Unlocking the Power of ZKPs for DAOs: An In-Depth Look

As the world of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) continues to grow and evolve, the need for improved privacy and scalability becomes more apparent. Enter zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), a groundbreaking technology that offers the perfect solution for these challenges. In this blog post, we’ll explore how ZKPs are already being used in the crypto and web3 space and dive into some exciting use cases for DAOs, including shielded treasuries, anonymous voting, gasless voting, and proof of reputation.

Every day, the average crypto and web user interacts with simple ZKP systems. For instance, ZK proofs are used when signing an on-chain transaction, as you prove you possess the private key to your wallet without revealing it. 

But how can we apply ZKPs to the world of DAOs?

Several innovative use cases have emerged, such as:

Shielded treasuries for DAOs 

DAOs can keep their treasuries hidden, allowing them to participate in sealed bid auctions without revealing their total assets. An excellent example is the 2001 ConstitutionDAO bid, where a DAO aimed to purchase a physical copy of the US Constitution. The public nature of their treasury allowed a rival bidder to outbid them by a small margin, illustrating the need for shielded treasuries. 

Griffin Dunaif and Dan Boneh have proposed Private Treasuries, which can be built using Tornado Cash Nova. This enables a DAO management platform similar to Juicebox, where only the person managing the DAO can see the funds.

Anonymous voting for DAOs

DAO members can cast their votes without revealing their identities, ensuring a private and secure voting process. In 2015, Zhao and Chan proposed a zkSNARK-based protocol for private Bitcoin voting. The commitments are broadcast publicly, while the underlying values and opening keys remain secret. On-chain results need to be revealed by participants themselves.

ZK for scaling, gasless voting for DAOs

Aragon has developed SNARV, a general framework for e-voting protocols, with two implementations: OVOTE, a Layer 2 design for Ethereum voting similar to zkRollup, and BatRaVot, a lightweight voting protocol that supports delegate voting. BatRaVot is currently a proof of concept aimed at reducing gas costs, but Aragon plans to add privacy functions in the future.

By aggregating votes off-chain and using zkSNARK proofs, gas costs are significantly reduced. Aragon’s OVOTE is a prime example. When users want to vote, they create a ballot with wallet information, their choice, and a small proof. An aggregator then collects all the votes, sending them to a smart contract, thus reducing gas fees.

Snapshot X is another fascinating project, developed by Snapshot in collaboration with StarkWare. This voting framework, built on StarkNet (a Layer 2 ZK-Rollup), enables any DAO to run their governance on-chain on Layer 2 and execute transactions on Ethereum. Snapshot X also supports shielded voting through the Shutter Network, where results are only revealed after the voting period ends (btw no ZKPs are used for this semi-private feature though).

Proof of reputation for DAOs

Users can prove their reputation in a DAO without exposing their identity. UniRep and Interep are two projects that focus on this use case. UniRep is a private, non-repudiable reputation system based on ZKPs. It gives users true anonymity using short lived psuedonyms. A single user has a number of valid identifiers at any given time. Interep allows DApps or services to verify users’ reputation without revealing their identities. This is possible thanks to the use of zkSNARKs and Semaphore.

The world of ZKPs is vast, and projects like the Ethereum Privacy and Scaling Exploration, Aragon and Snapshot are all exploring the potential use cases of ZKPs for DAOs. A lot of these are right now at an early development stage, but as we move forward, we can expect more exciting developments bringing enhanced privacy tooling to the DAO landscape. 

Digital Assets & Financial Institutions: CeFi vs. DeFi

I recently moderated a panel discussion called “Digital Assets & Financial Institutions: DeFi Revolution,” featuring experts who shared their perspectives on the evolving world of decentralized finance (DeFi) during WOW Summit in Hong Kong.

I was joined on stage by:

A key takeaway from the discussion was the potential for DeFi to connect traditional finance with digital assets. The panelists highlighted the benefits of integrating DeFi solutions into current financial systems, creating opportunities for investors and institutions alike.

You can watch the full video here:

My Thoughts on the Future of Decentralized Technology

I had a chat with Marcus Patel from publish0x about the future of decentralized technology.

“She understands that where blockchain brings in transparency and openness, Zero-Knowledge technologies are ever more important. With the world only beginning to scratch the surface, different applications of ZK within both Web3 and Web2 will become evident. Marlene is visibly excited to be a part of a journey that will continue to evolve and offer better privacy and security.”

The fully article can be found here.

Can I say something controversial?

Back in November I joined a panel discussion with Maja Vujinovic, Managing Director at OGroup, Jeffrey Joh, independent consultant and angel investor, Lou Kerner, Venture Partner at Blockchain Coinvestors.

We discussed the meaning of community in Web3 and whether it’s always community first or whether Web3 stands for – IMHO – mainly decentralized infrastructure. Check out the video below for my “controversial” statement.

Thanks to Anjali Young from Collab Land for moderating this session.

DAOs: Past, Present & Future

I got invited by DAO Planet to speak at Dcentral Miami about the Past, Present and Future of DAOs.

Why do we need DAOs in the first place?

You can just incorporate a company, have shareholder agreements and voting rights. No Need for a DAO.

The true innovation of DAOs goes beyond everything being on chain, it goes back to one of the early memes of the 1990s Internet:

“Online nobody knows that you’re a dog.” 🐕

DAOs are meritorcracies and enable a pseudonomous economy. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from, instead your skills are front & center.

crypto’s endgame.

The holidays are around the corner, so time to prep some answers for noisy relatives. 

The other day I was interviewed by a university researcher about crypto culture. One of her questions was about our *why*. Why do we build these immutable, permissionless technologies? 

Before I answer, a little side quest: 

Crypto is not FTX. Crypto is not Celsius. Is crypto Luna? 

Confession time, I didn’t know what Luna was before it went into shambles, just that I didn’t trust 20% APY on fiat. I’m not an American citizen, so I couldn’t use Celsius, and I don’t trade much on CEXes, so no need for FTX. 

I also don’t find any of these three projects or companies particularly interesting. They don’t have anything to do with my personal *why crypto*. 

On to the *why*. For me, crypto is (1) prepping financial, communication & governance infrastructure and (2) experimenting with new forms of finance, communication & governance. 

There’s no killer app in crypto (yet). At first sight, there’s no apparent need for any of the stuff we’re building, especially not for those residing in stable, developed nations. But maybe there will be one day, and perhaps while we’re running all these game theoretical experiments on the future of finance, communication & governance, we will discover something new.  

What could that be?

—> more transparent systems within existing governments where budgets & their spending can all be inspected on-chain. The same goes for companies & NGOs.  

—> new governments in the cloud, think network states, or think country X is being physically invaded by country Y, but decides to continue its existence in cyberspace

For this, we need more than just immutable ledgers to do the accounting work; we also need decentralized storage, communication & governance systems. Something that cannot be shut off, neither by the good guys nor by the bad guys. For me, that’s web3. 

I’ve no idea where the idea on web3 took the wrong turn, and it became jpgs and VR mini-games. And I don’t know when people started thinking that crypto is equal to gambling on centralized exchanges, but all of this has very little to do with my personal *why*. 

Digital Discourses – The Future of Internet

The internet is broken. While Web 2.0 is rampant with surveillance capitalism, the next phase of the internet will have decentralisation at its core. How would Web3, with blockchain as its backbone, be different? Could it lead to a more cooperative web? What is the future of the internet? Here’s my talk for Goethe Institut Jakarta, the Center for Digital Society and Engage Media.