Bitcoin in Singapore
Today, a look at what’s going on with bitcoin in Singapore, a tiny Southeast Asian island city-state which boasts the world’s fourth-biggest financial centre, third highest per-capita income and (arguably) best regulatory jurisdiction for bitcoin startups. Only 5.5 million people live in Singapore, but its high ranks in education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness make it an interesting case study for how bitcoin might impact developed economies in Asian. Antony Lewis, a Director at itBit Bitcoin Exchange in Singapore breaks down the opportunity.
“Bitcoin in Singapore” | Antony Lewis, Director, itBit Bitcoin Exchange
In 2014 there were major advancements in the use, regulation and development of bitcoin and related technologies worldwide. In Asia, Singapore played a particularly significant role in this progress, and its citizens and businesses continue to be in the vanguard of the digital currency industry. Bitcoin in Singapore has benefited from a combination of community enthusiasm, entrepreneurial innovation, and regulatory restraint.
It all started in December 2013, when the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank and financial regulator, suggested in an email to Coin of Sale, a brick-and-mortar point of sale software provider, that it would not regulate the acceptance of bitcoin by businesses. MAS called participation in such transactions a commercial decision in which the Authority should not intervene. Then in January, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) became one of the first regulatory bodies in the world to make a determination on how digital currencies should be taxed. The IRAS ruled that individuals who made money through bitcoin investments, would be taxed at the current zero percent capital gains tax rate. Digital currency transactions involving real money or services, such as buying and selling bitcoins with dollars or paying for services with bitcoins, would qualify for GST (Goods & Services Tax), but there would be no such tax on “virtual world” transactions (e.g. in-game currencies).
In March, Singapore became one of the first countries to take an official regulatory stance on digital currencies. MAS announced its plans to regulate digital currency intermediaries operating in Singapore in order to ward off money laundering schemes or terrorism financing that leveraged the anonymity of digital currencies, and indicated that intermediaries who bought, sold or facilitated the exchange of digital currencies for other currencies would be required to verify customers’ identities as well as to report any suspicious transactions to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office. However, MAS did not consider bitcoin or other digital currencies to be securities or legal tender, and as such bitcoin avoided regulation under Singapore’s Securities and Futures Act or Financial Advisers Act.
Regulatory clarity has propelled Singapore to the forefront of the digital currency industry.Temasek Holdings, a government-owned Singapore investment company, even ran a bitcoin experiment, wherein four hundred employees at the company, “from driver to board member,” learned how to use digital currency for charitable donations. As a result of this commitment to innovation, other venture capitalists from across the globe have taken notice.
Our company itBit raised a total of $5.5m in funding in 2013. In March, GoCoin (incorporated in Singapore), a payments processor that facilitates online businesses to accept bitcoin, litecoin and dogecoin, closed a $1.5 million Series A financing. BitX, which provides bitcoin products and services including wallets, exchanges, merchant integration and APIs to consumers, businesses and developers, announced in August it had raised USD $800,000 in seed funding from investors in New York, Palo Alto and London. That same month, Boost VC, a Silicon Valley bitcoin accelerator company, announced it had selected Singapore-based bitcoin exchange and wallet service CoinHako as its first Asian investment, which also included a six-figure personal investment from venture capitalist Tim Draper. And two months later, Coinpip, a cryptocurrency payment gateway for international contractors and freelancers, was selected to join 500 Startups.
Other ventures might soon join those funded ranks as well. In September, CRXzone became the first Singaporean exchange to offer both bitcoin and litecoin trading in Singapore. Point of sale technology from Coin of Sale converts retail prices into bitcoin for brick and mortar stores and is being used in a number of different countries today. And Singapore now has at least eight operational bitcoin vending machines, the first of which was manufactured, installed and operated by Singapore company Tembusu Terminals. Numoni, a mobile airtime vending machine manufacturer, Bitcoin Exchange which installed the popular Lamassu bitcoin vending machine in shopping malls, and Coin Republic, which launched Singapore’s first bitcoin kiosk capable of “cashing out” or disbursing banknotes in exchange for bitcoins have also entered the bitcoin ATM scene locally.
Trade associations and bitcoin educators are also thriving. In May, a group of Singaporean bitcoin businesses officially formed a trade association, the Association of Cryptocurrency Enterprises and Start-ups, Singapore (ACCESS), which aims to promote Singapore as one of the premiere bitcoin business locales in through education and dialogue with the government. Singapore Management University, as part of its commercial law program, offered a seminar in November on the regulation of digital currencies as well as a seminar series focused on the technical aspects of the cryptocurrency. And in addition to March’s Coin Congress, which featured many global digital currency experts and enthusiasts, Bitcoin also made its debut at Asia’s largest tech conference,Echelon, which featured a panel on Bitcoin as a disruptive technology.
Not a bad start for a country less than 2% as populous as the United States! Here’s to a prosperous 2015 for digital currencies in Singapore and abroad!
The MIT E-Lab is a well established (20+ year) program that helps startups by matching them with MIT & Harvard business school students for a semester. The E-Lab is now looking for cryptocurrency related startups at various stages, so apply if you think this could help your efforts. (You don’t need to be local, but a c-level exec has to be in Cambridge frequently.) To apply, or for more info on E-Lab visit http://elab.mit.edu/.
Inside Bitcoins Conference and Expo — Berlin (Mar. 5–6), and New York (Apr. 27–29)
Inside Bitcoins is the largest bitcoin and blockchain technology focused event series worldwide. At each event you’ll hear about the latest challenges, trends, and opportunities in the industry from experts including Chris Odom, Co-Founder and CTO, Monetas; Marshall Swatt, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, Coinsetter; Dan Morehead, Founder & CEO, Pantera Capital Management; Gil Luria, Managing Director, Wedbush Securities; and more.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Bitnet, San Francisco, Belfast, London (VC-backed)
-Leading digital commerce platform & former Visa team.
-Open positions: Engineering (Customer Success, Lead UI, Product, DevOps), Sales Director (EMEA), Sales Engineer (San Francisco)
-Check out Bitnet (https://bitnet.io/careers.html) and email email@example.com
Coinbase, San Francisco (VC-backed)
-Largest “universal services” bitcoin company.
-Open positions: Security Engineer, Software Engineer (2–3 years mobile product development), Regulatory Compliance Investigator, (1 year conducting SAR investigations)
-Check out Coinbase (https://www.coinbase.com/careers/)
BitGo, Palo Alto (VC-backed)
-The leading Bitcoin multi-sig security company
-Open positions: Back-end / Front-End / iOS / Security Engineers, UX Designer
-Check out BitGo (www.bitgoinc.com/jobs) and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolt, San Francisco (VC-backed)
-Stealth startup focused on consumer applications of Bitcoin.
-Open positions: Security Engineer, Ruby Engineer, UI/UX Designer, Executive Assistant.
-Check out Bolt (bolt.com) and email email@example.com.
Elliptic, London (VC-backed)
-Vault and enterprise digital currency services.
-Open positions: Data Scientists and Front-end developers.
-Learn more and apply at elliptic.workable.com
Today’s Tid Bits
Hong Kong’s MyCoin Disappears With Up to $387 Million, Reports Claim
MyCoin, a Hong Kong based bitcoin exchange, has shut down, taking with it possibly as much as HK$3bn ($386.9m) in investor funds. If true, this would be an incredible amount, considering bitcoin’s entire market cap today stands at around USD$3bn. Some customers suspect MyCoin was operating a ponzi scheme. The victims of the company’s actions are expected to make a statement to the Hong Kong police on Wednesday.
Inside the Chinese Bitcoin Mine That’s Making $1.5M a Month
Motherboard gained access to a massive Bitcoin mine located in a repurposed factory in the Liaonin Province in rural northeast China. The mine is one of six sites owned by a group of four people, who run a mining operation that cumulatively generated 4,050 bitcoins a month, and grosses around $1.5 million. The mines represent 3% of the entire Bitcoin network. A video of the mine can be found in the link above, but the details of the operation’s ASIC miners or who supply them is not revealed.
New BitLicense Draft Draws Half-Welcome from Bitcoin Reps
The updated BitLicense, released last Wednesday, appears to have lived up to Benjamin Lawsky’s promise. The new draft includes an exemption from having to obtain a license for software developers that aren’t directly engaged in money transmission, and it also offers a softer regulatory touch for small startups. However, most bitcoin leaders believe the draft still has a long way to go.
Andreas Antonopoulous: “Give Bitcoin Two Years”
Andreas Antonopoulous spoke at the Bitcoin & the Blockchain Summit in San Francisco last week, emphasizing it’s underlying technology, praising it’s dumb, transaction-processing network saying that this type of network supports smart devices, pushing all of the intelligence to the edge. Andreas went on to say that if 2014 is the “worst year in bitcoin,” which saw $500 million in investment generating tens of thousands of jobs were going to be all right. Andreas finished with a prediction that in two years, bitcoin will be taking off.
New Jersey State Legislature Holds Hearing on Digital Currencies
The Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee of the State of New Jersey is holding a public hearing on bitcoin and digital currency today. The committee has invited select guests to testify to the applications, consumer protection risks and concerns, advantages and current US regulatory schemes related to digital currency use. The lineup of speakers includes attorney and Blockchain global policy counsel, Marco Santori, itBit CEO Charles Cascarilla, and Tera Exchange co-founders Christian Martin and Leonard Nuara.
Ex-Credit Suisse CEO: Invest in Gold and Bitcoin Long-Term, Not Fiat
Oswald Gruebel, ex-CEO of UBS and Credit Suisse, has openly criticized the inability of banks to prevent economic crises, while championing gold and Bitcoin as credible long-term investment opportunities. Gruebel believes that bank’s weaknesses would continue to have an increasing detrimental effect on the global economy. No supporting evidence has been released to indicate Gruebel’s openness towards Bitcoin’s propagation domestically or internationally.
Payments Processor ChainPay Launches to Challenge Coinbase, BitPay
ChainPay, an Isle of Man-based bitcoin payment processor, has launched in the hopes of competing with BitPay and Coinbase. ChainPay takes 1% of every transaction and offers bitcoin exchange rates from Kraken of Bitstamp. ChainPay currently has banking relationships set up, according to James Carter, ChainPay’s co-founder, but would not release the name of the bank.
Diamond Circle Suspends Operations Amid Cash Crisis
Diamond Circle, an Australian bitcoin hardware manufacturer, has suspended operations citing a lack of capital. The company, which launched Australia’s first cashless ATM last year, is looking for a buyer for the majority of its services. The wallet service is expected to be permanently suspended in the next few days. The company is currently considering buyers, but specifics could not be revealed at his time.
The Race to Replace Bitcoin: ‘Bad Blood’ Between Ripple and Stellar Aires in Tell-All Report
Yesterday, The New York Observer published a 15,000-word story that takes a detailed look at the “bad blood” between the decentralized payment networks, Ripple Labs and Stellar. The story between the two, penned by Michael Craig, “Has everything: sex, huge money, fraud, genius, betrayal, international intrigue and government raids.” Jed McCaleb, the founder of defunct bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, Ripple Labs and Stellar, and Stellar executive director Joyce Kim take the brunt of the article’s burns. The story also reports that Wells Fargo had assembled a task force compromising 20 of its “top executives and advisors” that was aimed at finding a way to be the first bank to embrace cryptocurrency, but it fell apart. Craig also covers the fallout of a deal that involved Stripe purchasing Ripple Labs for $13m in cash.
Irish University to Explore ‘Bitcoin Credit-Checks’
A group of computer science students and professors from Trinity College Dublin are working on Bitcoin related projects that aim to tackle and reduce fraud, by combing the blockchain in search of patterns. The group is looking in to “bitcoin credit-checks,” which would allow businesses to peek at a database to check for credit, or other information. Overall, the group wants to enhance Bitcoin transparency.
bitLanders to be a Sponsor of the 2015 New York Open Judo Team Championship
bitLanders, a digital platform whose user base earns Bitcoin for creating, engaging and sharing visual content, will once again be a sponsor of the New York Open Judo Team Championship on Sunday, March 29, 2015. The New York Athletic Club will host the event and the award for the event will be the bitLanders Bitcoin Judo Cup.
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