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Zero-knowledge Proof Start-Ups Attracting Top Crypto Talent – Ex-Coinbase Exec Joins Ethereum Scaling Firm Matter Labs

Last Updated April 22, 2024 2:35 PM
James Morales
Last Updated April 22, 2024 2:35 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Former Coinbase Vice President Nana Murugesan has joined Matter Labs as president.
  • Matter Labs is the most well-funded startup focused on zero-knowledge proofs, but there are dozens of others.
  • Recent funding rounds in the space include Succinct’s $55 million Series A and Proven’s $15.8 million seed round.

First described in 1985, in recent years, zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs have emerged as the hottest thing in cryptography, with dozens of startups building new ZK systems and implementations. 

For instance, in the world of Ethereum scaling, ZK proofs underpin a host of emerging Layer 2s that could ultimately prove far more effective than the optimistic rollups that currently dominate.  Reflecting the technology’s potential, the likes of StarkWare and Matter Labs have generated significant excitement, with the latter even poaching a senior Coinbase executive to serve as its president.

Coinbase VP Nana Murugesan Joins Matter Labs 

In an announcement last week, Matter Labs confirmed  that it had hired the former Coinbase Vice President Nana Murugesan as its first-ever president.

The startup behind ZKSync, Matter Labs’ latest hire suggests a new level of maturity for the startup, which has brought in outside talent to help run the business as it has grown.

Since its inception in 2018, the company has raised nearly half a billion dollars from investors, more than any of its peers in the space. But other ZK startups aren’t far behind.

After Matter Labs, Polygon Labs and Starkware are the largest and most well-funded zero-knowledge developers. 

However, a string of recent VC deals suggests the sector is ripe with innovation that extends beyond the well-known ZK rollups.

Zero Knowledge Fundraising 

Succinct, a startup building ZK infrastructure used by Celestia, Wormhole, Gnosis and others, recently closed a $55 million Series A round that cemented its position as one of the leading innovators in the space.

The firm’s technology certainly has applications in the realm of Ethereum scaling. (Hence its popularity with Layer 3 players like Avail and Celestia.) But its ambition is much bigger.

In fact, the new capital will be used “to make zero-knowledge proofs accessible to any developer,” Succinct announced  in a statement.

Meanwhile, last month Proven raised $15.8 million to develop its zero-knowledge system that enables exchanges, stablecoin issuers, asset managers and custodians to prove their on-chain assets and liabilities without needing to publicly disclose their balance sheets. 

Andreessen Horowitz Develops ZK Tech In-House

ZK cryptography is currently so hot that the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has even developed its own zero-knowledge virtual machine – Jolt. 

Given its vast portfolio of crypto startups , Jolt isn’t just something a16z developed on a whim. 

Rather, the firm’s foray into ZK research is synergistic with its investment strategy, and the new platform could help startups it has invested in scale their operations.

As the technology evolves, other investors will likely be paying close attention too.

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