Singapore put on a fantastic week of activities (and perhaps a little bit more with the Formula 1 Grand Prix the week before). My top four takeaways from the Singapore Blockchain Week 2018 are:
Crypto funds are growing in numbers, but still leaving a little cash on the sidelines.
There was an amazing presence of funds at the expo. Most surprising to me were the Chinese based family offices, who are often talked about, but little information is known about them. I was able to speak to a few groups and identified many similarities between them.
Most have been involved in Blockchain technology for years. Many were involved in the early mining operations and this is where the bulk of their investment funds have come from. They have seen the impressive profits in seed funding and want to become involved.
They believe in the long-term acceptance of Blockchain technologies but are waiting for the right time (or project) before going all in. Many are holding off until 2019 for a new start.
There is a small group of industries they are interested in. Many commented they were focused on where blockchain and life intersect. Key areas discussed included green technology, gaming platforms and infrastructure for the next generation of projects.
While AI and IoT are still areas of interest, there is concern about an over saturation of projects that will splinter the sector. Many investors were looking for consolidation, collaboration or standardisation of these types of projects.
The smaller Chinese funds, in particular, were a little embarrassed about the reputation some of the more considerable Chinese funds were gaining. With reports that some of the more considerable funds were hurting their own investments to benefit other third-party relationships elsewhere. Some even confirmed they were more likely to avoid a project if they saw certain large funds had invested already.
The king is dead (ICOs), long live the king (STOs)
There was a notable buzz surrounding the number of projects electing to run an STO in the coming months. Overall, this is giving investors renewed confidence and projects added legitimacy.
Many projects would almost whisper that they were looking to seek funds through an ICO setup. They were almost embarrassed by this and recognised the value of an STO. Some even commented they were using the current ‘bear market’ to restructure and restart their fundraising efforts to be compliant with STO regulations.
Lawyers. Lawyers everywhere.
Related to the point above - there was a distinct presence of lawyers at the expo. Some had exhibitions, some were on panels for discussions, and many just walked around and talked to the projects (and funds) doing the same.
There were some great discussions about how to regulate a decentralised market. Some argued for self-regulation, while others wanted an independent third-party organisation created to monitor the industry. Funnily enough, not many were keen on governmental or banking based regulation (despite this being the most likely outcome).
Crypto is attracting more and more legal minds, which is both good and bad. It shows a maturing market, offering more assurances and protection to both the investor and the project alike. I also fear that this is coming at a cost to projects, both concerning seed money going into their pockets, as well as a migration from the raw tech-heavy pitch decks to more flashy and overly polished business focused adverts.
Singapore is genuinely a Fin-Tech paradise.
Outside of the expo itself, I was amazed at the number of side events, discussions, presentations and parties that popped up. It was great to be able to attend a small bar-like venue and listen to passionate young people get enthusiastic about their project, or a project they had seen previously.
Overall, many projects (blockchain or not) had positive things to say about the environment that the local regulations has created, allowing them to launch their ideas. While many international projects talk about basing their operations out of other countries for legal, regulatory and taxation benefits, many of the local projects I spoke with were only interested in launching in Singapore.