What Went Wrong at Sushi? Unpacking the DeFi Project’s Woes


Key Takeaways

Joseph Delong has left Sushi following internal conflict with other developers.
The news comes amid a wave of controversies and several months after co-founder 0xMaki stepped down from a leadership role to an advisory role.
Sushi has historically been controversial but is still regarded as one of the most notable DeFi projects.

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Sushi CTO Joseph Delong has resigned from the project after reports of internal conflict. Delong’s resignation is the latest turn of events for the highly controversial project.

Sushi CTO Resigns

The Sushi saga has encountered another twist.

The DeFi project’s CTO, Joseph Delong, posted a resignation notice on Twitter on Dec. 8, stating that his departure would be “effective immediately.”

Though Delong said that he would look back on the project positively, he went on to say that he is “saddened that Sushi is so imperiled within and without.” He expressed fears that Sushi’s issues will not be resolved by remaining team members, and that the project will become a shadow of what it once was.

Delong urged the project to bring in outside management and to be “wary of any self-proclaimed leaders” from within the group. He noted that he will transfer accounts and information to future leaders as necessary.

Unlike past departures, it does not appear that Delong will maintain any relationship with Sushi. Following a vacation, Delong plans to begin work on a new unnamed project.

Delong’s Ongoing Complaints

Delong’s resignation follows a prolonged period of infighting within the project.

On Dec. 5, Delong said that there had been “a lot of drama within Sushi” and manipulation from outside the project, stating that the “absurd defamation has risen to a level I can’t tolerate.”

Specifically, Delong drew attention to complaints from BoringCrypto, otherwise known as 0xM3rlin, and the departure of core team developer Mudit Gupta as issues that heightened the conflict. Various other developers, including 0xKeno and LevX, have reportedly left Sushi’s core development team as well.

BoringCrypto specifically expressed dissatisfaction with Delong’s development skills and leadership, suggesting that his main achievement was promoting the project by “shit-posting on Twitter.”

Delong responded to those complaints by saying that his role was misunderstood. He went on to explain that he joined Sushi as CTO at the request of co-founder 0xMaki to help reform the project—a task that would have involved the creation of a legal entity in order to sign business contracts and open bank accounts. Such a move would have brought Sushi in line with the operation model of projects like Uniswap, which is operated by Uniswap Labs. Now, with Delong’s departure, it is unclear whether such an entity will be created.

Prior to Delong quitting the project, some members of the Sushi community were calling for Sushi’s Product Manager Rachel Chu to be fired from the project. She kept her job, while AG, who oversaw Business Development, was let go “for a continued pattern of behaviour that made for a toxic workplace.”

Amid the internal disputes, Rekt published an investigation featuring several accusations concerning the project’s core team. An anonymous source alleged that an allocation of tokens from MISO’s BitDAO sale was unevenly distributed between members of the team. It’s also alleged that a core member of the team used funds from the Sushi treasury to day trade.

Currently, a restructure to Sushi’s DAO is under consideration, which could rearrange individual leadership roles and reform the way in which the project is administered.

0xMaki Unlikely to Return

In September 2021, Sushi co-founder 0xMaki stepped down from leadership in the project to take on an advisory role.

Though 0xMaki supposedly left his role out of choice, leaked screenshots of a Telegram chat suggest that Delong and others voted for 0xMaki to leave the project’s core team in favor of the advisory position. 10 of 11 votes were in favor of 0xMaki leaving the team. The reasons for 0xMaki’s departure were never clarified to the public.

Now, some members of the community are petitioning for 0xMaki to return as Sushi’s leader. One Twitter poll has received 85% support for 0xMaki’s return, with one commenter noting that this would be “this would be the best redemption [arc] ever.”

Ultimately, 0xMaki’s return seems unlikely. He told The Defiant that he would not return to the project beyond his advisory role.

Sushi’s Controversial History

The recent leadership controversies are not the first time that Sushi has been on unstable ground. Indeed, the project has been plagued by issues since its inception.

Sushi founder Chef Nomi was at the center of one of the project’s earliest controversies. Weeks after its launch in August 2020, Chef Nomi took $14 million worth of ETH in an attempted rug pull. Though Chef Nomi returned those funds, he soon resigned before the end of September 2020.

Sushi’s initial launch was also the subject of controversy in its own right. The project was largely based on the code and features of Ethereum’s best known decentralized exchange, Uniswap. Sushi’s strategy involved incentivizing users to deposit Uniswap tokens on SushiSwap to gain more rewards—a tactic known as a “vampire attack.”

Despite its numerous controversies, Sushi remains one of the most notable and most active DeFi platforms in operation. It’s among the most liquid DeFi projects and has expanded to several networks since launching on Ethereum. Data from DeFi Pulse says that it holds about $3.59 billion in its smart contracts at press time.

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this author held less than $100 of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and altcoins.

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