Funding for cLabs blockchain public goods work

I’m Tim, CEO at cLabs. I wanted to share some background about cLabs and open a discussion on using the Community Fund to provide funding for and accelerate our blockchain and L2 roadmap.

As you may know, the Mento Reserve is returning 120M CELO to the Community Fund. As of 9/19, it has already returned 25M CELO and is planning to return an additional ~95M. Celo’s on-chain governance can then determine both temporary uses of the funds (e.g locking the funds in reward-bearing protocols, to provide liquidity and grow the funds) and permanent uses (to support infrastructure and developers and grow the community). I posted back in March about deploying these funds for core public goods infrastructure for Celo, and I think now is the right moment to consider this further.

About cLabs

cLabs is a major contributor to the Celo platform. The team comprises individuals that have been instrumental in making Celo what it is today, not least our CTO, Marek Olszewski, one of the Founders of Celo.

cLabs closely aligns with Celo’s mission to build a financial system that creates the conditions for prosperity — for everyone. We believe that building on and contributing to the Celo platform is the best way of achieving our vision.

cLabs is a non-stock, non-profit corporation. We have no shareholders or investors. The majority of our focus is on Celo’s public goods – i.e, those pieces for which there is no associated revenue model – development of the blockchain and core smart contracts, as well as building and operating services like Explorer and Forno, the Alfajores testnet, ODIS combiners, and much more. Our Security team proactively monitors for and responds to all kinds of threats from malicious actors. Our Product team works hard to gather input from developers and users and drive forward cLabs’ contributions.

Our income comes from three sources:

  • Grant funding – currently entirely from the Celo Foundation
  • Consulting income – we engage with enterprises and teams building on Celo where it’s strategic to do so and where it doesn’t divert focus from public goods
  • (Long term) Equity in spin outs – we’ve spun out Valora, Hyperlane and Mento Labs and the equity cLabs holds could eventually become liquid

As a non-profit, any surplus income we receive is ultimately directed towards our public goods work – salaries, cloud and hosting costs, security vendors and auditors.

Right now, by far the largest source of income cLabs receives is a direct grant from the Celo Foundation.

Our eventual aim is to have cLabs’ public goods work be evergreen, funded in perpetuity through a diversity of revenue streams, including grants, consulting, and operating network services like validators/sequencers, and providing free and paid tiers for other services.

As a step towards this goal, I want to propose a Community Fund grant for one portion of our work – the blockchain and L2 roadmap.

I see several advantages to the Community Fund making this grant:

  • It would allow cLabs to accelerate its contributions to the Celo L2 roadmap and blockchain scalability work, by funding additional resources for it
  • It would diversify funding and make cLabs’ blockchain roadmap more directly driven by and answerable to the community
  • It would put underutilized funds in the Community Fund to work on improving the platform for developers and users
  • It would allow cLabs to direct funds from the Celo Foundation towards other areas of its public goods work

Funding cLabs Blockchain

cLabs blockchain team budget is as follows:

Description Cost/month
8 existing engineer salaries and overheads $157k
2-2.5 FTE additional engineer salaries and overheads $28k
Google Cloud budget for performance, scaling, correctness testnets $10k
Auditing budget, amortized $10k
Total USD per month $220k
Equivalent to total CELO per month @ $0.40/CELO 551k CELO

I am proposing that the Community Fund begin to support cLabs blockchain and L2 roadmap work with a 12-month grant of 6608k CELO.

This would provide coverage for:

  • Funding the existing blockchain team
  • Full funding for 2-2.5 additional FTE engineers (depending on level, hiring date, etc) for the blockchain and L2 effort, speeding development once they are ramped up
  • Scale testing: We stand up and tear down 100+ node testnets for performance and failure testing, invaluable in scalability work as well as helping make the network more resilient: this costs cLabs tens of thousands of dollars, and this proposal would allow the team to do more of that work.
  • Auditing with highly regarded third-party audit firms for key portions of new code

These funds will be ring-fenced and not used to support other functions, projects, or individuals outside the blockchain. To provide deeper transparency and accountability for the use of funds, we will enable the Celo Foundation’s finance and grants team access to our records in order to make a public statement to the community to confirm that this grant was used for the purposes described here.

I propose that the grant be deployed into a ReleaseCelo smart contract. This would enable the funds to vest monthly, over 12 months, and with a 6 month cliff before which point all of the funds are locked. The Governance contract would be the releaseOwner of the contract. This means that if cLabs doesn’t meet its commitments, or doesn’t use all of the funds for the described purpose, a subsequent governance proposal could revoke the contract and any unvested CELO would return to the Community Fund.

cLabs would aim to incur these expenses and deploy these funds over a target period of 12 months. The team is presently based in the European Union and in Argentina. If the exchange rate for CELO-USD or USD-EUR varies, then the grant may stretch to cover costs beyond the 12 month period, or may need to be augmented by cLabs’ own funds in the event of a shortfall.

Ongoing funding from Celo Foundation would continue to support all of the other public goods contributions that cLabs makes.

I recognize that this is a substantial amount of CELO, but it is one that cLabs, in the main part, is already committing – and hopes to continue committing into the future of the Celo platform. This team have been the primary driver behind the “Celo 2.0” Roadmap released in February, the L2 proposal, the Flan and upcoming Gingerbread hard fork, as well as ongoing maintenance releases, scalability work and Ethereum compatibility efforts.

If the response here is supportive, we’ll assemble a CGP and on-chain proposal once the Mento funds are returned.

Happy to take any questions or suggestions and shape this proposal with you.

Update 12/19: correct current amounts of Celo planned to return by Mento reserve


Hey @tim
I am more than agree with this proposal. cLabs is the backbone of the whole Celo Ecosystem, otherwise it never exist. And today is more than important to have a team and the budget to pay this team and secure the roadmap for the L2 development.


I give my full support to this proposal.


Looks good to me. We need to get this L2 shipped before some other L1 does it first and takes all the cred and practically speaking cLabs is the group going to be doing it.

Has ReleaseGold been updated at all since genesis? I would be interested to see if some of the new Safe Core SDK features enable more customized spend limits, vesting, etc. Maybe even a streaming solution like Sablier could be interesting if they support Celo. Just brain dumping, but ReleaseGold is fine I guess.

Decent engineering monthly gross, any positions open? :wink:


Hey @tim I am supportive of this proposal and I agree that right now the L2 transition should be the number 1 priority in order to gain a strategic advantage.

The only question I have is how this change in funding will impact the Celo Foundation? More runway? Redirect the cLabs funding into something else? It would be nice to know :slight_smile:


@0xGoldo this proposal, if approved, would not affect/change Celo Foundation’s funding of cLabs. The idea here, from discussing with @tim, would be to accelerate the L2 roadmap and scalability work:

Note also that these funds would be initially locked, vesting over time.

With Celo’s recent adoption growth (active wallets up 500% in last 6M) and new major initiatives like MiniPay going live, I do appreciate @tim starting a conversation around how to unlock more funding for core blockchain work as well as key public goods (eg SocialConnect).

@tim how do you see other companies in the ecosystem, especially those that have the engineering capacity, be able to contribute to core public goods work (we have started to see some examples of that happening eg with Valora’s work around FiatConnect standard) - and could this proposal be updated to accelerate the way for that to happen at a bigger scale than currently.


That is a great idea. Lovecrypto Inc would love to contribute to Fiat Connect API and Connect the world, since we are already familiar with the API and would like to see the Connect the World initiative to grow.

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The advantage ReleaseGold has is that allows for locking and voting even on the unvested portion. We can definitely consider alternatives, or adding some extra features into ReleaseGold. Biggest wish list item for me would be a new, simplier ReleaseStCelco or using an off-the-shelf contract to do vesting on stCELO.

They’re worth every penny :slight_smile: And definitely the plan if this passes is to hire into the blockchain team, so if you or anyone here is into geth, golang, op-geth, cryptography in rust, distributed systems in general, we should chat :slight_smile:

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cLabs would love to continue to broaden the contributor base. My hope, leading on from the other Governance discussion going on, would be that the community could form a “Prezenti for Infrastructure” to receive funding to invite, select and support some of these core public goods contributions. I recognize that this may take a while though, so wouldn’t want to hold up this proposal behind that.

cLabs’ work is fundamental to the Celo blockchain. Additional headcount to help accelerate the work to rejoin Ethereum is, in my opinion, crucial for the community.

Given the timing of work required, I wouldn’t be opposed to do away with the 6 cliff although I can see the value in the lock-up. Assuming that the expenses will be paid in USD/EUR, and given the size of the grant, I would ask that there is a plan to monetize the Celo assets in an orderly manner e.g., using an experienced trading desk to minimize the impact on the market.

All that to say, I am supportive of this proposal.


Thanks for the support, everyone. Please keep the suggestions+questions coming.

We’ll look to present this at the next governance call and then put together an on-chain proposal.

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@tim, if by “Next governance call” you mean this week’s call, please comment here or on the Github issue ASAP to be added to the schedule. If you are referring to the October call there is no rush.

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thanks for the nudge! I’ll be there Friday.

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