By Andrew Work | There were those who thought computers would be a niche product for elite research only, and the Internet nothing more than chatrooms for socially maladjusted geeks. And so it is with blockchain.
People focused on Bitcoin’s rollercoaster valuation ride are completely missing the point. It’s like discussing the merits of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s marvellous flying machine when jet fighters are blasting through the sound barrier.
Hong Kong is ground zero for the global movement to use this technology. Worldly nomads with no fixed address move from event to event and research lab to coworking space developing contacts, technology and people.
Hong Kong is, in many ways, the perfect place for a corporate HQ for this movement. The same free-market, low-tax business environment and central position in Asia work for these businesses like all others with low fixed assets. However, Hong Kong’s blockchain ecosystem puts it out in front of other development centres.
As always, finance is a big part of why Hong Kong works for both traditional and ICO style fundraising. Asia’s financial capital is seeing more and more blockchain focussed funds being created at all levels. Young heads of family offices understand the technology and are choosing to invest in both companies directly and through ICOs. Big 4 firms like PwC China are working with traditional companies so they can raise funds using ICOs, like Kodak did in January. VCs and PE firms abound and are gearing up to invest in blockchain projects and cryptoassets alike.
If companies want to go the ICO route, Hong Kong is an option. Regulators have taken the position that if an ICO is structured like a security, it needs to comply with the Securities and Futures Commission. There is a huge market for ICOs and cryptocurrencies in next door China, but its exchanges have been shut down and ICOs banned.
Hong Kong, as always, is China’s financial window to the world for those in the market. “Hong Kong is by default benefiting from China’s ban on ICOs and cryptocurrencies,” says Juwan Lee, NexChange CEO and Co-founder of the Blockchain Centre of Hong Kong.
Lee is one of the three Founders of the new Blockchain Centre of Hong Kong. It aims to be an industrial sandbox for blockchain, a technological space for developers to experiment and collaborate in a safe environment before solutions are turned loose on the Internet and the public. It is part of the bigger ecosystem that includes major business technology centres like Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park that drive cooperative innovation.
Players gather at events like the upcoming Block O2O Blockchain Summit being held at PMQ on May 8 in Hong Kong to expand their understanding of the sector, meet with the best in the world and forge alliances with like-minded deal makers. The organizer, ‘ecosystem as a service’ provider NexChange, is gathering technological and business pioneers.
Many are developing solutions to specific consumer needs (like The Bee Token’s next gen AirBnB on blockchain), and creating the infrastructure needed to develop the sector.
Others, like Nick Spanos, are developing tools for others to build blockchain solutions using the software components needed to develop smart contracts and decentralized apps (called Dapps). He founded the Bitcoin Center in New York in 2013, but his company now is like a blockchain software Taobao, Amazon and eBay all in one.
As investors and inventors move forward to the next (and next and next) generation of blockchain, they will build out the technology that will allow the promise of AI and the Internet of Things to be delivered. If Bitcoin was the beginning, business in Hong Kong is blasting through to a blockchain future at supersonic speeds.
About The Author
Andrew Work is the Head Content Strategist, Asia Pacific at NexChange – the innovation ecosystem as a service, specialising in FinTech, InsurTech, blockchain, AI and HealthTech. Andrew directs NexChange’s Asia-Pacific journalists and crafts the content for events like the upcoming Block O2O Blockchain Summit and FinTech O2O Global Summit 2018.