‘Jolt’ and ‘Lasso’ mark VC Firm a16z’s foray into crypto tech research

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has rolled out two new software projects that are aimed at boosting the core technology powering zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs, that are driving some of the most promising blockchain projects. 

Making the announcement on August 10, 2023, a16z stated that two new open-source projects will be called ‘Jolt’ and ‘Lasso’.

The Silicon Valley giant’s foray into crypto tech research marks another feather in the a16z’s cap. Over the past few years, the venture capitalist firm has been actively working on developing the core technology that powers some of the companies that it’s currently backing. These projects also mark the first time that a16z has ventured into deep tech research – which goes on to underline how many VC funds are now beginning to show interest in the technologies that they are funding. 

Talking about the first open-source project Lasso: it pitches a new methodology to boost the speed of ZK systems. The whitepaper of the project was co-authored by a16z’s Justin Thaler, Srinath Setty, and Riad Wahby. Setty is a researcher at Microsoft, while Wahby teaches computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. 

The other project announced by a16z is Jolt which will be introducing a kind of zero-knowledge virtual machine which is powered by Lasson. Currently, Jolt exists only on paper, but its makers have said that they plan to release a version of the code over time.

As many of the companies that a16z has invested in are based on ZK technology, the VC firm is striving to explore the potential of the technology to help them succeed. Plus, open-source contributions help a16z cement its reputation among the global developer community. 

What are ZK proofs?

By definition, ZK proofs are cryptographic solutions that can be applied outside the blockchain. In recent years, there’s been a rise in their popularity given these tools’ versatility and ability to scale a blockchain. They are preferred as they enable developers to boost speed and cut down gas fees while shielding transactional privacy. 

Thaler, who’s also a faculty member at Georgetown University, says ZK proofs ensure that not only is the work done right but also that all blockchain nodes are “not doing all the work”.

Decoding Lasso and Jolt

Lasso is a ZK ‘lookup argument’ which is being seen as an improvement over the ZK-snarks – a popular tool that is used for deploying ZK crypto projects. According to the a16z team, the project offers a 10x speedup over the lookup argument. The team stated that they expect improvements of up to 40x after the optimizations are done. 

What sets Jolt apart is its unique approach to building zKVMs. Virtual machines are computer systems that are operated completely by software and do not require any hardware. These virtual machines serve as the foundation for many popular blockchains, including those powering some of the Top 10 cryptocurrencies. zKVMs are virtual machines that leverage zero-knowledge proofs. 

One of the most popular kinds of zKVMs is the zKEVMs that are powered by Ethereum scaling solutions and form a large part of a16z’s crypto tech investments. With Jolt, the company would be offering a versatile framework for building different kinds of zKVMs that can be easily debugged.

Analysts expect the projects to pave the way for new opportunities in crypto tech research and even potentially boost live cryptocurrency prices.

Disclaimer: This article was created for informational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice. An asset’s past performance does not predict its future returns. Before making an investment, please conduct your own research, as digital assets like cryptocurrencies are highly risky and volatile financial instruments.

Author: Puskar Pande

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