Ethereum developer tools platform Hardhat becomes nonprofit with donations from a16z and others

Nomic Labs, creator of popular Ethereum developer tools platform Hardhat, is becoming a nonprofit with the goal of improving the protocol’s developer ecosystem, it announced today. 

Nomic, which first launched in 2018, is rebranding as the Nomic Foundation, and has already secured donations of $15 million out of its $30 million fundraising goal, CEO and co-founder Franco Zeoli told TechCrunch in an interview. The initial commitments came from the Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and a host of crypto exchanges and venture firms, including Coinbase, Consensys, Andreessen Horowitz, The Graph, Polygon, Chainlink, a_capital and Kaszek Ventures, according to Nomic. 

To meet its $30 million goal, the group plans to submit funding proposals to several decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). 

Developer tools can accelerate the growth of a specific protocol like Ethereum by making it simpler for software engineers to create apps on that blockchain. Indeed, 23,000 GitHub repositories, or developer projects, use Hardhat, representing tens of thousands of active users, according to Zeoli. High-profile crypto projects including Uniswap, ENS and AAVE are Hardhat users, he added.

One of the Nomic Foundation’s main goals is to attract more developers to the Ethereum protocol by building infrastructure to provide them with a high-quality experience, Zeoli said.

“I think there are two core aspects that Ethereum needs to really nail. One is scaling … but if you have a highly scalable system that no one is using, then that’s pointless,” Zeoli said. Developer adoption, he continued, is core to the future of the Ethereum protocol.

Although Zeoli and his co-founder got their start in crypto in 2015 exploring the potential of bitcoin, and Nomic Labs was founded to work on a wide variety of crypto projects across protocols, the company pivoted to focus on the Hardhat product in 2019 after receiving a grant from the Ethereum Foundation. The grant sparked a closely collaborative relationship between Nomic and the Ethereum Foundation that resulted in the latter becoming Nomic’s single funding source before Nomic’s pivot to nonprofit status, Zeoli said.

Both Zeoli and his co-founder, Patricio Palladino, live in their home country of Argentina, which has experienced significant volatility and devaluation of its currency, Zeoli said. The challenges to Argentine citizens associated with these fluctuations illustrate clear examples of areas where crypto can serve as a valuable alternative — a motivating factor in Nomic’s decision to become a nonprofit, according to Zeoli.

The Nomic Foundation will not just support Hardhat, but will aim to support other developer tools with the goal of improving the overall Ethereum ecosystem.

“A success scenario [for the Nomic Foundation] in the future would be significantly increased competition for Hardhat, because we know that Hardhat alone is not going to be enough to satisfy the needs of the entire industry as it keeps growing,” Zeoli said. “There needs to be diversity of solutions, different approaches, different strategies and even different preferences.”