Feb 06, 2024

First Hire (Principal Engineer)

  • Tonk Labs
Full time Back-end development Blockchain developer Cryptography Engineering Front-end development

Job Description

Tonk Labs is delighted to share that we are making our first hire. This is a unique chance to get in on the ground floor and join us to:

  • Craft historically-significant technology in a moonshot attempt to rebuild the internet;
  • Operate among a high-performing team, with a proven track record, on an astoundingly ambitious trajectory;
  • In a well-resourced, creative & mindful problem-solving environment.

(It’s more important that you’re really curious with demonstrated grit and a growth mindset than to have perfect experience! We would rather understand who you are as a person and your unique destiny.)

About Tonk Labs

Straddling decentralised media, ZK and other applied cryptography, Tonk Labs is a secret coordination company that injects onchain games and autonomous worlds with composable secrets. We spend large chunks of the year in London.

Our mission ⭐️

To liberate humanity’s lived experience of the web.

Our strategy 🌟

We pursue our mission by pushing the decentralised “world computer” beyond finance. The yoke we’re sabotaging is the feudal network of centralised entities that dominate humanity’s experience of the web today.

We’re taking a particular attack vector: by enabling the world computer to hold secrets, we unlock its expressive bandwidth. It’s not easy to encode secrets within cryptosystems that have traditionally been transparent, but thanks to the magic of applied cryptography it’s now possible! We want to create the secrets protocol for the decentralised web.

We know that a distinguishing feature of successful privacy projects is not just clever technology but also a viable starting point, so we’re fortunate to have onchain games and autonomous worlds as our privacy playground.

The story so far 💫

  • Tonk was borne of three convictions: (a) that blockchains were always about more than just finance, (b) that applied cryptography can get us there, and (c) that onchain games and autonomous worlds more generally are the perfect starting point.
  • The team has an intellectual heritage in CS and the arts, with professional experience in cryptography, gaming and privacy. Among other postings, we’ve led projects at Epic Games, Airbnb & Yahoo.
  • In crypto, our work in applied cryptography and next-gen onchain apps has received financial support from Polygon Labs, Aztec Labs, the Ethereum Foundation and more.
  • Over the last 12 months, we partnered with leading onchain game studios to deliver game mechanics that push at the fabric of applied cryptography, such as Tonk Attack and Snarky Monsters. To our knowledge, we were one of the first to implement a ZK state channel, and the first to use it in a game with hidden NPC logic.
  • To our knowledge, we were also the first to architect a gaming-specific ZKVM, and the first to test and combine ElGamal- based Mental Poker techniques with MACI for social deduction games.
  • We were delighted when the Autonomous Worlds Network invited us to run a workshop at Devconnect Istanbul where we shared our learnings on the required cryptography to deliver next-gen hidden information mechanics. As relatively early contributors to the Autonomous Worlds scene, we benefit from strong relationships with the other amazing projects pushing the boundaries of AW.
  • We finessed our cryptographic chops alongside a very smart crew with whom we regularly collaborate. Successful candidates can expect to interface with the technical and spiritual leaders of most leading cryptographic projects.
  • Our experiments have been featured on podcasts and leading crypto news outlets.
  • Having bolstered our grant funding with an external financing round in early 2024 we’re delighted to gather our resources and race towards protocol-market fit in the next chapter of our evolution.

What’s next ✨

  • Achieving sophisticated, scalable hidden information mechanics presents unique challenges:
    • How can game designers and other ambitious crypto builders use ZK (and other applied cryptography) to drive new experiences and do it without having to worry about what’s going on under the hood?
    • How can cryptosystems encode private state and maintain a modular, performant and composable stack as that state’s complexity scales?
    • How can we make the best use of leading DPC schemes such as Aztec and Aleo? How can we leverage the increasing utility of FHE and MPC techniques?
  • A composable private state protocol can and should answer all the above questions. In 2024 we are racing to deliver that protocol’s inner workings and cultivate early adopters into protocol-market fit.
  • Right now, we’re heads-down focussed on incrementally shipping early versions of that protocol and adding momentum to our existing traction with playtests, live events and networked publications.

The role you’ll play

Tonk Labs is a small, scrappy team operating in a dynamic space. You’ll be shipping code to break ground on Tonk products, iterating with customers all while prototyping and researching with us on next-gen services and protocols. This role could grow either into a full-time research position, a full-time VP engineer position or simply continue as a distinguished lead engineer for top priority products.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Implementing cutting-edge cryptographic systems across diverse tech environments.
  • Designing and architecting protocols that pave the way for future advancements.
  • Secure and efficient smart contract development.

Candidates should expect some travel to keep up with the travelling fair of crypto conferences.

What we’re looking for

Technical Expertise

The ideal candidate would demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Agility to touch any part of the stack, from front-end to database and distributed systems;
  • Familiarity with applied cryptography, including hash functions, encryption schemes, proof schemes, etcetera - and the mathematical training to back it up;
  • Expertise deploying smart contracts to mainnet;
  • Expertise in designing and deploying distributed systems;
  • Deep understanding of relevant protocols and the general landscape of blockchain infrastructure;
  • Prior work on software dev infra and tooling;
  • It’s not a requirement but the candidate can expect to be working with Rust, Solidity, Go and Javascript.

Again, this is a wishlist and it’s more important that you’re really curious with demonstrated grit and a growth mindset than to have perfect experience! If you hit at least some of the above areas of expertise we really welcome your application.

Behaviours & soft skills

Successful candidates will also demonstrate:

  • the independence of mind and hacker mentality suitable to very early stage projects in a nascent category,
  • the ability to execute in the face of unpredictable obstacles,
  • leadership and success working in a team.

Most importantly, they should feel at home and energised by our values:

Our culture & values

As the first hire, you will help us form the emergent culture of Tonk Labs, but we have a starting point:

Pragmatic 🚀

We start all things from our mission to liberate humanity's lived experience of the web. We each independently understand the core strategy and enjoy articulating it to others. We adapt our tactics to a dynamic, ambiguous environment.

Aligned 🌿

We express agency by aligning our personal mission with the team's goals, fostering a long-term, mutually beneficial alliance. We opt-in, which means bringing our best selves to our work, embracing a growth mindset, and taking responsibility for high performance as individuals and a team.

Mindful ❤️

We discover and set boundaries to foster a healthy work-life symbiosis and robust physical & mental health. We accelerate each other with judicious empathy, radical candour and collaborative problem-solving. We collectively nurture a robust foundation of psychological safety, embracing productive disagreement and diverse perspectives.

Creative 🎨

We reward playful, earnest, and original problem-solving. We value holistic insights from the arts and sciences; we are particularly mindful of emerging cybercultures and humanity’s evolving cybernetic relationships.


Tonk Labs is committed to fostering a diverse & inclusive workplace. We really welcome applicants from any background, ethnicity, religious belief, sex, gender identity, orientation, ages, disability or culture. Furthermore, if you haven’t got a typical educational background or have an “atypical” CV we really encourage you to apply. So long as you index well on our values and required skills, we’d be delighted for you to join us 💫

We are committed to providing reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities in our job application and recruitment process. If you require any accommodations, please let us know.

Compensation & Employee Benefits

  • Competitive salary + equity + token rights package.
  • Beautiful workspace in London and flexibility for remote work.
  • $500 personal upskilling budget.
  • $500 personal wellness budget.
  • Generous equipment budget. If it helps you get stuff done we’ll provide it.
  • Private health & dental insurance (subject to country of work).
  • Paid travel.
  • 20 days’ PTO, in addition to the 8 bank holidays (UK).

Apply Now