Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) is the next generation of public key cryptography, allowing anyone to perform arbitrary computation directly on encrypted data. Although FHE has the potential to bring privacy to new applications and new users, the technology has long been out of reach for developers. Initially, the challenge with FHE was efficiency (namely, there was none). For the last few years, the main obstacle has been usability; the technology is simply too hard for non-experts to use.
Our goal at Sunscreen is to make advanced privacy technology (like FHE) accessible to engineers so that they can easily build and deploy private applications.
The idea for Sunscreen was first born while I was a cryptographer at NuCypher researching privacy-preserving smart contracts. Zero knowledge proofs have so far dominated the privacy narrative of web3 but, at Sunscreen, we believe there's more to the story.
Our $4.65m seed round was led by Polychain Capital with participation from Northzone, Coinbase Ventures, dao5, and Naval Ravikant–following a small pre-seed of $570k. I'm happy to share that a number of my former NuCypher colleagues will be a part of Sunscreen's journey as either advisors (MacLane, Ghada) or angel investors (Michael, Tux).
Open sourcing our FHE compiler
As magical as FHE is, it's actually very hard to write FHE programs. Researchers created “compilers” to make the process easier but so far have fallen short. Existing FHE compilers are often difficult to use or introduce a significant performance penalty.
Over the past months, we've been working on our own FHE compiler which we'll be open-sourcing today. Feel free to check out our library! We also have a playground available if you'd like to try writing some code before installing our compiler.
Web3 developers have unique challenges and concerns; we are the first to design an FHE compiler with such needs in mind. However, this is only the first step in our journey to realize the full promise of private computation in web3.
Launching our FHE grants program
We're also kicking off a grants program to promote further research and development into FHE. We hope to encourage developers to build private apps and teach others in the community how to do so as well.
Check out our private token swap and private information retrieval examples to see just how far FHE has come. In less than 1 second on a laptop, you can generate FHE keys, encrypt data, run programs on encrypted data, and decrypt the results!
You can read more about our grants program here.
Looking to the future
So what's next for Sunscreen? We'll be working on the infrastructure needed to support developers in building private applications. Concretely, we'll be focused on integrations with complementary zero-knowledge proof libraries as well as decentralized storage solutions.
If this sounds exciting to you, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We're hiring for a number of roles.