Announcing First batch of Open Chain Grants recipients

Since announcing our grants program for open chain Ethereum projects, we’ve received a great amount of interest and are impressed by the quality of the projects. We’d like to take the opportunity to thank again everyone who applied.

Among them, there are two projects that particularly excite us — one directly attacking the smart contracts verification problem as evidenced by the recent DAO hack, while the other attempting to build on-chain credit history, benefiting in particular the emerging markets for better financial inclusiveness.

The decision factors

String Grants is created with a specific focus on open chain finance projects, and below are the main factors that guide us in the decision process:

  • Open source and runs on open chain system (e.g. public Ethereum chain), as we believe open chain benefits directly end users rather than intermediaries and fosters permission-less innovation.
  • Direct or indirect relevance to financial applications or use cases. Other more generic or infrastructure layer projects could be a better fit for other programs such as Ethereum DEVGrants and Wanxiang Grants.
  • Strong engineering and/or research experiences from the team

Drum roll …

Let’s take a look are the first two projects that receive String Grants:

1. Legalese L4 Formal Language ($8,888)

Ethereum smart contract are, at least by design, immutable, hence the traditional “move fast and break things” model of web development are no longer appropriate, or even dangerous at times.

This rings particularly true to all smart contracts in general, but particularly so to financial smart contracts. As we’ve witnessed with the DAO hack incident and the ongoing hard-fork debate, the consequences of flawed financial smart contracts are extremely costly.

Legalese team propose a new formal language to address this fundamental challenge:

We argue that smart ­contracts’ immutability and expensive run­time debugging (i.e., “Runtime debugging of a smart contract is litigation”.) entail smart contracts should instead be built the way software is developed for mission critical infrastructure such as airport control systems, spacecraft, and nuclear power plants­­­ with in-­depth compile ­time verification.
… Legalese aims to fix that. We call it L4. L4 is a declarative, functional programming language, using deontic‐temporal logic to efficiently and tersely express obligations, permissions, and prohibitions. L4 does for the deontic­modal calculus what functional languages do for the lambda calculus. L4 is platform agnostic, but its most obvious application is developing Ethereum contracts, thus providing Ethereum the world’s first blockchain ­compatible formally verified programs.

The founding team behind legalese come from strong academics + entrepreneurial background:

  • Wong Meng Weng previously designed Internet email infrastructure (RFC4408), co-founded two high-tech startups, and helped launch JFDI.Asia, Singapore’s first seed accelerator. Perl, Javascript, Haskell, Prolog, Emacs. upenn.edu ’97, fellowships at unive.it and Harvard Berkman.
  • Virgil Griffith is a cognitive and data scientist, avant-garde technologist, information and machine intelligence theorist, and self-taught software engineer. In 2007, Virgil created WikiScanner, then designed Tor2web with Aaron Swartz. He’s completed studies at the Stanford Graphics Laboratory, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, and Harvard Law Berkman Center. Virgil holds a Ph.D. in Computation and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology.

Read more about Legalese / L4:

  • Legalese homepage: http://legalese.readme.io/
  • Contract Formalisation and Modular Implementation of Domain-specific Languages (by Thomas Hvitved, the design L4 will be based upon)

2. Distory ($10,000) — On-chain credit history

When you want to purchase goods or financial service, and promise to pay for it in the future, businesses typically first look at your credit history. This is the case when you want to obtain a loan or a phone contract for instance.

The challenge is that if you have a good credit history in one country (say Germany), you typically cannot show it to a business, such as a phone company, in another one (say, the UK) and get qualified. One typically has to build a new credit history from scratch in that country.

In developing countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Cameroon, the problem is even more acute — typically one business locks down the information and refuse to share with other companies.

A lack of credit history further impact individual / small business’s ability to borrow cheaply (e.g. bank loans or phone contract). Both lenders and borrowers will benefit from improved credit history sharing.

Distory project is created to solve this exact issue, as described by the team:

… we propose to create Distory: a transparent, reliable and portable credit history. More specifically, Distory aims to establish an open-source cross-border credit history directory using a blockchain (Ethereum).
The way our solution will work, when one (customer or business) repays something, somewhere, a business or another person will be able to see a trusted proof of it anywhere in a fast, easy and efficient way. We use Ethereum’s blockchain to provide a stamp of authenticity to the most vital pieces of information. We aim to provide a solution oriented at performance using RESTful APIs. Careful and appropriate consideration of identity verification, privacy and storage cost issues have been central to our solution.

We think Distory has a great potential to build on-chain credit repository for individuals / small businesses, with team’s cross-domain expertise in economics / regulation / engineering. Credit history repository would not only make traditional credit access cheaper (e.g. phone contract) via simple timestamp proof on Ethereum, but could potentially become an on-chain building block for many other smart contracts to reduce cost of transaction while expanding opportunities for individuals and business — e.g. on-chain lending marketplace, e-commerce, supply chain, and etc.

Read more:

What’s next

Congratulations again to Legalese and Distory team!

If you’re working on exciting open blockchain project and interested to get grants funding, we look forward to hear from you.