RISC Zero, a startup using zero-knowledge (zk) technology to create a scalable blockchain, has raised $12 million in a seed round led by Bain Capital Crypto, according to press materials provided to CoinDesk. Bain Capital, an investment firm with around $155 billion in assets under management, debuted its first crypto-focused fund earlier this year.
Other participants in the round included Geometry, D1 Ventures and Cota Capital. RISC Zero previously raised $2 million in a pre-seed round led by Geometry and Ramez Naam Ventures.
Zero-knowledge proofs use cryptography to mathematically validate a transaction without revealing the content of the transaction. RISC Zero specifically uses the zk-STARKs proofs developed by StarkWare, which raised $100 million in a May funding round at an $8 billion valuation.
In March, RISC Zero released its first open-source product, a virtual machine that allows developers to build zk proofs that can be executed on any computer using traditional or blockchain-focused programming languages.
A developer preview of RISC Zero’s new network will launch in the third quarter ahead of the company’s own scalable blockchain.
Seattle-based RISC Zero was founded by a team of machine-learning veterans. CEO Brian Retford and Chief Science Officer Jeremy Bruestle formerly co-founded Vertex.AI, which was acquired by Intel. Technology chief Frank Laub worked at Vertex.Ai and spent time as a deep learning engineer at Intel. Ashleigh Schap recently joined RISC Zero as chief strategy officer after serving as growth lead at Uniswap Labs, the developer of leading decentralized exchange Uniswap.
"Zero-knowledge proofs are integral to many important blockchain privacy and scalability efforts," Bain Capital Crypto partner Alex Evans said in the press release. "RISC Zero has demonstrated the first zkVM that natively supports standard languages and tools such as C++ and Rust through LLVM [virtual machines]."
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