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Grantee Roundup - Q1 2023

Posted by Ecosystem Support Program Team on February 3, 2023

Grantee Roundup - Q1 2023

It’s always fun to hear about new grants as they’re awarded, but what happens after the announcement? In this series, we check in on projects that are well underway or already at the finish line.

You may have noticed something different—instead of monthly posts, we'll be highlighting grantees who have made significant strides in their projects every quarter instead. Read on to learn about some recent milestones and achievements by grantees!

Dark Crystal by Magma Collective: Key management shared among peers

Peer-to-peer systems put power back into the hands of users by offering them complete control over their own data, but what if you don't want to run the risk of losing your private keys? This is the precise problem that Dark Crystal seeks to address.

Dark Crystal is a set of protocols and guidelines which emphasizes trust between peers rather than individual responsibility through secret sharing. This involves using mathematical algorithms to create distributed (i.e. stored in multiple locations) backups of a piece of data, and users can select custodians to safekeep their backups. A particular threshold amount of locations, or 'shards', is required to recover the data. No information about the original secret is revealed even if a particular shard is compromised, and the secret can still be recovered even if some shards are lost.

To achieve this, the team has developed libraries for developers who want to implement a social backup feature in their app, and a stand-alone dapp that allows users to secure their encrypted backups using the blockchain. Dark Crystal is 100% open-source, with libraries for a Javascript implementation, a reference implementation in Java, and a Rust implementation.

The alpha release of the dapp for their Ethereum-specific client has been published on Goerli as they continue to iron out the kinks, improve features, and explore integrations with existing Ethereum projects. Recently, they've focused their attention on three important areas:

  • Transport and mesaging: Using the Waku v2 protocol, they've been able to develop a messaging system with three message types—one for public encryption keys, one for sending a shard, and one for requesting a shard.
  • Multi-wallet support: The dapp is currently configured to connect smoothly to MetaMask, but they want to expand this by integrating WalletConnect to support interaction with multiple wallets.
  • Design: After extensive user research, the team decided to primarily design for internet-connected devices as opposed to air-gapped devices, but it will still be possible to make backups on the latter with their offline-first client.

To learn more, head over to the Dark Crystal website, delve into their 2022 report, or observe their progress on GitLab!

EthStaker: Staking made easier

After celebrating a smooth Merge in September, proof-of-stake has officially become the foundation of Ethereum's network. Needless to say, this wasn't an overnight success, and EthStaker was one of the teams working tirelessly to support this monumental upgrade.

EthStaker is a community-driven initiative that's passionate about easing the complexity or confusion surrounding staking. Encouraging solo staking is one of their primary goals, and the team also helps anybody wanting to stake to find the most appropriate method for their specific situation in a way that best supports a healthy Beaconchain. This is accomplished through offering a support network that provides user-friendly educational resources, discusses theory, and walks members through technical issues with a motto of "welcoming first, knowledgeable second".

They organized the first ever Staking Gathering at Devconnect last year (Apr 19 - 21, 2022), with the twin goals of encouraging the development of new Ethereum staking tools and bringing together fellow community members. The multi-track event was open to new stakers, experienced stakers, and open-source developers. Talks and roundtables occupied the first two days, while the third day featured an open-source Ethereum staking hackathon with seven participating teams.

In May 2022, they launched an Ethereum Staking Quadratic Funding Round in collaboration with clr.fund and the Ethereum Foundation. The goal of the round was to provide additional critical support for the Ethereum staking ecosystem's public goods infrastructure. Quadratic funding was also specifically selected as the funding mechanism to encourage community-based support for staking and leveling the playing field. The round turned out to be a resounding success, with a total of 440,300 DAI being distributed across 21 different projects.

All year, the EthStaker team has been steadfastly organizing community calls with staking protocols and infrastructure projects, hosting validator workshops, and empowering the staking community with knowledge and tools, such as an in-progress encyclopedic Knowledge Base. EthStaker brings awareness and community engagement to the quiet development surrounding the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism (they organized the entire Merge call series: Ropsten, Goerli, Sepolia, and Mainnet—400,000 total views!), counterbalancing popular narratives that focus on short-lived, hype-driven projects to showcase the core technology and diligent research that sits at the center of the ecosystem.

If you'd like to be a part of the community, you can join them on Discord, tune in to their community calls and validator workshops on Youtube, follow them on Twitter for updates, engage in lively discussions on Reddit, and even check out their progress on Wagyu—a one-click installer that automates the setup and management of all the infrastructure needed for staking on Ethereum—via GitHub.

MEV-Resistant AMM by Rádius: Mitigating the risks of MEV

The issue of maximal extractable value (MEV) has been gaining greater attention, especially among DeFi projects as it could cause unintended financial loss for users including high gas prices, increased slippage, and worse execution on trades. However, an even more crucial concern is blockchain re-organization and consensus instability, which might happen if the MEV available in a block significantly exceeds the standard block, thus potentially incentivizing validators to re-organize blocks and capture the MEV for themselves.

The Rádius team aims to tackle these issues in DeFi protocols by building an MEV-resistant automated market maker (AMM) that implements Practical Verifiable Delay Function (PVDE) technology utilizing time-lock encryption and zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs. Time-lock encryption was selected as a core component because it can prevent transactions from being frontrun if the content is encrypted until it is reasonable to assume that ordering finality has been reached and fair ordering has been performed.

Their plan is ambitious. Transactions on the AMM will be encrypted using time-lock puzzles, and ZK proofs will be implemented to ensure that each transaction statement is true and the transaction is encrypted correctly.

Although this is a mammoth task, the team has already made considerable headway in proving the feasibility of an MEV-resistant AMM. Starting with their proof of concept implementation on Optimism which was completed during their grant, the team has participated in the HackMoney 2022 hackathon hosted by ETHGlobal, winning the Top 10 Finalist and Uniswap Grants awards. Over the next couple of months, the team will be refining their AMM on layer 2 with added features, slated for release at the end of this year.

Ultimately, they are aiming for a ZK-based layer 3 that addresses the greater problems arising from centralization on scaling solutions, including MEV. In the meantime, you can dive deeper into the technology through their Ethereum Research forum post, follow them on Twitter for updates, check out their website, or join their community on Discord!

Zeitgeist: Laboratory for crypo-native products/protocols

Building a crypto-native product, protocol, or public good is no easy feat. One needs to navigate a terrain of non-trivial trade-offs and questions, both in technical domains (e.g. building secure smart contract systems) and operational domains (e.g. structuring legal and onchain entities). Moreover, the ecosystem is young and the right answers to these questions are evolving over time.

This is where Zeitgeist steps in. Every season, they bring together a community of innovative builders to dive into the obstacles coming up across the group and build together at no cost. The program is structured and accepts a small number of projects, thus facilitating meaningful cross-team collaboration where members can learn from one another across domains and receive hands-on support from advisors and alumni.

Zeitgeist seasons are run online and open to teams located anywhere in the world. To date, there have been builders from the US, Canada, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Singapore. The team also recognizes the effectiveness of in-person time in building personal relationships, hence they meet and have working sessions in different parts of the world.

ZG03 kicked off last October with ten teams coming together to build a variety of projects with different focuses, ranging from infrastructure powered by multiparty computation to ZK rollups. To learn more about each project, check out Zeitgeist’s update here.

To learn more about Zeitgeist and participate in a future season, you can follow along on their website, Twitter, and subscribe to their newsletter.

Are you working on something you think could change Ethereum for the better? Head to our website to learn more about the Ecosystem Support Program and apply for support.

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