Why we are excited about Enterprise Ethereum Alliance: Perspectives from a crypto protocol startup

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) was formally launched this Tue (Feb 28th) at Chase HQ @NYC, with tons of well deserved excitement.

But why another Blockchain alliance, you ask? And what does it mean to be part of an enterprise alliance, as cryptographers & engineers working on cutting-edge decentralized protocols?

Some other posts already addresses the first question. There’s enormous value in building the first alliance focused on shared design between public & private chains (i.e. Ethereum), why the two shall inter-operate and how that interoperability benefits tremendously both sides of the ecosystem.

We couldn’t agree more (as evidenced in making atomic public-private interoperability a first-priority in our client design). In fact, we would like to extend that reasoning further and argue:

Many future private chain systems will be dependent upon protocol services running on a powerful public blockchain.

(Almost) Everyone benefits from public blockchain services

That’s right. Even if you think you’re building an entirely private chain that intends to facilitate interactions among internal members only.

The most obvious such public service is a robust stable currency on public chain. While we’ve always well understood the crucialness of stable currency in a public chain world —in fact likely the lack thereof today is the number one adoption barrier, we’ve been surprised even ourselves by strong demand for such component from our corporate partners who need a blockchain native method of moving values globally, without suffering from a) huge volatility of ETH or BTC b) degrading to chain<->banking API gateways outside the “trusted computing boundary” (which creates a series of issues… time for another post), or c) complexity of cross border offline settlement via an internal value token (e.g. AppleDollar).

Other examples of such “implicit” public services include verifiable randomness (esp. in a small private chain), global identity service, haulage network, service discovery (meta service), and of course — the most commonly discussed —public notarization. All of them make most sense to live on (one or more) large trusted public blockchain(s).

By using a shared virtual machine layer, Enterprise Ethereum initiative will make such connectivity more easily happen among Ethereum-compatible public and private chains. (Check out DFINITY project if you’re interested to learn more about the protocol design that are required for such atomic interoperability).

Corporates ♥︎ Startups = Better technology wins out

Blockchain today still has many major open technology and science challenges. Fortunately, this space has attracted some of the finest talents and fundamental improvements are constantly being made in many areas, such as transaction finality (e.g. crypto:3 offers 50x-100x speed up over existing public PoW), designs achieving infinite scaling out, and privacy (e.g. SNARK and STARK from zCash team)

However, as many of us in startup world already realize, unlike deploying these technologies into public chain — which by its very nature is permission-less, the path for pushing bleeding edge technology into corporate and banks, is a lot harder, longer and resource-intensive.

“Corporates are from the Mars and Startups are from Venus”, a famous best seller would perhaps wisely tell us so.

They represent different org structure, incentives, scale of resources and pace. Even pitching to and gathering requirements from the right set of executive stakeholders in a corporate is an immense project on its own for a startup.

This is the less obvious, yet enormously valuable proposition we see with an organization and platform like EEA. Thanks to its deliberate inclusiveness of cutting-edge tech startups (like String, IC3 and zCash team) on the one end and leading corporates & large solutions providers on the other end.

As technologists, we would like to see the best engineering and science win out and being adopted without compromises caused by market or organizational inertia.

Better technology is always “good”, but they become life changing for major infrastructures such as blockchain. Enterprise’s protocol choices today will be inherited for the next decade, or even multiple decades to come, sometimes without fully realizing its ramification. They will be used by millions or even billions of users inside and outside the organization. The price for bad designs are simply too big to compromise.

EEA could significantly enhance the chance of a future proof infrastructure design for enterprise pioneers, by:

a) bringing the best startups/academic team and the leading corporates together

b) creating a modular framework that different layers of the infrastructure could be individually benchmarked and chosen

c) helping startup cope scaling challenges of enterprise adoption by bridging them to large solutions providers such as Accenture and Microsoft

To that end, we are extremely excited to be one of the EEA founding members and can’t wait to contribute in taking Ethereum ecosystem to the next level.

About String Labs

String is a venture-backed incubator, studio and investor in open decentralized protocols and systems, based in Palo Alto. String incubates projects such as DFINITY — an Ethereum-family decentralized cloud protocol, PHI autonomous commercial banking & stable currency, among others. String also partners with major solution providers such as Boston Consulting Group DV to accelerate corporate adoption of blockchain-based systems.