There's a rule in the world of blockchains so ingrained that some call it folklore. Bitcoin, the original iteration of blockchain technology, is great at two things. One is keeping data secure, with a ledger others can't sabotage. The other is "decentralization," or getting lots of people to work together without a central authority to call the shots. But those two nice properties come with a big tradeoff: Blockchains can't scale.
David Tse, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, is skeptical of that "blockchain trilemma." The idea, he noted at a gathering of "cryptoeconomists" last week, had never been precisely defined—he could find no mathematical proof for it. Tse and his colleagues had done the math and, he declared onstage, developed a more efficient algorithm for keeping blockchains secure. And so they formed a company called Trifecta to build out their idea, adding Tse to the growing ranks of academics-turned-blockchain entrepreneurs.
Tse's talk followed presentations by the Turing Award–winning MIT professor Silvio Micali, founder of Algorand—which has raised more than $120 million from investors—and the MacArthur genius and UC Berkeley professor Dawn Song, founder of Oasis Labs. Each is trying to build new blockchains from the ground up, seizing upon a mismatch between excitement over the core innovation of blockchains and disappointment about their performance.
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