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Sovereign Labs has raised $7.4 million in seed funding led by Haun Ventures, co-founders Preston Evans and Cem Özer told TechCrunch.
The startup is building an “open, interconnected rollup ecosystem” with a software development kit (SDK) to provide a framework for secure and interoperable zero-knowledge rollups (ZK-rollups).
“Sovereign’s goal has always been to make scaling [blockchains] simple,” Özer said. “For people who have been in this space for four-plus years, it’s pretty clear that rollups and ZK-rollups are the way to scale blockchains to the masses.”
A rollup is a blockchain that gets security from another blockchain, so it’s a way to add functionality to an existing chain without sacrificing security, Evans said. Rollups can be used to support different use cases like tokens, NFTs, smart contracts and so on — but they’re cheaper to operate because they outsource transactions.
The capital will be used to build its SDK and hire protocol engineers and researchers with expertise in blockchains and their frameworks, Özer said. Its SDK wants to help Rust (and eventually C++) developers to use ZK technology across any blockchain without having to be experts in cryptography, both the co-founders said.
Some major ZK-rollup blockchains that exist today include Polygon, zkSync and StarkWare’s StarkNet platform, which all aim to increase scalability and security for developers off-chain through higher speeds and lower fees before combining and submitting them to Ethereum. Ethereum-focused ZK-rollup projects like dYdX, Sorare and Immutable are also working on scaling the space and improving user experiences through other areas like decentralized exchanges, dApps and gaming.
“Without scaling, current blockchain systems today are unusable,” Özer said. “The moment an application reaches product-market fit and there’s demand, the fees skyrocket and it becomes unusable […] applications have to figure out how to be scalable.”
Most ZK-rollup solutions are standalone products built by and for the teams that work on them, Özer said. Sovereign Labs “isn’t in the business of building rollups ourselves,” but instead wants to build frameworks for others, he added. “We want to give this technology to everyone so they can leverage it easily and create [their own] ecosystems.”
The team will work on creating different monetization strategies, but its SDK framework will be open source, free and “always will be,” Evans noted.
In the near term, the co-founders expect rollups to be widely inaccessible until frameworks like its SDK are developed. “Over time, SDK products will become accessible,” Özer said. “We expect an explosion of ZK-rollups and for most developers to leverage it.”