Crypto report from Zipper’s Asia tour
You might think that Asia isn’t big when it comes to cryptos, especially after China banned ICOs in September, but you should think again. Asia, especially China, is very big in cryptos even if not so visible in Europe or the US. Here is a short report from Zipper’s Asia tour from 7th to 17th Dec. featuring Hong Kong, Beijing and Bangkok. I hope you find it insightful.
Hong Kong (8th Dec: ETH price 425 USD)
I was already boarding my Finnair flight AY 99 from Helsinki to Hong Kong when I noticed that there would be an Ethereum Meetup in Hong Kong just after my landing starring Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Typical for my travel planning, I’d missed this obviously must-go event in my hometown. Unfortunately, I made it to the Meetup 15 minutes late and couldn’t fit anymore in. Luckily, my colleague, Pasi Rusila (Zipper’ COO) was in time and managed to get in. He later told me the place was completely packed, as everyone wanted to hear what Vitalik’s latest thoughts. Pasi’s quick picks from Vitalik’s speech were: 1) it’s very early days of blockchain governance, good to keep watching and learning, 2) one token, one vote systems are not so solid and straightforward as they sound, 3) CryptoKitties are gonna take over the world. Vitalik’s presentation is also on Youtube:
While there are active Ethereum and bitcoin communities in Hong Kong, it’s not known to be a hot spot for ICOs. However, this might change soon. The local government agency InvestHK told us, when we visited them, that Hong Kong is taking a very friendly approach to ICOs and is welcoming token companies. Hong Kong financial regulators have not yet clearly defined their position on the definition of utility and security tokens, but its government is known for its laissez faire policy, and personally, I believe that Hong Kong is a good place for ICO companies. Many US based companies seem to share my views, as several of them are preparing to make their ICO in Hong Kong according to InvestHK.
Zipper is a Hong Kong-based company, mainly because many of us in the team have been Hong Kong based several years already. As long as the Hong Kong financial regulators are supportive to token-based companies, we believe that Hong Kong is a good place to be for Zipper.
(11th Dec: ETH price 453 USD)
Zipper’s CTO Carsten Munk also traveled to Hong Kong for our Zipper product planning meetings. Carsten, who is based in Warsaw, is perhaps one of the best mobile open source coders in the world (in my humble opinion). Among many other achievements, Carsten developed open source software called Libhybris, which allows various Linux distributors to work on different Android-based smartphone hardware. For example, Jolla, Ubuntu and WebOS are using the solution originally created by Carsten. He took a deep dive into blockchain and Ethereum two years ago, and he’s since been innovating new concepts and use cases on mobile blockchain.
One of Zipper’s advisors Teemu Päivinen also came to Hong Kong for our planning meeting. Teemu is helping us to tune Zipper’s token economics and governance, and with his contacts to VC investors. He is a bright young man with years of crypto experience — a true crypto native, as my friend said. Teemu is also a technology philosopher and has written a few interesting articles, which I recommend you to check out: Thin Protocols and Social Impact Coins.
Overall, our Hong Kong week was highly efficient and productive. Although teams can effectively work in a decentralised manner most of the time, it’s super important to get together frequently for bonding and brainstorming.
Off to Beijing (14th Dec: ETH price 721 USD)
My friend, Zipper advisor Matthew Graham, has been building Zipper’s network in China for a while now with his team at Sino Global Capital. Matthew has already organized a few Beer and Blockchain Meetups in Beijing and in October Zipper, Nebulas and SmartMesh introduced their projects to local blockchain enthuasts. This Beer and Blockchain Meetup was double the size of the earlier one and close to 100 people had come to listen what Zipper was up to.
Chinese blockchain projects are pretty deep tech and ambitious. Earlier, we’d already partnered with Nebulas, a decentralized search engine and framework project. On Saturday 16.12, Nebulas announced that they had reached their USD 60M hard cap. Nebulas was founded by Hitters Xu, one of the top 10 most influential blockchain people in China and a co-founder of NEO.
I had been following Nebulas’ token sales in their Telegram chat and seen the high activity and interest there. Their token sale succeeded very well, but the road was not an easy one. In August, they’d raised their pre-ICO successfully and were ready to launch their main sale, just before China announced its ICO ban. Nebulas had to return the pre-ICO money to the investors. Committed to build a blockchain search engine, Nebulas established the Singapore-based Nebulas foundation and kicked-started its token sales again in early December. Congratulations, Hitters and the team. Well done!
Prior to Nebulas, another Chinese-origin, Singapore-based blockchain project had successfully closed its token sales, SmartMesh, which is developing a mobile peer-to-peer communication network between smartphones. Its founder, Henry Wang, is a famous technology scientist in China, with two doctoral degrees from US universities in Physics and Computer Science. Smartmesh closed its token sales round in six days with 16mUSD in early December. We are looking forward to collaboration with SmartMesh, too. Zipper’s solution and SmartMesh together can make a pretty amazing new mobile world.
During the Beijing visit, we also met with Achain, which is a Chinese blockchain project building a blockchain solution for corporates. Achain is based on proof of stake and claims they can reach 1,000 transactions per second, a hundred times more than Ethereum. It will be interesting to see, what transaction speed Achain will in practice reach. Achain is definitely very valuable project to follow.
I think Nebulas, SmartMesh and Achain clearly prove the Chinese ICO agenda is very much alive, but it’s just moved outside of China, like many Chinese crypto exchanges. Huobi is now located in Singapore, and another big exchange, Binance, has moved its whole team to Tokyo. Time will tell if China made the right move by banning ICOs and exchanges. I personally think that China would have achieved more by introducing regulations and keeping the crypto play inside the country.
Bangkok, Thailand (16th Dec: ETH price 696USD)
During the Hong Kong week, we started receiving token pre-sale contributions from Thailand, and I became curious: who these people are and what kind of crypto currency community Thailand has?
To find out more, I started chatting with one of the contributors from Thailand. It turned out that he was from Bangkok and a host of a +30k Facebook ICO site. I proposed to him that I could fly directly from Beijing to Bangkok and we could have an extempore Zipper meetup on Saturday evening. Our Thai friend agreed to organise this, and off I went to purchase my Beijing-Bangkok flight.
This was not my first trip to Thailand, but it was my first one for business. I must say, I enjoyed the Thai hospitality and the well-working airport and taxi infrastructure. The taxi trip from my hotel to our meeting place took some 40 minutes. As the taxi driver didn’t know where to go, I had to take co-driver’s place and keep Google Maps on. After safely arriving at the meeting place, I found our Thai friends there. In total, there were eight people at the Meetup.
There was quite a big language barrier, but we agreed to proceed slowly, so everyone understood. I presented Zipper’s idea of building an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box smartphone experience for blockchain applications, starting from easy private key management. I used the same example I used in Beijing that, while the number of cryptocurrency users are increasing, it’s very difficult to explain to our mothers and fathers how to make payments with crypto currencies. Our claim is that, for crypto currencies and blockchain to go mainstream, they have to be easy to use. That’s what Zipper is about, making blockchain solutions on smartphones safe and easy.
After our very successful Meetup, we headed out together for dinner. I specifically requested that we would go to a restaurant with any original, very spicy Thai food. Clearly, my hosts were a bit worried to offer me too-spicy food, but I assured them I can eat anything. The dinner was excellent and spicy, and we got to discuss what is happening in the Thailand crypto scene. I understood that there are about 80,000 crypto currency HODLers in Thailand, most of them originating from mining activities. Thus far, the government has been quite positive with cryptos, but there have been some worrisome statements, and regulations most probably will be introduced.
Overall, Thailand’s crypto community left me with a very positive feeling, and it may well be that the country will have a strong future role as part of the crypto economy.
At Zipper, excited to build local Zipper communities into fast-developing markets in Asia. Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are all very prominent countries for Zipper blockchain smartphone solutions, as the peer-to-peer economy is most needed in emerging markets.
End of the story (19th Dec: ETH price 830USD)