

It’s also the strategic partnerships these investments entail that will continue to cross-pollinate innovation and best practices across sectors to spur wider growth and marketability:

“For us, these investors are not just investors, but they’re also strategic partners. So they’re partners who will help us evolve our platform and evolve our products and tooling as well to improve and to increase the adoption of Web 3.0.”

SoftBank’s participation in the seed round is a strong signal. The Japanese investment management conglomerate has thrown its weight behind a long roster of blockchain companies (e.g., CertiK, DriveWealth, The Sandbox, Blockdaemon, FTX US, Elliptic).

Browning sees fast-growing valuations like that of ConsenSys and its peers in blockchain as a signal that Web3 is here:

“I’ve worked in traditional finance. I’ve seen the pace of innovation there. I see such a huge change in the pace at which products are being developed and growing in the blockchain space.”

Here’s how ConsenSys is capitalizing on the opportunities presented by Web3 as the future of blockchain rapidly unfolds, with its institutional-grade, regulatory compliant version of the MetaMask Ethereum DeFi wallet:

“MetaMask Institutional is the de facto DeFi wallet and access to Web 3.0. It’s the decentralized web for institutions, but more than institutions— for all organizations. So our North Star goal with the product is essentially to enable access for everyone, all organizations.

What we’ve done here is essentially replace the hardware wallet layer with a custodial integration, because that provides the rigorous security and governance that institutions specifically need for storing their private keys.”

Browning explains how ConsenSys provides an extra layer of security for MetaMask users with custodial integrations. That is critical for onboarding institutional investors to reliably and safely hold digital assets in the Web3 ecosystem.

The Institutional Bridge to the Web3 Revolution

She expands on the motivation behind the institutional version of the famous web-extension wallet and what differentiates it from the personal version that we all know.

“Which is more onerous than what a consumer would need to enter into the DeFi space, because Institutions need to have multiple signers for transactions.”

In addition, they’ve also integrated various compliance features so that institutions “can know their transactions and do pre- and post-trade analytics on the smart contracts and wallets that they would be engaging with.

The number of different ways users are already developing their interests and businesses on the platform is astounding.

“We’re seeing luxury brands coming into the space: as well as artists, NFT collectives, and DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) . And so what we’re trying to do with the partners that we’re bringing on board is provide a range of flexible offerings for the key management, because not everyone has the same requirements.”

Wall Street has taken notice. And traditional investors have tipped the scales from scornful, to doubtful, to enthusiastic about seeking returns from the maturing cryptocurrency industry:

“Definitely it’s no longer the ‘They’re coming,’ narrative. It’s definitely ‘They’re here,’ and how do we support and help this ecosystem grow with them in tow?”

Bear Market: The Institutions Are (Still) Coming

The bear market in crypto and DeFi token prices this year has brought a swell of institutional investors with the opportunity to make large acquisitions at a bargain price:

“How does a hedge fund generate performance? It’s about alpha, right? And that’s what we, essentially, come in to support and solve for. So how do you remove the barriers to entry to DeFi? Which is where the long-tail of alpha and opportunity is.”

With the stellar growth the blockchain sector is undergoing and teams like those at ConsenSys building the bridge infrastructure to onboard institutional players, there seems to be a lot of upside ahead for the cryptocurrency industry.

She also argued that the market has become much more resilient, despite the “overarching macro environment.”

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