Open-source funding platform Gitcoin is in the eye of the storm after announcing a new year-long partnership with fossil fuel giant Shell.
Thanks to blockchain’s ability to “solve intricate coordination issues,” reads a press release on the partnership, the technology could be “particularly suited to the energy industry” and its aims to move to renewable energy. Notably, Shell is making a hefty donation to Gitcoin’s Grant Program and sponsoring a hackathon in the fourth quarter of this year.
Shell did not immediately respond to Decrypt‘s request for comment.
“The good thing is that Gitcoin only makes each mistake once,” said Gitcoin co-founder Kevin Owokci in a Twitter thread addressing the collaboration. According to him, the amount donated by Shell is $500,000, a sum he considers a “pittance, especially if you look at Shell’s contribution to the climate crisis and the brand damage to Gitcoin is immense.”
At the center of the controversy is “greenwashing,” a form of advertising where a company uses deceptive marketing to persuade the public that its products, goals, or policies are environmentally friendly. Lefteris Karapetsas, an Ethereum developer and founder of Rotkiapp, tweeted “this feels a lot like helping Shell do greenwashing.”
Others were even more ruthless.
“This partnership goes against Ethereum’s values, ethos, and principles,” said Anthony Sassano, an independent Ethereum educator. “To use a crude analogy, this would be like the U.S partnering with North Korea.”
Gitcoin’s executive director Kyle Weiss also issued an explanation on Twitter today, outlining the myriad reasons he “redlined the fuck out” of the contract with Shell. From demanding KYC data from organizations and grantees of the round to even clawing back donations,” Weiss said, though, that “we, (me and the team) fucked up.”
Some folks have been asking me “How could you allow the Shell deal to go through?” I want to offer a bit of context here.
This was a deal that was put “on my desk” to merely review and sign as Shell needed a legal counterparty (the job I often play). The Public Goods Funding…
— Kyle | Gitcoin | kbw.eth 🟢 (@kbw) August 16, 2023
Gitcoin is an open-source crowdfunding platform primarily directed at developers but has also been used to generate funds for non-crypto objectives too.
Joseph Schiarrizi, one of Gitcoin’s first contributors, told Decrypt that he “assumes it was a genuine well-meaning attempt to raise money for environmental goals, despite the obvious hypocrisy of accepting help from them.”
He ran developer relations for Gitcoin in 2018, and called the collaboration “a trap.”
Owocki added that “greenwashing is just not okay,” adding that it was probably “ill-advised to put Gitcoin’s brand next to Shell’s on the main handle.”
Gitcoin later notified that “the funding in this round is optional” and that grantees needn’t accept this money. Weiss confirmed that “more than 80 of the 100 projects in the round opted in to receive the funding.”
Schiarrizi also told Decrypt that if “Gitcoin leaders still have the integrity I hope they do then they will pull the plug on it soon.”
The crux of the matter, nevertheless, is the sometimes painful yet necessary funding of open source and “public good” projects.
As Owocki concluded: “What matters most is getting $$$ to public goods projects.”