Adams Defies a Rough Year to Make Uniswap a True Unicorn
With Deals in the Payments and NFT Sectors Uniswap Flexed as Other Crypto Projects Ducked
By: Aleksandar Gilbert •DeFi 2022
By his own admission, Hayden Adams didn’t really know what he was doing.
In 2017, Adams, then a 23-year-old native of the suburbs of New York, had been laid off from his job as an engineer at Siemens. He wanted to learn how to code. But he barely understood the intricacies of blockchain technology. So Adams decided the best way to do this would be the hard way — writing an application from scratch.
No. 1 Exchange
Fast forward five years and that application, Uniswap, has become the No. 1 decentralized crypto exchange and raised almost $200M for a $1.7B valuation, making it a unicorn, one of only seven crypto companies to achieve that status. Its backers include a16z and Polychain.
In 2022, Uniswap’s own venture capital arm made a foray into NFTs and announced a partnership with crypto payments processor MoonPay that has the potential to bring DeFi to the masses.
More than anything, Adams has defied the FUD running roughshod across the market and maintained Uniswap’s mojo. That’s why Adams is The Defiant’s 2022 Founder of the Year.
Through the madness of 2022, Uniswap’s user base has proven loyal. Although the market cap of the crypto market plunged 60% in 2022, the number of people using Uniswap has only fallen by a third, according to data from The Defiant’s Terminal.
Adams was also doing deals when other founders ran for cover. Not happy about remaining an exchange for fungible ERC-20 tokens, it acquired NFT aggregator Genie in June and then retired the brand to make room for a new, Uniswap-branded aggregator.
Genie founder Scott Gray, now the head of NFT product at Uniswap, told The Defiant he agreed to the acquisition after Adams sold him on the vision to create“the marketplace for all digital assets.”
“I didn’t really think much about that just because we were pretty set on raising money,” he said. “And then we had a call with Hayden [Adams, Uniswap founder], and I think that’s when everything clicked.”
Hayden Adams, Defiant Founder of the Year
True to the open and permissionless principles that animate the crypto and DeFi world, Uniswap has published the code behind the NFT marketplace’s interface as well as the smart contract running the marketplace itself.
“Anyone can contribute; anyone can fork [and] compete with us on the interface and the smart contract,” Gray said. “We’re the first major NFT marketplace that has an open source front end.”
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In December, Uniswap announced its integration with crypto payments provider MoonPay, giving people direct access to decentralized finance.
The arrangement enables Uniswap users to purchase assets using debit card, credit card, or bank transfers. Users will have to submit to MoonPay’s know-your-customer and anti-money laundering checks to use the service.
In an announcement, Uniswap said the deal will remove “a major barrier to DeFi adoption.”
That’s not all: In November, it introduced two new, open-source smart contracts to reduce transaction costs and improve user experience. In May, a study from a pair of researchers affiliated with Uniswap — in other words, a study that should be taken with a grain of salt — found that certain asset pairs on Uniswap have greater liquidity than they do on leading centralized exchanges.
And Adams himself entered a Twitter spat with crypto influencer Adam Cochran. Cochran had criticized a proposed Ethereum upgrade supported by Uniswap; Adams, in turn, called the influencer a “hack” who “spreads misinformation,” ad-hominem criticism that prompted finger-wagging from some prominent names in Ethereum.
The fact remains: Uniswap has established itself as the cornerstone of the decentralized financial ecosystem but isn’t about to slow down. It has innovated this year, and shared its code for all to use. Perhaps most importantly, it is making DeFi more accessible than ever.
On Nov. 2, 2018, Adams tweeted: “Excited to announce the launch of @UniswapExchange! It’s a protocol for automated exchange of ERC20 tokens on Ethereum.”
This year, someone responded to the four-year-old tweet.