Exclusive Interview with Eli Ben-Sasson | Co-Founder & President of StarkWare

Welcome to Kernel Talk, this is Rose from Kernel Ventures. We are a crypto VC fund focusing on the growth of dev communities and backing the most ingenious founders in the world. Today we are at the StarkWare Sessions in Tel Aviv and we have the co-founder & president of StarkWare — Eli Ben-Sasson here with us. Eli is the co-inventor of zk-STARKs, and the Founding Scientist of Zcash — the first practical application of zk-SNARKs. StarkWare currently runs StarkNet — a permissionless decentralised Validity-Rollup often referred to as ZK-Rollup, operating as a Layer 2 network over Ethereum and also StarkEx — a standalone, customisable Layer 2 SaaS scalability engine. Now let’s dive in and gain some insights into StarkWare’s Layer3 plans, StarkNet’s competitive edge and its level of decentralisation as well as StarkNet’s wallet optimisation from Eli.

1. What are your visions for StarkNet down the road? Do you expect to grow it as more of an independent ecosystem, or a part of EVM-compatible ecosystem focusing on cross-chain interoperability?

It’s certainly going to start as something that is on top of Ethereum, but thanks to the immense scale offered by StarkNet, I think it will just grow to be something that stands on its own. But probably, it’s going to you know help Ethereum in the most recent scale.

2. Given the current landscape of booming Layer 2s, what makes StarkNet unique?

Many things, it has the best programming language for smart contracts, it has the best scale, it has the best ability to scale further through fractal scaling and Layer 3s, which is something that StarkWare invented. And it is first to production among all validity Rollups, so probably it has an advantage in getting the network effect as well.

3. Do you think StarkNet has a competitive edge to support the development of Layer 3? How is the buidling experience or requirement of building on StarkNet different from other Layer 2s?

So StarkWare is different in having its own language, which is not solidity. A lot of the other Layer 2s are solidity compatible. The programming language of StarkWare is Cairo. It’s a newer language, which means that in many aspects, it is more modern, and probably better. So StarkNet already has account abstraction, and this has been used, for instance, by Visa and others to have a much better user interface for end users with a lot of security. That’s just one of the many things that seem to be working better in Cairo. So that’s our competitive edge.

4. As a new language, Cairo has introduced new possibilities in crypto. Do you want to attract new developers to web3 and if so what are your plans to achieve this?

Yes, we do and we are attracting new developers to Web3, we are attracting both people who are already in Web3, and are excited by the scale that only StarkNet can offer. And we’re also attracting people who are currently in Web2 that see the potential in this new ecosystem. So we’re attracting from a lot of worlds. And the StarkNet ecosystem by now has a number of very important organisations that help with onboarding developers, like Only Dust and Node Guardians and a few others that are doing this very important work and expanding the developer base.

5. Is mass adoption one of the goals for StarkNet and if so what’s the approach?

Mass adoption is certainly a goal of StarkNet. Blockchain is a technology for social use cases. And it also needs to reach the scale that is needed by social networks and social applications. And the way that we are trying to do this is not through hype, but through delivering very good, usable developer tools that actually work very well. That’s our approach, and then the developers are basically spreading the word.

6. How decentralised is StarkNet now, especially in terms of sequencers, and how to maintain decentralisation when network grows and scales?

So that’s a terrific question. There are certain aspects in which the network is very decentralised today, if you count the number of core developers working on the protocol, and on the tooling. So by now, StarkWare is already a small minority, in terms of numbers. There are many, many other teams that are building important parts of the infrastructure. In terms of the sequencer improver, we just announced today that the prover as well as the sequencer is going to be open sourced. And we are currently in the research phases of finding the right protocol for decentralising the sequencing and the proving. And once we nail down the right initial protocol, we will implement it and, you know, basically decentralise this aspect as well.

7. There’s so much attention on StarkNet’s wallet experience optimisation, everyone is aware that there will be a wallet update, what aspects of the wallet will be improved?

Well, through account abstraction, there is already a much better user experience, that gives you a lot of safety. In addition to being able to trust some very standard security measures, you know, the ones that you have on your smartphone, and all of this is through account abstraction. Teams such as Cartridge, and the wallets Argent and Braavos are leading the way here. So, yeah, there’s going to be a very large set of ways in which end users can use and transact and start with in a safe way, it is actually much better and more modern than the experience of, you know, older blockchains.

8. StarkWare does have a token that’s already distributed, but trading is not active at the moment. Is there any plans for that?

So things are in the works, but yeah, there are no details to share beyond what is in the blog posts.

Great, thank you so much for being here with us today Eli, it’s been very insightful, and yeah let’s definitely keep an eye out for future updates from StarkNet.

Kernel Ventures is a research & dev community driven crypto VC fund with more than 70 early stage investments, focusing on infrastructure, middleware, dApps, especially ZK, Rollup, Modular Blockchain, and verticals that will onboard the next billion of users in crypto such as Account Abstraction, Data Availability, Scalability and etc. For the past seven years, we have committed ourselves to supporting the growth of core dev communities and University Blockchain Associations across the world.

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