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0G Labs launches with whopping $35M pre-seed to build a modular AI blockchain


As the crypto space heats back up, so has funding for new startups. 0G Labs, a web3 infrastructure firm,” has raised $35 million in a pre-seed round, the team exclusively told TechCrunch.

If $35 million sounds like a lot for a pre-seed round, it really is. “In order to build the basic technology, we wanted to raise $5 million, originally,” said 0G co-founder Michael Heinrich.

0G, sometimes called ZeroGravity, is creating a modular AI blockchain that aims to alleviate the pain points of on-chain AI applications in the web3 ecosystem, like speed and cost efficiency. Competitors include Celestia and EigenLayer, which are also focused on modularity.

Modularity allows developers to choose the components they will use to build a blockchain system or application. Like customizing orders in a restaurant, developers will be able to configure the components to best suit their needs.

“Our goal is we can now enable any blockchain to be as performant and inexpensive as a web2 application,” Heinrich said. “That’s the benefit of having this modularity approach.”

In contrast, Ethereum, for example, is a monolithic blockchain. This means there’s a data layer, consensus layer and functions done by only one blockchain. It can’t be pulled apart, making it hard to customize. And in order to have the centralized AI technologies that exist today involved, this core infrastructure needs to be built, Heinrich said.

When co-founders Heinrich, Ming Wu, Fan Long and Thomas Yao initially got together, they had conversations with other market players and found there was a “clear market signal that this aspect of data availability and data storage is really critical, not only to scale blockchain systems, but to make on-chain AI even a possibility,” Heinrich said. “There was infrastructure that’s missing, and we had a strong commitment to build that.”

Wu and Long were part of the founding team at a “hybrid blockchain,” Conflux Network; Yao was a founding partner at IMO Ventures; and Heinrich founded garten, formerly Oh My Green, which offers healthy food and wellbeing services for workplaces.

There’s a need for decentralized storage and “for it to be completely decentralized, for a lack of better words,” Heinrich said. And the data pipeline needs to be broad enough that many users can use it at a time. “So that’s what we enable: the scalability and storage of models so that we can then partner with others who do the execution layer.”

“The investor community realized this was a key unlock for the space so we got a number of term sheets very quickly,” Heinrich said. “Once we chose our lead as Hack VC, the floodgates opened up and we got 20x oversubscribed. We had over $100 million in interest and partnered with the investors who we thought could help us the most.”

Investors from over 40 crypto-native institutions also joined in, including Alliance, Animoca Brands, Delphi Digital, Stanford Builders Fund, Symbolic Capital and OKX Ventures, to name a few. 0G declined to disclose its valuation.

The large distributed cap table is in line with web3 values, Heinrich said. “It’s a community-driven ethos and effort, and that’s why we decided we should take in more capital as a result to have the right partners.”

The initial capital will be used to hire engineers and build up 0G’s market functionality, community and ecosystem.

And as of right now, 0G doesn’t have its own token, but “it is a web3 company,” Heinrich said, “so we will release a token in the future, but can’t say more at the moment.”

A focus on high throughput

The chain claims that it will be extremely fast and cheap compared to competitors.The goal is to focus on high security and throughput, which is the ability for the network to process a lot of transactions within a certain timeframe, on its chain. Its throughput will be 50 Gbps, compared to competitor rates of 1.5 MBps, he said.

On-chain AI and gaming requires a fast data pipeline. Without fast and efficient throughput, costs can add up. The current one is “not fast enough, so we built an ultra-high-performance data pipeline,” Heinrich said.

Over time, it wants to reach “infinite capacity,” similar to how Amazon’s web server lets developers spin up as many servers as they need, 0G wants to spin up as many consensus networks as possible. A consensus network brings all of a blockchain’s nodes together and in agreement on one data set.

Reaching new use cases

Once the chain is fully operational and on mainnet, which means it’s a functional, public blockchain, any Web2.0 application can be built on-chain, Heinrich said. The company plans to launch on mainnet by the third quarter of this year.

Heinrich sees the ideal initial ecosystem members and users as layer-2 blockchains like Polygon and Arbitrum, which focus on scaling the Ethereum ecosystem, as well as high-performance teams that are building decentralized applications that require high bandwidth and plan on bringing in hundreds of millions of users.

It also plans to enable new use cases and things that were not possible before like on-chain AI, on-chain gaming and high-frequency decentralized finance (DeFi). 0G claims that the gas costs, or fees, per transaction are “essentially negligible at this point.”

This will, in turn, allow for more AI applications to evolve and bigger issues to be addressed on-chain.

In the near term, it plans to capitalize on a lot of use cases and support “things that are difficult to solve” ranging from deepfake detection on the AI side to building decentralized models and helping high-performant use cases on the blockchain side.

“We want it to be a public good and serve humanity and it can take many different shapes or forms,” Heinrich said.



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