Across Protocol (ACX): Analysis of the rising value of bridges

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Across Protocol (ACX): Analysis of the rising value of bridges

How it works, opportunities, how it compares with the competition... The complete and independent study of Across Protocol and its ACX token by our team of analysts.

The Big Whale's view 🐳

As blockchains multiply with the addition of layers 2, bridges play an increasingly important role in connecting this multichain ecosystem.

Bridges are projects with valuations well below most other crypto projects, but they could see new exposure with the token launches of behemoths Wormhole and soon LayerZero.

Across is one of the most successful bridges on the market, with an innovative approach to limiting user risk and equipped with a good user experience.

General presentation 🧬

Across is a "bridge" between different blockchains based on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

A bridge is a protocol that allows assets to be transferred between two different blockchains. For example, transferring value from Arbitrum to ZkSync.

Most bridges rely on messages exchanged from one chain to another to transfer value. However, one of Across's theses is that it is almost impossible to send messages between two chains securely, quickly and at low cost.

To address this problem, Across has chosen to rely on "intents". An intent is a type of transaction where a user specifies a result rather than an execution path. In this case, an intent therefore amounts to saying "I want to receive at least X tokens on such-and-such a blockchain".

Third parties, known as "relayers", then compete to fulfil the user's request in the best possible way.

Across therefore uses an open network of relayers that rely on a single liquidity pool on Ethereum rather than relying on fragmented liquidity pools on each chain like the majority of bridges.

Thanks to its design, Across is one of the most efficient bridges in terms of fees and speed within the blockchains it supports.

We were able to verify this by multiplying transactions on bridge aggregators, such as Jumper, where Across regularly tops the list of the cheapest and fastest proposals.


Financing 💰

The Across protocol raised $10 million in November 2022 for a $200 million valuation from Blockchain Capital, Hack VC and Placeholder.

At the end of this transaction, 50 million "Success Tokens" were sold to private investors.

Each Success Token combines 1 ACX token (the governance token of the Across protocol) with a call option at a price of $0.50 on the ACX price. On 30 June 2025, investors will therefore receive for each Success Token: 1 ACX token as well as the value of the ACX call option, paid in ACX.

This structuring aligns the interests of private investors with the community. They have an incentive to keep the token price above $0.50 by mid-2025 ($0.32 currently).

They acquired the non-option portion at $0.20 per token.


Team and community 👾

Canadian Hart Lambur is the director of Risk Labs (headquartered in Dubai) and co-founder of Across. He is also a partner at Robot Ventures, a crypto venture capital fund, and was a trader for six years at Goldman Sachs.

American Nick Pai, meanwhile, is Across's chief engineer. He is also a partner at Archetype, another crypto venture capital fund. Before that, he was a trader at Barclays.

Risk Labs has around 30 employees spread around the world.

Across has 65,100 followers on X and 20.600 members on Discord.

Function ⚙️

Across relies on "Uma", an optimistic oracle built by Risk Labs prior to the launch of Across. An oracle is an entity that provides information that is external to a blockchain (the best known being Chainlink).

An optimistic oracle considers all the information it is given to be always correct, unless someone reports a dispute. The advantage of the optimistic approach is that it does not depend on intensive and therefore costly on-chain validation.

So, after completing a user's transfer request, the relayer sends Uma a refund request to the Across liquidity pool.

If this request is challenged, it is the stakers of Uma's token (the UMA) who must settle the dispute.

Relayers are then reimbursed in batches of large transfers from the single Ethereum-based liquidity pool, which minimises costs.

It is understood that the transfer of funds to the user is the priority element, it is only once this is achieved that the protocol carries out verifications. It is therefore the relayer who bears the risk and not the user.

Risks 😨

Across relies solely on canonical bridges, i.e. "official" ones.

A canonical bridge has the same level of security as the project that deploys it. So relying on a canonical bridge avoids multiplying the risks to which you expose yourself.

One of the limitations of canonical bridges is that they are slow in order to ensure maximum security. They have to wait until a transaction is considered irreversible before making a transfer.

Across gets around this time constraint by transferring value directly to the user from the destination chain. The relayer is then repaid later through the canonical bridge. The relayer therefore takes the risk that the user's initial transaction may be reversible.

Since Across relies on Uma to reimburse relayers, it would theoretically be possible to attack Across by taking control of more than 51% of the staked UMA tokens.

However, this attack would not be profitable as Across has "only" $150m of value locked up in its liquidity pools.

ACX governance token 🪙

ACX is the governance token for the Across protocol.

It can be deposited on the Across protocol to earn an annual return of 4.5% which can increase to 9% after 100 days. This initiative has been set up to reward ACX holders.

More generally, the ACX token is used to offer additional rewards to liquidity providers on the protocol's Ethereum-based liquidity pools.

There are a total of one billion tokens allocated as follows:

- 52.5% for the protocol's treasury.
- 15% are allocated to the team with a vesting period of 4 years.
- 10% are allocated to private investors with a vesting period running until the end of June 2025.
- 12.5% have been distributed through an airdrop to early adopters of the protocol.
- 10% has been set aside to reward those who deposit liquidity into the protocol and for the sponsorship system.

Regulation ⚖️

Across is still too small a project to be under the radar of any regulator.

It should be noted that Risky Labs, the company in charge of its development, is registered in Dubai, where regulation is fairly flexible.

The risk hanging over Across is the day when its protocol decides to remunerate holders of the ACX token with the fees deducted from transactions. It could then operate like a traditional financial security.

Competitors ⚔️

Across has a monthly volume of $985 million.

One of Across's current limitations is that it is compatible with fewer blockchains than its competitors. The protocol is not present on Avalanche and the Binance Smart Chain, which are two important blockchains in the Ethereum ecosystem. This is because these two chains do not have an "official" canonical bridge linking them to Ethereum.

Stargate is the bridge with the highest monthly transfer volume ($2 billion). It supports most of the largest blockchains in the Ethereum ecosystem. It is built on the Layer Zero interoperability protocol.

It is possible that Stargate's volume is being artificially inflated by the impending Layer Zero airdrop. Many users are probably hoping to benefit by multiplying operations, whereas Stargate is not the most competitive project (often more expensive to use than the competition).

Given that Layer Zero is a protocol that has raised a huge amount of funds and does not yet have a token, we can estimate that part of Stargate's volume is due to users hoping to make themselves eligible for an airdrop of Layer Zero's future token.

Synapse, meanwhile, is in second place with a monthly volume of $1.6 billion. As well as supporting most of the blockchains in the Ethereum ecosystem, Synapse also supports part of the Polkadot ecosystem.

Below, the breakdown of exchange volume between these three bridges.


Roadmap 📝

One of Across's top priorities is to adapt its code to support new EVM blockchains more quickly. The small number of blockchains supported has so far been one of the protocol's limitations.

Across launched its V3 at the end of February 2024. Thanks to this, it will soon be possible for decentralised exchanges to integrate Across to carry out inter-chain exchanges.

The protocol is working with Succinct, a company specialising in zero-knowledge proofs, to be able to support chains that do not have an "official" bridge with Ethereum, such as Avalanche and the Binance Smart Chain.

While many projects are working on new forms of interoperability between blockchains, including shared sequencers and proof-of-validity aggregators (we explained this in our Polygon review), Nick Pai, Across's chief engineer, told The Big Whale that Across still has a long way to go.

"We're working to get these projects using Across as soon as they launch," he says.

Market analysis by Chadi El Adnani, Head of Content & Research at SUN ZU Lab 📈

ACX trading volumes are very low and concentrated on DeFi, mainly on the two decentralised exchanges Uniswap and Balancer. Volumes on the centralised exchanges, MEXC and Gate, are almost non-existent. Daily volumes on Gate rarely exceed the $80,000 mark, and market depth on this exchange is close to zero.

These conditions make the token highly volatile and its price very sensitive to large market orders, which can cause it to fluctuate considerably, in both directions.

We need to remain cautious in these market conditions, and not be blinded by ACX's recent performance.


Where can you buy the ACX token? 🛒

The ACX token is not yet listed on the major regulated exchange platforms, which suggests a possible upward acceleration in its price when it is. To date, the easiest way to acquire ACX is via Uniswap (on the Ethereum network) or Velodrome (on the Optimism network).

Conclusion 🧭

Across is a bridge that stands out from its competitors because it relies on "intents", a new and increasingly popular transaction type.

Intents enable a better user experience in an increasingly complex multichain world. The user simply has to express the desired result and doesn't have to wonder about the best way to get there.

The competition between bridges is very intense, but the choice of intents makes Across one of the fastest and cheapest architectures to use.

The democratisation of bridge aggregators such as Jumper or Bungee should see Accross gain a lot of market share.

The ACX token is for the moment simply a governance token. For the time being, it does not allow users to benefit from the protocol's revenues.

One of the major limitations of Across is that it only supports blockchains that are compatible in the Ethereum Ecosystem (EVM). There are no plans to integrate other types of blockchains in the short term.

Our other analyses 🔍

⭐ Ondo Finance (ONDO)

⭐ Solana (SOL)

⭐ EtherFi (ETHFI)

⭐ Worldcoin (WLD)

⭐ Polygon (MATIC)

⭐ Dymension (DYM)

⭐ Starknet (STRK)

⭐ EigenLayer

⭐ Celestia (TIA)

⭐ Lido (LDO)

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