Shielded Labs: An Independent, Non-US Organization

I am starting an independent, Swiss-based organization called Shielded Labs to help Zcash decentralize and become more resilient. Shielded Labs was founded as a Swiss Association in December, and I’m currently working to secure funding and recruit knowledgeable and experienced individuals to join me as board members. Shielded Labs has no affiliation with Zcash Community Grants (ZCG) and has no plans to apply for ZCG funding.

There are two reasons I’ve decided to start a new organization. First, Zcash is currently supported by two US organizations, the Electric Coin Company (ECC) and Zcash Foundation, that are the sole recipients of the development fund. ZCG is not an organization, but a grants committee under the Foundation, which custodies and administers its funds. I strongly believe we need more independent organizations contributing to the Zcash ecosystem in order to diffuse power and become more decentralized.

Second, Zcash is building critical privacy-protecting financial infrastructure, and there’s a risk that the work being done could be hindered by regulation. In particular, Zcash’s exposure to the US is a potential single point of failure, and we need to urgently build an ecosystem that is resistant to capture. Above all else, my goal is for Shielded Labs to make Zcash more resilient. Shielded Labs is domiciled in Switzerland because it’s a country that is both crypto-friendly and has a long history of preserving privacy rights.


Shielded Labs aims to increase user adoption, develop new use cases for Zcash, and contribute to protocol development. Below is an overview of four areas of strategic focus. Please note that these are intentionally broad. I will provide more details about specific projects in the coming months.

  • Narrative Development: Crypto is driven by narratives that create a sense of community and shared purpose among stakeholders. There are many faces to Zcash: it is a technology that protects individuals’ economic and social freedom, a tool against financial surveillance and authoritarianism, and a private store of value and medium of exchange. Shielded Labs will explore themes around privacy, censorship resistance, and Zcash as digital cash. It will tell stories about what’s changing with the protocol and why it matters, and develop and spread coherent narratives focused on Zcash’s unique identity and values.

  • User Adoption: Shielded Labs will work to increase user adoption by getting Zcash listed on more exchanges, working with companies on payments integration, and increasing Zcash’s availability on DEXs and Defi applications. It will prioritize projects that advance the usability of Zcash, such as Zcash Shielded Assets, and support the development of bridges, AMMs, and fiat on/off-ramps.

  • Human Rights and Freedom: Over the past year, there have been a number of events happening in the world where Zcash could help. For example, Canadian truckers cut off from the financial system and Russian activists who face political threats at home for trying to help friends and family in Ukraine could leverage Zcash for support. Shielded Labs will partner with human rights and civil liberties organizations to get Zcash into the hands of those who need it the most.

  • Protocol Development: Currently, protocol development is handled by two US organizations, which is a risk in the current regulatory environment. To date, all network upgrades have been implemented by ECC. Resilience requires decentralization, and Shielded Labs will help Zcash decentralize by contributing to core protocol development.


At launch, I’d like to focus on a few small projects that will have a significant impact and set the organization up for future success. One idea I’m exploring is for Shielded Labs to develop and support the Posterity/Sustainability Fund, which is an important step for long-term network sustainability and future economic upgrades like a transition to proof of stake and Zcash Shielded Assets.

Shielded Labs would hire an engineer to develop the modified issuance schedule and the mechanism to direct funds to the Sustainability Fund into a proof of concept and implement it into zcashd or zebrad. Shielded Labs would fork the Zcash GitHub repository, implement the new source code, and create a pull request for a merge. Assuming it has sufficient funding and developer resources, Shielded Labs would be responsible for ongoing support as the maintainer of the forked codebase repository.

What’s really powerful about this is it would be the first time a network upgrade was initiated by an independent developer and it would demonstrate that Zcash is truly a permissionless network. In addition, Shielded Labs would help lower the barrier to entry for serious development projects so that developers don’t have to go through the ECC pipeline, which is already maxed out.

I would oversee the project and navigate any governance issues that arise. I’d also start to build out the other initiatives I mentioned above related to narrative development, user adoption, and use cases around human rights and freedom. I would initially hire part-time, project-based support to help me lay the groundwork for the organization to grow.


At the start, Shielded Labs will be funded entirely by donations. I’m currently working on raising enough funds to bootstrap the first year of operations. I’m speaking with a few potential donors, and one has already committed to providing partial funding. Of course, there is always a risk that funding commitments do not materialize; however, I’ve received enough interest and support that I am optimistic that funds can be raised.

With regard to long-term funding, my objective is for Shielded Labs to be a recipient of Zcash’s development fund via the block reward after the next halving in Q4 2024. To be clear, I do not want Shielded Labs to receive direct funding from ZCG’s allocation of the development fund. Instead, when the time comes to revisit the development fund and determine how it gets allocated, I hope Shielded Labs will be considered to receive its own, independent slice. In order for that to occur, Shielded Labs must first prove itself as an essential part of the Zcash ecosystem.


Starting an organization from scratch is a daunting endeavor, and one that requires significant time to gain momentum. It will likely take me a month or two to get Shielded Labs up and running. Things may move slower than expected at times, and I might make mistakes along the way, so I ask for your patience, understanding, and support. I will use this thread to provide periodic updates to the community.

I believe Shielded Labs’ presence in the ecosystem will complement ECC and the Foundation. While there may be some overlap or redundancy, Shielded Labs will primarily focus on things Zcash needs, but the other two organizations have not prioritized because they don’t have the bandwidth or resources, or cannot prioritize because they are US 501c3 organizations. A lot of work needs to be done for Zcash to appeal to a larger audience and achieve adoption. Ten years from now, my hope is that Shielded Labs is just one of many vibrant organizations around the world independently contributing to the success of Zcash.

Thank you,

Jason McGee

If you’d like to donate to Shielded Labs, please contribute to the addresses below.

ZEC: zs1nldqn9g8wfpwuz3mj9y95y8fq8snnmukp8lk4lpdu5jmcrhkxejnv6q5yz6p3zrz0mkjw0w57rl

ZEC (UA): u1v9tszkh36ckmamgx4mhssm0pp08xcccgehrpcvxq4pt478e9self2tjnpl2xgt47gwn0dhmdaecr2x3ycguuc6ueparttmueexterv92yxlj7utvzfcgzvufxwnnzzp4s8pg4slj9w33es833glkq0pk64ljjapfxyde06qg2rpm7hk27ugyc9m88vz0vze2v9guh8vsk7dl5de9v4a

ETH: 0x563a6aD50e53CB4850fA3693128f21Cd0dA85F64


I’m really pleased to read this announcement, and Jason has my full support in standing up another organisation that can contribute to Zcash development, and further decentralize the Zcash ecosystem!

@aquietinvestor If I or the Zcash Foundation can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to let me know!


Wishing Shielded Labs organization a great start filled with success, growth, and impactful achievements. May this new chapter bring forth new opportunities and breakthroughs. Best of luck!


incredible, I wish you all the success!


This is fantastic news Jason. I appreciate your initiative and hard work and will be proud to support you in this endeavor!


a-not-so-quiet-Jason is my favorite Jason. :shield::hot_pepper: :fire: :hearts: :shield:


Congrats! This could be a very significant improvement to Zcash resilience.

I’m especially excited to hear about this! I’ve shared some of ECC’s uncompleted work on this with you (primarily this incomplete ZIP draft and some advice on next steps).

This is a kind of change I believe could be a valuable building block for Zcash economic sustainability over the longer term, yet ECC has repeatedly prioritized other work we feel is more time critical. If another team developed this longer range improvement it would help ECC focus on our current priorities while Zcash as a whole grows more resilient.

Let us know if you decide to take that forward.

Whether or not Shielded Labs pursues that specific project, it is a promising improvement to Zcash decentralization. I wish you the best!


Thank you, @Dodger! I very much appreciate your support, and I will definitely take you up on that offer!


Thank you @nathan-at-least (and @zooko as well) for providing guidance on the technical details of a Sustainability Fund implementation and for your encouragement and support for Shielded Labs!


You should throw a UA in your list of receiving addresses! That way people can send from Orchard to Orchard, which means they won’t expose an amount in a cross-pool transaction!

Of course, I am assuming some people want to send from Orchard…


@zancas UA added above. Great job with Zingo!


I don’t see that many UAs in the wild! You’re officially an “early adopter”!!! :slight_smile:

But seriously I very much appreciate this advertisement for Zingo in your high impact post.

And. more importantly it supports the privacy of folks who want to contribute to Shielded Labs using the most advanced released version of the Zcash protocol, Orchard.


Excellent news, US centralisation is one area I’ve been very concerned with for some time.

Thank you Jason, you are one of those rare individuals who takes concrete actions to move Zcash in positive directions, all the best with this initiative.


I congratulate you @aquietinvestor for this proposal that will help build a better future for Zcash.

I am confident that the team of Ambassadors will be able to collaborate to help fulfill the vision of Shielded Labs.

Best wishes!


I will provide a detailed update later this month in April. In the meantime, please read the below post and provide questions, comments, and feedback on the Zcash Sustainability Fund (aka Posterity Fund). Thanks!


This is awesome to hear! Looking forward to seeing how this develops… getting out of the US should be a priority. It is sad to see the direction our country is moving lately.

I think it will be important to educate the Swiss Government on the benefits of Zcash. If they were smart they would make it legal tender and position Switzerland as a crypto privacy hub.

Future idea:

A Zcash based exchange headquartered in Switzerland that has only ZEC pairs and allows shielded deposits/withdrawals.

–Incase anyone missed this, Zooko spoke to some bankers out there I think last year. See link:


I think it’s great that the Zcash ecosystem is becoming more decentralized!

What’s the legal structure of the organisation, and how much legal exposure do its owners, employees, or key contacts have to the US?

One of the ongoing issues with distributed systems is unexpected centralisation, where engineering teams or individual companies effectively control cryptocurrencies. So it’s important that any new entities are truly independent and decentralised.


Shielded Labs is structured as a non-profit Swiss Association. All funds must be used to support its mission, which is to serve the Zcash protocol, community, and ecosystem. In terms of governance, Shielded Labs has a board of directors that is responsible for managing its affairs. The board is elected by its members, the “Zcash Community Council,” which oversees the board and ultimately holds it accountable. I chose to structure this entity as an Association because having members is a great way to decentralize control of the organization.

I am a US citizen and serve as a board member. All other board members will be non-US citizens. It is my intention to have most (if not all) employees and key contacts be non-US citizens. For example, Shielded Labs is currently in the early stages of working with a team of developers based in Europe on a certain development project, which I am hoping to announce to the community later this month.

I agree with this statement and it is very much aligned with Shielded Labs’ long-term vision. However, I am starting this entity completely from scratch and with limited funding, so it will take some time to get there. Hopefully not too long!


I will provide a detailed organizational update on Monday, June 12. In the meantime, Shielded Labs in partnership with the Equilibrium Group has posted a draft proposal for the Zcash Sustainability Fund (aka Posterity Fund). Please review it and let us know what you think:


Hi @Autotunafish. I’m answering your question on this thread since it wasn’t related to the Zcash Sustainability Fund.

Here’s the link to the Swiss Register: