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Stani Kulechov is the founder and CEO of Aave, a decentralized peer-to-peer lending platform launched first on Ethereum and now available on several different blockchains. Originally released under the name ETHLend in 2017, it was one of the first widely used decentralized finance (DeFi) applications.
Who is Stani Kulechov?

Aave allows users to participate as suppliers or borrowers. Borrowers get instant loans of cryptocurrency using other crypto they own as collateral while suppliers lend out their crypto and earn rewards. The transactions are executed automatically by smart contracts.

Kulechov is a thought leader and investor in the DeFi space, giving frequent interviews and speaking at conferences. He is an active seed investor and mentor, providing both funds and advice to numerous DeFi projects.

He was named on Cointelegraph’s Top 100 for the past three years and CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2021.

Personal history

Kulechov was born and raised in Finland. His father bought a computer for him and his brother to share in the early days of the internet. Kulechov became an avid gamer and was fascinated by the global connectivity that came from the gaming community.

The brothers also started experimenting with the Linux operating system. By age 12, Kulechov was building web pages using the PHP scripting language. As the internet and social media grew in popularity, he moved on to learn Ruby on Rails, a web-application framework that Twitter was originally built upon.

He notes that growing up in Finland provided him with a lot of opportunities as well as time to explore his hobbies. At age 15, he dropped out of high school for a year to work on coding and built an experimentational application for users to buy how-to guides online. He then returned to high school to finish his degree.

Kulechov noticed the e-commerce, global markets, and crowdfunding sector expanding and wanted to explore the intersection of finance and technology. Enticed by the legal aspect of finance, he went to the University of Helsinki, eventually earning a master’s in law in 2020. He wrote his thesis on using tech to make commercial agreements more efficient.

Role in the cryptocurrency community

While at university, Kulechov discovered Ethereum and was drawn by the prospect of decentralized finance (DeFi).

He was particularly keen in building programs that contained a legal agreements that could enforce themselves through smart contracts, bridging his interests in technology, finance, and law.


Kulechov thought that if users can exchange value on-chain, then they should be able to perform other tasks, such as borrowing funds using assets as collateral. The idea spurred him to create ETHLend in 2017 in the very early days of DeFi applications. A few months later, Kulechov raised $16.2 million in an initial coin offering (ICO).

The project later rebranded to Aave, which is the Finnish word for “ghost” and was deployed on the Ethereum network in January 2020.

Using smart contracts, Aave lets users lend, borrow, and earn interest on cryptocurrency assets without involving a bank or middleman. Described as a non-custodial liquidity market protocol, suppliers supply funds to a liquidity pool to earn rewards, while borrowers draw from the pools to take out a loan.

Aave tokens

Aave launched its own governance token, AAVE, in October 2020. Like many governance tokens, Aave is also traded as a financial asset whose worth was tied to speculation about the value of its protocol.

The company also deployed a native stablecoin, GHO, in February 2023.

Twitter suspension

Kulechov was temporarily suspended from Twitter days after Elon Musk’s acquisition for sending tweets joking that he would become the interim CEO. The ban garnered significant publicity and spurred a heated debate on free speech in social media networks.

Kulechov took the opportunity to highlight the potential of decentralized social networks that allow users more control and less censorship and are run by independent servers rather than a centralized entity.

Lens Protocol

A few weeks after his Twitter suspension, Aave released The Lens Protocol, a Web3 social media platform built on the Polygon network. The protocol allows developers to create decentralized social media networks where users own their data.

Kulechov said that Aave and Lens share the same mission: “We believe that the ownership of content and profiles should belong to you in the way that DeFi belongs to you.”

The project received an investment from FTX Ventures, the venture capital arm of the FTX crypto exchange, prior to the exchange’s collapse in November 2022.  The sum of the investment was never disclosed.

Investments and thought leadership

Kulechov is an active investor in the DeFi space, providing capital to dozens of projects. He has backed Lido, a DeFi and staking protocol; Maple, an Australian finance firm with a token-governed platform; Slingshot, a crypto swapping protocol; Swivel, another yield-generating DeFi protocol; and PoolTogether, a crypto savings protocol, among others.

Stani Kulechov essentials

  • Kulechov is the founder and CEO of Aave, a peer-to-peer lending platform and one of the first widely used DeFi applications.
  • After being banned from Twitter, Kulechov emphasized the importance of decentralized social media and released the Lens Protocol.
  • He is an active investor and advisor to dozens of DeFi projects.

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