An Update on the Role of the Tezos Foundation

2018 was an eventful year for the Tezos community. Tezos launched as one of the first large-scale Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchains with the betanet in June and transitioned seamlessly to the mainnet in September. Since then, many community members have been participating in the Tezos ecosystem. There are now more than 450 bakers (validators) […]

2018 was an eventful year for the Tezos community. Tezos launched as one of the first large-scale Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchains with the betanet in June and transitioned seamlessly to the mainnet in September.

Since then, many community members have been participating in the Tezos ecosystem. There are now more than 450 bakers (validators) in dozens of countries across 6 continents. Over 100 public delegation services allow anyone holding XTZ to participate in consensus and earn rewards for securing the network. Tezos continues to become more decentralized as the community grows and these numbers increase. A recent snapshot shows that very soon there will be more than 50,000 rolls (i.e. 500,000,000 XTZ) helping to secure the network.

Understanding that even with these impressive numbers the developer community should continue to grow, the Foundation announced its commitment to fund the training of 1,000 new developers this year to build on Tezos. To kick off this initiative, we sponsored B9lab, a leading provider of blockchain education and training programs, to create a new Tezos training series and will sponsor 250 talented developers to participate in this program free of charge through the Tezos Blockstars program.

The recent news that Elevated Returns will use Securitize’s platform to tokenize USD $1B of real estate for use on Tezos underscores how quickly others have come to recognize Tezos as a leading blockchain for real asset tokenization. The Tezos ecosystem remains early stage, but projects like Elevated Returns, Securitize, Marigold, Chorus Mobility, Kalhatti, Viaz, MoneyTrack, and others are advancing the path to mainstream adoption.

All of these developments are a testament to the strength of the Tezos community.

Given the growth of the Tezos ecosystem during this time, we thought it would be a good time to give additional clarity on how the Foundation is taking steps to support the ecosystem as it grows and evolves, as well as how it will operate and deploy resources moving forward.

The Tezos Foundation exists to support the long-term success of Tezos and its ecosystem. As the steward of the funds donated during the fundraiser, the Foundation is tasked with distributing these funds in a responsible and accountable manner to help advance the project. For the last 12 months, we have committed over USD $30M in grants that have contributed to this goal.

Our grantmaking efforts around baking are already seeing strong results with constantly improving infrastructure around Ledger and Trezor support. The efforts of other grantees such as Zednode, Obsidian Systems, Simple Staking, and Cryptium Labs promise to reduce the barrier to entry for baking. Another early grantee, Cryptonomic, recently released Conseil and ConseilJS, making it significantly easier for developers to interact with the Tezos blockchain.

Still, many exciting developments for Tezos remain ahead of us. For example, a project led by elite researchers from Inria is underway to formally verify properties of Michelson smart contracts and build out tooling. Another grantee, KZen Networks, is set to integrate Tezos into its user-friendly wallet, which uses cryptographic techniques to reduce the key management frictions of transacting with XTZ and baking.

The Tezos Foundation has always committed itself to operate with the highest standards of accountability and industry best practices. In adherence to that commitment, we engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Switzerland as our independent external auditor, making us the only foundation associated with a large-scale blockchain project to have a member of the “Big Four” fill this role. We look forward to PwC Switzerland completing its 2017 audit soon and then beginning its 2018 audit thereafter. We recently reaffirmed our commitment when we brought on a CFO, an in-house counsel, and an adviser to the Council.

As we stated last summer when we outlined the strategy of the Tezos Foundation:

“…the success of any decentralized network is determined by the efforts of a robust, diverse, and flourishing community. The Foundation exists as a part of this ecosystem, alongside developers, scientists, network validators (“bakers”), and enthusiasts all working towards the success of a platform that we believe will ultimately drive social, political, and economic innovation on a global scale. As a foundation, we believe our role within the community is to deploy resources that support the long-term future of Tezos.”

In order to best support the long-term future of Tezos, we have decided to fund and empower organizations that will handle different operational pieces that serve and facilitate a flourishing, fast-growing, and global ecosystem. Below are the entities we have selected to handle different operational pieces that will help advance Tezos through core protocol development, documentation, community engagement, technical support for enterprises and start-ups, events, and other programs. By selecting these groups to handle key operations, we distribute tasks to independent entities that might otherwise be expected of a single organization in a centralized project.

Nomadic Labs: A team built around lead architects of the Tezos seed protocol, Nomadic Labs focuses on contributing to the development of the Tezos core software, including its consensus algorithm and smart contract language, Michelson. Based in Paris, the 40 developers that comprise the team come from both academia and industry, and most hold PhDs in computer science from premier research institutions. Nomadic’s core competencies are in programming language theory, distributed systems, and formal verification — which allows the team to transfer the best of academic research into real-world applications, most notably the Tezos core.

Many exciting efforts to improve Tezos are underway at Nomadic Labs, ranging from privacy based on zk-SNARKs, new consensus algorithms, storage improvements, Michelson smart contract capabilities, and more. The team also recently announced plans to submit its first Tezos upgrade proposals to the network, with changes to the gas limit and roll size.

Tezos Asia: To serve a robust Tezos community in Asia and expand Tezos’ presence in the region, Tezos Asia will be created as a foundation to facilitate the growth of the ecosystem in the respective region. It will act as an autonomous organization, independent of the Tezos Foundation, to cater directly to the community in Asia. Four major regional organizations will operate within Tezos Asia to provide developer education and training, strengthen ties with local universities, and forge industrial partnerships:

The Tocqueville Group (TQ): The Tocqueville Group (also known as TQ) is a New York-based independent entity that recently launched to facilitate the growth of a robust, high-functioning Tezos ecosystem. TQ does this by deploying human and financial capital to support community growth, technical development, public goods, research, awareness, and advocacy. To start, TQ will be largely focused on three key activities: creating open-source software and other public goods, providing support to projects and companies building on Tezos, and connecting the global Tezos community.

TQ is establishing a devoted in-house software development and technical services team that will not only build public goods, but also contract and oversee various teams executing on projects. This will enable TQ to more quickly and efficiently build the tools necessary to onboard new Tezos developers and support projects and companies actively trying to get started with Tezos.

To that end, TQ will serve as a direct point of contact for current and future community members, including companies and individuals who need Tezos-related support. They built and maintain the TQ Tezos Wiki, which serves as a great resource for those that need help navigating the Tezos ecosystem or looking to learn more about Tezos. And understanding that every great community needs ways to engage not only online but in person, they will be hosting the first global Tezos summit, TQuorum, in NYC this September. In the lead up to TQuorum, TQ will also host events around the world, ranging from technical meetups to more intimate events that connect various subsets of the community, to meet existing community members and facilitate the growth of the community and global awareness of Tezos.

In keeping with its mission to identify the needs of the ecosystem and deploy human and financial capital to address them, TQ will also serve as the administrator of the Foundation’s new grantmaking process. While the Foundation will continue to support academic research and other long-term projects, TQ will identify the immediate needs of the Tezos ecosystem and tackle them head-on with its technical team and by managing a new ecosystem grants program.

TQ will announce the top funding priorities quarterly and accept proposals that concretely respond to those priorities through a structured request for proposals (RFP) process. Proposals will be evaluated competitively and individuals and groups who prove they can enhance the ecosystem will receive grant funding from the Foundation. Grant proposals progressing through the Foundation’s current grantmaking process will not be impacted by the establishment of this new program.

TQ will open its first RFP on March 1st and the first cohort of Tezos ecosystem grantees will be announced in early Q2.

In the months to come, you will see TQ, Nomadic, Tezos Asia, and many others establish themselves as important entities advancing the Tezos ecosystem. The Foundation will continue to focus on its core mission, and, in the spirit of decentralization, other entities and community members will take the lead in other areas.

We look forward to the rest of 2019 and all of the exciting things that are in store for the Tezos network and ecosystem!