According to an article at Techcrunch there might be some interesting stuff going on behind the scenes at Chia Network right now. Current (as of the last whitepaper update) Chia board member Jill Gunter, along with “Advisors” at Chia have started a competing blockchain project called Espresso. It is a privacy based project using zk-rollups to protect the identity of transactions. In theory. As of now they actually have a lot less.
Right now Espresso has released a cryptography library called Jellyfish which is a rust-based implementation of something called Plonk. I honestly have no idea what any of this does at a deep level, but it looks to be an important part of the zk-rollups that enable private transactions on a public ledger. I will do more reading into this. They have also released something called a CAPE (Configurable Asset Privacy for Ethereum) which is a system and protocol for transacting ERC-20 (and soon ERC-721) tokens with a privacy layer. They claim no such solution exists yet for Ethereum or Ethereum based blockchains.
This is a weird one, because on the surface it looks like something like this could be very complimentary to Chia (in fact, they seem to be claiming it is) however Espresso seems highly Ethereum focused. Their solutions right now are solidity/EVM solutions and the L1 they are planning on launching will clearly be based on Ethereum2. This is a very strange situation to me, and I reached out to Chia Network to ask about it. This is my first time getting comment from Jordan Schmidt, Chia Network’s new VP of Corporate Comms, and the answers are not nearly as informative as they used to be. I guess that is the point of the new role.
We see a zkrollup L2 as potentially complimentary to the ecosystem. One minor nit, the leaders you’re referencing were not co-founders but have been, and remain, advisors.
When asked how an EVM, proof of stake system could possibly be complimentary to Chia, this is the response I got.
I’d suggest complimentary to the ecosystem at large, and not necessarily directly with Chia. The market is massive and more sharp folks developing is more opportunity for growth and adoption of blockchain tech.
This seems to me like they don’t really know what to think about the situation. When asked if Jill Gunter would remain on the board this is the non-answer I got
We’ve made no changes to the board, but as always, we reserve the right to adjust as necessary
I’m not actually sure which of the Espresso founders are from Chia and which are from Monero or other “web3 projects” but the CEO Ben Fisch has Advisor to Chia Network still listed on his LinkedIn. Personally I would be very uncomfortable with senior executives from a competing company sitting on my board, or acting as Advisors to my company. There is so much conflict of interest there you can cut it with a knife.
Also, I’m curious why Jill Gunter has made such a 180 degree turn from Chia towards a proof of stake system. The Chia founders are notorious for their disdain towards Proof of Stake in general, as well as Solidity and the EVM; even going so far as to advertise Chialisp and the Chialisp VM as a secure alternative. Like I said, I suspect there is something very interesting going on at Chia because of this news, and the corporate non-answers I got from them about Espresso and the staff reinforce that idea. I have reached out to Jill Gunter to get her perspective on the subject, but I don’t know why she would bother talking to me about it – especially if her role on Chia’s board has become a conflict for her.
Edit: an earlier version of this article claimed that there were ex-employees of Chia working at Espresso, that is not true they are simply advisors I have been informed. I have not been informed what that means.