Continuing our series of articles on the 1inch team’s key members, we’re introducing co-founder and CTO Anton Bukov.
Anton’s first introduction to crypto happened around 2014–2015 when was tasked with programming a spatial arbitrage bot for an exchange. That was his first ever exposure to blockchain technology. The bot came along fine, but it turned out it was unable to make any money as there was a constant price difference between two exchanges, preventing any arbitrage trade.
Anton soon forgot about his first array into the blockchain space and didn’t come back for another couple of years.
He learned to program at an age of 12, taking evening university classes for schoolkids. “For the first three to four months, we just wrote code in our notebooks, and I had no idea what we were doing,” Anton admits. “Only when I got a chance to run the first program on a computer, was I able to make sense of it all.”
At the time, Anton didn’t yet have a computer at home. But when he got one, it wasn’t powerful enough to play games. “That might be one of the main reasons why I used it for programming rather than gaming,” Anton says jokingly. “With a Celeron 300 MHz processor, you could hardly play even Counter-Strike.”
Anton took further programming classes in Turbo Pascal and C++ in a high school specialized in math and computer science and subsequently studied cryptography at university.
Upon graduation, he worked as a C++/C#/SQL developer for about five years before switching to iOS development for another five-year stint.
Anton’s path crossed with blockchain again around 2017 when he was surprised to see that the value of ETH tokens on exchanges had increased substantially and what used to be worth $30 was now worth about $3,000.
In his second coming to the blockchain space, Anton was more interested in smart contracts. In August 2017, he participated in a hackathon in Kazan that featured Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. At the hackathon, Anton wrote what he says ‘was probably the most complicated smart contract in his career until present days’, and that further sparked his interests in smart contracts. Later this project/dApp was launched under 1Address naming.
“While iOS attracted me by its developer experience, what captivated me in smart contract development was the high quality of code,” Anton recalls. “Normally, when you develop a project, you never have time to perfect the code. Once you’ve written a piece of code, you don’t have a chance to come back and try to improve it. Basically, when you develop a product, your focus is on the product rather than on code. Conversely, when it comes to smart contracts, code is the king. Here, your main focus is on code, making sure it’s as efficient as possible. Moreover, once the code has been written, it is reviewed by auditors who could make suggestions for design and optimization.”
Interest in smart contracts brought Anton to a couple of crypto startups, including one called MultiToken, but none of them really took off. At roughly the same time, Anton was introduced by a mutual friend to Sergej Kunz, future CEO and co-founder of 1inch. Initially, they chatted online, and later Anton became a co-host of Sergej’s Russian-language YouTube channel CryptoManiacs, focused on live security audits of smart contracts.
“At that time, many people in Russia had no idea on how smart contracts worked, and they were sure that smart contracts were totally secure and stealing users’ money was out of the question,” Anton says. “They didn’t understand that if a smart contract’s source code wasn’t available, nothing could be guaranteed. So, we started approaching projects and requesting their source code for audits. Eventually, we uncovered various bugs and backdoors in the code.”
As Anton and Sergej later learned, some aspiring developers used their video streams as tutorials for writing their first smart contracts.
Soon enough, the two developers took their collaboration to a new level and started participating in hackathons as the CryptoManiacs team. At hackathons, Anton and Sergej met some of the developers who went on to make up 1inch’s core team. In about a year, they took part in more than a dozen of hackathons all over the world, building exciting solutions, having fun, gathering awards and networking.
“Some of the projects that we created at hackathons would still work today, if you try to use them,” Anton says. “They were all self-sustainable dApps, containing a web frontend and a smart contract.”
Things came to a climax in New York in May 2019 when Sergej and Anton created a DEX aggregator solution — basically, an MVP for the future 1inch protocol. Ironically, it turned out to be one of the least successful hackathons for the two developers in terms of awards.
“Normally, we win several nominations, with prize money basically covering tickets and hotel,” Anton recalls. “But at that one, we only won a minor, ridiculous prize.”
However, in the wake of the hackathon, Anton and Sergej kept improving the solution developed in New York.
Before 1inch turned into a full-time project, Anton did some work for the NEAR protocol, designing and developing what later became a decentralized bridge between the Ethereum and NEAR blockchains — ETH-NEAR Rainbow Bridge.
Anton also contributed to the Synthetix derivatives liquidity protocol, doing gas optimization for the project’s smart contracts. Synthetix was among the pioneers of yield farming — something that gave a real boost to the entire DeFi space in 2020. Anton was also responsible for Synthetix’ smart contract that proportionally and transparently distributes rewards to yield farming participants. Incidentally, that smart contract was later used by other major players in the DeFi industry.
“It was a pleasure to be part of it,” Anton underlines.
Meanwhile, as 1inch was gaining momentum, Anton’s full focus shifted to the project, which has been his main occupation since May 2020.