Confidence is quickly eroding in the crypto sector, as it faces a wave of bankruptcies and investigations into Sam Bankman-Fried and his failed exchange, FTX, for losing and misspending billions of dollars in user deposits.
But Didi Taihuttu; his wife, Romaine; three daughters, and Teddy, a Pomeranian puppy they adopted in Portugal last year, are as confident as ever in their bet on bitcoin— they’re just changing how they store it.
Ever since liquidating all of their assets and buying bitcoin in 2017 back when it was trading at around $900, the Taihuttus have safeguarded their crypto riches in three main places: centralized exchanges, or CEXs, such as Bybit and Kraken; decentralized exchanges, or DEXs, such as Uniswap; and hardware wallets hidden in secret vaults on four different continents.
But as digital asset brokers, lenders, and exchanges continue to fall into bankruptcy — locking up customer funds in the process — the Dutch family of five is proactively moving $1 million in crypto into DEXs, which allow users to hang on to custody of their tokens.
“For me, bitcoin is still about freedom, and decentralized currency should be able to be used by everyone in the world without needing to do KYC or any other regulatory stuff,” Didi Taihuttu told CNBC, referring to the know-your-customer, or KYC compliance, required by many centralized platforms such as Coinbase. DEXs don’t require users to connect an ID or bank account to the platform, hence making it an ideal custody solution for the Taihuttus.
CNBC caught up with the 44-year-old patriarch a few days after the family made the move from Lagos, Portugal, to Phuket, an island just off the western coast of mainland Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The family is currently living on 0.3 bitcoin a month — about $5,000 — and they are buying back the bitcoin that they sold when the cryptocurrency was trading at around $55,000 a year ago. For the Taihuttus, the cascade of crypto bankruptcies and failed tokens just shows that “bitcoin is the king” and “completely different than all the other projects,” Didi Taihuttu said.
While the Taihuttus did not have any tokens tied up with FTX, Celsius, Voyager Digital, or any of the other platforms that recently went under, the wave of failures did remind them of the importance of ownership.
In crypto, one of the mantras is “not your keys, not your coins,” meaning that rightful possession of tokens comes through the custody of the corresponding private keys. DEXs such as Uniswap and SushiSwap are peer-to-peer platforms where transactions happen directly between traders, entirely cutting out intermediaries such as banks and brokers. That means that users retain custody of their tokens by never handing over their private keys.
DEXs eliminate centralized intermediaries from financial transactions such as trading, holding and transferring assets through programmable pieces of code known as smart contracts. These contracts are written on a public blockchain such as ethereum, and execute when certain conditions are met, negating the need for a central intermediary.
In essence, with DEXs, you trust code, and with CEXs, you trust people.
“You never send your bitcoin to an exchange. Your bitcoin stays in your own wallet, meaning you have complete custody of your coins,” explained Taihuttu. “You connect to a DEX, and by making that connection, you trade out of your own wallet.”
That nuance of ownership is critical.
“If the DEX collapses, it doesn’t matter, because the bitcoin are always in your own wallet,” he added.