James Bachini

ETHDenver | Thoughts & Takeaways From The Biggest US Blockchain Conference

ethDenver 2023

This article is aimed at providing an overview summary of what was talked about at ETHDenver and some of the things I picked up while being there.

  1. Buzz Word Bingo
  2. ETHDenver Vibe
  3. Zero Knowledge
  4. Account Abstraction
  5. Best Talks
  6. Conclusion
Genesis stage @ ETHDenver

Buzz Word Bingo

I took the schedule and ran through how many talks there were on each of these subjects.

Buzz WordNo. Of Talks
Zero Knowledge18
Account Abstraction6
Real World Assets3

Zero Knowledge EVMs are the hot topic with Polygon due to launch their zkEVM later this month and zkSync putting out a mainnet beta. With the recent release of ERC4337 developers are going to be able to do a lot more with contractual wallets.

I didn’t hear many people talking about sharding, withdrawals or Ethereum upgrades as I expected. Perhaps the merge went so well that expectations for flawless rollouts in future seem guaranteed.

ETHDenver Vibe

There were a lot more VC’s in town compared to Devcon in Bogota. There were also a lot more booths setup in the main event floor. In general it felt more commercial which is perhaps obvious compared to a developer specific conference.

I always think it’s amusing how well Ethereum embraces it’s competitors with BNBchain and Near being main sponsors. There was even a “Near Day” on the main stage 🤷‍♂️

There was a lot of optimism about the technology and markets. Sentiment seems to be shifting with a hesitation of caution. After a market decline human psychology shifts to being more cautious which doesn’t serve us well but this was evident and perhaps best summed up by this quote from one of the panels

don’t use tokenomics to hide a bad business model

Most VC’s are looking for projects that are generating revenue. A few investors I spoke to said they weren’t even looking at token deals and are just interested in equity deals where there is product market fit and value accrual.

Zero Knowledge

For developers the topic of zero knowledge proofs has been in vogue for some time. However it seems like we are getting to the stage where it might become more widely used in production environments. There were a number of people working on privacy solutions which is great to see after the Tornado Cash fiasco where developer Alexey Pertsev remains in custody.

ZKrollups are believed to be the future of Ethereum execution. There are a number of teams working on this at the event:

  • ZKsync – mainnet launched~ish
  • Polygon – mainnet March 27th
  • Taiko – mainnet 1 year
  • Scroll – mainnet EO Q2 2023

One interesting thing that I found out was that all these teams are using the same circuits which are being worked on by the Ethereum Foundation funded Privacy & Scaling team.

These circuits have 30,000 lines of code and one of the devs suggested there were almost certainly going to be bugs in there that need ironing out. There are going to be risks involved with using ZKrollups for some time and these will be mitigated by varying degrees of centralization “Training Wheels”.

This same privacy and scaling team also has an active repository in their Github for it’s own chain:

Could Ethereum launch a native zkRollup L2 or network of L2’s that have greater interoperability between themselves and the L1 mainnet at some point?

Account Abstraction

Account abstraction is something I need to do some research and work on. I felt a bit out of touch with the latest developments and the potential for this technology.

EIP-4337 is a new kind of account abstraction for the Ethereum network, enabling users to use smart contract wallets instead of externally owned accounts (EOAs) for transactions.

Smart contract wallets are more flexible than EOAs and can define different rules and configurations within their code, offering capabilities such as permission controls, batch transactions, account recovery, and transaction limits. EIP-4337 introduces a “pseudo-transaction” object called a UserOperation, which goes into an “alt mempool” and can be picked up by bundlers who package multiple user operations into a single transaction known as a “bundle transaction”.

There were a number of companies at the event looking at this such as:

These send the bundle transaction to a global “singleton” smart contract known as the EntryPoint, which calls a special function on each smart contract wallet called “validateUserOp” to verify the operation’s signature and pay the fee.

Each smart contract wallet also implements a function called “execute” to actually perform the operation sent in by the EntryPoint contract. This kind of account abstraction allows users to transact with greater privacy and security, switch between multiple accounts, have more control over personal information, and make payments with more security and less fees.

Best Talks

Here are some of my favourite talks from the event and ones I’ve caught up on since on the ethDenver YouTube channel. I didn’t see everything so apologies to anyone I’ve missed out, there’s also a few I couldn’t find so if they get posted later I’ll add them.


The conference was really well put together and contained an interesting mix of people throughout the industry. I wasn’t impressed with Denver particularly to start with but it’s grown on me and the food and drink is great here.

Would I come back? Probably not every year as it’s a long flight but for projects building on Ethereum it has to be one of the must exhibit events of the year.

I’ll leave you with a little montage of my visit, thank you to everyone that contributed to organising the event!

Get The Blockchain Sector Newsletter, binge the YouTube channel and connect with me on Twitter

The Blockchain Sector newsletter goes out a few times a month when there is breaking news or interesting developments to discuss. All the content I produce is free, if you’d like to help please share this content on social media.

Thank you.

James Bachini

Disclaimer: Not a financial advisor, not financial advice. The content I create is to document my journey and for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not under any circumstances investment advice. I am not an investment or trading professional and am learning myself while still making plenty of mistakes along the way. Any code published is experimental and not production ready to be used for financial transactions. Do your own research and do not play with funds you do not want to lose.



, , , , ,