The Nov. 12 Electric Coin Co. (ECC) livestream covered a wide range of topics, including our current work and planning around R&D, engineering, regulation, adoption, demand generation and operations.
If you don’t have time to view the full 2-hour presentation, use the topical summaries below to catch up. We’ve provided cued video links, as well, so you can easily skip around from section to section.
Bullish on Zcash (Zooko Wilcox, ECC Founder and CEO)
There are plenty of reasons to be zealously optimistic about the future of Zcash, and Zooko’s presentation sets up the remainder of the livestream.
Governance: Zcash governance has been evolving over the last year, and more and more voices are engaging in determining the future of Zcash. All signs point to a decentralized and self-funding model, which is critical because development will be less likely to stagnate.
Research and development: Another reason to be bullish on Zcash is that it has already contributed pioneering technology (it is the first usable deployment of zero-knowledge proofs that has worked in the real world, under attack), and it has led to a blossoming of public cryptography research, which is now feeding back into Zcash development. New cryptographic discoveries, like Halo, will allow us to eliminate the trusted setup, and we believe that zero-knowledge proofs will end up being the solution to scalability in addition to the solution for privacy.
Engineering: ECC’s product and engineering flight plans call for opening up Zcash as a platform, to allow greater third-party contributions and interoperability. This is key for the DeFi movement and a number of reasons covered elsewhere in this livestream.
Regulation: Although we’ve fought a regulatory headwind against privacy for the last few years, we believe the sentiment is turning. We (and others in the privacy space) have had a lot of success in laying out the benefits of privacy to regulatory bodies and getting Zcash integrated in many countries. We’ve seen what happened with the introduction of encryption for the World Wide Web in the 90s, and when cryptocurrencies start to be more widely used in commerce and business, it immediately becomes clear that encryption is necessary for the security of users.
Adoption: We think of Zcash adoption in two waves. The first was transparent addresses and transactions. Zcash is in the top 10 most widely available coins around the world — thanks to transparent addresses — and we believe more and more third parties will continue to adopt Zcash because of transparent addresses. This adoption has opened the door for the second wave of adoption, Zcash shielded addresses.
Demand: Since Zcash was launched three years ago, privacy has become a central concern for more and more people around the world — because of hacks, because of data abuse by large corporations, because of cyber war, because of censorship, and for other reasons. It is difficult to teach people to care about something, but it’s much easier to offer them a solution for something they already care about.
Big hairy audacious goals to inspire us and challenge us: Zooko laid out three major objectives for 2020 and beyond. (1) Scale Zcash adoption to a billion people who use Zcash as part of their economic life. (2) Help grow and enable a thriving and robust developer ecosystem that is immune to attacks because there is no single point of capture or failure. (3) Provide technology that will inspire, allow and compel a nation of people to adopt Zcash as their preferred currency.
The Flywheel (Josh Swihart, VP Marketing and Business Development)
ECC is now team of 30 people who work on efforts that include R&D, engineering, regulation, adoption, demand generation and operations. Each of these areas work together and feed into one another to build momentum over time. We call it our flywheel.
For example, our groundbreaking research and development fuels our engineering. Sapling was possible due to cryptographic breakthroughs announced in 2017. Our foundational engineering work on Zcash led to conversations with regulators on compliance, which in turn led to adoption by Gemini, Bitgo, Coinbase and others.
Josh further details Sean Bowe’s work on Halo, a cryptographic breakthrough around trusted setup and recursive proof composition. He also covers partnerships like Flexa and the SPEDN app, which allows users to spend their Zcash at retailers like Nordstrom, TopGolf and GameStop.
Finally, Josh delves into Sapling’s potential to grow shielded adoption as more and more third parties are showing support.
Zcash Unleashed (David Campbell, COO)
For ECC in 2020, our focus is on continuing to drive adoption, continuing to improve usability and really unleashing the technology for greater interoperability.
Zcash’s first year (2016) was all about seeing what was possible. In its second year, we focused on making it performant; and in the third year, we worked to support widespread adoption. Now we’re ready to open up the capabilities of Zcash to the world.
This means we’ll prioritize efforts that enable greater decentralization for the good of the whole community and crypto industry.
We applaud Adityapk00, who with support from the Zcash Foundation, created the ZECWallet (demo) and reduced shielded transaction time to seconds — from hours and days. And we’ll continue our work on mobile wallet SDKs (both Android and iOS), to empower wallet makers to build for Zcash, both transparent and shielded addresses.
We’re ramping up work on something we call WTPs, which allow limited-purpose programmability to provide extensibility without introducing the risk that comes with complete programmability.
There is so much great innovation from organizations like Bolt, Flyclient and countless others, that we’d be doing a disservice to both the currency and community if we weren’t actively working to empower them to build on Zcash.
In another example, as DeFi gains in popularity, with Ethereum often at the center, ECC is looking at privacy implications and what a bridge from ZEC to ETH could provide to users on both networks.
Flight plan — product engineering (Nathan Wilcox, CTO)
In a review of the network upgrade timeline, it’s clear that the move toward greater decentralization of Zcash is in process. We are in a new era where a greater number of people, organizations and teams are working on defining the Zcash protocol; empowering these contributors is an ECC priority.
ECC’s product engineering flight plan is divided into three horizons.
Horizon 1 focuses on the next 6 months, with a high-level objective of increasing community enablement and interoperability. It will include some of the projects mentioned above, like the WTP prototype, wallet SDKs, ViewKey support, Blossom activation and Ethereum interoperability. We have a lot of clarity and confidence in these plans, our funding and our ability to execute.
Plans within Horizon 2 (6-24 months) and 3 (24-48 months) are more speculative and based on the community’s decision on ECC funding. These phases prepare for implementation of a new Zcash governance structure and then target scalability and extending privacy across bridging protocols.
The rationale for each of these initiatives is set up to guide the ECC team and to keep it accountable within the community.
Flight plan — regulation, adoption and demand (Josh Swihart, VP Marketing and Business Development)
We made some changes to the growth team in the last few months to put us in a better position to drive key initiatives, including transparent and shielded adoption, a privacy narrative campaign, and community development. As mentioned, the path over the next six months is clear. Beyond that is contingent on funding and budget.
As we continue to pursue Zcash adoption efforts with top exchanges, wallet providers, OTC desks and custody providers around the world — we’re already supported by most of them — Horizon 1 growth efforts are focused on shielded adoption by at least one exchange, one custody provider and one commercial wallet.
On the privacy front, our team is actively developing campaigns in support of shifting the narrative through education, public relations and communications efforts. This includes the development of an online resource center with privacy-related research and compliance information for policy makers, regulators and those that are regulated.
Community development is also a key element of our strategy, as highlighted by DC and Nathan, and we’re working on programs that will be inclusive of varied users, developers, businesses and community leaders.
ECC has also been trying to engage more in Asia, and we spent considerable time there this year. We know how big the need is, what’s at stake, and what it’ll take to drive adoption there, but funding is short at the current coin price.
Future funding for Zcash development (David Campbell, COO)
ECC funding runs out (by design) in Nov of 2020, and some have wondered why we have been relatively quiet in the discussion of a new development fund.
We believe that as the world’s premiere private store of value asset, Zcash needs real decentralization. We believe that REAL decentralization is only possible if multiple parties are responsible for driving Zcash forward, and as such, we’ve stepped back and let the community drive the conversation.
While we’ve not submitted or weighed in on current proposals, ECC’s perspective is this:
- Any new dev funds should be used to only support active contributors. This means no more rewards to investors or passive founders
- ECC seeks to encourage and support an active, diverse and committed set of entities and individuals to build on and support Zcash for the long term.
- The supply cap of 21M ZEC should NOT change
- Governance should evolve to make Zcash more decentralized and inclusive.
To provide some perspective on what ECC spends on Zcash development and adoption efforts, it’s helpful to breakdown the implications of a (theoretical) post-halvening dev fund. At the current ZEC price, there is no current proposal that would allow ECC to continue current effort level, and if a proposal is selected that provides ECC with less than ~$750K USD/month, ECC would need to restructure operations significantly.
Decentralization is desirable. We believe third-party dev funding should be ramped up over time based on performance and coin price.
The recent trademark agreement, which donates the Zcash trademark to the Zcash Foundation helps advance two of ECC’s primary objectives: to further decentralization and to honor and protect the community’s voice with regard to the future of Zcash. One of the terms stipulates that ECC and the foundation must agree on “what is Zcash,” and if they disagree, a mediator will rely upon “community sentiment” to figure out the way forward that is in the best interest of the community.
Tying things together (Josh Swihart, VP Marketing and Business Development)
Our mission is to empower everyone with economic freedom. And we’ve learned that economically disenfranchised people are often our neighbors, the unbanked in our own backyard. ECC has been sponsoring and working with the Crypto Community Project in the South Bronx, a program that teaches crypto and financial basics to recent high school graduates in the US’s poorest congressional district. In 2020, we will be expanding our efforts to help organize and fund programs like this all over the world.