Justin Thaler

Tim Roughgarden

We formed a16z crypto research earlier this year to address the biggest challenges and opportunities in crypto and web3, bridging the worlds of academic theory with industry practice by bringing together the very best research talent from various disciplines. We’re taking a big step forward today: I’m thrilled to announce that Justin Thaler is joining a16z crypto research to work with us full time.

Justin joins us from Georgetown University, where he’s been on the computer science faculty since 2016.  I met Justin when he was a superstar PhD student at Harvard, and followed his trajectory as he made fundamental contributions to many areas of computer science, including algorithms (especially in the space-constrained streaming and sketching models), computational complexity theory (especially its connections to the analysis of Boolean functions), and cryptography (especially in zero-knowledge proof systems). 

Over the past few years, it’s been exciting to see Justin segue from the theoretical foundations of proof systems to their applications in blockchains and web3, including succinct proofs (SNARKs), SNARK-based rollups, and all things “zk” (for “zero-knowledge”).  This technology is rooted in some of the deepest mathematical results in all of computer science, and Justin’s understanding of it is second-to-none.

At a16z crypto research, we believe the exposition and teaching of cutting-edge research to the broader web3 community is as important as conducting it.  Justin fits the bill perfectly: He’s written an epic book draft on proof systems and, while he was a faculty fellow in-residence with us last summer, delivered a series of tutorials on SNARKs and wrote general-audience articles on SNARK performance and measurement.

By joining the team full-time, Justin will help us in so many ways: as a unique in-house resource for our portfolio companies; as a clear-eyed evaluator of today’s and tomorrow’s zk-based projects; and, as he’s always been, as an intellectual leader in the design and analysis of proof systems and in the foundations of computer science more broadly.

I can’t wait to work more closely with Justin. Welcome!


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