Launched in 2017, Cardano is a smart contract blockchain platform being developed by IOHK (Input Output Hong Kong). The team claims that it is the first platform backed by peer-review and scientific study. The team shares its research with academics for rigorous testing prior to implementation. It is among multiple projects aiming to build a third generation of blockchain systems. It’s main goals are to create a scalable, interoperable, and sustainable blockchain ecosystem.
Cardano splits the protocol into 2 layers. The first layer is the Cardano Settlement Layer (CSL) with unit of account ADA and the second layer is the Cardano Computation Layer (CCL) for running smart contracts. The separation allows for easier upgrades and greater flexibility as the layers can progress independently of one another.
There are three entities behind Cardano. IOHK is a blockchain focused research and development company founded by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood (co-foundters of Ethereum). IOHK has been contracted to work on Cardano from 2015–2020. The IOHK team includes academics and experts in engineering, network design and cryptography fields. IOHK has also partnered with universities specializing in the technologies and concepts it is using to build Cardano.
The Cardano Foundation is a Swiss-based blockchain and crypto asset standards setting body that supports research and development in Cardano, community development, and collaborating with authorities on regulatory and commercial matters. Emurgo is a Japanese venture capital firm focused on blockchain applications supporting regulatory oversight. Emurgo is likely the entity funding IOHK.
Cardano raised ~$62 million in its token sale, which took place from September 2015 to January 2017 in four presale phases with heavy KYC requirements. It was marketed to Asian buyers (who were predominantly Japanese). To date, there are 26 million ADA tokens in circulation. The maximum supply is set at 45 million.