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Digital Asset raises $35 million to target smart contracts


Today blockchain startup Digital Asset Holdings announced a Series C funding of $35 million. This brings cumulative funds raised to $150 million since its 2014 founding. The firm, best known for the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) settlement project, has a long list of existing backers that include Accenture, ASX, Broadridge, Citi, Deutsche Börse, DTCC, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, IBM and others.

While the company would not comment on the valuation or the identities of the new investors, it confirmed the majority of participants in its Series A and B invested in the latest round.

Separately, the ASX announced that it committed $10 million to the Series C bringing its total investment to $30.9 million. “We are encouraged by the support of existing and new investors in this fundraising,” saud Peter Hiom, ASX’s Deputy CEO. “This confirms our own faith in the company and its future, and that’s why we have increased our stake.”

The startup also announced a new platform DABL which aims to get developers up and running with the DAML smart contract language without needing to set up a server.

DAML smart contract language

It’s been almost a year since the departure of CEO Blythe Masters, and eight months since Yuval Rooz took over the reins and Digital Asset unveiled its pivot. The smart contracting language DAML was open-sourced and is the new focus of its business model. DAML can now run on numerous other ledgers including Hyperledger Fabric, Corda, VMWare Blockchain, Hyperledger Sawtooth and Amazon’s quasi-blockchain QLDB.

Downloads of the DAML software development kit have more than doubled every month since it was open-sourced.

The business model focuses on an OEM go to market strategy in which licensing income is earned where DAML forms part of an enterprise solution sold by someone else. Additionally, consulting is provided for the integration of DAML into third-party ledgers.

While the Digital Asset ledger has not been dropped by any means, it has taken a backseat in terms of revenue focus. Apart from Ethereum’s Solidity language, there are very few smart contract languages that run outside of their own blockchains. Additionally, DAML has a workflow emphasis.

“DAML allows you to focus only on what you need to do to differentiate your product and eliminate the complexity that doesn’t provide value to your organization,” ​said Yuval Rooz, co-founder and CEO of Digital Asset​.

He continued: “Ninety percent of development time is wasted on undifferentiated work. With this new funding we will go further on this mission to focus on the ten percent value-add by providing a world class smart contract experience regardless of where your application runs.”

We noticed an expanding marketplace that features readymade “recipes” or DAML code from the likes of Accenture, intellectEU, Nomura Research and Wipro. The code covers everything from know your customer (KYC) to repackaging mortgage-backed securities.

One of the high profile applications of DAML is the Digital Asset code for derivatives trading to comply with the new ISDA standard. Another is Broadridge’s new solution to reduce the credit risk in repo markets. Shortly after Digital Asset open-sourced DAML, Broadridge gave a rundown of its pros and cons.

One of its biggest advantages is that it’s now blockchain agnostic.

Migration path

DAML also runs on top of non-blockchain solutions such as the Amazon Aurora database which is compatible with conventional databases MySQL and Postgres. Why? Well if a company isn’t quite ready to take the blockchain leap, it can start in a centralized fashion.

Given a lot of the programming for blockchains happens at the smart contract level, that means, in theory, the underlying blockchain can be swapped out but keep the contract code.

Earlier this year Digital Asset announced that VMWare Blockchain would be a new partner on the Australian Securities Exchange’s (ASX) new settlement system, CHESS. While the CHESS platform was developed with DAML and the Digital Asset ledger, the team managed to switch the ledger to VMWare Blockchain with ease, because most of the work sits in the smart contract layer.

Meanwhile, today’s other announcement was the developer solution DABL.

What is DABL?

DABL is a hosting platform for developers to deploy their DAML scripts quickly. Some blockchains have developer tools that remove the need to set up a node while testing. Truffle’s Ganache for Ethereum is a good example. Likewise, DABL offers a similar solution except that it’s not a desktop product, it’s hosted on a real ledger. We assume that’s because of the emphasis on workflow.

Eric Saraniecki Digital Asset’s Head of Product outlined the motivation in a recent blog post. “DAML takes care of abstracting away the complexities of all code that isn’t the logic of what your application does. Developers only write business flows and application behavior.”

“DABL completes this vision by abstracting away deployment, management, and scaling of distributed applications. It’s a production environment for SaaS applications that involve flows between multiple people, companies, and even markets.”

The article was updated with ASX details

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