Sovereign Labs raised $7.4 million in a round led by Haun Ventures to enable developers to easily deploy zero-knowledge (ZK) rollups.
The seed round, which closed in November 2022, also sees participation from investors including 1kx, Robot Ventures, Maven 11, according to a company release. Ekram Ahmed, head of communications at blockchain developer Celestia Labs, is a strategic advisor.
What are ZK rollups?
A ZK proof is a cryptographic technique that confirms whether a statement is true or false without revealing that statement’s contents. ZK rollups leverage this technology for blockchain scaling, which makes blockchains run cheaper and faster, by bundling transactions together, verifying them off-chain and returning a proof to show they are all legitimate.
For developers trying to implement ZK rollups it can be an involved and complicated process, said Preston Evans, co-founder and chief technology officer at Sovereign Labs.
“It's pretty obvious to people in the space that rollups are the future of scalability but there's no way for an average developer to go out there and meaningfully try to build one of them,” Evans said. “It’s the purview of PhDs in cryptography and people with very, very well-funded teams and that means we're just never gonna get the diversity of applications that you need to actually build the products that you would want.”
Sovereign Labs is trying to solve this challenge by building a software development kit (SDK) that enables developers to create new ZK rollups through using open-source reusable components that developers can leverage, making it easy to deploy on a variety of blockchains.
Building a framework for ZK rollups
“In the web2 world, people are super used to building on frameworks, back-end frameworks like Node and front-end frameworks like React, nobody really fully understands the stack,” said Cem Ozer, CEO and co-founder at Sovereign Labs. “And that’s the beauty of building these systems rapidly comes from not understanding every component and that’s what we are trying to do with ZK rollups.”
“There is no framework yet or a de facto standard that enables regular developers to be able to leverage them," he added.
The SDK is currently in the research and development phase but aims to support a range of blockchains. It will provide all the boilerplate information enabling developers to focus on the business logic. The current prototype integrates Celestia for data availability and Risc Zero for proving.
Ozer and Evans have been responsible for building out the SDK so far. They plan to use the funds from the current raise for hiring and scaling the team to around seven.
Sovereign Labs is just one of several startups seeking to optimize the developer experience of using ZK technology. Ulvetanna, a startup that builds hardware to increase the efficiency of ZK proofs, raised $15 million from investors. Similarly, Nil Foundation raised $22 million to develop a protocol enabling Layer 1 and Layer 2 blockchains and protocols to generate zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs on demand.
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