- DeFi Pulse is a site that tracks the growth of the decentralized finance industry.
- 1inch Exchange is a DeFi exchange aggregator with over $2 billion in locked value. It isn't listed on DeFi Pulse.
- Here's what happened.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect communications between DeFi Pulse and 1Inch.
DeFi Pulse, the go-to website for metrics on decentralized finance projects, does not accurately measure the size of the industry. But there’s a reason for that.
1inch Exchange, a decentralized exchange aggregator that holds almost $2 billion in value, doesn’t appear on DeFi Pulse, which ranks top DeFi projects by how much money they hold. A lively spat between the two founders explains why.
Since early 2019, 1inch’s founder, Sergej Kunz, has alleged that DeFi Pulse slammed the door on it, stole its code to build a competing project, and launched cybersecurity attacks against it. DeFi Pulse founder Scott Lewis says that isn’t true, and that Kunz threatened to beat him up and has caused him and his team nothing but grief.
While the fight continues, Lewis and his team refuse to work with Kunz—they’ll only work with 1inch’s community.
And until a member of its community steps up to the plate, 1inch won’t be listed on DeFi Pulse, meaning that DeFi Pulse’s top line—total value locked up in the decentralized finance industry (the amount of money flowing through these products)—doesn’t reflect the true value of crypto locked up in DeFi protocols.
The unresolved feud tugs at a very human dilemma: how can open-source, decentralized finance thrive when its progenitors are at each other's throats?
A non-custodial battle
1inch Exchange is a decentralized exchange aggregator co-founded by Sergej Kunz and Anton Bukov in 2019. It reroutes trades across different DeFi projects and decentralized exchanges (DEXes) to get the best price.
1inch is part of the good ship decentralized finance, the loosely connected industry of community-led, non-custodial exchanges, synthetic derivatives and lending protocols.
These protocols have grown from around $600 million in combined value at the start of 2020 to more than $40 billion today.
In early 2019, 1inch Founder Sergej Kunz called foul play. He alleged that DeFi Pulse Founder Scott Lewis stole code from 1inch and used it to power his own competitor, DEX AG. Lewis, in turn, denies this.
Around the same time, Kunz and his team fended off a denial-of-service attack. They traced the attack to Toronto, the Canadian city where DeFi Pulse’s CTO lived at the time, and threatened to ask the police to settle the matter.
The threats scared DeFi Pulse’s CTO (who did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment), which Kunz took as evidence that he was behind the attack. Could it all be a coincidence? “Could be, maybe, yeah, I don’t know,” he said. 1inch never took it to the police: “A waste of time.”
Then, when squaring off against Lewis on Telegram, Kunz invited Lewis to “get into the cage”—Kunz’s natural habitat: “I have [a] brown belt [in] karate and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,” he told us. In the cage, Lewis “will not have a change [sic] to escape,” wrote Kunz on Telegram. Kunz clarified to us that this was “a joke, because I guess no one would come.”
Still, Lewis took this as a physical threat and, by this point, had had enough. He vowed never to speak to Kunz again and muted 1inch from his life. “Not going to ask our team to risk getting treated like that again,” he said.
Kunz said Lewis refused his handshake at ETHDenver, a yearly conference held in Denver, Colorado, that hosts Ethereum developers from around the world. “I'm not trying to be friends with these people,” Lewis told us.
Meanwhile, Kunz remains open to working with Lewis on the listing, even though he thinks that Lewis is “toxic.”
Lewis said that DeFi Pulse has always been up for listing 1inch, but only if Kunz finds a community member or backer or "anyone without a history of negative interactions with the DeFi Pulse team" to maintain the listing. He said that his team had invited 1inch to kick off this process, but that Bekov, 1inch's other co-founder, didn't respond to “a couple emails about getting started.” Bekov said that DeFi Pulse wanted him to add backlinks, something he wasn't prepared to do, that he missed a couple of emails, and is currently preparing some data for the team.
Stuck at the crossroads
DeFi Pulse’s blanket ban on all things Kunz poses several problems.
Most obviously, how is DeFi Pulse’s total value locked figure supposed to be an authoritative source if its founder prefers some projects over others? But perhaps more importantly: Isn’t this the kind of collective action DeFi was supposed to solve?
“They love to fight with each other which is kind of sad since DeFi is also about human composability. I think they need to put their swords down and focus on building,” said Stani Kulechov, founder of decentralized lending protocol Aave, which is listed on DeFi Pulse and integrated with 1inch.
Critics of Lewis’s decision say that his company should accept 1inch’s olive branch and work with the founders; to blacklist the founders is akin to censorship, hypocritical given the open-source ethic on which decentralized finance prides itself.
Lewis gets their point. “We build a website that lists DeFi protocols; it should be on there,” he said. But due to the way DeFi Pulse is set up, he said, projects listed on DeFi Pulse have to collaborate with 1inch’s founders on an ongoing basis.
Since he won't work with Kunz, Lewis said that 1inch’s only chance is to get one of their community members or backers to act as a maintainer on his behalf. Yearn.finance and Swerve Finance rely on their community to maintain their DeFi Pulse listing, he said. One coder, Kirill Kuznetsov, who previously wrote an adapter for 1inch, posted a proposal to list 1inch on DeFi's Github page. Nassim Ghorayeb, who handles DeFi Pulse's business development, responded that his team would "would love to list 1inch" and invited him to progress the application. Should the listing go ahead, Kunz would remain banned.
“We would love to work with everyone because we want to grow the space,” said Kunz. And improving the space is only possible if we work together, he said.
Lewis disagrees: “Do we have to be friends just because we're building in this space?”