Interview With Taylor Culbertson – Hedgehog
PIA spoke with Taylor Culbertson, CEO of Hedgehog about how he got involved in Crypto and founded Hedgehog, how they secure their robo-advisor, what are the cyberthreats in the crypto area, and more.
Private Internet Access: Hi Taylor, thank you for taking the time to talk with us, please tell me what motivated you to start Hedgehog?
Taylor Culbertson: As a developer, I’ve gotten stiffed on multiple contracts. One counterparty was successfully sued by an ex-partner. One went bankrupt. Another was from Alabama, and decided that because we were in California, they simply didn’t have to pay us. Resolving that situation — when someone owes you money but refuses to make good — is a huge pain. When I found out about Ethereum smart contracts, I was fascinated because I could immediately see why self-enforcing agreements were an essential innovation. That’s what sucked me into the crypto world, and I haven’t looked back.
From my time at Acorns, I knew one of the best ways to manage investments was to design an index and dollar-cost averaging. But there aren’t any tools that support that for cryptocurrencies, so I used a spreadsheet and web-scrapers. (Which… well, if you ever consider using Excel to manage your investments… uh… don’t.)
From managing and updating all our wallets and Ledgers, handling the ins and outs of public keys, to actually understanding what I was investing in and avoiding the urge to make impulsive trades, simply managing a crypto portfolio was becoming a full-time job. So I decided to actually make it a full-time job, and build something that would make crypto investing easy for everyone! That’s how Hedgehog was born.
While learning about crypto both as a user and developer, observing the crazy ups and downs of this ecosystem, I realized my mission: Help normal people tap into the phenomenal opportunity opened up by this space, while managing their risk appropriately, instead of YOLOing their life savings into DOGE. (This is not an anti-DOGE statement — DOGE is love, DOGE is life! And yet… hopefully it isn’t your entire net worth.)
PIA: What does Hedgehog do, and what is your flagship product?
TC: Hedgehog is a crypto-first robo-advisor that connects to hundreds of wallets and exchanges, and helps you to invest in various baskets of crypto assets called Stacks, rebalance the investments on a regular basis, and set up recurring buys if you so desire.
We’re the only company approved to give personalized crypto advice in the U.S., and our flagship product will be launching within the next couple of months.
Our long-term goal is to be the Vanguard or Charles Schwab of crypto, in the sense of both enabling easy, comparatively low-risk, “set it and forget it” investment products, as well as facilitating any targeted investing that our users want to do.
We originally launched as a portfolio tracker — users could sync all of their exchange accounts and wallets via API in order to see everything in one place. Hedgehog is expanding from there to be an all-in-one dashboard for crypto investing.
PIA: What cybersecurity concerns, if any, are there when it comes to a robo-advisor that gives crypto trade advice?
TC: Hedgehog is able to execute trades on our users’ behalf. That means that account security is very important — we want everyone’s assets to be safe! We heavily encourage two-factor authentication and biometrics to help users keep their own accounts locked down.
On the infrastructure side, we are paranoid about access to our dev environment, and Hedgehog’s backend was designed to minimize attack surfaces.
As a financial service provider, our number one priority is protecting users’ funds. Hard stop.
Personally, my mom also uses Hedgehog, and I want to keep going home for Christmas!
PIA: What are the biggest cyberthreats when it comes to crypto, and how does your team handle them?
TC: In crypto writ large, the biggest threats are scams and hacks.
Rugpulls — when a founding team deceives users and investors in order to rip them off and enrich themselves — and DeFi vulnerabilities have caused big losses in recent years, to the tune of hundreds of millions.
In addition to continually investing in Hedgehog’s backend security, we put a lot of time into user education to help people navigate the chaos. For example, a recent article on Hedgehog’s blog explains how to evaluate different cryptocurrencies and compare them to each other.
PIA: What do you see as the biggest challenges for cryptocurrency in the near future?
TC: Trust and user experience. Both need a lot of work at the moment.
PIA: Online privacy is such a hot-button topic, especially when it comes to cryptocurrency, do individuals and companies need a good VPN to protect their data and privacy?
TC: We are big believers in privacy at Hedgehog!
A good VPN helps people ensure that their information is not being exposed without their consent. Allowing users to express their preferences — basically, creating tools that help them solve their problems — is what makes it so gratifying to write software. I’m sure the team at PIA shares that ethos!
Thanks for talking with us!