Osmosis co-founder Sunny Aggarwal on costumes, Cosmos, and the ‘Bitcoin renaissance’

by e_cash_top



Even if you’re not an avid ‘Cosmonaut,’ you’re probably familiar with Sunny Aggarwal, the co-founder of Osmosis Labs. With an infectious smile and upbeat personality, Sunny’s name is surprisingly apt. He’s the type of person whose deep intellect, quick wit, and unbridled passion light up the spaces around him.

We were scheduled to meet at Cosmos Dubai during Token2049 but life had other plans. The Cosmos side event wasn’t to be. Dubai was struck by the worst floods in 75 years, reducing the skyscraping desert metropolis to a lake and plunging entire neighborhoods underwater. “There’s always Cosmoverse in October,” Sunny smiles. “We can catch up in person then.”

The rise and rise of Osmosis

I was looking forward to seeing what outfit Sunny would wear; he has quite the collection, donning a spectrum of eye-popping costumes, from a 40lb suit of chainmail armor to a Byzantine General costume with a striking red-crested helmet. “Ah, I keep the cooler outfits for the bigger events like Cosmoverse or Osmocon,” he explains, “if I wore a new one for every event, my costume budget would get way too high,” he laughs. On the other side of the screen, from Sunny’s New York apartment, he looks decidedly more lowkey today.

As the Cosmos ecosystem’s largest decentralized exchange (DEX), Osmosis announced surpassing $32 billion in all-time trading volume that day. I ask how it feels to mastermind the most popular project in Cosmos and to reach such an impressive milestone.

“I think it said Osmosis DEX wanted to get to $40 billion, [in the tweet]” he replies, “but I’m waiting for $100 billion.”

Sunny is unashamedly ambitious. Did he always know Osmosis would be such a success? He ponders:

“The immediate traction it got when we launched was very surprising. Cosmos had a lot of high-value assets that weren’t listed on centralized exchanges, but we didn’t realize how big of a deal that would be.”

Growth hacking and the bumps along the road

It wasn’t all smooth sailing to get here. Sunny has been in the web3 industry since 2017. Like all battle-hardened OGs, he’s lived through his fair share of ups and downs — crypto crashes, bear markets, and all-out implosions like Terra (LUNA) and FTX. I ask the most stressful situation he’s experienced so far, and he pauses:

“I think I would have to say the Osmosis launch week. It was my first time launching a project and a company and a blockchain at once. There are a lot of last-mile things you don’t think about.”

Osmosis had publicly announced its launch date and, unlike the plethora of software projects that kick their launch dates down the road like the proverbial can, Sunny was adamant about not moving his. But as more and more last-mile items kept piling up, the launch date hung over the team’s head like a dark and brooding cloud.

“Osmosis went from idea to launch very quickly,” he says. “We went from development to launch in only three or four months and we procrastinated on a lot of important stuff until the last two weeks.”

Would he have done anything differently with the benefit of hindsight?

“I would have planned things further in advance. When you launch a project, there’s more than just the code. There’s a lot of operational stuff to consider and it takes longer than you think… I would have done all that a lot earlier.”

Osmosis launched with a team of six and, despite the scrappy start, now has 45 full-time employees:

“I like the size we’re at now,” he says. “We’re small enough that you still know everyone and can do full team offsite, but we’re big enough to pursue multiple unique product lines in parallel.”

How does he handle the stress of being at the forefront of an ever-evolving industry? By throwing himself out of planes. Sunny’s a fan of aviation and is learning how to fly a plane, and taking a skydiving course.

“I find it’s best to put yourself in a position where you can’t touch your phone, like flying a plane, or scuba diving,” (or hurtling toward the earth at 120 miles an hour). “Crypto markets aren’t volatile enough, I have to add more adrenaline,” he laughs.

Travel, idols, and a ‘liveness-favoring’ mind

Spending so much time in the air, Sunny also likes to travel, and if there’s one place closest to his heart, it’s Switzerland. He’s always been fascinated with the mountainous Alpine country and its rich history, culture, politics, and economy.

He even taught a class about Switzerland while studying at Berkeley. He wouldn’t want to live there, though, as it’s “just a little bit too boring.” Sunny prefers the frenetic pace of a city like New York or “being at the front seat of technological innovation” in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley. He also loves Berlin, where his co-founder lives, and has many friends. “It’s like a second home.”

Beyond continually improving Osmosis, helping other Cosmos ecosystem projects, and racking up his pilot miles, Sunny’s a keen reader. One of his biggest idols is Peter Thiel, whose writing and “way of thinking” greatly influenced Sunny’s worldview. Beyond Thiel’s Zero to One, he recommends the book Swarmwise by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Pirate Party political movement in Europe. The book speaks of how Falkvinge started a political party and turned it into a decentralized force through a concept called “swarms.”

He elaborates:

“In consensus protocols, you have this concept of safety-favoring and liveness-favoring protocols. In safety-favoring, you can never fork, you come to consensus on everything and then you make progress. Liveness-favoring protocols are constantly forking but they’re making fast progress, you don’t have to get the approval of the entire group to make a move… In the early stages of an organization where you’re focusing on growth, you need that liveness favoring so you don’t get bogged down in bureaucracy.”

A ‘Bitcoin maxi’ of a different ilk

As a self-declared “Bitcoin maxi,” Sunny does not doubt the original crypto being the best money for the world; but the glacial pace of development doesn’t gel with his need for constant innovation. That’s why he worked on Cosmos infrastructure in the first place, “building the appchain layer for Bitcoin.” What’s he most excited about right now?

“Definitely the Bitcoin renaissance. Ordinals changed everything, there’s been a cultural shift with all the Bitcoin L2s happening. I’m confident that we’ll have a good soft fork in the next year or two.”

Wouldn’t that be a detriment to the sound-money qualities and adoption of Bitcoin as an asset? “It’s the limitations of Bitcoin that have caused the need for so many other money-like assets, but now Bitcoin can scale to more people and do more functionalities, like bring in DeFi, privacy, social… there’s a lot of stuff we can do on top of Bitcoin now.”

What would Sunny be doing if he didn’t spend his time disrupting traditional finance? “Hardware.” Before working in crypto, Sunny studied robotics at school, and he’d like to return to his roots someday.

“There are different ideas I’ve had. I spent a lot of time thinking about smart guns, having firearms that are safer, with security systems, like fingerprint scanners so people can’t steal them.” He pauses, “I’m really interested in anything that has an important political impact. That’s why I got into crypto in the first place.”

If you want to catch up with Sunny, follow his personal Twitter or Osmosis account, or hop on over to his website for ideas and inspiration. You can also explore the forefront of DeFi trying out the Osmosis DEX.

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