Zooko and a new focus for Zcash resilience


From the Bootstrap Board of Directors:

Zcash is at an inflection point. With a more decentralized Zcash contributor model taking shape and a new development fund hanging in the balance, with crypto and privacy on the lips of policy makers, regulators, candidates for public office, enthusiasts, and everyday citizens, the future of Zcash — and perhaps economic freedom on the whole — may be won or lost by the actions we, as a community, take now.

That’s why we were excited when Zooko Wilcox told us he’s ready to pour his energy into a new role within the Zcash universe. (Juicy announcement coming soon!)

In this transition, Zooko will leave his position as Executive Director of Bootstrap, and his seat on the board. This is bittersweet news for us, given that Zooko formed and led the team that built Zcash and is largely responsible for inspiring an active culture and community around Zcash and the greater crypto universe.

But Bootstrap’s loss is the Zcash community’s gain. While we will miss his leadership at Bootstrap, we’re thrilled that he’s refocusing his work on Zcash elsewhere, continuing to contribute his one-of-a-kind skills and energy to building momentum in a new project, further decentralizing development, and fortifying Zcash resilience.

Zooko is an original cypherpunk, inspired by and inspiring to cryptographers, computer scientists, and privacy advocates — like Hal Finney, Phil Zimmerman, and Satoshi Nakamoto, to name a few, who from the early and mid-90s were working on new systems and technologies for social change. 

Zooko has contributed to an array of projects since then, including Pretty Good Privacy, DigiCash, Mojo Nation, ZRTP, Tahoe-LAFS, BLAKE2, BLAKE3, and SPHINCS. He is best known as CEO and founder of Electric Coin Co., the team of scientists and engineers that launched the Zcash cryptocurrency. (If you are reading this blog, you almost certainly know about Zcash, a digital currency that keeps all your financial information private and in your control.)

Zcash and zero-knowledge proofs

At ECC, Zooko and team delivered in Zcash the first practical, real-world implementation of zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs). While the idea of ZKPs has been around since the 1980s, ECC delivered the first-ever successful implementation, creating a watershed moment for a groundbreaking idea.

The initial release, in 2016, used ZKPs that required 40 seconds and GBs of PC RAM to process. But within two years, ECC optimized the code to bring the processing requirements down significantly — low enough to allow for the first ever private zero-knowledge transactions on mobile devices.

In 2019, ECC’s Sean Bowe discovered another game-changing zero-knowledge innovation: Halo, a novel technique for creating practical, scalable, and trustless cryptographic proving systems. This discovery ended an almost decade-long pursuit by the cryptography community. The Halo proving system eliminates protocol reliance on so-called “trusted setups” and provides a catalyst for Zcash user confidence and scalability while making the protocol more attractive, faster, and less expensive for others to build on.

The importance of ECC’s work on ZKPs, under Zooko’s leadership, can’t be overstated. These tools have revolutionized data privacy and security and are now pervasive in the crypto world and beyond — primed for use in critical industries that touch everyone’s lives, such as finance, health care, voting systems, network security and authentication, and more.

At a glance

Zooko’s work has helped grow Zcash into a widely adopted digital currency, supported by high-quality financial institutions and crypto companies around the world, including heavily regulated US-based exchanges such as Gemini and Coinbase. In large part thanks to Zooko, Zcash is now one of the most battle-tested and trusted cryptocurrencies in existence. Zcash tech is also the cornerstone of innovative use cases like privacy preserving smart contacts and ZK rollups, which may become foundational tools for individual power and agency in tomorrow’s world.

At ECC and Bootstrap, Zooko: 

  • Led ECC through more than 70 separate Zcash releases
  • Oversaw 6 major Zcash network upgrades
  • Contributed to the more than 10,000 commits to the Zcash codebase
  • Saw ~3,000 issues in Zcash fixed
  • Saw Zcash forked more than 2,000 times
  • Had the Zcash codebase audited dozens of times, by world-class teams including Qedit, Least Authority, NCC Group, Trail of Bits, and Coinspect
  • Watched the Zcash shielded pools grow to hold 1,500,000 ZEC
  • Helped Zcash get added to every major crypto exchange in the world
  • Helped remediate critical vulnerabilities in Zcash like the Faerie Gold attack (pre-launch), the major counterfeiting bug in 2019, and the memory exhaustion bug in 2023
  • With other Zcash founders, donated 273,000 ZEC (which included 33 percent of his allocated share of the Founders Reward) to establish the non-profit Zcash Foundation
  • Delivered core innovations in Zcash, which have been implemented by innumerable projects
    • The trusted setup, then the trustless setup
    • The Dev Fund
    • Decentralized encrypted transactions
    • Encrypted memo field
    • Unified addresses
    • Viewing keys
  • Spoke at countless events, on panels, podcasts, and workshops
  • Made critical sustaining investments on behalf of ECC in projects like Agoric and Starkware
  • Consumed hundreds of pounds of steak 🥩
  • Blocked, unblocked, and then re-blocked a few X/Twitter profiles 😆


Zooko’s impact on Zcash, the ecosystem, and the community is without parallel, and we’re excited to see his work continue. Godspeed, Zooko. We’re indebted to you, and we’re counting on you. 

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