Aztec Launches Private DeFi Platform on Ethereum

Using data compression techniques called zero-knowledge rollups, privacy-focused startup Aztec aims to allow Ethereum applications to offer users improved privacy and lower costs on transactions.  

With Aztec’s revamped zk.money DeFi aggregator, DeFi apps like Lido and Curve can be used privately.  

“Imagine if everyone could see all of your credit card transactions–that’s Ethereum today,” Aztec Head of Growth Jon Wu told The Defiant. “Our primary goal is to bring consumer privacy to DeFi.” 

Open Protocol

Because Aztec Connect is an open protocol, any developer can build new applications on top of it.  Aside from DeFi transactions, Wu mentioned that Aztec Connect could be used for NFT purchases and transfers along with DAOs using it for voting, contributor salaries, and treasury management. 

Aztec uses a privacy model similar to a virtual private network (VPN).  When a user makes a deposit in Aztec, they are transferring assets to an Aztec smart contract on Ethereum.  “Then, when you want to do a DeFi transaction, you tell the Aztec Private Rollup to do what you want,” writes Wu. Much like a VPN, the rollup executes DeFi actions like Curve swaps and returns the result to the Aztec contract without exposing users’ wallets.

Opt-in Compliance

Regarding whether or not users will abuse the privacy features, Wu told The Defiant that “it’s our intention to build opt-in compliance tooling so folks can show that they are paying taxes appropriately.”  He added there are very low limits on withdrawals and deposits and that the software is built in a way that individuals can share their viewing keys with 3rd parties for compliance purposes if they choose to do so.

In contrast to the traditional completely private financial system used in web2, Aztec Connect offers privacy as an add-on for web3.  “I think this is the right model – privacy as a feature, not a thing itself,” Josh Rosenthal, Partner at 6ixth Event Capital, told The Defiant. “Not sure if this is the winner, but something like it for sure!” 

Some were even more enthusiastic.  Crypto_McKenna, a solidity dev and angel investor, tweeted, “Mark my words what Aztec are building is one of the single greatest changes since the protocol’s inception.”

Rise of Rollups

Rollups have been hot in web3 lately. They are a data compression technique that takes batches of Ethereum transactions, rolls them up into a single transaction, and then feeds the lone transaction back to Ethereum’s mainnet.  Aztec previously raised $17M in a Paradigm-led Series A round to fund their tech build-out.

While this is the first completely private Ethereum app, Aztec is not the first to innovate with rollups.  In February, Polygon scored $450m in a round led by Sequoia Capital India, which lifted its valuation to $20B. Optimism raised $150M at a $1.65B valuation in a Series B round led by Paradigm and Andreessen Horowitz in March.

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