Agoric Outlier Ventures

In the global economy, establishing trust costs up to 35 percent of GDP. Today smart contract platforms are insecure, hard to use, and limited to specific networks. The first problem for smart contract development is security. Hosho, the smart contract auditing firm, found that 25 percent of audits revealed critical bugs, and 60 percent of all projects had at least one security issue. Hosho and Ethereum, smart contract platforms, are still immature in terms of tools and practices, and have both experienced bugs and hacks. A second problem today is usability. The developer community around Ethereum and other smart contract platforms is still relatively small. Despite excitement around blockchains and smart contracts, the developer community is small and stagnant. This is due to many reasons, however, the main reason is that developers have to learn a new programming language. A third and growing problem is one of interoperability. A huge limiting factor to widespread adoption is if a contract can only interact with another contract on the same system. As we bring automation to global trade, vendor lock-in means an inability to pay suppliers, track IoT sensors, and share credentials.

Agoric is solving security, usability and interoperability. Using an object-capability (ocap) security architecture, in which access to a programming object itself is the authority to use the object. This approach has been used successfully to create secure operating systems, and to control untrusted scripts in Google’s Caja project and Salesforce’s Locker Service. In terms of usability, they are enabling developers to write secure smart contracts in JavaScript. JavaScript is the world’s most popular programming language with a community of 11.7 million active developers.Because of JavaScript’s widespread use, the language is extensively tested. Unlike a new domain specific language for smart contracts that may have only been used by a few people, the pitfalls and peculiarities of JavaScript are well-known and can be accounted for, rather than discovered too late. Finally to address interoperability, the solution has been designed to be crypto-network agnostic offering ‘smart-contracts-as-a-service.’ Instead of creating a smart contract on one particular chain like Ethereum, Tezos or Cardano, contracts are written in SES, and programs are deployed in vats, a runtime that operates consistently across single “solo” machines, permissioned quorum clusters, or public blockchains.

Overview

Why we invested in Agoric