Sovereign Labs, a startup that develops technology for scaling up blockchains called “zero knowledge” rollups, announced Monday that it has raised $7.4 million in a seed round led by Haun Ventures.
A number of other investors joined Haun Ventures, including Maven 11, 1KX, Robot Ventures and Plaintext Capital.
ZK rollups use what are called zero-knowledge proofs to scale up blockchain networks. Layer 1 blockchains such as Ethereum can suffer from massive downgrades when too many transactions hit them at once. That can cause congestion that can slow them down immensely, creating bottlenecks that increase transaction times fees.
Zero-knowledge proof rollups allow a bunch of transactions to be “rolled up” on a second-layer blockchain without any knowledge of what it is in those transactions to then be submitted to the primary blockchain, such as Ethereum. That preserves the privacy and security of those transactions.
In order to assist developers with rapidly deploying ZK-rollups, Sovereign Labs is developing a software development kit named Sovereign SDK.
The features of the SDK are that it is highly interoperable and will work with almost any blockchain or bridge with minimal cost and minimal time. The rollups are also securely scalable with high performance thanks to advancements in parallelism and placement of all of the features together so the system will also run on any blockchain.
According to Sovereign, the SDK rollups are blockchain-agnostic and the chains delegate by checking proofs and smart contracts with the end users, not with the Layer 1 blockchain. That means they run and roll up before being submitted, in turn allowing developers to prepare their rollups and “write once, run anywhere.”
“To realize the Sovereign vision, we are building the Sovereign SDK, the simplest framework for creating secure and interoperable ZK-rollups,” Cem Özer, co-founder and chief executive of Sovereign Labs, said on Twitter. “Our mission is clear: to make scaling simple. Because to onboard the rest of the world to crypto, we first need to make scaling accessible for developers.”
Zero-knowledge rollups have become a popular scaling solution for protocols to implement in the past few years, with significant venture capital aimed at building implementations. Examples include Offchain Labs, which launched Arbitrum Nova for decentralized apps, and the Ethereum scaling solution Polygon, which also uses ZK-rollup solutions in some of its products. Other examples include projects such as Starknet, zkSync and Mina.
Although these solutions have been explored for some time, Sovereign’s Chief Scientist Preston Evans doesn’t believe they can reach their full potential until they can be adopted by everyday developers. In part, that’s because of the complexity of the code needed to implement them and their one-off nature.
“Today, there are only a few ZK-rollups under development — and almost all of those will be completely centralized at launch,” Evans said in a statement. “Until quite recently, building zero-knowledge circuitry was difficult even for experts — and completely inaccessible to outsiders.”
To address that issue, Evans said that Sovereign aimed at creating an SDK that was generalized enough to be compatible with any existing blockchain. Thus, allowing developers to re-use the code between bitcoin, Ethereum or any network that they wanted while also getting the high performance of ZK rollups.
“In other words, we expect the Sovereign SDK both to be the easiest way to build rollups and to raise the bar for performance and interoperability,” Evans said.
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