From just about every aspect of the blockchain and cryptocurrency world, Southeast Asia is making serious strides. From giant exchanges with record trading volumes to new ICO projects and mining companies and to globally renowned data providers, the blockchain revolution seems to have lit an entrepreneurial spark in this region.
ICOs are mushrooming every day, governments are announcing blockchain pilot and research projects and regulators are increasingly making pronouncements related to the sector.
MALCOLM TAN: “The ICO space is increasing, with ICO investments exceeding US$1bil per month since December 2017.”
Says Malcolm Tan, a corporate lawyer turned ICO advisor based out of Singapore: “Regulators in the region have been busy, with the Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean and Vietnamese governments, among others, coming up with announcements recently and rolling out new regulations in the near future. This will be very helpful in giving clarity to the growing crypto industry in this region, just like how Japanese regulations vaulted the Japanese crypto trading to the top of the world’s volume overnight.”
He adds, “The ICO space is increasing, with ICO investments exceeding US$1bil per month since December 2017. In fact, if the Dragon coin and Telegram sales can be counted as ICOs instead of pure private sales, the market cap for ICOs exceeded US$2bil in January and February this year, beating all previous records”.
ALEX MEDANA: “Some countries in Asia are looking at issuing their own crypto-currencies, China being one but I am more interested where the future lies that is in real-assets tokenisation.”
Alex Medana, top Hong Kong fintech influencer and board member of the Hong Kong Fintech Association notes that while there is still regulatory uncertainty around cryptocurrencies in Asia, he does foresee “these assets will move from being “FX like” and OTC towards more of an equity on-exchange type.”
“Some countries in Asia are looking at issuing their own crypto-currencies, China being one but I am more interested where the future lies that is in real-assets tokenisation.”
He adds, “Blockchain is here to stay and one of the main drivers towards its mass adoption is the creation of smart cities.
He adds though that there are challenges. For one, enterprise grade blockchain solutions are still in their infancy. His advice to participants in the sector — find or foster the right talent pool, deliver meaningful change away from tech gimmicks, use and play with the right technology, scale steadily and securely, don’t being shy of the unknowns and failures that are inevitable with nascent technology, find the right partners and create sustainable funding sources.
“There will be a lot of tears and blood on the dancefloor but that doesn’t mean we can’t get to try and create new ways to do business,” he says.
Notably, blockchain ideas surfacing in the region seem to be capitalising on the strengths of each individual market.
Consider Singapore for example. Building on its financial hub status, with the presence of huge amounts of liquidity thanks to the presence of global funds, it is becoming a global ICO hub. Going by recent reports, Singapore ranks the third behind the US and Switzerland as the largest ICO markets globally. Some industry experts estimate that there are at least 50 live ICOs based out of Singapore.
Ravi Menon the MD of Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) says that the current nature and scale of cryptocurrency activities in Singapore “do not pose a significant risk to financial stability”. But Menon added that MAS is prepared that the situation could change. Speaking at the Money 20/20 Asia conference held in Marina Bay Sands Expo, Menon also said this: “Some of the best minds in the field are applying their creative energies to make cryptotokens mainstream,” and noted the trend that a newer generation of cryptocurrencies are emerging – which are targeted at addressing issues and challenges related to transaction time, energy costs and money laundering risks. He also gave his version of the good, bad and ugly of the cryptoworld.
In Malaysia’s case, the entrepreneurial flair emanating is clear. Recall that Malaysia has spun off notable tech entrepreneurs in recent times, such as Anthony Tan of Grab, Tony Fernandes of AirAsia and Patrick Grove of Catcha Group. Tan’s Grab is already launching financial services but in the case of AirAsia, its founder Fernandes told the media on the sidelines of Money2020 in Singapore that the group is analyzing the potential to hold an ICO that would raise money by introducing its own cryptocurrency.
According to sources, there are at least 12 ICOs in the pipeline in Malaysia and besides AirAsia, the backers of such ICO include notable corporations such as MyEG and the Naza group.
NEM, a now famous cryptocurrency especially after the CoinCheck hack, also has a Malaysian flair. The president of its foundation is Lon Wong, a Malaysian and the company is also building a blockchain training centre in Kuala Lumpur. NEM remains the thirteenth largest cryptocurrency going by its marketcap of US$2.7bil. Notably, Malaysia is also home to two big names in the crypto world. These are wallet tracking website Etherscan and Coingecko, a cryptocurrency ranking website.
Read also our reports on Thailand and Indonesia.