Ethereum Scaler Boba Network Valued at $1.5B in $45M Series A

In addition to easing Ethereum’s transaction load, Boba injects off-chain machine learning into the contracts powering DeFi.

AccessTimeIconApr 5, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 7, 2022 at 2:22 p.m. UTC

Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

Boba Network, a novel system for improving Ethereum’s transaction capacity, has raised $45 million from a wide range of investors that included cryptocurrency exchange giants Huobi, Crypto.com and BitMart.

In a sign of the times, the funding round for improved crypto plumbing even included backing from Paris Hilton. Boba Network said the Series A valued the firm at $1.5 billion.

A large amount of attention (and dollar value) is focused on bypassing the latency and transaction costs of the oversubscribed Ethereum blockchain. The Boba Network, which bills itself as a “next-generation optimistic rollup scaling solution,” not only betters Ethereum’s throughput by bundling and sequencing transactions off the main chain, but also addresses the blockchain’s computational limitations.

The inability of Ethereum smart contracts to handle things like complex machine-learning algorithms is a trade-off the layer 1 network makes in favor of decentralization, said Boba Network founder Alan Chiu.

“All of the other efforts in scaling Ethereum are focused on making it faster and cheaper, but we really wanted to focus on an additional dimension of scalability that’s been neglected, and that’s Ethreum’s computational limitations,” said Chiu in an interview.

For example, someone coding smart contracts in Ethereum’s programming language Solidity is unable to include precise calculations for square roots, Chiu pointed out, because the blockchain was not designed to replicate computational complexity across an entire network of decentralized nodes and achieve consensus.

However, in the case of Ethereum overlay systems, such as optimistic and zero-knowledge roll-ups, computations happen once and then cryptographic proofs are written back to layer 1 in order to prove that the transactions were processed correctly.

“Layer 2s [companion systems] have single instance sequencers that act as block producers,” said Chiu. “So we set off to modify Geth [a programming language for running Ethereum nodes] in such a way that smart contracts on Boba can call any external API. Suddenly, you can do machine learning off-chain and have the results come back to your smart contract, atomically, meaning in the same transaction, in the same block.”

Boba fête

In terms of use cases, Boba’s hybrid off-chain compute services can enable decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols that are backed by proprietary and sophisticated trading algorithms, and non-fungible token (NFT) lending based on machine learning-trained valuation models.

The system also broadens horizons when it comes to things like gaming assets, said Chiu, or syncing up DeFi with real-world assets and metaverse properties, as well as creating on-chain rewards based on user activities on social media.

“You can write smart contracts that call a Twitter API; if you want to, for example, reward users for performing certain actions on Twitter, and automate that whole verification and rewarding process,” Chiu said. “You can create on-chain assets that are synchronized with your gaming engine that runs off-chain, or with the metaverse that runs off-chain.”

The $45 million funding round included celebrity backing from Dreamers VC, a firm founded by actor Will Smith and Japanese soccer star Keisuke Honda.

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Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

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Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.

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