Last week, on March 22 2019, we held our latest Zero Knowledge Summit in Berlin.
Like previous events, this edition was intimate, curated, and very Zero Knowledgey. Unlike previous summits, this edition was primarily focused on zero knowledge as a mechanism to enable blockchain scaling (instead of previous editions that were more focused on the privacy aspects of these systems).
Like previous events, this edition had an amazing group of speakers and workshop hosts. It also had our legendary Park Bench Panel which remains one of the coolest ways to better understand the pulse of a room, and sometimes that of the larger community. Unlike previous editions, this time our Park Bench Panel included a spontaneous live flute performance by Justin from NuCypher !!
(Note: Starts at 43:05, but we still don’t know whether the piece meant to represent a SNARK or a STARK)
Like previous editions, we brought together some of the coolest research and ideas happening in the space and had a chance to dive in deep into technical topics. Unlike previous events, this summit was more streamlined with 4 instead of 5 parallel tracks and bigger blocks giving us more time to dig in.
Like the previous events, we had a group of amazing developers, founders, researchers and thinkers come together to learn together, to connect and ideally create new ideas that could potentially become the projects of tomorrow! Unlike previous editions, this edition had some of the tastiest lasagna available for lunch anyone had ever seen at an event (amirite?!)
One last distinction, but something I doubt anyone outside of the organising team would notice, was that there were basically no fires to put out and the day went extraordinarily smoothly. It went so smoothly in fact, I started to think we should aim to take more chances with the next one, experiment a bit more with the formats and push this event even further!
As in the previous event, in our intro, we read out a few of the answers to our application question at the event. This edition’s question was “How would you describe the trusted setup to a friend?” We selected some of our favourites for the presentation, but HERE you can see the full list of answers (all anonymous ofc!)
From then to now
One thing that I noticed after having programmed 4 events of this size (3 under the Zero Knowledge Summit umbrella), is that every time you do it, you face a different set of challenges and like a “different hand”. It reminds me a bit of the last era of the board game 7Wonders (something my friends and I have been playing lately) where you add some different special cards to your deck every time you play, creating uniques challenges each time. Here is a quick history of the zk summits (and their dynamics) so far:
ZK0x01 (March 23 2018) was a challenge because our podcast was relatively unknown and so no one (ourselves included) knew what to expect. In the lead up, it wasn’t clear if we would be able to pull off a program that would satisfy our audience and still reflect our vision. The turning point was when Howard Wu (Dekrypt) submitted an amazing talk and invited some of his friends — which introduced us to some of the best talent in the space. Str4d (Zcash) joining to do our “Zero Knowledge Intro” talk set the program fully on its path.
ZK0x02 (Sept 5th 2018) was about channelling the blooming excitement for zero knowledge topics and it was about crowd control — we had over 300 applicants for that event and only 150 spots — which resulted in some pretty pissed off ppl who didn’t get in, and some ppl trying to bullshit past our door person throughout the day! We had an amazing group of speakers like Ariel Gabizon, Howard, the folks from Maker, Oasis, and so many more. (You can see our previous write up about this HERE)
ZK0x03 (March 22 2019) has felt like like a project that has found its groove. We have a vibrant community now, so there were a good number of people already excited when we announced the summit. We are more in touch with the zero knowledge research groups and projects and have a much better understanding of the space. In fact, this time around, we were able to program almost exclusively from community submissions and this meant we created an event that truly reflected the state of zero knowledge research today. But this past summit faced a challenge we hadn’t seen before, that is a challenge of fundraising in an environment where funds are scarcer and projects are more careful. We needed to secure funding for the event to exist But we wanted to maintain the integrity of the event and ensure that the projects we partnered with were a good fit.
In the end, we did secure 9 amazing sponsors — who also happened to be some of the most relevant, exciting and topic-appropriate sponsors we could have hoped for: NuCypher, Trail of Bits, POA network, Starkware, Parity Technologies, 1kx, Private Storage, Web3Foundation, and Zcash Foundation. Thanks again to all the sponsors of the event!
We also asked our audience to chip in via a slightly higher ticket price to help us cover the remaining production costs this time, and we want to say a big thank you to participants for being so cool about this and supporting us!
Thanks go out to our production team: Balázs Nemethi (production support), Lorenzo Pilia (design, logistics), Raul Romanutti (logistics), Henrik Jose (video production) and David (video support). As well as the team at Haus Ungarn who did a great job with the event.
I also want to thank the programming committee who helped bring this fantastic program all together with me: my awesome co-host Fredrik, Lucas Vogelsang, Jacob Eberthardt and Barry Whitehat.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who made it, hope you learned something new, and met someone cool. We plan on doing something again in Aug/Sept, be it another ZKSummit or some variation of it.
Keep an eye out for it!
This event was produced by Zero Knowledge Podcast, a podcast hosted by Anna Rose and Fredrik Harryson, which explores zero knowledge systems and the decentralised technology that will power the emerging Web3 and the community building it. The podcast is made for developers and technically-minded people looking to educate themselves on the inner workings of the space.