Investing in Empiric Network: Oracles That Expand What’s Possible in Web3
Variant is thrilled to lead a seed round for Empiric, the zero-knowledge (zk) rollup-native oracle. Today oracles are arguably the most important middleware primitive in web3, leveraged by countless applications across DeFi, NFTs, and DAOs. They enable smart contracts to access real-world data such as price feeds and are often critical to security.
Empiric is a fully-on-chain oracle that leverages the increased capacity of zk compute to deliver improvements in verifiability, composability, and functionality. By reducing the cost of on-chain computation by orders of magnitude, zk rollups have laid the foundation for a leap forward in oracle design. Empiric oracles bring new types of data on-chain, and with them, unlock a host of net-new and exciting use cases for web3.
Introducing a new kind of oracle
Unlike legacy oracle networks, every piece of data or calculation served by Empiric is on-chain and verifiable from origin to delivery. This is an important advance for oracles in terms of transparency and security. For consumers of Empiric’s feeds, this new standard in data transparency reduces the risk of unexpected results stemming from methodological idiosyncrasies. And operating fully on chain makes Empiric more secure by eliminating the potential for attacks on off-chain infrastructure.
Empiric works in the following way. Data providers sign their data and post it to StarkNet. Empiric validates the publisher and signature, stores the posted data, and serves the data when the oracle is called.
One of Empiric’s most powerful capabilities is to verifiably compose much more than simple price feeds, but rather advanced computational feeds. This is an important breakthrough. Previously, these computations had to happen off-chain and were consequently less verifiable, more subject to manipulation, and less available. As a result, more sophisticated and user-friendly web3 applications are now possible due to Empiric.
In the short run we expect Empiric to solve the needs of the emerging DeFi ecosystem on StarkNet, but in the long run we believe it has the potential to power much more than that. It can provide trust-minimized infrastructure for a diverse array of data sets, from the weather and sports to news. These can in turn inform new algorithmic trading strategies, prediction markets, and analysis for insurance policies, to name just a few.
Why we’re backing Empiric – and what comes next
Variant’s thesis is centered on the idea that the networks that define the next generation of the internet will turn users into owners. Empiric fits our ownership economy thesis in two ways. First, it acts as a foundational piece of infrastructure for zk rollup ecosystems, beginning with StarkNet. These ecosystems themselves are (or will be) universes of user-owned applications operating on user-owned networks. Second, as it progressively decentralizes, the Empiric Network itself will become a piece of community-owned and operated infrastructure.
Of course, no web3 startup gets very far without a great team. From our very first meeting, we were struck by Jonas and Oskar’s drive, their passion for the problem, and their early success building relationships with customers, data providers, and the StarkNet ecosystem.
So – what’s next? Empiric has been live on StarkNet testnet for several months, serving a growing list of applications like ZKLend, Magnety, CurveZero, Canvas, and FujiDAO. It has also established strategic partnerships with five founding data providers: Alameda, CMT, Flow traders, Gemini, and Jane Street. In the coming months and years, Empiric will continue to grow its community of data providers to offer the most reliable and diverse set of data feeds available, as well as expand across multiple zk ecosystems in the future.