By Ethan Buchman and Arianne Flemming, with thanks to Andy Nogueira and representatives from Agoric, Regen, Lunie, Figment, and Chorus One
The ICF has funded a wide diversity of organizations in the Cosmos ecosystem to help deliver on its mission (see our 2019 Year in Review). While All in Bits has been the largest recipient of funding in its service as an anchor in the Cosmos, over the course of 2019, many entities took on significant leadership-roles and responsibilities for different components of the technology and the community. Now, as All in Bits undergoes organizational restructuring, it’s worth recognizing the diversity and resilience of the Cosmos ecosystem.
For some entities, the ICF constitutes a significant amount of their current funding, and we’re excited to see them taking steps towards longer term sustainability and sources of funding outside the ICF. For others, the ICF has contributed only a small amount of their total funding, but they are nonetheless taking on important leadership roles within the community. In both cases, we’re interested in seeing these entities, and many others, achieve long term financial sustainability, whether in the form of a traditional technology company, a new public Proof-of-Stake blockchain with its own self-sustaining economics, or some other form of novel business structure.
In this post, we highlight a few of these independent leaders in the Cosmos community, what they are up to, and how they are financed.
Naturally, the Agoric and Cosmos visions have a substantial amount in common, including the focus on object-capability based security and on interoperability between heterogeneous and self-sovereign hosts. When deciding which blockchain infrastructure to build their application platform upon, the Agoric team chose Cosmos. The current version of their platform is built using the Cosmos-SDK, where they have integrated their smart-contracting environment as a module. While they plan to generalize their platform across blockchains and other devices, they are currently targeting a launch with the Cosmos technology stack.
Agoric was founded in 2018, with initial funding from the Electric Coin Company, Polychain, and Naval Ravikant. In 2019, Agoric raised a larger round from a number of major investors, with participation from the ICF. The funds are being used to develop the Agoric platform and to launch it as a public blockchain network. While details of the Agoric token economics are still being worked out, the company seeks to build a sustainable business on top of the new economic opportunities that will be created by the launch of its platform.
Beyond the investment, the ICF has funded Agoric with service contracts to help design and implement the IBC protocol to be sufficiently general to satisfy both Cosmos and Agoric use-cases. The design of IBC has benefited tremendously from their expertise and decades of experience with similar protocols, and is culminating in a protocol that we can together build the Internet of Blockchains on top of, much like the Internet itself was built on top of TCP. We look forward to seeing Agoric’s ongoing leadership in the Cosmos community in 2020 and beyond!
The Regen Network has been leading the charge in using public blockchain technology like Cosmos to address the global challenge of ecological regeneration. Ecosystems all over the world have been devastated by corrupt financial incentive mechanisms, severely compromising global sustainability. Regen is focused on the use of smart contract technology to align incentives around protecting and regenerating ecological resources; for instance, creating credits and other financial instruments to value the provision of public goods like carbon sequestration into forests or healthy soils. This is a quickly growing market that requires both transparency and multi stakeholder agreement, making public smart contract networks a perfect solution. By combining advances in ecological monitoring with the low-overhead, economic engagements made possible by smart contracts, Regen intends to build an economy around ecological regeneration and the sustainable stewardship of Planet Earth, starting with the world’s first carbon and ecosystem service credit registry on a public blockchain.
Jae, Ethan, and other early members of the Cosmos community met Gregory Landua, the Chief Regeneration Officer at Regen, back at Ethereum’s 2017 DevCon in Cancun. Gregory has extensive experience in regenerative agriculture, and discovered the immense potential of blockchain technology to incentivize regeneration. The visions of both the Regen and Cosmos teams were found to align significantly, and Regen has been a staunch Cosmos supporter and community member ever since. More recently, Gregory started the Planetary Regeneration Podcast, where he has interviewed a number of prominent Cosmos community members.
Much of Regen’s funding has come in the form of grants and pilot projects in ecological regeneration. Since late 2019, the Regen team has been fundraising using a SAFT for their staking token, which will underlie the economics of their ecological regeneration platform, much like Atoms currently underlie the Cosmos Hub. The ICF participated in the SAFT offering along with a number of other prominent Cosmos community members. The Regen team aims to build a sustainable organization around the economic opportunities unlocked by the launch of their public platform. Much more detail about the economics can be found in their whitepaper.
Beyond the investment, the ICF has also been engaged with Regen in service agreements since late 2018 to develop modules for, and improvements to, the Cosmos-SDK. While the initial focus was geared specifically towards the ecological regeneration use case, the scope has significantly expanded over time, to the point that the Regen team is now a core contributor to the Cosmos-SDK. To wit, they have been developing substantial improvements like the on-chain upgrade module, the account sub-key system, and the replacement of Amino with Protobuf, and they’ve played a leading role in the CosmWasm project, which is bringing WASM-based smart-contracts to the Cosmos-SDK. These improvements significantly benefit both their specific application and Cosmos at large. Much of this work has been led by Regen’s CTO, Aaron Craelius, who has become deeply familiar with the Cosmos-SDK, and by their lead developer, Ethan Frey, who built the first prototypes of the Cosmos-SDK at All in Bits in 2017.
We’re impressed with the leadership Regen has demonstrated with the Cosmos-SDK and are looking forward to continuing work with them to cement the SDK as the world leading blockchain application development platform. They have been running a highly active and robust testnet program with many Cosmos validators, and we’re looking forward to the launch of their network (estimated to occur later this year) and to the opportunities it will create for ecological regeneration across the globe.
Lunie had its start in 2017 in the early Cosmos wallet being developed by All in Bits, where it was once upon a time called Voyager. Jordan Bibla, Lunie’s CEO, and Fabian “Fabo” Weber, their CTO, joined All in Bits at the same time in October 2017 and brought significant product and design oriented focus to the Lunie team and product, as well as to the company’s other engineering teams. After the Cosmos mainnet went live in March 2019, Lunie spun out of All in Bits into its own company, Lunie International Software Systems, to offer Lunie as a primary user interface to the Cosmos Hub.
Since then, the ICF has engaged Lunie with service contracts to improve the Lunie wallet experience, to maintain it across Cosmos Hub upgrades, and to develop a browser extension and mobile application to complement the web-app, all of which are now available. They worked closely with Juan Leni and the Ledger team to improve the UX of the Ledger Nano app, and have written tutorials about how staking and governance work on the Cosmos Hub. A significant amount of time also went towards maintenance fixes due to breaking changes in Cosmos Hub upgrades. Hopefully, with help from things like the new upgrade module developed by Regen, this overhead will be reduced in the future.
Meanwhile, Lunie has been building its business by offering integration services for other Proof-of-Stake style blockchains, starting with Cosmos blockchains but expanding to the wider ecosystem as well. Application specific blockchains like those in the Cosmos ecosystem require UIs both for their application specific needs, but also to manage the underlying Proof-of-Stake economics, like staking, delegation, rewards, etc. Lunie handles all the staking-specific UI, so blockchain projects can focus on building the UI for their actual application. To date, Lunie has signed agreements with a number of Cosmos zones and other notable Proof of Stake projects, and are looking to expand further to establish a sustainable software business.
Figment Networks launched in 2018 to support the wider adoption, growth, and long term success of stake-based protocols. Figment’s co-founders, Matt Harrop, Lorien Gabel, and Andrew Cronk have decades of experience scaling Internet infrastructure companies, and are applying that experience in the new world of Proof of Stake validator services.
Figment was an active participant in the Cosmos testnet program in 2018 and was one of the “Never Jailed” winners in the Cosmos Game of Stakes. They also built Hubble, the Cosmos staking explorer. In late 2018, leading up to the Game of Stakes, the ICF engaged them with a service agreement to open source Hubble and to add some features to ensure that it was easy to access information during the Game of Stakes.
Figment raised a seed round in early 2019 from a number of investors to build out their secure and compliant staking services for large token holders. They have since become leading validators in many Proof of Stake networks, including Cosmos, Tezos, Livepeer, and many more, including a number of other Cosmos blockchains.
Most recently, the ICF engaged Figment to build open-source income reporting tools for staking rewards for current and previous versions of the Cosmos Hub, so that everyone can get the necessary information to satisfy their reporting requirements.
While only a small amount of Figment’s funding has come from the ICF, they have taken a significant leadership role in the Cosmos Hub community and governance process. They’ve published many articles about the Cosmos ecosystem and technology, and are quite active in the community and development channels. Their Community Analyst, Gavin Birch, has been a leading evangelist for the Cosmos governance process and has played a seminal role in drafting governance proposals and marshalling support for Cosmos Hub upgrades. This work was done independently by Figment, establishing them as a community leader, and the network has benefited significantly from it. It’s amazing to see independent entities step up to leadership roles to help marshal the decentralized network forward.
In early 2020, Gavin’s role in governance was recognized formally by the on-chain governance mechanism. With the latest Cosmos Hub 3 upgrade, spending from the community pool became possible by passing a governance proposal. The network voted to pay Figment Networks for Gavin’s work to form a Governance Working Group intended to lower the barrier for high-quality governance proposals, to help organize participation in the governance process, and to develop resources and best practices documentation for future governance proposals. We’re excited to see such important work being funded autonomously by the Cosmos Hub’s native economics itself, without any influence or funding from the Interchain Foundation. We look forward to the ongoing leadership and work Gavin and Figment will continue to do to enhance the Cosmos community.
Chorus One was founded in early 2018 to operate validators for Proof-of-Stake networks. Brian Crain, co-founder and CEO, was previously the COO at All in Bits, and helped set up the Full Node blockchain co-working space in Berlin, home to the 2019 Interchain Conversations conference. Brian left All in Bits in late 2017 to set up Chorus One with co-founder Meher Roy, with whom he had already been running the popular Epicenter podcast.
Brian, Meher, and the Chorus One team have been huge contributors to the Cosmos ecosystem over the years, with a focus on protocol analysis and community growth. They provided significant early feedback on the economics of the Proof of Stake design, and have published many articles about the Cosmos protocols and community. Chorus One is currently validating on Cosmos-based networks and other Proof-of-Stake blockchains.
Chorus One has also been at the forefront of building highly available validators. Besides building one of the first high-availability validators for the Cosmos Hub, they have been building a high availability validator for Solana StrongGate with funding from the Solana team. Moreover, Chorus One has been building Anthem, a web tool with staking analytics and historical reward data that is launching soon.
Chorus One has been financed independently by its founders, but was recently engaged by the ICF to initiate research into Delegation Vouchers, a mechanism to provide liquidity for staked Atoms. As part of this effort, they’ve created the Liquid Staking Working Group, which hosts regular open meetings to gather input from the wider community on the design of this enhancement to the Cosmos Proof of Stake mechanism. The goal is to produce a design that can then be funded for implementation. We look forward to the ongoing thought and community leadership demonstrated by Chorus One, to the results of the Delegation Vouchers project, and to their evolution into a long-term sustainable Proof of Stake services company.
Of course, there are many more amazing independent organizations making significant contributions to the Cosmos ecosystem — too many to detail in a single post. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most prominent ones playing a leading role in the current and future evolution of the Cosmos Hub. In the future we hope to profile many others, to shine further light on the true extent of decentralization and sustainability in the Cosmos. These include teams from IrisNet, BHarvest, Forbole, Binance, Commercio, Persistence, Certus One, Cosmostation, and so many more, all of whom have made major contributions to the core Cosmos software, protocols, tools, and/or community. Some of these teams are mentioned explicitly in reviews of the funding program, or in the ICF’s official funding program repository, but many others have never received funding from the ICF, and yet continue to make major contributions to the ecosystem.
We’re also excited about upcoming developments pertaining to the engineering teams at All in Bits and the Interchain Foundation, some of which have been in the works for months. More details are coming soon!
We are so grateful to everyone who has helped build this amazing community and ecosystem into what it is today and look forward to many more years of productive and sustainable growth with all of those who will help build it into what it will become — a sovereign, secure, and sustainable ecosystem of open, decentralized networks.