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CESC ‘22: Field Notes from The ZKP Workshop

a16z· 6 min read

Field notes is a series where we report on the ground at significant industry, research, and other events. In this edition, Valeria Nikolaenko, a Research Partner with the a16z crypto lab, reports on the Zero Knowledge Proof Workshop from the Crypto Economics Security Conference (CESC), which took place on October 30 at the University of California at Berkeley. The program aimed to bring together researchers and practitioners to showcase and discuss the most recent developments in blockchain and web3. You can watch recordings of the presentations here.

  • Yupeng Zhang (Texas A&M University) presented a tutorial on recent development of ZKP systems, an exceptional overview of different approaches to building zk proof systems, mapping them across 4 axes: poof succinctness, prover and verifier efficiency, and transparent vs. trusted setup.
  • Dan Boneh (Stanford University) presented an overview of abstraction of IOPs in general and Plonk polynomial-IOP in particular.

Dan also explained a new system called HyperPlonk, which can eliminate expensive FFTs on the prover’s side and handles gates of high degree much more efficiently, reducing both prover’s time and proof’s size. The interesting parameter to remember is that FFTs dominate the prover’s time when the number of gates is above 220.

  • Tiancheng Xie (UC Berkeley) presented on the zkBridge (read the paper here), highlighting the importance of better design for bridges in light of numerous recent hacks (Ronin Bridge exploitWormhole hackNomad bridge drain, and so on). zkBridge minimizes trust and improves performance with deVirgo zero-knowledge proof system.
  • Dawn Song (UC Berkeley) announced zkCollective – a foundation for secure cross-chain interoperability. The form to participate in the effort can be filled out here.
  • Leo Fan (Cysic) highlighted their results for accelerating multi-scalar multiplication (MSM) on FPGA for zk-prover’s, where MSM often accounts for more than 50% of prover’s time. They are estimated to be faster than comparable efforts (PipeMSM and CycloneMSM). Their ultimate goal is to build an ASIC.
  • Marek Olszewski (Celo) gave a great demo on running Celo’s light client, Plumo, which has been 2 years in development and launched this year. The client is developed as a massive circuit with 227 gates, and powered by an optimistic powers-of-tau ceremony that can be useful for other projects. Community members are generating SNARK-proofs daily (after each epoch change), a proof takes ~1 hour on a 256-core machine. Their WASM library allows the verification of the proofs from web apps.
  • Howard Wu (Aleo) presented the ideas behind the design of Aleo, which builds a blockchain for private transactions that permits concurrency and efficient state updates.
  • Jeremy Bruestle (Risc0) explained the design rationale behind building a zkVM for RISC-V instruction set implemented with zkSTARKs. RISC-V has a very small set of instructions (<40), well supported by different compilers, fully open. And, most importantly, it’s designed for efficient hardware implementations, which implies efficient circuit design for zk proofs.
  • Uma Roy (Succinct Labs) gave an overview of a way to succinctly verify Ethereum’s consensus with zkSNARKs with proving time is only 1 minute.


Valeria Nikolaenko is a Research Partner at a16z crypto. Her research focuses on cryptography and blockchain security. She has also worked on topics such as long-range attacks in PoS consensus protocols, signature schemes, post-quantum security, and multi-party computation. She holds a PhD in Cryptography from Stanford University under advisorship of Professor Dan Boneh, and worked on the Diem blockchain as part of the core research team.


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