How Jane Street-backed ZetaChain aims to expand Bitcoin’s use cases

Despite its dominant market share in the crypto sphere, Bitcoin has limited applications compared to other blockchains that have blossomed to facilitate asset transfers in everything from financial products to video games.

For example, Ethereum has around 6,000 developers actively building its network every month since October 1, according to figures from Developer Report. Bitcoin, by comparison, has just under 1,000 monthly developers.

A California-based startup called ZetaChain wants to change that by including Bitcoin in the thriving decentralized finance (DeFi) economy. From the back of his big $27 million Series A raise as of August, the company has been busy forging partnerships to grow the blockchain ecosystem.

ZetaChain is a Layer 1 blockchain where developers can create decentralized apps (dApps) and gain access to other blockchains without the need for so-called “bridges” or “wrapped coins”, which popular solution that solves one of the biggest obstacles in crypto today — interoperability of different networks.

One of the breakthroughs brought by ZetaChain, according to its core contributor Ankur Nandwani, is that developers can deploy smart contracts on the blockchain that can interact with native Bitcoin, essentially adding a smart contract layer to Bitcoin. First proposed by Ethereum, smart contracts are lines of code that enforce predefined rules and have given rise to applications such as non-fungible tokens.

“Each blockchain is like an isolated state and we’re connecting them,” Nandwani said in an interview with TechCrunch. “Most people use Bitcoin as gold. If you can borrow against gold, you should be able to do what you did with gold for Bitcoin.

Today, ZetaChain announced that it has added native Bitcoin support to its decentralized exchange (DEX) Sushi, allowing users to exchange Bitcoin across 30 networks. Behind the scenes, Sushi is working by deploying its EVM (Ethereum virtual machine)-compatible smart contract on ZetaChain, which means that, for the first time, Sushi can support native Bitcoins by creating minor changes.

These Sushi smart contracts can be accessed from the Bitcoin network itself, so Bitcoin users never need to leave the network.

“It’s not just about more liquidity from Bitcoin; This is about starting a new chapter in DeFi, where we can see more practical use cases of interoperability and improved connectivity,” said Sushi’s “head chef” Jared Gray in a statement.

In October, ZetaChain integrated with the centralized exchange OKX’s self-custodial wallet, which allows users to access dApps in different networks and use their Bitcoins in dApps without the need for wrapping or bridging from on the Bitcoin network itself.

Started in 2021 by serial entrepreneur Nandwani, ZetaChain announced its Series A funding round in August from investors from diverse backgrounds, including quantitative trading firm Jane Street Capital, crypto exchange Blockchain.com and China-focused early-stage VC firm Sky9.

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