Leadership debates on the SushiSwap have erupted again after CTO Joseph Delong asked for more autonomy and a pay raise for core devs.
SushiSwap already changed hands several times
The second largest general-purpose DEX on Ethereum originated from a Uniswap fork. SushiSwap was one of the earliest users of liquidity mining, which was used in an aggressive manner to persuade Uniswap users to migrate their LP tokens to SushiSwap. This led some in the DeFi industry to coin the term “vampiric mining”.
In September 2020, the anonymous SushiSwap founder Chef Nomi was ousted after selling off a share of the development fund worth 14 million USD. Control over the DEX went to a consortium of known crypto figureheads led by FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, which ultimately appointed co-founder 0xMaki as the project lead. About a year later, 0xMaki stepped down from this position, but announced to remain in an advisor role.
Was 0xMaki secretly sacked?
In June 2021, internal screenshots were leaked, which suggested that 0xMaki’s departure was a forced decision, orchestrated by SushiSwap’s lead devs. Since he was on a 3-year contract and could not be fired, he was given an advisory role instead.
Other devs who were fired recently revealed that what used to be a showcase project for community-driven development is now in the hands of just five core team members, who have assumed full control over hiring and firing.
Sushi is failing sadly. hope bad actors can be called out n removed
When you started to lose faith in one project, you will never want to work for it
Things have changed. Sushi is no longer a community-driven project but JORKN’s *company*
Joseph, Omakase, Rachel, Keno, Nori
— AG (@AGdyor) November 25, 2021
“JOKR” accused of embezzlement and misconduct
The lead team consisting of Joseph Delong, Omakase, 0xKeno, and Rachel Chu, known by their acronym JOKR, also drew criticism after drawing on the dev fund for expensive dinners and event tickets.
This was ultimately topped when JOKR paid out bonuses originating from the BitDAO token sale to core team members, heavily favoring themselves in the distribution. Half of the funds were supposed to be airdropped to token holders, but were never paid out.
On December 5, Joseph Delong published a Twitter thread, calling the accusations an “absurd defamation”. He threatened to step down as CTO, unless the core team members would be given more autonomy and a higher salary.
I am not very well compensated for the job I am doing. I received a payment of $300k in Sushi for my work for this year and that ends on January 7th, 2022. That may seem like a lot but I took a pay cut leaving Dapper Labs to come work on Sushi because it seemed exciting.
— Joseph Delong 🔱 (@josephdelong) December 5, 2021
Of course it can be debated whether $300,000 is an appropriate salary for the CTO of a 750 million USD DAO. But being accused of embezzlement is hardly an appropriate time to ask for even greater power and a pay raise.
This was ultimately the last straw for the SushiSwap community, who is now discussing a governance proposal for asking Delong to step down. At the time of writing, polls are 82% in favor. Another proposal calls for Rachel Chu, who is deemed responsible for the BitDAO incident, to be fired:
Rachel Chu must be removed for taking the Bit Dao money worth 600k without consulting us or her team members. […] Rachel must be fired and the Bit Dao money returned to the community. Rachel acted illegally and breach of her duty as business development person for Sushi.
Taking back control
At the present, the SushiSwap community is debating how to move on from here. One proposal asks for a formal explanation by the core team about several issues including the BitDAO incident and 0xMaki’s departure.
There are multiple proposals to restructure the SushiSwap DAO. One of the most likely candidates seeks to create a set of product teams, with operations being overseen by a community selected council. So far, all 73 poll votes for this proposal have been cast in favor unanimously. Another proposal seeks to elect a CEO for a six months term.