The Monty Report
The Monty Report
The Curious Mind of Ian Rogers

The Curious Mind of Ian Rogers

Ian C. Rogers, Chief Experience Officer at Ledger, takes us inside his fast-paced, creative, and curious reality. We discuss his career, art, bitcoin, books, business, brand, music, and much more.

Editor’s Note: This interview is available as both a podcast (above) and a written post (below). The written post is edited and condensed for clarity and includes a number of relevant images.

I have a story to share.

It’s kind of embarrassing (for me).

The first time I met Ian C. Rogers, he had just logged into the virtual conference room for this interview.

Ian is the Chief Experience Officer at Ledger and an avid art collector. Despite his busy schedule, Ian agreed to sit down for a two hour interview with me. Mind you, this is someone who is sought out for interviews with much larger publications than The Monty Report, so I was aware that getting two hours of his time was not something to take for granted.

Ian Rogers during our recording together

Despite never having met before, Ian immediately put me at ease with his casual demeanor. Ian’s brain seems to race almost faster than he can talk.

By the end of our time together I had learned a ton. I felt great about the interview. As I left my office to head to breakfast, I thought to myself - I think this might be one of my best interviews yet.

Back at my office after breakfast, I went to open the audio file for transcription and… it wasn’t there.

I had forgotten to click “record.”


If you’ve ever done anything like that, you know it is a terrible feeling. Like, really bad. I just wasted two hours of this guy’s time.

I thought through my options: I could just try to work up an article about Ian based on my memory of our conversation. I could scrap the whole thing. Or…I could see if he would be game to do it again.

So I reached out, owned up to my mistake, apologized, and proposed another conversation (while giving him a wide open out).

He replied four minutes (!) after my email:


While this story was embarrassing for me, I decided to share it because I think it does a good job illustrating the kind of person Ian is.

He thinks about serious things and he does serious work, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

He is professional, but also personable, generous, and kind.

He is busy, but not too busy to spread the good word about this unique and important moment in history, and the implications for all of us who are along for the ride.

Somehow, our second conversation, though different, managed to go just as well as our first. Throughout, I was struck by Ian’s ability to connect dots and reference obscure books, authors, and ideas to help tie his points together.

We covered a lot of ground during this (second) conversation, including:

  • Ian’s career, such as his time at Beats/Apple and LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton)

  • Bitcoin and why it is one of the “most important inventions of [his] lifetime”

  • The power of brand

  • What makes a good board member

  • Ledger’s strategy

  • Ian’s digital art collection

  • Ian’s book and music recommendations, plus his reading habits

  • How Ian is able to be so productive

  • …and much more.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did (twice!).


p.s. Please press the ❤ button at the top of this post and share it with your friends. If you have questions or feedback, please comment on this post. (If you’re reading this in your email, you can view the browser or app version here.)

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A Conversation with Ledger Chief Experience Office, Ian C. Rogers

I think of you as a futurist. Throughout your career you always seems to be one step ahead of the crowd. When you let your brain wander to 10 years in the future, what's going on?

I'm super excited about what's going on professionally and in technology right now. Last year I wrote a long tweet about how I think that in the world of crypto, we're in the year 2000 or 2001 relative to the timeline of the internet.

In other words, there are many ideas that we've known are inevitable for a very long time. What happens is you get overexcited about them and think it's all going to come true tomorrow. Then you realize it's not going to happen immediately, and that's when the bubble bursts.

But then you enter a period of sustained growth—which I believe we're in right now—and it is even more incredibly exciting.

I think that AI and blockchains are two sides of the same coin. They represent digital abundance and digital scarcity. We're at a pivotal moment for both technology and society.

There are a ton of things going on globally, many of which are uncertain and have potentially scary consequences depending on your perspective. At the same time, this means we are in a time of significant change.

I think about how I would like to position myself relative to these technological and societal changes.

“I think that AI and blockchains are two sides of the same coin. They represent digital abundance and digital scarcity.”

I know you’re a big reader. Are there any books that you’ve read that have informed your thinking on these topics?

One of the books I enjoyed last year is The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization by Peter Zeihan. Despite its doomsday-sounding title, the book, recommended to me by a member of Congress, provides an interesting lens on the macro factors at play in the world today. Zeihan is famously not a fan of crypto, but his conclusions made me think about the role crypto could play if many of the scenarios he describes come true.

There are already things happening in the world that, when pushed to their boiling points or conclusions, could have significant implications. I think about where I want to push things relative to these bigger changes and the role that technology plays within that.

Authors like Yuval Harari (Sapiens) and Ray Dalio (Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order) offer interesting historical perspectives on current events but lack the precise technological lens that someone like Balaji Srinivasan or Benedict Evans brings to the table.

Another great book I recommend is Chip War, which provides a lens to look at the period I've lived through with a completely different eye. Nearly everything we do is influenced by the silicon chip and how it has been leveraged over the last 50 years.

I find it interesting to think about the future with history as a guide while considering how technology changes that shape. As Balaji says, Starlink has repriced the earth. I certainly don't want to live in a city the same way I did in 1995. These are the kinds of things I think about when looking out at the next 10 years.

I hadn't heard that quote before about Starlink repricing the earth. What he means is that now living anywhere is the same as living anywhere else in terms of connectivity?

Correct. If you can do your job equally well in New York City at a certain price versus basically anywhere on earth…well there are many places on earth where the lifestyle is good and the real estate is cheap. I think COVID was a big wake up call for a lot of people.

I feel lucky. I had a bit of a wake up call myself earlier in life. In 1999 I was at a company called Nullsoft and we made Winamp [one of the first widely used music players on Windows] and we sold the company to AOL in May of 1999. AOL wanted to move everyone to San Francisco. I had a kid in grade school at the time and I was a single dad.

I said, I'm sorry, I can't move from L.A. to San Francisco. I was living in Topanga Canyon, which is this hippie canyon between the Pacific Palisades and Malibu and I actually had a fiber connection in 1999 and I was working at home. I was living the COVID life before COVID.

I was working for a virtual company, Nullsoft, where there were only three other employees. Justin Frankel, the head of Nullsoft at the time said don't move, man - stay where you are and fly up once or twice a month. I was like, wait, what? I could live in LA and work in San Francisco? And I did that for the next 15 years.

We started another company which sold to Yahoo where I worked for awhile, and then on to Topspin, then to Beats and a company they owned called Mog, and then onto Apple Music. Through all of that, I was working at home and going back and forth as needed to other California cities.

Ian Rogers, left, in 2013 with Luke Wood of Beats, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre of Beats.Credit. This photo is by Stephanie Diani and was taken for The New York Times, and appears in this article.

COVID made remote work not fringe, and something that was viable for lots of people. It's about connectivity, but also about lifestyle and how much you like adventure. For me, that was part of leaving California and coming to Paris. I wouldn't say lifestyle is better in either Paris or Los Angeles. They're different, and I really love both cities. But while some people like sameness, I like adventure.

“There's really no replacement for human beings sitting next to each other and clickin' like Golden State, as Pusha T says.”

Now that you've been in Paris for a bit, do you think you are a Parisian indefinitely or do you have plans to return to the States? 

I don't have any plans to return to the States. But I don't think I'll be a Parisian forever.

I was just having a conversation this morning with someone who works at a crypto foundation, which is completely remote. And he made the comment that they actually get the most done every quarter when they're all in the same room and can make decisions really quickly.

In person work is the thing that's impossible to replace. When we had a security incident with Ledger in December we dealt with it really quickly because we were all in the same room. Pascal, the CEO, was there. Charles, our CTO was in the room. Our general counsel was in the room. So we could make decisions really quickly.

I don't think we could have responded as quickly and as productively as we did if we weren't together. There's really no replacement for human beings sitting next to each other and clickin' like Golden State, as Pusha T says. So that's why I'm in Paris. Because being in the same room with colleagues building things is irreplaceable. That is exactly what I'll be doing for the foreseeable future.

Ian Rogers at his home in Paris with his partner. Photo by Justin Aversano, and originally shared in this post.

In the future, I don't really want to go backwards to something I've done before. It's nice to always have that backup so you can always go back to the familiar. But as long as it's fun and comfortable, I'd like to keep moving forward.

I think ultimately for me, I won't be in a city. I'll be somewhere more remote and hopefully still using my brain and working with amazing people like I get to do every day today. I will just be further away. That would be a nice way to retire without retiring.

I've been able to do some board positions over the years. I'm still on the board at Dr. Martens. I'm still consulting for LVMH [Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton]. I'm a board observer at a fashion search engine called Lyst. I've done a couple of smaller startup boards and advisory things. I love that.

As you just mentioned, you are a board member, and as an executive, you’ve dealt with your fair share of board members. What do you think makes a good board member? 

Great board members work hard for the company. I have to say at Dr. Martens, I think it took me some time to figure out what made me a good board member there. I think part of it is realizing why they wanted you to begin with, and then understanding how you deliver on that.

I think that there are a lot of things that board members do. And not all board members should do the same thing. If you've got a good, rounded, well-balanced board, they probably chose each board member for a particular reason.

My advice is don't try to spread yourself too thin. You're not in the company day-to-day. But there is something particular that you bring. For example, for me at Dr. Martens it's my technical experience combined with my LVMH experience and my belief in the power o good brand.

So I think for any board member, it's, what's your version of that? What's your flavor of that? Why were you chosen as a board member? Why do you round out this board relative to the other people and how do you bring your unique experience to the table? 

Understand the answers to those questions and then double or triple down on that.

“There are no great brands that are less than 15 years old. They are not yet great. I think in that sense, the only great brand we have in crypto is Bitcoin.”

Say more about the power of a brand.

I grew up with skateboarding and punk rock and really learned about quote unquote marketing from the Beastie Boys. I’ve learned that building brands takes a very long time.

There are no great brands that are less than 15 years old. They are not yet great. I think in that sense, the only great brand we have in crypto is Bitcoin. We will have more over time. There will even be such a thing as heritage brands.

But that takes a very long time. And, once you have that status, it's something that you can't buy. You do not put a great brand on sale. When was the last time you saw Apple or Louis Vuitton have a blowout sale where everything's discounted? Once you have a brand, you need to really protect it.

Ian Rogers at his home in Paris. Notice the Ledger on the table in front of him. Photo credit: Business of Fashion

Tell me about your time at LVMH

I feel quite fortunate to have had the LVMH experience because LVMH is like a degree that you can't buy. I was there for five years at the group level, looking over a hundred different brands, seeing the strategic plans and the budgets of those brands.

Every year there's a strategic planning process and a budgeting process and just simply ingesting those plans is like a business school degree that's not available on the market. 

I was also there at a time when there was a big transformation in terms of consumer behavior. LVMH customers really turned toward the internet. Not in a novel way, but in an almost utilitarian way. It used to be “oh, look, you can go browse this website.” Now it’s, “I actually have more money than time.” 

These customers expect the brands that they interact with to have incredible experiences. But the desired experience has changed. The meaning of luxury went from, “let's spend three hours in the store and have a glass of champagne” to “how do I get exactly what I want really quickly and have excellent customer support when I want it.” Being able to see that play out across the 75+ brands at LVMH gave me a particular experience set. 

Bitcoin has been in the news a lot right now because of the approval of the Bitcoin ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) by the SEC. This ETF will give a lot of people who've never invested in Bitcoin the chance to buy it easily and directly from their brokerage account.

So what's your pitch to them? Why does Bitcoin matter? Why does it have value? And why will value continue to accrue to Bitcoin? 

The first thing I would recommend that someone do if they'd like to know more about this is not to necessarily listen to me. Also, don't go read a bunch of people on Twitter.

Read Lynn Alden's book, Broken Money. I really think that's the place to start. I think that she makes an incredibly compelling case that even someone who's quite skeptical will find interesting.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that there were so many things in that book that I learned that I didn't really fully understand before. 

I also recently read a book about the Fed, and it was a similar thing – I can't believe that I'm just now understanding how this stuff works. I don’t think the average person should be required to understand how the Fed works, but I do think that having a historical perspective and some idea of how this international currency game works will help.

I think that Lynn makes a very, salient point in Broken Money that money has had a challenge over the past hundred plus years because once we developed technology that allowed communication to move basically at the speed of light, starting with the telegraph, we were able to communicate faster than we were able to move hard money. This technological shift moved us into a different kind of monetary world which she describes quite well in the book.

I think Bitcoin might be the most interesting invention of my lifetime, and it might be one of the most significant inventions in all of humanity.

In this world, having a decentralized, global, “always on” form of money, which is not able to be inflated by anyone and that moves at the speed of contemporary technology has a tremendous amount of value.

Bitcoin has proven itself in the market. It's been around for a long time now with so many people trying to kill it. Think about the fire that it has been under - the philosophical fire, the technical security, et cetera. 

There is a great quote in Broken Money about how Bitcoin exists in a very narrow design space where pretty much anything you try to do to it actually makes it worse. It’s already stood a substantial test of time. And not only time, but the volume of people who have been staring at it, talking about it, thinking about it, coding with it, coding on it, trying to break it, et cetera is significant. And despite all that it's been the best performing asset of the last 10 years.

I think that doesn't go unnoticed by people who are looking to hold assets, which, in some ways we all are. 

So I think that if you have a sense of what's happening in the world, what's happening with the dollar, what's happening with the debt to GDP ratio, and these kinds of things in our lifetimes and why they are different from what happened in our parents' generation, you get good perspective on it.

I think one of the great things that Lyn does in the book that was really helpful for me is understanding how the world that I grew up in is different than the world my parents grew up in and how it's different from the one my kids are growing up in.

You're looking at Bitcoin as the best performing asset of the last 10 years. I can't see why you wouldn't have a piece of it in your portfolio. Honestly, that would make zero sense to me why you would have zero exposure. Unless you just have some ideological problem with it. And that's called religion, which is not something I'm interested in. 

Now you mentioned the ETFs. They always say technology is overestimated in the short term and underestimated in the long term.

I think the ETF could very easily be a “sell the news” event. I sincerely hope it is because I personally will buy the dip…again. I’d say when you look at the long term implications, you're crazy not to have some kind of an allocation to Bitcoin. And even if that allocation is as low as 1 to 5%, when many people begin allocating at that level, we're in a completely different world in terms of the social acceptance and value of Bitcoin. 

It's going to be incredibly interesting to see how this plays out. There's no question we're at another one of these precipices. Everybody wants to say what's on the other side and no one really knows. As a rule, I don't listen to podcasts or read things which are just about speculation. I'm more interested in the history and the fundamentals, and I think that the fundamentals for Bitcoin are incredibly strong. 

I think Bitcoin might be the most interesting invention of my lifetime, and it might be one of the most significant inventions in all of humanity.

Also, the story of Bitcoin is just incredible. We human beings are story consuming creatures and the story of Satoshi Nakamoto, who may or may not be a time traveler who created this at exactly the right moment in the wake of the 2008 debt crisis, when all of the puzzle pieces fit together, both technologically and philosophically to put this into the world, and then to just have the foresight to disappear and the patience to do nothing afterwards.

If you put it in a movie, nobody would believe it.  Yet, here we are. 

I can't see why you wouldn't have a piece of it in your portfolio. Honestly, that would make zero sense to me why you would have zero exposure. Unless you just have some ideological problem with it. And that's called religion, which is not something I'm interested in.

In regard to the ETF, do you have any concerns about the centralization of so much Bitcoin with a handful of custodial entities.

Definitely. At the end of the day, self custody matters, whether you are an enterprise or an individual.

If you're an individual and you prefer to custody your Bitcoin with someone else, then exactly how they are securing and custodying those Bitcoins matters. 

I'd say there's two separate things here. First, will Bitcoin itself become centralized? I don't think so because it's really the miners who secure the network. Lyn [Alden] does a great job in Broken Money of asking, is there a centralization risk or a 51 percent attack risk with Bitcoin and what are those risks? So you can explore that more there. 

My other concern is more around how people and institutions are holding their crypto. Are they putting trust in people who might turn out to be Sam Bankman Fried? Remember there were both retail investors and institutions who were swept up in the FTX fallout. 

FTX really looked legit. There are many people who say, oh no, it looked like a fraud all the way. Come on. They were buying super bowl ads. They were talking with policymakers. They clearly had an air of legitimacy. Like you wouldn't have been considered crazy to think they're doing things like good security.

One problem is, there are many people at high levels of these companies that think about the business but they don't think about the technology or the security. There are solutions on the marketplace, which look like self custody more or less, but they don’t really have an answer to “What happens to that shard that you hold if you go out of business, right?” 

There are companies that say they're focused on security, but when you push deeper, it's security theater, it's a door behind a door. And if I say door enough times, then, you're supposed to feel secure. 

This is what I worry about, because people who believe in this space might lose their money. And that's horrible for all of us, but also it really hurts the legitimacy of the asset class.

I actually think the ETF is probably quite good for the asset class overall because you will have regulated custodians who are in the business of custody and security who are looking after those coins. It allows somebody who is an average investor who is willing to take a risk on the value of the asset, but who might not be willing to take a risk on other things, whether it's regulatory or technological or security or losing their recovery phrase or choosing the wrong custodian, et cetera. The ETF can remove those risks from the equation and allow you to simply pay a small fee to bet on the asset class.

The ETF also probably puts many people on a slippery slope, like so many of us have been on. You start with a little bit of exposure and then you get more educated and then you get more exposure and then you become interested in things like self custody and security. And then you become a Ledger customer. 

The slope is slippery because it's real. Because the fundamentals are good. The deeper you look the more convinced you get, and the further you go. That’s why they call it down the rabbit hole.

So to summarize: I think the ETF is incredibly positive all the way around. You're going to onboard a lot of new people who want exposure to the asset class. And I do believe that many of those people will go further down the rabbit hole. 

Ian Rogers in the 1990s with his daughter, Zoe—who was born when he was just 17. Photo from this Wired article.

If these new participants go further down the rabbit hole and they say, okay, I want to get into self custody, then tell them about Ledger.

What's Ledger's core strategy and how does Ledger differentiate itself from other providers in this space? When I look at my options, why would I choose to go with Ledger? 

Ledger is a company that's turning 10 years old this year and has really always been about exactly the same thing: allowing people to secure their crypto. 

Let me be more specific: It's a hardware wallet with a service layer on top so that you can do whatever it is you would like.

It’s the only programmable environment on top of a secure element on the planet. 

So what is a secure element? A secure element is a special chip that is difficult to program that brings security in the way that a more broad functioning chip, like the ones that are in your cell phone, do not.

These chips have been in use for tens of years. It's the same chip that's in your passport or in your credit card. But where the credit card protects the secrets of the bank and the passport protects the secrets of the government, a Ledger protects your secrets.

On top of that, we have a lightweight operating system so you can install whichever plugin you would like to support the type of crypto that you like and use - Bitcoin and Ethereum and a couple hundred other plugins amounting to thousands of different types of crypto across chains.

You can use your Ledger just for cold storage, if that’s what you want - get a Ledger, load up Bitcoin, and put it in the closet and wait 10 years.

That’s a fine use case, but there are other things you can do too. Using Ledger Live you have access to services, whether you'd like to stake your coins or swap them or buy them or have them deposited directly into your Ledger. We have a credit card that we offer so that you can off ramp your crypto. You can trade, you can collect NFTs. You can even use your Ledger as your second factor passkey. For example, my Ledger is my second factor on my Twitter account, my government account, et cetera. So I've got an extremely secure second factor in these places that I need. 

We are always trying to bring the best user experience possible to the table in crypto, but we never compromise on security or self custody. User experience is actually really tricky when you want to be secure and when you want to hold your own coins.

In this cycle, just like in every cycle, you'll see many people who are willing to compromise on either security or self custody or both. Every time it ends the same way: in a crash. From Mt. Gox to FTX. 

When FTX went down, I had zero concern about the safety of my crypto because I knew exactly where it was. I had even done swaps within FTX, but I had swapped from self custody to self custody and I just didn't have any concern. Fundamentally, that security and that freedom is what we provide at Ledger. 

Let's talk about Ledger Recover for listeners and readers who are not familiar. Can you tell us what it is and also why it was so controversial when you announced it? 

When you have a self custody wallet, you have a recovery phrase. That recovery phrase allows you to recreate the wallet. So it's actually one of the superpowers of the wallet.

If you buy a Ledger device, you can buy more than one to experience this yourself. When you set up your Ledger you write down your recovery phrase. Those 24 words now can be put back into any Ledger and they will recreate your wallet, and you'll be able to recover those accounts on that wallet.

For example you could set up a Ledger, write down that recovery phrase, use it as a bookmark in a book, take the Ledger, throw it into the fire, cross the border, buy a new Ledger and input those 24 words into the new Ledger and boom, you're back in action.

I think that's truly a superpower of carrying value around with you. You can store value cryptographically and recover those accounts with those 24 words.

The challenge of those 24 words, of course, is that new users don't really understand what they are. They're used to an environment where if they need to recover their password, they just go to the company's website and put in their email address and reset the password.

Realizing the importance of these 24 words is not something a brand new user understands. Unfortunately at Ledger, we hear the horror stories every day of people who can’t find their recovery phrase. They reach out and ask can you help me? The fact is we can't. Part of being secure is there are no backdoors.

We have no way to get your value back for you if you have lost it. You are in charge of your value when it comes to a self custody wallet. So you get this recovery phrase and now you are supposed to do something smart with it. And regardless of the amount of value you have in that device, we can't help you if you lose it. 

Ledger Recover is something we worked on for three years to help you securely recover your accounts while keeping with the principles of self-custody.

Here's how it works: Your private key is encrypted, cut into three pieces, and given to three different custodians in the UK, Central Europe, and the US. At least two of those shards are needed to recover your wallet. When you sign up, you use a government ID for identity verification. In case you ever need to recover, you go through two identity checks, and those shards are sent back to a Ledger device, where they are reassembled. No one who isn't you ever has your complete private key.

It's a $10 per month optional feature aimed at newer users. If you're a crypto OG comfortable protecting your recovery phrase, this product isn't for you. Ledger Recover also comes with a $50,000 guarantee from our partner Coincover, which tells you something about the target audience.

Our belief is that Ledger Recover will help bring a completely different class of people into self-custody. Around 450 million people own crypto, but only about 10 million are using hardware wallets for self-custody. We've got a job to do to bring more people to self-custody, which I believe is the way, the truth, and the light.

In trying to do this, we’ve learned a big lesson at Ledger in just how to talk to the community. We were trying to build something targeted to new crypto users and we took a lot of fire from experienced crypto users. We screwed up on not getting the correct messaging out before the release notes. It's extremely difficult to talk to both audiences at the same time, particularly in the middle of a bull market. 

So people weren't able to fully understand that this was an optional service, but not a change to their service. We hadn't expected this. We were fully prepared to have the conversation about whether this product is good, secure and what is its architecture. We were also prepared to have the conversation about who is this product for. Maybe this product isn't for you. 

Our naiveté was not expecting to have a conversation beyond that. Where people said, wait, how can you even do this? The reality is that if we can sign a transaction using the device, then we can also do what Ledger Recover does. They are technically the same.

We had an assumption that the hardcore crypto community fully understood the way hardware wallets and software wallets work. I think it crossed a line for people that revealed their lack of understanding of the way that wallets work.

So if there's a silver lining here, maybe it's that many people realize that if your threat attacker is your wallet, you're screwed. Unless you are literally building your own wallet you are trusting someone in this chain. Then comes the  question of who do you trust? And again, we are not excited that we disappointed or pissed off people from the community, but we also know that, at the end of the day, we are a trustable entity. 

We've been in this space doing the same thing and saying the same thing for 10 years. We've been through many boom and bust cycles, and we keep doing the same thing and saying the same thing. And I think that that will prove itself over time.

Ian wearing a custom Chromie Squiggle sweater, featuring his Squiggle #159 by Snowfro, pictured below. Ian is bullish on generative fashion.

As you look at the next two years and you look at Ledger's position and you think about Ledger’s strategic plan, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges that you face as a company? 

We're thinking super practically about all of the vectors on which we need to succeed.

One is building the best hardware with the best user interface and the best form factor. That's something that we set out to do with Stax. We've had this challenge with the screen yield on Stax, but the project itself is actually incredible.

It's heartbreaking that we've had this challenge with the screen yield because the product itself, and the usability, is something that we just think the market is going to love. We're desperate to get that out and we have a very strong roadmap behind that initial release.

The second priority is to show people the astounding number of things you can do with Ledger in addition to cold storage. Through Ledger Live, you can earn yield by staking, you can swap, buy, or do a weekly DCA using using one of our partners. You can use the Ledger credit card for off ramping your crypto.

We threw down the gauntlet in December by saying that blind signing is not something we're going to let people do with our hardware anymore. We had an issue where a hacker changed a file that allowed web3 apps to connect to Ledger, and for about 90 minutes, it was draining wallets of people who blind signed on third-party sites. Nobody using Ledger Live, clear signing, or with blind signing turned off was impacted.

Blind signing is a terrible behavior. I've been saying it's like unsafe sex—it's fine until it's not. We're always at risk. It's the '80s, and we're having unsafe sex several times a day. You're going to catch something.

We've been trying to push dApps to implement clear signing for years, but everyone thinks it's not their problem. It is. If you can't handle people's value securely, you shouldn't be handling it at all.

We're going to spend the first half of this year working with the dApp community to make it much easier for people to see what they're signing at all times and eradicate blind signing, which will wreck people if we don't fix the root problem.

What happened to Ledger in December will happen to another wallet or part of the chain tomorrow if we don't address this.

Another thing we need to focus on is the dev platform. We have 200 different applications that run on Ledger there, and they all go through security review. It's a huge challenge but super important to the communities. If you look at what the Pokla Dot community achieved on Ledger platform last year it's incredible, and that's just one community. If you multiply that across every community in the space - Solana, Cardano, et cetera, you've got incredibly interesting applications that are being written for Ledger. Supporting all of those communities is a huge priority for us.

We want to partner with all the best services in the space to give people the best user experience around whatever they would like to do with their crypto.

The other big focus for us is Ledger Enterprise, because we know the world tomorrow will be heterogeneous. You will have self custody hardware wallets, smart contract wallets, and enterprise level custodians. The security around all of those places should be important to you.

You should have a piece of hardware connected to your smart contract wallet. If you are using a custodian, then the security of that custodian should be as important to you as the collateralization of that custodian, right? We know that there are exchanges that are using Ledger Nanos as their security on the back end, and that should scare you because that means that there is a recovery phrase somewhere. Our goal is to have Ledger Enterprise be the solution that powers the industry, and that builds services that the industry needs.

Last year we announced a Ledger Enterprise trade link, which is a trading network that allows you to have more trading volume without necessarily taking the custody risk and being the marketplace between asset managers who would like to trade and exchanges who would like to trade.

These things will continue to be the focus for this year. There are some other interesting things I mentioned earlier: pass keys. I think we are moving into a password-less environment. As our CTO Charles Guillaume says, biometrics are interesting, but they are not passwords.

Passwords are secrets which can be rotated. Biometrics are neither secrets, nor can they be rotated. Using your Ledger as your passkey, if you are interested in security, is a much better solution than your face ID or your fingerprint. 

I always say, there's no such thing as “Crypto.” Crypto is a collection of communities the same way that there's no such thing as music. Music is a collection of communities.

Separate from the security side you're doing some fun stuff at Ledger. For example, you have been doing these artist collaborations, like the one with Grant Yun designing a limited edition Ledger based on his iconic cow in the field piece. I'm extrapolating here, but you have a background in luxury, having worked at LVMH. Is part of the motivation of these artist collaborations to to make Ledger more of an object of desire and not just a security tool?

We live in this combinatorial digital physical world. We're physical beings. We live in physical dwellings. And yet we generally care more about the opinions of our network neighbors than our physical neighbors. We spend all of our time with people online, yet our human carcasses live in the physical world.

Ledger Nano X Grant Yun Limited Edition

Ledger is the physical representation of digital value, and having it be something fun and cool and desirable is better than having it be something that looks like medical equipment.

That was fundamentally what Jimmy Iovine realized with Beats. He looked at the iPhone and the extrapolation he made was headphones will be like sneakers — everybody will have a pair and the ones that you have will say something about who you are. I think the revelation was that simple. And it was true.

I think Ledger can be that kind of object. If you are using a Ledger, you're a particular kind of person. I don't know if you're a Bitcoin person or a Doge person or an mfer or a Bored Ape or a Punk or whatever, and that is what I love.

Not everybody who's into crypto is into the same crypto. I always say, there's no such thing as “Crypto.” Crypto is a collection of communities the same way that there's no such thing as music. Music is a collection of communities.

In music, you can make a player like Winamp or an iPod that can be adopted across all the different communities. Similarly, crypto is a collection of communities, and Ledger is the iPod of crypto, broadly. 

Last fall we did a Bitcoin Orange Ledger Nano, where 5% from every sale went to Bitcoin core development through a group called Brink. It was a huge success and I don't think I'm giving away anything too early here by saying we're going to keep it going and make it just evergreen.

There should be a Ledger Nano for the Bitcoin community. But there should also be a Nano for the Grant Yun community. And those are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size, right?

But to me, both are relevant. Bitcoiners and Grant Yun collectors are both ultimately on the same mission. I want to hold something in my hand that's meaningful to me. 

You came from music and then luxury and lots of people who are not in this world have varying opinions about crypto and NFTs. Some people think it's all a scam. Some people think it's just weird. Some people think you're going to lose all your money.

Have any of your peers or friends or colleagues from your previous lives and careers been confused or scratched their heads about your pivot over to crypto?

Definitely. And I would say it depends on the market. They have a different opinion depending on what they've read in the news that week. But it's not universal: I've had some very nuanced conversations with everyone from Mike D of the Beastie Boys to Bernard Arnault of LVMH about not only the asset class but also digital art.

After I joined Ledger, I went to every executive committee member of LVMH. I gave them a copy of "The Bitcoin Standard" in their preferred language - many copies in French - and had a conversation about it. I was surprised by the many nuanced conversations I had when the market was raging.

Overall, there is an openness to the obvious point that the internet will have its own money. The problem comes when you, as an individual, become associated with an industry that puts itself on display, with everything from the Do Kwon situation to SBF, and so on. That's when I get calls from friends asking me to sort it out for them.

It's like it's 1998, and I'm sitting here telling you this internet thing is going to be big. You may not be ready for what's happening, but when you are, give me a call and say, "Hey, Ian, now I'm ready to learn about it." I'm here when you want to know more.

I'll tell you what I have no patience for is people who understand why someone would spend $50,000 on a watch but doesn't understand why someone would spend $5,000 on an NFT.

People in the luxury business should be exceedingly well-placed to understand why somebody would buy something that has digital scarcity and cultural relevance. I'm holding up my watch to you right now, which has a Martin Grasser NFT on it. Why would I spend $15,000 on that? Because I appreciate the craft, the inherent artistic value, and that it's made by a talented and well-known creator. I think the value will go sideways, if not up, and I want to be a member of that small community who appreciates this exceptional item.

If you think the value of a Basquiat painting is in the paint and wood, or the value of a Louis Vuitton bag is in the leather, you are mistaken. You're not understanding how human beings actually work.

I collected punk rock seven inches when I was in high school. Now go on to and try to buy Misfits' "Cough Cool" on seven-inch. How the hell can a punk rock seven-inch from the late seventies or early eighties cost 15,000 pounds, dollars, or euros? It is not the value of the shellac it is pressed upon. It is cultural value. It's value created by scarcity. It's value created by you. There is always worth to someone.

And when we live in a networked world, value between supply and demand is all that matters. Whether everyone thinks it has value is irrelevant.

Speaking of cultural objects that have value: You own a lot of NFTs, and you've been updating your Gallery, which looks great. You have a very eclectic, diverse collection, a lot of generative art, AI, art, photography, and more.

How do you decide what to buy? 

That's a good question. Digital art is a rabbit hole. I always say, I think I was built for this. If you grew up collecting records and studying computer science and all the things that I've done, you definitely pop out as an NFT collector.

I've been going through my Gallery, through every Art Blocks season and collection, augmenting what I've already bought with new things that I like. What I like is based on aesthetics, but oftentimes it's even more about the storytelling.

Gazers 107 by Matt Kane in Ian’s collection. Live view here.

Human beings are story-consuming creatures and we all fall for it. Context matters a lot. That context might be something like, "Hey, this is an Art Blocks Curated release. Therefore there must be something interesting there." Just like an album that comes out on Matador or Sub Pop records. You're like, "Look, Matador and Sub Pop believe in this. I want to take a listen."

Some of that might be editorial, right? If something is reviewed by Pitchfork or Mojo, I'll listen to it. It doesn't mean I'm going to like it, but it has at least gone through their filter. And I'm curious.

If something's at Bright Moments, Art Blocks, or Proof, those are filters which are meaningful to me. So I pay attention to those.

It's also what I love about the space. You can find something that you really like aesthetically, buy it maybe on Tezos for not very much, and then create a relationship with that artist. There are many artists who I have been really fortunate to build relationships with over the past few years.

Human beings love patronage and giving. We noticed that even at Winamp. You got nothing for giving us $10 for Winamp and you had an option to give more. We cashed hundred-dollar checks all day long. People got nothing for giving us that money, except a warm feeling that they were contributing to a project they believed in and that they were helping us live another day so that we could keep doing what we're doing. That's patronage.

Personally, I love that with artists. I do it on Bandcamp when I buy vinyl and I do it on FX Hash,, and other platforms because I think art makes the world a better place. I think artists make the world a better place. That's the world that I want to live in.

If you look at my collection it's eclectic. Some of it's obvious - you've got music and hip hop. And if you look at the photos, you'd know that's Ian, because that's a photo of his wife. And that's a photo of Adam from the Beastie Boys. I love, love, love so much of what has happened in the generative art world; it's just mind blowing. And to me, like Bitcoin, the more I stare at it, the more I love it. I also think that I had this realization since my trade skill that I went to college for is computer science.

I spent 20 years of my career as an engineer and an engineering manager, so I actually understand creative coding more than I do painting. That's just a reality for me. If I'm looking at generative art, I'm more amazed by it because of my background. If I'm looking at an abstract painting, I'm like, "I don't know. Is that amazing? I don't know. I like the way it looks."

These are the things that go into it for me. I love the FX Hash gallery that I just posted. There's so much amazing stuff in there that people don't fully understand yet. Also, our ability to consume these works is really limited. Looking at it on your phone is a joke, looking at it as a flat image is a joke.

I can't wait until we have displays where you can fully experience a piece by someone like Andreas Gysin, who just did a thing in Berlin where he tried to put them on gigantic screens. Incredible. Self-referential where the code itself is the piece.

Experiencing generative art on your phone or even in a web browser is a joke. You have to turn your sound on and click, right? People are just scrolling through and glancing. You're not going to get the joke. You really do have to dive into it and be curious. How was this done? Who did this?

A screenshot from a beautiful dynamic piece in Ian’s collection by Andreas Rau. To experience the full piece, go here, turn your sound on, and click.

I'm starting to write a column for Rick Rubin's upcoming magazine. My goal through that is to talk about art and artists and to never use the word NFT and to not talk about digital. The only reason you ever talk about technology is because you're talking about how an artist expresses themselves using technology.

I think that it's one of these things where once you poke your head in there, it's impossible not to find something interesting. These are the stories that, when the New York Times, Rolling Stone, or Wall Street Journal writes a story about monkey JPEGs, what they're not telling you about is mpkoz creating the first still life expressed through code, the way that Chimera does, which also just happens to have this Easter egg thrown in that it's 3D and never really static.

Screenshot from Chimera 476 by Michael Kozlowski AKA mpkoz in Ian’s collection. You may view the piece in its full glory on the Art Blocks website.

That particular project, Chimera, contributed millions of dollars to cancer research at Northwestern University. This isn't the story that Rolling Stone or Wall Street Journal are telling you. But these are the stories that I think are genuinely beautiful and I know when I tell them to people that they've got a different picture of what this space is and can be than maybe what they had in their head before. So I hope that my collecting and my gallery will lead other people to simply say, "Oh, wow, this isn't what I thought it was," and to find beauty in it.

Let’s talk Ordinals. They're all the rage right now. Do you have any in your collection? 

I do. I have an On Chain Monkey. That has been a great lens through which to look at Ordinals. Danny, the CEO, is in my view, the most well spoken on the subject.

I think it was Bitcoin Magazine that published his article about Ordinals, which is incredibly worth reading if you want to understand the potential of Ordinals. It's pretty compelling to read Broken Money [the book by Lyn Alden mentioned earlier in this interview] and then read Danny's article. Because if you read Broken Money, you may come away with a sense of why Bitcoin is special. Then thinking about Ordinals in that context is incredibly interesting.

I think it's true that artists don't really care about the chain. Artists are going to go wherever the audience is. There will be gold rushes in every direction. For me, I will just stick with artists I believe in and we'll see where it lands. When I buy art, I know that the likelihood that I will sell that art, whether it's for a profit or a loss, is very slim. I don't think of it as a quote unquote investment. I really think of it as patronage and building something which is an expression of my aesthetic.

What is an album or musical artist that you've recently fallen in love with?

I published my 2023 playlist and I linked to all of my lists for the last seven years. You get a pretty good sense of my music taste if you look through that.

Original post and all the playlist links here

An artist that I would really love to mention who is a love of ours for the past four or five years is Alex Cameron. He's an Australian artist. I think he is the ultimate meta modern artist.

The idea is that the meta modern generation is one that can be both sincere and ironic at the same time. And that is Alex Cameron. You might listen to Alex Cameron and think, Oh God, this is novelty. It's like Weird Al Yankovic or something. (Aside: there's a great book by probably my favorite contemporary author, John Higgs. Everything John has written is worth reading, but there’s one about the KLF where he dives into this notion).

I think the songwriting is as good as Bruce Springsteen or any pop songwriter of the past 50 years. And it's also both sincere and ironic all the time. The songs themselves bring me so much joy in the same way that Pulp did in the nineties. Although Pulp was darker, more serious, more social commentary. Alex Cameron is much lighter, more frivolous. The first time you hear it, you're not sure if you like it. By the 10th time you just want to put it on over and over and over. That is Alex Cameron. 

I listen to a lot of different things. If you play my playlist, you'll see, I love metal. I love jazz. I started my career at 16 years old at a jazz radio station. I was an on air announcer for a jazz radio station in Elkhart, Indiana - WVPE 88.1. If you happen to drive through northern Indiana, you can turn it on. There is much amazing stuff happening in the world of jazz right now. Jazz is more exciting now than ever in my life.

Tell me a few jazz artists you love

Shabaka Hutchinngs is an interesting character and probably the greatest living saxophone player who retired from the saxophone on December 31st. And now he's only playing flute. His love of flute is probably why he was the greatest living sax player because he had chops unlike anyone else because he was playing sax professionally but practicing flute four hours a day. He’s had four bands, releasing under Shabaka Hutchings, The Comet is Coming, Sons of Kemet, and Shabaka and the Ancestors. All of those are super worth pursuing. 

This year there’s a great album, Clap!, by this French trumpeter named Erik Truffaz. It is such a cool record. It sounds it could be a classic Miles Davis album. I think track three on there is just an incredible piece of music. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there's this guy, Matthew Halsall, who I think made one of the most beautiful albums of the year - An Ever Changing View. I was sending it to friends saying do you like this as much as I do? Because I feel like maybe it's too easy listening or something. It's really pleasant. It's not outside, not challenging, not heavy. It's almost pedestrian. But it's not. It's deep and beautiful. I love that record. I've played it so many times this year. 

I normally listen to things that are more challenging. I think that's what happens, right? If you start listening to heavy metal when you're five years old, like I did, by the time you're 50 you're going to be at the fringe, right? The brain wants familiar-with-a-twist. If you just do that over and over and over and over and over, you get pretty twisted, and so I think that's why if someone listens to my 2023 roundup playlist, they’ll probably be like I've never heard of any of these bands.

I had the privilege of sitting with Rick Rubin and RZA from The Wu Tang Clan this summer, just playing each other's songs. One of the songs I played them was the first song on that playlist, which is Sliver of Ice by ANOHNI, who used to be Antony and the Johnsons. And wow, if that song doesn't move you then just delete the playlist because you're not going to like anything else. It’s just gorgeous, soulful. 

What's your sound set up at home? 

I have Sonos throughout the house, and I would say that 75 percent of the listening time is done with Sonos. We're always listening to music in our house. So Sonos can be on throughout all the different rooms.

Then I have a lot of vinyl and I have a separate setup for that. So that other 25 percent of the time, if you're sitting at the dining table or in the living room reading a book, then the vinyl is on. There are two turntables and a mixer and two studio monitors. It is full analog. You don’t need to touch your phone.

You've referenced a ton of books during this conversation. When do you do your reading?

I move pretty slowly through books, but I do read consistently and chip away at it. 

I mostly read at night but I've also tried to get in the habit of reading any time I would have looked at something else on my phone. I don't have Instagram anymore. I deleted my Facebook account a long time ago. I do still look at Twitter more than I would like. But I've tried to be in the habit of moving that time I would have spent scrolling social media to reading book on my phone in the Kindle app.

If you're standing in a line, you could be scrolling Twitter or you could be reading a book. Where is the better ROI? The book for sure.

In addition to reading, other thing I'm trying to do now is practicing French and learning Italian, and that takes time. I devote somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour to language learning every day.

Tyler Cowen has this question he asks his guests on his podcast Conversations with Tyler, which I want to ask you: What is the Ian Rogers production function? In other words, what makes you able to do what you do? Some people just seem to have more than 24 hours in a day and it seems like you're one of those people. What's your secret?

I don't watch moving pictures. I don't have a Netflix account, I don’t watch TV.

People say “have you seen....” and I'm like, no, you don't even need to finish a sentence because I haven't seen it. I've never seen Seinfeld. I've never seen Game of Thrones. I've never seen fill-in-the-blank. I couldn't even name more contemporary shows. When I'm on a plane, I don't touch the screen except to turn it off.

If you look at my app usage on my phone, it'd be pretty predictable. WhatsApp followed by Slack followed by Mail. What you're not going to see appear is, Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube.

Instead of watching things, I'm reading a book, I'm going for a run, I'm spending time with my family.

Many years ago Rick Rubin changed his lifestyle to be a healthier person and I asked him what made him turn the corner. He said that he realized that if he didn't take care of himself, he couldn't show up for other people. He said that he set up his life up so that the one thing he is sure to get done every day is something that makes him a better person.

That really influenced me. I try to be super particular about how I spend my time. I really do try to fit in the things that I know make me a better person.

When I was a startup CEO and I was running marathons people would say I don't understand how you have time to train for marathons and be a startup CEO. I would answer, I don't watch movies or television. So there's multiple hours every week. Secondly, I don’t have time NOT to run. If I didn't run or take showers, I would never have good ideas.

You don't have good ideas when you're staring at your phone scrolling Twitter. You have good ideas when your system is flooded with endorphins and you haven't looked at a text message for 45 minutes and your body's searching for carbohydrates.

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The Monty Report
The Monty Report
Interviews with the top artists, builders, and investors in Web3. Plus, musings on art, investing, crypto, and the good life.
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