Introducing Protocol Labs Venture Studio (PL VS) 

Protocol Labs
Protocol Labs
Introducing Protocol Labs Venture Studio (PL VS)

We are excited to announce Protocol Labs Venture Studio (PL VS), an initiative dedicated to growing and enabling new startups building breakthrough technologies, leveraging Filecoin, IPFS, libp2p, Ethereum, and other technologies in the PL ecosystem. These startups will join the Protocol Labs innovation network, which bridges connections to potential sources of capital, technical expertise, and web3-native services to accelerate the development and growth of the new startups. The first set of startups are working on blockchain scalability (IPC (opens new window)), randomness & timelock encryption (drand (opens new window)), blockchain-based data storage (DeStor (opens new window)), compute over data networks (Lilypad (opens new window)), content delivery networks (Saturn (opens new window)), and more. We welcome builders and collaborators to explore partnerships with PL VS and the new startups it will launch, as we develop breakthroughs in computing to push humanity forward.

Protocol Labs is an innovation network that connects over 600 tech startups, service providers, investment funds, accelerators, foundations, and other organizations developing breakthrough technologies and products in the frontiers of computing: web3, AI, AR, VR, BCI, hardware, and more. Organizations collaborate across the network to solve common problems, share knowledge and resources, and accelerate the R&D process for a wide range of technological fields.

Over the years, many startups have begun within or joined the Protocol Labs network. Companies like CoinList (opens new window) (2017), Pinata (opens new window) (2018), Skiff (opens new window) (2020), Cryptosat (opens new window) (2020), Huddle01 (opens new window) (2020), Privy (opens new window) (2021), Tephra Labs (opens new window) (2022), and Number Zero (opens new window) (2022) started in the network. Companies like StarkWare (opens new window), Zama (opens new window), ConsenSys (opens new window), Fleek (opens new window), Golden (opens new window), Gensyn (opens new window), WeatherXM (opens new window), Anjuna (opens new window), and Element (opens new window) joined the network later on. All of these teams are supported by the innovation network through a wide range of programs, services, and products, including getting connected to each other, potential mentors and advisors, accelerator programs (opens new window), office hours with experts (opens new window), investor demo days (opens new window), ways to tell their story (opens new window), service providers (e.g., recruiting (opens new window), mechanism design, events), the broader venture investor network, and more.

We have seen great success with this innovation model and are increasing the range of programs across the network. One critical component that has been missing so far is a structure to support productizing new technologies. Often, these technologies have been built over many years, but require a focused environment to develop successful products and services, which can then turn into new startups. This includes product-market fit discovery, business plan development, company building, and more. The PL network already has many accelerator programs to support the growth of new startups, and these work quite well for many kinds of companies. However, in our experience so far, many new startups require a different approach.

The network has been accelerating efforts to launch promising products and services that build upon the great projects in the network. In the past year alone, many new companies have formed that leveraged the network in a form closer to the venture studio approach, including compute protocols building on Filecoin, Lurk Lab (opens new window) (a turing-complete programming language for Zero Knowledge Proofs) and Expanso (opens new window) (a distributed compute platform). Learning from the journeys of these companies, we are structuring the new PL Venture Studio, which will enable us to support the launch of new startups with this approach.

# Focus areas: projects building on Filecoin, IPFS, and more

Filecoin, an incentivized storage layer built on top of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), provides open services for data and data storage tooling. Filecoin has grown to become the world’s largest decentralized storage network, with a total storage capacity of 10 exbibytes (EiB) and more than 1.5 EiB of stored data. The Filecoin network forms a decentralized cloud platform with massive scale storage and compute hardware, data storage and delivery systems, and large scale compute. Filecoin is a sophisticated protocol that any team or developer can utilize as foundational infrastructure for their application or service.

The emergence of the  Filecoin Virtual Machine (FVM) earlier this year enabled user programmability and smart contracts. Today, Filecoin can uniquely blend core blockchain functionality like programmable smart contracts,with the functionality of storing and retrieving data on a large-scale decentralized cloud network. Initial applications of the FVM include Data Storage onramps, L2 compute networks, content delivery networks, and more. In the last 3 years, 250+ startups have graduated from accelerators focused on Filecoin & IPFS, raising more than $370M.

Many teams across the Protocol Labs innovation network have been developing new breakthrough technologies, which are now opening new use cases and new potential applications. In addition, fields which have seen tremendous advancement in recent years are starting to intersect: Blockchain Smart Contracts, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Generative AI (GenAI), Large Language Models (LLMs), Zero Knowledge (ZK), Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE), Virtual Reality (VR), Metaverse, and more. We see a large number of opportunities on the horizon, and a lot of potential for new startups.

# Protocol Labs Venture Studio (PL VS)

PL VS supports new businesses (generally separate companies with their own founding teams and investors) that are building on technologies and projects in the Protocol Labs network. PL VS brings together new technologies, high value use cases, exceptional founding teams, market research, product design, customer validation, capital, marketing, and a lot of hard work.

PL VS supports a range of opportunities building on Filecoin’s functionality as a blockchain and decentralized storage network. These include projects in Blockchain Scalability, Cloud Data Storage, Data Availability Networks (DANs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), and Compute over Data networks (CoD). Each of these projects are enhancing the core performance and capabilities of the Filecoin network, enabling new kinds of applications, and bringing more use cases and users.

# Some of the first projects

# Productizing Interplanetary Consensus (IPC) (opens new window)

Interplanetary Consensus (IPC) is building the infrastructure to support planetary-scale applications in web3. Web3 has known limitations in scaling (high transaction cost and low throughput) which has collectively limited deployment of web2-scale applications and experiences. IPC is an on-demand, horizontal and vertical scaling solution using a recursive tree of blockchains. Additionally, pairing IPC with the next evolution of FVM (proven to support applications at the scale of Filecoin) creates a customizable stack for builders to deploy use-case specific planetary-scale applications (i.e., social, gaming, compute) without developing a full stack.

# New Data Availability Networks

There is a substantial opportunity to leverage the IPC stack (mentioned above) to build specialized subnets focused on facilitating cheap, verifiable, and computable on-chain data. Smart Contract, NFT, and dApp developers should be able to build applications that read, write, and compose larger data sets with lower transaction and storage fees, but this is cost-prohibitive today. Data Availability Networks will unlock a much higher volume of trusted, on-chain data for all blockchain applications.

# DeStor (opens new window), a Cloud Storage Platform

DeStor (opens new window), a cloud storage platform, simplifies the process for large scale enterprise clients to onboard data to the Filecoin Network, while reducing Filecoin Storage Provider operational costs. Centralized storage networks are unreliable and expensive, and it is clear that storage users are increasingly looking for alternative solutions that are low-cost, trustworthy, and avoid provider lock-in. The Filecoin Network has seen tremendous growth in the amount of data onboarded (opens new window) over the past two years, and DeStor is bringing these capabilities to a wider set of users and new markets.

# Filecoin Saturn (opens new window), a web3 CDN

Saturn (opens new window) is a blockchain-powered Content Delivery Network (CDN) that brings the verifiability and data integrity of Filecoin to scalable data retrievals. Currently, most web3 users rely on web2 CDNs as there are limited web3 options, most of which are not very effective or affordable. Today, Saturn is already the world’s largest web3 CDN by capacity, and aims to enable highly-performant and cheap retrieval, leveraging the power of IPFS and Filecoin.

# Decentralized Compute over Data networks (opens new window)

As the internet continues to scale, the demand for compute will keep growing exponentially. As developer requirements shift, new kinds of compute systems are needed. As blockchains scale, more and more computation will happen in and around blockchain applications. As Filecoin accumulates data, users want more and more ways to run programs and applications on their data. Decentralized Compute over Data (CoD) networks organize general compute capabilities (as pioneered by centralized Cloud platforms) through the use of blockchain mechanisms. Recently, projects like Bacalhau (opens new window) have simplified the tooling needed to develop CoD networks. Now, several new networks (such as Lilypad (opens new window)) are being formed to tackle specific use cases and applications, leveraging the scale of the Filecoin network. With massive scale compute hardware and data storage, Filecoin is the best L1 home to CoD networks. Any user, from small startups to large enterprises, will be able to leverage these networks to access scalable computing resources for applications like AI training and inference without costly data center investments.

# Productizing drand (opens new window) - randomness, timelocks, and more

drand (opens new window) (pronounced DEE-rand), is the open source software that powers threshold cryptography networks (opens new window) operated by a consortium of over twenty international organizations known as the League of Entropy (opens new window). drand provides publicly verifiable, unpredictable, bias-resistant randomness values, along with other key features such as distributed key generation management, timelock encryption, and more - several cryptographic infrastructure primitives that have a myriad of uses, both individually and in concert as part of composable applications. This venture is bringing the capabilities of the drand project to several key use cases.

# Collaborate with PL VS

We invite teams and individuals to collaborate with us as we help launch teams that participate in the Protocol Labs innovation network.

We look forward to sharing more information about the Protocol Labs innovation network in the coming weeks, and welcome you to stay in touch by subscribing to the Protocol Labs mailing list. (opens new window)