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Despite its dominant market share in the crypto sphere, Bitcoin has had limited applications compared to other blockchains which have blossomed to facilitate asset transfers in everything from financial products to video games.

Ethereum, for example, has close to 6,000 developers actively building on its network every month as of October 1, according to numbers from Developer Report. Bitcoin, in comparison, has just under 1,000 monthly developers.

A California-based startup called ZetaChain wants to change that by including Bitcoin in the flourishing economy of decentralized finance (DeFi). Off the back of its sizable $27 million Series A raise in August, the company has been busy striking partnerships to scale its blockchain ecosystem.

ZetaChain is a Layer 1 blockchain upon which developers can build decentralized apps (dApps) and get access to other blockchains without the need for so-called “bridges” or “wrapped coins”, which are popular solutions that solve one of the biggest hurdles in crypto today — interoperability across different networks.

One of the breakthroughs brought by ZetaChain, according to its core contributor Ankur Nandwani, is that developers can deploy smart contracts on the blockchain that can interact with native Bitcoin, essentially adding a smart contract layer to Bitcoin. First proposed by Ethereum, smart contracts are lines of code that execute on predefined rules and have given rise to a proliferation of applications like non-fungible tokens.

“Every blockchain is like an isolated state and we are connecting them,” said Nandwani in an interview with TechCrunch. “Most people use Bitcoin as gold. If you can borrow against gold, you should be able to do what you do with gold for Bitcoin.”

Today, ZetaChain announced that it’s adding native Bitcoin support to decentralized exchange (DEX) Sushi, letting users swap Bitcoin across 30 networks. Behind the scenes, Sushi works by deploying its EVM (Ethereum virtual machine)-compatible smart contract on ZetaChain, meaning that, for the first time, Sushi can support native Bitcoins by making minimal changes.

These Sushi smart contracts can be accessed from the Bitcoin network itself, so Bitcoin users don’t even need to leave the network.

“It’s not only about the increased liquidity from Bitcoin; it’s about beginning a new chapter in DeFi, where we see more practical use cases of interoperability and enhanced connectivity,” said Sushi’s “head chef” Jared Grey in a statement.

In October, ZetaChain integrated with centralized exchange OKX’s self-custodial wallet, allowing users to access dApps on various networks and to use their Bitcoins in dApps without the need for wrapping or bridging from the Bitcoin network itself.

Started in 2021 by serial entrepreneur Nandwani, ZetaChain announced its Series A funding round in August from investors from a range of backgrounds, including quantitative trading firm Jane Street Capital, crypto exchange and China-focused early-stage VC firm Sky9.

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