Foresight&Ava Labs&Avatar: Avalanche From EVM-Compatible L1 to Subnet Practitioner

Foresight Ventures
20 min readMay 30, 2022

Co-edited by: Alice Li, Foresight Ventures & Kasper Jao, Avalanche Asia Star Fund


2. Avalanche Overview

2.1 Understanding Ethereum’s Scalability Problems

2.2 Vertical Scaling Solution: Avalanche Consensus

2.3 Horizontal Scaling Solution: Avalanche Subnet

3. Subnet Use Case

3.1 GameFi Use Case–The First Subnet on Avalanche

3.2 Subnet with native KYC functionality

3.3 Enterprises Use Cases–Beyond GameFi, Beyond Web 3.0

4. Competitive Analysis

4.1 Comparison with L1s: Cosmos, BNB, Avalanche

4.2 Comparison with L2s: ZK Rollups, Optimistic Rollup

5. Avalanche Ecosystem

5.1 Shrapnel

5.2 Arrow Market

5.3 Hexagon

6. Valuation

8. Closing Remarks


Ever since its mainnet launch in 2020, Avalanche has grown into a vibrant ecosystem with over 500 projects building on top with over $9B TVL. With its unique subnet architecture and consensus mechanism, Avalanche seems to provide an interesting value proposition to the market: it can be viewed as an EVM-Compatible L1 or an organization of heterogeneous networks, and L2s can also be built on top of its infrastructure. As subnets gain more traction, the year 2022 will be a transformative year for Avalanche as its identity gradually evolves from just another “Ethereum killer” to a true subnet practitioner.

“Subnets will be the next growth engine in crypto, enabling novel functionality only possible with network-level control and open experimentation on a scale we haven’t yet seen. Smart contracts underpinned the amazing innovation in blockchains over the last five years, and no technology is better positioned to help carry on this tradition than Subnets.”’

— Emin Gun Sirer, Founder and CEO at Ava Labs

In this article, we will take a deep dive into Avalanche subnet technology, including its architecture, use cases, and competitive analysis of its ecosystem.

2. Avalanche Overview

Avalanche is an open-source platform developed by Ava Labs. It provides an interoperable, highly scalable ecosystem for developers and enterprises to launch customized blockchains with subnets. With the novel Avalanche consensus, the platform achieves 4500 TPS and near-instant transaction finality.

Ava Labs, the team behind Avalanche, was co-founded in 2018 by Emin Gün Sirer, a computer scientist and professor at Cornell University, alongside Ted Yin and Kevin Sekniqi, two doctoral students at Cornell. The team had years of experience and expertise in distributed systems consensus protocols. Notably, Ted Yin designed HotStuff, a scalable classical consensus algorithm that was chosen to power Facebook Diem (Libra) project. Sirer has made numerous contributions to these fields, including Karma, a digital currency that pre-dated Bitcoin.

(Ava Lab Founding Team; Source: Ava.Network)

2.1 Understanding Ethereum’s Scalability Problems

To understand the architecture of Avalanche, we should first take a look at the Ethereum scaling problem.

Blockchains are like cities. Imagine you’re living in a city with only a finite amount of real estate. As more and more people crowd into your city, it becomes congested and the price of living spaces rises. The same thing happens with Blockchains as well, instead of living space, people are competing for block space, and instead of people, there are on-chain transactions.

For Avalanche, it has come up with two approaches to tackle the scalability problem:

  1. Vertical Scaling Solution: Avalanche Consensus. Avalanche can reach as fast as 4500 TPS, without compromising decentralization and security, making it one of the fastest and safest blockchains in the crypto space.
  2. Horizontal Scaling Solution: Avalanche Subnets. Instead of a monolithic blockchain, Avalanche should be seen as an organization of blockchains validated by different subnets. The subnet solution has provided Avalanche with infinite possibilities to scale, as developers could start their subnet in as little as 12 hours.

2.2 Vertical Scaling Solution: Avalanche Consensus

2.2.1 Avalanche consensus

Let’s dive deeper into Avalanche consensus. Emin, the co-founder of Ava Labs, might use a stadium analogy to illustrate this unique consensus protocol.

Imagine that you’re in a stadium with thousands of people and the goal is to achieve consensus on which team to support. The stadium is large and crowded, to learn about the majority preference:

(1) You decide to ask five random people nearby about their preferences.

(2) If > 3 people vote for the blue team then you’ll add confidence in blue and vice versa.

(3) You run this sampling process repeatedly to increase the confidence level.

(4) Each person in the stadium would do the same thing.

(5) Each subsequent round would build on the momentum of the preferred side, just like a snowball building momentum as it goes down the hill and eventually leads to an Avalanche.

As such, Avalanche Consensus is a new leaderless BFT protocol built around metastability achieved through repeated subsampling among nodes and transitive voting in DAG. To reach consensus, a validator node can query only a small number of nodes, instead of communicating with all nodes. Therefore, it could reach a consensus with lightning speed and high accuracy, meanwhile every participant has a say in the voting process, as validators are randomly chosen.

“Avalanche protocol is parametrizable. We can make the probability of that (drawing a wrong conclusion) happening arbitrarily small. Like < .0000000001% chance.”

— Founder of Pangolin Connor Daly

Apart from the high performance achieved through sampling, Avalanche is also quite decentralized and lightweight, anyone with modest hardware equipment could join the primary network by staking 2000 AVAX to be a validator. The network currently has more than 1,400 validators, a number increasing with the adoption of Subnets.

2.3 Horizontal Scaling Solution: Avalanche Subnet

2.3.1 Avalanche Architecture

Avalanche features 3 built-in blockchains: Exchange Chain (X-Chain), Platform Chain (P-Chain), and Contract Chain (C-Chain).

● X-chain stands for exchange chain useful for the creation, management, and transactions of digital assets. It uses Avalanche Consensus.

● C-chain is dedicated to smart contracts. It’s an EVM implementation that powers the development of dApps on the Avalanche protocol.

● P-chain coordinates validators and creates subnets and staking mechanisms.

Subnet stands for subnetwork and it represents a set of validators who achieve consensus on the state of the network. A subnet can be thought of as the bottom layer of the stack and many blockchains can compose on top of a single Subnet. There can be many chains for a single subnet.

Avalanche’s three main blockchains are validated and secured by the Primary Network. The Primary Network is a special subnet, and all members of all custom subnets must also be a member of the Primary Network by staking at least 2,000 AVAX. An overlapping pool of validators allowed the primary network to build shared security and economic alignment within the organization.

2.3.2 Why is subnet important?

In theory, Avalanche allows for infinite subnets to be created, which is the network’s secret sauce to scaling. Each subnet can be private (permissioned) or public (permissionless). For cross-chain interoperability, chains within a specific Subnet will be compatible.

Running your customized blockchains with Avalanche subnets has four main advantages:

1. Economics

Deploying on a subnet means you can customize your gas token. You can either use AVAX or even your own game token as gas and play around with the transaction fees — distribute them to the validators, burn them, aggregate fees for tournaments or airdrops, etc.

2. User Experience

Games should be seamless and cheap to play. Subnets eliminate the risk of the application becoming too expensive due to network congestion caused by other applications, ensuring a seamless and affordable user experience for your user.

3. Application-Specific Requirements

Different blockchain-based applications may require validators to have certain properties. Suppose there is an application that requires large amounts of RAM or CPU power. A Subnet could require that validators meet certain hardware requirements so that the application doesn’t suffer from low performance due to slow validators.

4. Compliance

Some examples of compliance requirements include:

● Validators must be located in a given country

● Validators must pass a KYC/AML checks

● Validators must hold a certain license

3. Subnet Use Case

3.1 GameFi Use Case–The First Subnet on Avalanche

DeFi Kingdoms and Crabada already launched subnets on Avalanche, and they have seen impressive transaction volumes while keeping low fees. With more games coming, like Ascenders, Shrapnel, and Castle Crush, Avalanche transaction fees will put deflationary pressure on AVAX.

(Hourly gas usage; source: Blockworks Research)

a. DFK Chain

DeFi Kingdom is a popular game that merges P2E game with DeFi. It started on the Harmony blockchain, and after an explosion in interest, it started to expand to other chains. Defi Kingdom announced their Avalanche subnet DFK chain on April 1st.

Performance: As of April 14th, the total transaction mounted to 2.5 M and TVL $215M. From the date of launch, overall daily Tx for Avalanche has boosted by nearly 30%, active users boosted by 10%, and is still going pretty smoothly with a high trading volume. The game’s token JEWEL will be used for all of the chain’s transactions, elevating JEWEL’s utility.

( DFK chain Stats; Source: @AVAXholic)

Runtime: DFK subnet uses a customized EVM, which incorporates the directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) model. This model allows the chains to scale infinitely at negligible cost.

Interoperability: The assets transfers between AVAX mainnet and DFK chains are dealt with Synapse bridge, as Avalanche hasn’t announced a generic interop method (yet).

b. Crabada

Crabada is a popular Axie-type battle mode games in Avalanche ecosystem which took between 15–40 percent of the gas on Avalanche C-chain. They recently launched their long-awaited subnet, the Swimmer Network.

  • Moving to Swimmer Network has helped the Crabada community-run looting/ mining missions more efficiently. Players have recorded cheaper transaction fees and a great user experience, showing the potential of the subnet for all projects.
  • While Crabada has an inflationary token $TUS, which is similar to Axi’s SLP but it potentially could drive more value. Crabada is looking for the potential to bring small games onto the subnet. (e.g. Snake City). If more and more games are using $TUS in their marketplace for their games, there will be an additive value-driven to the token and the network itself.

3.2 Subnet with native KYC functionality

This class of features is known as a precompile. Basically, it’s an optional feature you can decide to turn on when you create your own EVM-subnet. But this feature is currently unavailable on the c-chain.

This particular precompile allows subnet creators to control who can submit transactions to their subnet. By default, transactions from unknown addresses are blocked. Only whitelisted addresses are allowed. Designated admins can update the whitelist after genesis.

This is the first step toward building a KYC / private subnet. After setting KYC providers as allowed list admins, they can let people in after they’ve passed verification.

These features also have lots of potential in a social-gated community (e.g. FWB)

The subnet creator could treat his subnet as a privately writable, publicly readable database.

A small group of users could distribute some data widely in a well-known format with public metrics and integrations.

3.3 Enterprises Use Cases–Beyond GameFi, Beyond Web 3.0

One of Ava Labs’ goals is to apply crypto-based innovations to traditional businesses. By blending these two worlds, Ava Labs thinks it can make everyday transactions such as paying for coffee or even buying a house cheaper and easier.

“Working with Mastercard gives us the opportunity to bring the benefits of the blockchain to regular consumers”

— Ava Labs President John Wu

● Some enterprises are building on the platform such as Deloitte, Togg, and Lemonade The functionality is still being deployed but exciting times are ahead.

3.4 Other examples of subnet use cases:

  • Specialize in the fractionalizing and sale of assets that correspond to real estate, where validators have to store archive records off-chain for the property. (Dapps that might potentially adopt subnet solutions: Retok Finance)
  • For very high-performance applications a subnet could require validators to require large amounts of RAM or CPU power for applications needing 10,000+ TPS.
  • Private subnets are similar to enterprise blockchains such as JP Morgan’s Quorum, R3’s Corda, and hyperledger where access is restricted and the content of the blockchain is only visible to these participants.
  • Existing blockchain can port their state over to Avalanche and use its consensus mechanism for faster performance, finality, and increased security. So blockchain such as Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum classic could each have their own subnet and utilize POS, using their own token as stake. There is already an Avalanche version of Zcash on a Subnet.

4. Competitive Analysis

4.1 Comparison with L1s: Cosmos, BNB, Avalanche

As people realize the power of subnets, competition in this space has become heated:

● BNB announced the launch of the Binance Application Sidechain(BAS) on March 29th

● Avalanche launched its first subnet DFK chain on April 1st

● Polygon committed $100m to ‘Supernets’ as Layer 1s Stand Up Application-Specific Blockchains on April 22nd (more details are to be announced)

To better understand Avalanche Subnet, we plan to take a comparative view by analyzing blockchain networks that provide similar value propositions.

(Avalanche Comparison with BNB, Cosmos; Reference: A Comparison of Heterogeneous Blockchain Networks.)

Each of the horizontal scaling solutions described above actually comes with its own design choices and trade-offs.

1. Consensus Overhead vs. Safety vs. Scalability

Classical consensus protocols (e.g., PBFT, Tendermint/Cosmos) are based on all-to-all voting where the communication overhead typically increases quadratically ([O(n2) where n=#validators so 10 nodes:100 messages | 1,000 nodes:1,000,000 messages]). To achieve faster performance and lower messaging overhead, networks often limit their validators on the network (e,g, BSC relies on 21 validators; Cosmos has 150 validators), thereby sacrificing decentralization.

2. Node Requirements vs. Scalability

To make the system as permissionless as possible, the minimum requirements for running a node should be relatively low. However, as the node requirements are lowered, the aggregate computational power available to the network decreases. In exchange for higher performance, some blockchains would raise the node requirements. For Solana, validation costs are updated by thousands of dollars as validators need equipment with 12 core CPUs, at least 128 GB of RAM, and an enormous amount of storage; BSC validators generally require 48 GB of RAM and 12 cores of CPU.

a. Advantages of Avalanche

Avalanche provides a solution to these trade-offs by pioneering a new consensus protocol. For the massage complexity problem, Avalanche consensus makes sure that, by conducting subsampling repeatedly, the number of messages received per node for each round of inquiry stays constant, regardless of the number of participants. In terms of node requirement, validators only need modest hardware requirements (2 cores, 4 GB memory) and it doesn’t use enormous amounts of energy.

Apart from consensus, avalanche also has the following advantages:

High Compatibility. Avalanche supports EVM, AVM, WASM, and custom VMs, so subnet developers can port large parts of the existing codebase onto the new project with little effort. Subnets can also use the Avalanche Virtual Machine to build out their own VM. Though developers are creating a new VM, they might still choose to create a subnet rather than launch a separate L1, since Avalanche handles the most difficult aspects of launching a new blockchain, providing the consensus engine, security, and network effects (“plug and play consensus”).

Avalanche subnets are the only network currently live. The first evidence of this is DFK Chain. On the first day of launch, the network boosted Tx volume by 30% while still providing high-quality transactions.

Overlapping subnet topology. Currently, most L1s like Avalanche, Solana, and Cosmos, attract validators by providing staking rewards. The question is, in 50 years, how do we make sure that the network would still be maintained as the token emission rate goes down and the staking reward is lowered? One answer to this could be transaction fees generated by network usage. As for Avalanche, it’s been designed in a way that the primary network can always attract validators along with the expansion of subnets, so the primary network will be maintained in the long term. This unique architecture also granted Avalanche a larger design space and interoperability potential in the future, which other networks do not possess.

The deflationary model is coupled with growth accelerators. In the short run, there are many accelerators, such as Avalanche Multiverse, the ongoing Avalanche Rush incentive program, Blizzard ecosystem fund, subnet development, and the Culture Catalyst fund. These programs will boost the adaptation of the Avalanche network and create a strong demand for AVAX. On the supply side, the launch of subnets will lock up liquidity in the market and higher transaction volume also leads to more gas fees being burned, further reducing circulating supply.

b. Future Challenges

Avalanche’s developer tools are not as convenient as Cosmos (Cosmos SDKs) and BAS (Modular SDKs). Essentially all web 3.0 players are competing for the limited dev talent pool, providing ready-made modular and SDKs would be an attractive value-add for developers.

Native interoperable bridging methods are yet to be announced. By contrast, Cosmos and BAS have their own generic protocol for inter-chain communication. It could be argued that there’s no clear winner yet for current bridging solutions, but cross-chain Interoperability remains a vital concern for the Avalanche subnet to scale and grow.

4.2 Comparison with L2 Rollups

Apart from the battles in L1s, the competition between different layers should also be discussed. Rollups move transaction computations off-chain, but store transaction data to the Ethereum chain, which means that rollups are secured by Layer 1.

(Avalanche Comparison with L2s, Reference: Ava. Network, Arbitrum.Network; @StarkWareLtd|Twitter,@zkSync|Twitter)

l The first thing that differentiates Subnets and Layer 2s is the learning curve for adoption from the developers’ perspectives.

Avalanche supports all VMs, including EVM, AVM, WASM, or customized VM, so developers can port over the code from other chains with no extra effort. Optimistic Rollup is EVM-compatible as the OVM enables the implementation of arbitrary smart contract logic. For ZK Rollup, things are a bit complicated. There’s no direct solution for EVM compatibility and people are working for years to resolve this problem. There are two main players in ZK Rollup: StarkWare and zkSync. StarkWare currently deploys CairoVM which requires devs to write in a new language (Cairo), and a transpiler (Warp) is designed to help developers translate Solidity to Cairo. ZkSync has launched its 2.0 test net which deploys zkEVM that is friendly with ZK Rollups and is expected to be compatible with EVM. The performance and ease of use for the zkSync 2.0 are to be further examined.

Another advantage of Avalanche is the ease of deployment. Developers can create a chain in as few as 12 hours with Avalanche. There are currently 19 blockchains live on Avalanche primary network, and 300+ chains live in Fuji test net. Conversely, ZKrollups has a higher deployment overhead, as the zero-knowledge cryptographic proofs require a lot of computational resources. Even with node service providers, developers need to learn new languages (or use transpiler) to build Dapps in ZK.

L2 doesn’t sacrifice the main chain’s security as it still relies on the main chain as a fall back to verify the execution.

Avalanche does not have such a shared security model. However, shared security may not be a desirable feature in many cases. It’s not a desirable thing to have your faith intertwined with someone else if you don’t want the chain to stop on a daily basis. A layer-2 should never do that and A sidechain with finality should never go backward.

  1. The other key difference between Avalanche subnets and EVM layer 2s is whether the liquidity is united or fractured.

Instead of having one chain, L2s fracture the liquidity on the chain into multiple disparate systems. The user now has to go and interact differently with each one of these chains. Some combinations are not possible in this case. E.g. dYdX, because it’s on Layer 2, cannot interact with flash loans that are somewhere else. Not only is the liquidity fractured, but the protocol itself is different, and you cannot automatically go from one to the other.

With the united liquidity in the Avalanche subnet ecosystem, money can move between e subnets, and the C-chain will be used and AVAX burned for every cross-chain transfer. Moving money from Swimmer Network > DFK Chain requires AVAX, which is also a healthier case for AVAX tokenomics.

2. With the growth of Avalanche subnets, new validator economics are emerging.

It’s important whenever you’re using tech to make sure that it’s up to your definition of security and in Avalanche this is left up to the subnet creators. You can have a subnet consisting of a small number of validators; you can also have subnets with large numbers of validators. And if your community is cognizant of what’s necessary here then we will see a flourishing space of validators. New validator economics will emerge, and people will start giving extra incentives to create the kind of diverse validator sets that they need. And others will start running validation services that can come in and provide that diversity, geographic political, etc, and the chains will then decide on that trade-off for themselves. Not everybody needs a thousand validators, Subnets can absorb it. Some people need millions and Subnets can do that too. But some people can get by with smaller numbers and they should be able to do that.

5. Avalanche Ecosystem

Avalanche has a vibrant ecosystem with more than 500 projects built on top of it. Here are some new projects that seem interesting.

5.1 Shrapnel

Shrapnel is the world’s first blockchain-enabled moddable AAA extraction-based first-person shooter game, developed by experienced experts who have worked on some of the biggest titles in the gaming industry — Halo, Call of Duty, Star Wars, etc. Shrapnel also offers a powerful set of creation tools that players could use to create custom maps and skins.

This FPS game has decided to launch on Avalanche subnets and operate completely independent of main chain traffic jams. Subnets allow projects to define their own parameters and fee structure, providing Shrapnel a high degree of customization and flexibility to capture a diversity of demand. There is also potential to allow other game developers to build on top of their subnet — think of it as an L1 as a service. Several other AAA games are developing Subnets.

5.2 Arrow Market

Arrow Markets is a decentralized options protocol being built on top of the Avalanche. Arrow’s option creation and settlement mechanism are based on a dual-pool structure. There are two pools: a trading pool and a market-making pool. A dynamic hedging engine is embedded into the system to hedge the net delta of the options contracts in the trading pool. Options are cash-settled in units of stable coin.

Avalanche is the ideal base layer for Arrow due to its fast throughput, near-instant finality, near-zero transaction costs, and front-runner resistance. Subnets can be created that cater to DeFi protocols with an emphasis on MEV resistance & speed and they could also be tailored to allow participation from institutional users in a regulatory compliant manner.

5.3 Dexalot

Dexalot is looking to bring transparent, user friendly and modern trading to the Avalanche community. They are looking to bring the traditional centralized exchange look and feel through a decentralized application on Avalanche that uses a central order book.

It may be one of the earliest if not the first DeFi project that will go into its own subnet. The goal of this effort would be to increase the transaction speed by at least 10 fold, decrease transaction fees to negligible levels in addition to improving the user experience, community engagement, and capital efficiency.

The House of Chimeria has made its own comparison of The Dexalot Subnet as they envisioned it — to the current AVAX C-Chain Dexalot Exchange. These following features bode well for the community.

  • Rapid settlement times, allowing users to trade assets with ease
  • Negligible transaction costs, improving financial inclusivity
  • Subnet utilises $ALOT as gas, adding extra buying pressure to the native token

6. Valuation

Going back to the analogy at the start, we believe blockchains are like cities or countries. The core value of a blockchain network should be the ability to cultivate innovation, which could be partly reflected through the network usage, developer ecosystem, and Total Value Locked.

As such, we could potentially build up a valuation model for Avalanche. The metrics with different colors are the valuation multiples. Dark red means people are hyped about this project, compared with the rest of the time. So, they would like to pay a higher premium for each unit of value captured by the network. As we can see, the valuation multiples are relatively low ever since 2021 Q4, this is partly because of the overall market sentiment, and another important reason is that entering Q3 Avalanche has experienced rapid growth in network usage and TVL.Its valuation falls back to a more rational range due to wider user adoption.

8. Closing Remarks

In a nutshell, Avalanche offers developers a scalable, practical, and lightweight EVM-compatible scaling solution. Avalanche may be the first to come up with the idea of the subnet, but it’s not going to be the only one. Yet we have strong confidence in Avalanche in the incoming battle, because of its novel consensus, thoughtful design in architecture, and strong leadership team.

With the successful launch of the DFK Chain, Swimmer Network and many more to come, we have many good reasons to believe Avalanche will one day become what the founding team has envisioned it to be — a platform of interoperable blockchains which digitize all assets in the world.

About Foresight Ventures

Foresight Ventures believes crypto will define the next few decades of innovation. The fund invests early and makes decisions quickly, providing wide-ranging support for projects from its robust ecosystem that includes major market players crypto exchange Bitget and crypto wallet BitKeep. Its founding and partnership team includes veterans of some of the top financial and technology firms dedicated to sourcing and supporting the next generation of disruptive innovations across Web3.





1. Avalanche Architecture

Avalanche Intro:

Avalanche Subnet:

AVAX Analyst call Q4:

A Comparison of Heterogeneous Blockchain Networks:

Emin Gün Sirer: Problems with L2 Scaling Solutions and Avalanche Subnets Explained

Comparison of the Transaction speed of swimmer network &$AVAX C-Chain

L1 Recovery, AVAX Activity, & Intro to Crypto Raiders

State of Avalanche Q1 2022

2. BAS Architecture

Ankr doc for BAS:

Build your GameFi on BAS “Aries” Testnet

3. Cosmos Architecture

Cosmos Intro

Cosmos shared security

Precedent research from Foresight Ventures

4. Rollups

Rollup: scaling blockchain to one billion users

Optimistic Rollups: the present and future of Ethereum scaling


4. On-chain Data


Avalanche explorer:

Avalanche Subnet:

State of Avalanche Q1 2022:

5. Picture Reference







Foresight Ventures

Foresight Ventures is a blockchain technology-focused investment firm, focusing on identifying disruptive innovation opportunities that will change the industry