*Note: This review and score is purely based on the information disclosed by the validator service and the scoring rubric.
Last Updated: Oct14, 2019
About Polychain Labs
Polychain Labs operates across the Cosmos, Tezos, and Terra blockchains. The company functions as the “staking/community/governance” arm of Polychain Capital, one of the world’s largest and most respected crypto funds. The Polychain Labs team consists of economists and systems engineers, and differentiates itself with a focus on active involvement in governance, community development, and symbiotic relationships between itself and the networks it validates upon. Polychain Labs presently offers 9.95-20% commission on its validation services, and is based in San Francisco, California.
Team Background (100/100)
- Full-Time/Part-Time (10/10)
- Prior Blockchain Dev/Impact (10/10)
- Systems Experience (10/10)
- Recognizability (10/10)
Current Voting Power (40/100)
- Total Staked: (10/10)
- Unique Self-Bonders: (2/10)
- Commissions: (0/10)
Historical Metrics (55/100)
- Uptime (5/10)
- Proposals (6/10)
- Legal Compliance/Insurance (0)
- Innovations (0)
Polychain Labs was founded in 2018, by the team at Polychain Capital – one of the world’s largest crypto hedge funds. Polychain Labs currently operates in close conjunction with the fund, however employs a separate full-time team solely for Labs operations.
The Polychain Labs team accordingly consists of three engineers, with deep backgrounds in security and systems engineering at companies like Google, Cruise Automation, and JPL. Prior to Polychain Labs, all three members of the team additionally spent time at Coinbase – one of the world’s most popular crypto exchanges.
Polychain Labs is presently the #1 validator on the Cosmos Hub with ~12.914M atoms delegated. At time of writing, this translates to approximately $70.7M USD. What is interesting to note is that most of Polychain Labs’ delegation (across all networks) is self-bonded – with funds coming from the Polychain Capital fund. On Cosmos in particular, Polychain Capital represents ~11.553M of Labs’ atoms delegated (~90% of atom supply). Overall, Polychain Labs possesses 8.82% of the voting power on the Cosmos blockchain.
For much of the past year, Polychain Labs was the largest validator on Tezos (outside of the Tezos Foundation). Presently, the company sits at #6, with a 7.369M XTZ staking capacity (around $7.66M USD). The company has been given a AAA+ efficiency rating, and an expected ROI of 6.76%. The company offers 1-cycle payout, and has its validator located in the Cayman Islands.
Polychain Labs is the #4 ranked validator on the Terra blockchain – with 11.11M voting power.
Polychain Labs has maintained 100% uptime since its entrance into Cosmos’ active validator set. The company has, however, had 5 instances where they have missed 50 or more of 1000 precommits, twice going as far as to miss 150 consecutive precommits. Because of its relatively high commission, the company’s voting power has tended to converge towards 100% self-bonding over time. This will be an interesting metric to watch as validation becomes more competitive. Polychain Labs has lastly participated in 2 of the five major governance proposals on Cosmos to date. The company has voted in accordance with popular opinion on each proposal.
Polychain labs is presently listed as “active” on popular Tezos block explorers. Until further tooling comes out describing downtime events of Tezos validators, little analysis can be made.
Polychain Labs has had mixed results in maintaining uptime since joining the Terra network. The company has missed the 5th most blocks out of 53 validators, corresponding to 1.1% of all pre-commits (and 0.5% of pre-commits as proposers).
Polychain Labs’ approach to community is unique compared to other validators. Because the company functions as a side-arm of Polychain Capital, Labs’ specific mission is to build infrastructure that positively affects the health of the networks that the Fund holds assets in.
As a result, Polychain Labs is often very active in the communities of their supported networks – helping on everything from governance proposals to open source infrastructure. The company has published multiple technical blog posts and open source tools to date, and oftentimes works closely with the core developer teams of each PoS chain to help with protocol development, governance, exchange listings, custody partnerships, cryptography, token distribution, and more.
Staking is not seen as a primary revenue source for Polychain Labs; instead, its focus is on supporting the governance and health of networks it has conviction in.
It is also worth noting that, because of the Polychain Capital relationship, Polychain Labs is not directly focused on marketing delegators to attract additional stake – instead spending nearly all of their time on engineering. The company has, however, still attracted some interest from other delegators, through organic measures.
Polychain Labs’ service expects delegators to understand the risks of staking. The service does not provide an insurance policy to cover losses due to slashing or service downtime.
Validators (0/100) – unknown
- Failover (0/30)
Sentries (0/100) – unknown
- Private Peering (0/10)
- Agreements with other Validators (0/10)
- Sentry Scaling (0/10)
- Backup Strategy
Polychain Labs did not share information pertaining to its validator node upon request. Scores will be updated once this information becomes available.
Polychain Labs employs standard sentry architecture. Sentries are openly accessible over a public p2p network, and are privately peered to their validator.
Polychain Labs has provided a series of open source contributions to the Tezos and Tendermint/Cosmos communities over the past year, which have all been actively maintained to date.
Of note, the company has developed Tezos Network Monitor, Tenderseed, Tezos HSM Signer, and an ECDSA Key Encoder. Brief descriptions of each project are as follows.
Tezos Network Monitor: Network Level Tezos Monitoring. Monitor interesting Tezos network events related to your addresses and bakers. Helps prevent situations where your infrastructure thinks it is online but the network disagrees, and detects events related, but not necessarily originated within your infrastructure. Specific alerts on slashing, network lag, missed endorsements, missed baking, flagged transactions, and delegations.
Tenderseed: A lightweight Tendermint Seed Node. Seed nodes maintain an address book of active peers on a tendermint p2p network. New nodes can dial known seeds and request lists of active peers for establishing p2p connections. This project’s lightweight node maintains an address book of active peers, but does not relay or store blocks or transactions.
Tezos HSM Signer: Implements the Tezos HTTP signing interface, backed by an HSM over PKCS#11.
ECDSA Key Encoder: Encodes public and secret keys from PEM to Cryptocurrency specific formats to derive usable cryptocurrency keys from an HSM or other secure environment. Currently only supports Tezos key derivation.
Monitoring Tools (100 /100)
- Network Level (10/10)
- Hardware Level (10/10)
- Paging (10/10)
Single Point of Failure (100/100)
- Multi-Cloud (10/10)
- Multi-Region (10/10)
Key Management (50/100)
- HSM Selections (5/10)
- Smart Key Management (5/10)
Validator Access (0/100) – unknown
- Physical/Remote (0/10)
Polychain Labs utilizes extensive control plane, system, log monitoring and external network monitoring. Much of this is built in house, none is currently open source. The company has additionally open-sourced standard Network Monitoring tooling for the Tezos network. See “Custom Code” above for more information.
Single Points of Failure
Polychain Labs sentries operate across multiple cloud providers. Specific providers were not disclosed. Within each provider, Polychain Labs uses multiple regions.
HSM’s with double-sign protection have been configured and utilized by the Polychain team. The company has open sourced their HSM signer software, which is backed by a SoftHSM that can vote and transfer up to 500 XTZ per day to listed tz addresses.
In the future, Polychain Labs seeks to improve request parsing, validate signatures before returning them, finish functional testing w/SoftHSM in Gitlab CI, and conduct additional testing of file and HSM locking.
Polychain Labs did not share information pertaining to its validator access upon request. Scores will be updated once this information becomes available.
This information has yet to be provided by the Polychain Labs team.