Discover more from VeradiVerdict
VeradiVerdict - Issue #264
Stanford Blockchain Week
This past week of 8/26 to 9/1 was Stanford Blockchain Week, a week-long series of conferences, summits, and events centered around the 6th annual Sciences of Blockchain Conference (SBC). In addition to this main, primarily academic conference, this year there were also a large number of other summits, including the Blockchain Application Stanford Summit (BASS) by Stanford Blockchain Club, the Starknet Summit in SF, and academic workshops focused on consensus, MEV and DAOs, and countless other side events. In this article, we will explore three key trends throughout the week, and what all of this means for the industry’s development at large.
Trend 1: Optimization of ZKPs in both theory and practice
Much of the conference was, not surprisingly, focused on zero knowledge proofs (ZKPs). The optimization of existing ZKP solutions was a core topic during SBC itself, with a session focusing on breakthroughs in efficient folding schemes such as HyperNova and Protostar. In addition to these, there were also other academic talks focusing on applying zkSNARKs for more efficient batch Merkle proofs, and formal verification for ZK circuits.
Moreover, it wasn’t only the academics at Stanford that were interested in advancing research in ZKPs. During the week, several Stanford startups from the Stanford Blockchain Accelerator presented novel applications of Zero Knowledge Proofs in various areas. Nexus Labs and Modulus Labs, for example, used ZKPs for verifiable computation, Ironmill and Succinct presented use-cases in new dev-tooling and infrastructure, and Nocturne and Hinkal presented applications in private transactions.
The key observation here is that the ZKP ecosystem is gradually specializing, where different companies focus on one specific part of the ZK pipeline – whether that is connecting applications to provers, providing ZK proofs for a specific vertical (such as AI in the case of Modulus), or providing other enhanced integration tools. This specialization may signal how the industry is gradually developing a modularized and sophisticated pipeline, thus highlighting ZKPs growing maturity as a technology. All this, of course, is undergirded by a steady pace in academic breakthroughs (such as the novel folding schemes presented at SBC) that opens up new use cases for the technology and creates a symbiotic relationship between ZKP theory and practice.
Trend 2: “Plug and play” composability through increased modularity
Modularity has become a hot topic and growing trends over the past few months, with different companies specializing in a particular task on the blockchain tech stack (such as sequencing, execution, data availability etc.) rather than having a monolithic blockchain take care of everything. However, modularity itself is not necessarily the end goal; rather, the goal is the creation of a much more composable tech stack, a sort of “plug-and-play” design space that can allow developers to experiment and fine-tune a blockchain stack for an arbitrary set of requirements.
This spirit of “plug and play” was abound in Prof. Ed Felton’s presentation of Arbitrum’s Stylus at BASS, highlighting the project’s move to unify execution environments for EVM and WASM code, such that smart contracts and WASM code could smoothly interact with each other. This enables the creation of WASM “libraries” where EVM contracts could call functions from, in turn enabling a far more composable development experience. Some of the other interesting developments in improving composability through modularity include Chainlink’s CCIP, attempting to create the industry-defining interoperability standard (see my recent article on this), as well as Celestia’s presentations on discussing the history and future of modular blockchains.
Notably, many of the projects at Stanford promoting this trend were larger and more established companies (eg. Arbitrum, Chainlink, Celestia, Starkware) that are already in an industry-leading position. Although there are smaller companies, like the Stanford startup Caldera, that are also working on this trend, composability seems to be a much more issue for projects seeking to build up or enforce an ecosystem lead and advantage, attempting to attract developers to build using their tech stack. This is a healthy move for the blockchain industry at large, as the increased emphasis on composability through a “plug and play” approach lowers the barriers to entry for new developers, while also allowing for a much more customizable tech stack suited for a wider variety of use cases.
Trend 3: Renewed interest in the Bitcoin developer ecosystem
A third interesting trend throughout Stanford Blockchain Week was a renewed interest in the development and future of the world’s oldest blockchain. Throughout Saturday afternoon during BASS, there was a dedicated emphasis on the Bitcoin ecosystem, both from a developer and technological angle, as well as a cultural angle. In addition to Stanford Prof. David Tse’s presentation of Babylon’s Bitcoin staking protocol, there were multiple panels, featuring speakers from Ordinals, Taproot Wizards, Bitcoin Startup Labs, Bitcoin Magazine and more, discussing the future of innovation for the Bitcoin ecosystem, especially post-Ordinals.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and original takes was a defense of Bitcoin Ordinals art (such as Raresats) by Ordinals COO Erin Redwing, who argued that if Bitcoin was “digital gold,” then artwork inscribed through Ordinals amounted to “digital jewelry,” and that in the same way most ordinary people interact with gold through the intermediary of “art and jewelry” rather than solid gold bars, the same could be said for Bitcoin. Moreover, post-Ordinals many Ethereum developers seem to have regained an interest in the Bitcoin ecosystem, bringing the design, tokenomics, and implementation expertise of Ethereum DApps to Bitcoin to potentially rejuvenate Bitcoin’s age-old ecosystem.
Nevertheless, it is still far too early to clearly state whether we are in the midst of a true “Bitcoin renaissance.” Bitcoin has been known to be a stubbornly conservative ecosystem, with a community at best indifferent and at worst downright hostile to cultural and technological changes, such as those that Ordinals and other novel projects bring. But potential Bitcoin ecosystem developments are still worth paying attention to, even if judging merely from the sheer transaction volume and cultural recognition at stake.
The above three trends of ZK advances, composability through modularity, and developments in the Bitcoin ecosystem, are far from an exhaustive account of all the research and innovation happening at Stanford. From new research in consensus mechanisms that may lay the groundwork for future L1s or L2s, to transaction and MEV modeling techniques that may enhance analytics tools, to new cryptographic primitives, Stanford Blockchain Week encapsulated how diverse and dynamic the industry has become. Unlike many other industry summits or academic conferences, SBC and its affiliated conferences has deftly synchronized and combined industry alongside research, creating a vibrant alliance of startups, established protocols, and academics all determined to move the blockchain space forward to build a better, decentralized future.
- Paul Veradittakit
PANTERA TOKEN2049 EVENT
Join Pantera Capital and SynFutures for a spectacular evening of drinks, appetizers, and conversation during Token2049 in Singapore. Connect with the global Web3 community and mingle with industry leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and more!
Event link here
The steepest Fed rate hike cycle in decades should have killed bitcoin and other risk assets, but a new relationship between the two are forming.
Manhattan's Seaport neighborhood is hosting a scavenger hunt driven by NFTs and QR codes, but it wasn't all smooth sailing at first.
Chronicle is said to safeguard over $5 billion in assets held on Maker by ensuring pricing data is in line with the general market.
For the SEC to defend its denial of Grayscale’s proposal to convert GBTC into an ETF, it would have to withdraw its previous approval of futures-based bitcoin ETFs, which is unlikely, the report said.
Sam Bankman-Fried says the FTX exchange’s bankruptcy isn’t relevant ahead of his October fraud trial.
The Financial Stability Board and the International Monetary Fund are set to deliver a paper calling for global coordination on crypto policy at this weekend's G20 summit.
NEW PRODUCTS AND HOT DEALS
Hana Bank, a major Korean commercial bank, plans to develop its digital asset custody services with BitGo — while they explore possibilities of setting up a joint venture.
The G-Shock watch brand is coming to the metaverse via Polygon NFTs—and Casio wants to cultivate a community of collaborators.
LETS MEET UP
Korea Blockchain Week, Seoul, September 6-8
TOKEN2049, Singapore, September 11-13
Mainnet 2023, New York City, September 18-22
Walks and coffee meetings in San Francisco throughout the year!
Hi, I’m Paul Veradittakit, a Managing Partner at Pantera Capital, one of the oldest and largest institutional investors focused on investing in blockchain companies and cryptocurrencies. I’ve been in the industry since 2014, and the firm invests in equity, early stage token projects, and liquid cryptocurrencies on exchanges. I focus on early-stage investments and share my thoughts on what’s going on in the industry in this weekly newsletter.
Thanks for reading VeradiVerdict! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.