A common complaint about the internet – in both web2 and web3 – is that privacy is an elusive privilege and not viewed as a priority in many cases. In web2, data breaches and outright hacks have plagued social networks and financial services, and users must take proactive measures to avoid tracing and surveillance. In web3, transparent and traceable interactions are the default, and easily browsable on sites like Etherscan or Blockstream – a wonderful tenet of open networks where transaction information is easily accessible, but a potential pain point for people who wish to maintain their privacy.
Many privacy measures haven’t been widely adopted by people because they’re hard to use. While a number of web3 teams are now building developer-oriented privacy tools for blockchains, there’s also a need for mainstream privacy solutions that are accessible for everyday users.
That’s why we’re thrilled to invest in Iron Fish, a decentralized blockchain network using zero-knowledge proofs to create a user-friendly, private cryptocurrency. Iron Fish is inspired by the Sapling protocol, a zk-SNARK-based solution that allows users to send transactions in a manner that is fully-shielded by design. The Iron Fish network is easy to use, and the protocol is architectured to be simple, giving users the same fundamental privacy benefits as an analogue currency like cash.
Iron Fish is led by Elena Nadolinski, a former engineer at Microsoft, Tilt, and AirBnb, who has the technical expertise, passion, and leadership to succeed in this highly challenging space. The field is difficult for a number of reasons: many other privacy solutions are built on top of inherently open networks like Ethereum, which renders even ostensibly private transactions liable to some form of tracing. Other privacy coins are difficult to use or require an understanding of programming languages or security solutions that many people with the deepest need for privacy solutions lack.
We are inspired by the thoughtful and straightforward approach Elena has taken to build Iron Fish. Iron Fish will launch its proof-of-work blockchain with its native currency before broadening to offer more assets, stablecoins, availability on mobile phones, and bridges to other chains, including Layer 2 support. These elements of the roadmap are crucial: Iron Fish is working toward becoming a universal privacy layer for all chains, unlocking a critical need that has previously been missing in the web3 ecosystem. The application layer is written in Typescript, a popular programming language, which will allow for simple end-user integrations and interactions. You can start getting involved soon: Iron Fish will launch its incentivized testnet on December 1st, allowing early users to begin testing the network and readying it for launch.
It is likely that in retrospect, the indignities of web2 life will look archaic. Did we never truly own our digital possessions? Did large companies really seize and broker our personal data? Were third parties always privy to our transactions? These are the kinds of questions we’ll be asking ourselves as the fabric of the internet gets rearchitected. Cryptography unlocks a new wave of possibilities: true ownership, self-sovereignty, and personal privacy. Iron Fish is building a network to take on this latter problem head-on. We’re excited to be backing Elena, the Iron Fish team, and their mission to preserve privacy for everyone online.
Ali Yahya is a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he invests in crypto.
Elena Burger Elena is a deal partner at a16z crypto, with a focus on games, NFTs, web3 media, and decentralized infrastructure. Prior to joining the team, she spent four years as an equities analyst at Gilder, Gagnon, Howe, and Co. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, Columbia University, wher...