Recent innovations in cryptography and trustless computing are going to transform the way we use the Internet. The same way that encryption paved the way for ecommerce and data compression made video streaming possible, zero-knowledge succinct proofs (ZKPs) are the key to building a decentralized web that puts users in control. A new wave of high volume transaction ledgers, robust identity systems, and other exciting web3 technologies are uniquely enabled by ZKPs, thanks to their ability to overcome the bottlenecks of distributed systems. In order to realize their full potential, we need ZKPs to be fast, cheap, and easy to compute – and that is exactly what our acceleration platform is designed to deliver.
Today, we’re introducing Ulvetanna Inc. Our mission: to accelerate the ZK revolution by supporting web3 networks with reliable and cost-efficient proof generation. We are thrilled to also announce that we’ve raised $15M in funding co-led by Bain Capital Crypto and Paradigm with participation from Jump Crypto. Our investors are renowned for their substantial contributions to the crypto industry, and they have laid the groundwork for our growth.
A New Role for a New Internet
Web3 envisions an Internet where more of our online experiences are built on open protocols. Unlike services operated by a single trusted company, open protocols are run by financially incentivized actors who perform specific roles. We believe that when ZKPs are fast and cheap, protocols will use them extensively for the privacy and scalability benefits they offer. Leading the charge right now are ZK-rollups, which reduce the cost and increase the volume of transactions and are a core part of Ethereum’s roadmap, and ZK-bridges, which enable secure transfers of assets between blockchains. For these protocols, provers who generate ZKPs will be essential actors in the network, similar to how miners and stakers have the role of confirming transactions on Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake blockchains.
Being a good prover is no simple task. Generating ZKPs is tremendously computationally intensive, requiring powerful hardware and consuming lots of power. The processing involves modular arithmetic and other expensive cryptographic operations, needs large datasets kept in memory, and has complex data dependencies. Another challenge is that there are many different types of ZKPs in development today, and the design space is only getting wider as more research goes in.
Leave it to the Pros
Having learned from the development of the Bitcoin mining ecosystem, we believe that the job of generating ZKPs will be highly competitive and left largely to sophisticated, professional teams that can operate at scale. Amateur operations will struggle for three reasons. First, cryptographic proof generation is far more efficient on specially designed hardware, and even powerful consumer machines, such as tuned gaming setups, will be quickly left behind. Secondly, since provers can operate anywhere, access to low-cost electricity is paramount. And perhaps most of all, the world of designing ZKP algorithms is moving at breakneck speed and nowhere close to standardization. Teams with in-house development expertise spanning many areas of computer science and engineering are in the best position to adapt to this changing landscape and stay flexible enough to run multiple types of proof systems simultaneously.
A competitive ecosystem of professional provers will dramatically benefit ZK-enabled protocols and their users. Instead of relying on the singular efforts of a core development team, protocols with well-designed reward mechanisms can incentivize constant technical and operational innovations from external teams. As with similar budding technologies, innovation here drives down the cost for users and ensures reliability when transaction volume surges.
We are excited to join the competition to deliver the fastest and cheapest ZKPs for the new generation of web3 protocols. Instead of limiting our focus to software optimizations targeting existing cloud infrastructure, at Ulvetanna we recognize that state-of-the-art technology optimizes across all layers of the stack. As the problem we are tackling stands at the intersection of theoretical cryptography and high-performance computing, we have assembled an experienced team of applied cryptographers, software and hardware engineers, data center and cloud architects, and crypto-native investors.
With Ulvetanna’s interdisciplinary expertise, we are co-designing our hardware and software stacks all the way from the cryptographic algorithms to data center topology. Our approach takes advantage of the most appropriate compute hardware for each stage in the proof generation process, keeping energy consumption to a bare minimum and thereby reducing baseline costs. By offloading the most expensive cryptographic operations to FPGAs with tailor-made digital logic, we can achieve significantly better performance and energy efficiency compared to CPU and GPU-based solutions. Our FPGA servers avoid data transfer bottlenecks using cluster topologies that public cloud services cannot support, and Ulvetanna has partnered with a climate-aligned data center provider, Crusoe Energy, to power all our operations sustainably.
Culture of Contribution
None of our work would have been possible without the amazing community that has formed around the goal of making ZKPs universal. The strong tradition of collaborative research, open-source software development, and publishing educational content is what has allowed for such rapid progress. We share these community values and commit to providing our research findings and technical analyses to the public forum. Our recent research paper called “Caulk+: Table-independent Lookup Arguments” will be the first of many, so follow us for future papers and blog posts. We can’t wait to work with everyone in the ZK community, and if you’re a builder then get in touch!