The Road Ahead in 2019

2019 is upon us, and we wanted to share our plans for the coming year.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

First, a quick recap. 2018 was a great year for us. We incorporated a year ago with the intent of bringing the benefits of the STARK proof system to blockchains. Our company has grown to twenty people. We have a powerful mix of talents in both math and engineering, as well as a nimble product and marketing team.

On the technology side, our engineering team has built an impressive software stack from the ground up. We’ve already improved the performance of the prover & verifier, as well as the proof size, by at least one order of magnitude (and counting). These achievements allowed us to recently demonstrate a full STARK proof system running over WASM (!) in a browser (!!) on a smartphone (!!!). A first, for a transparent proof system.

We raised $36M in two rounds of equity funding. We did not conduct an ICO — that route did not make sense to us. We were also awarded a generous grant by the Ethereum Foundation this past summer — the largest they’ve awarded to date.

STARKs will profoundly improve two of the most pressing problems of permissionless blockchains: scalability and privacy. We decided that our alpha should focus on scalability. Privacy will come second. We’re working hard on our alpha, which we intend to put out in a few months.

Our scalability approach is simple: move computations and storage off-chain. We will build an off-chain service that generates STARK proofs attesting to the integrity of these computations. The proof will then be placed back on chain, permitting any interested party to validate it there. The same trustless blockchain infrastructure is given exponentially greater scale by allowing the bulk of the computational work to be done off-chain, while maintaining computational integrity and no trust assumptions.

At first, we will focus on scalability of one particular application: DEXs running on the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Why DEXs? Trading constitutes a significant chunk of the activity on Ethereum, and DEXs offer traders the important ability to maintain custody of their crypto-assets, thus eliminating counterparty risk. But DEXs suffer greatly from the lack of scalability: it limits them to very low trading volumes, and they are therefore illiquid. That is a serious handicap compared to centralized exchanges. We’re working with several partners in the DEX space, and will be making announcements in the coming period.

What do we have in mind following the delivery of our DEX scalability alpha?

A focused effort to bring our solution to multiple players in the market. But the takeaway from a successful alpha should be broader than just DEX scalability. It will demonstrate how STARKs can drive scalability for Layer 1, Layer 2 and dApps, and why STARKs should be fundamental building blocks in achieving blockchain scalability. Moving forward, we are planning to apply STARKs to address blockchain privacy.

In our upcoming posts we will dive into the engineering of our scalable DEX solution, and our plans for a STARK software toolchain — so stay tuned!

Here’s to a productive 2019!

The StarkWare Team