Singapore is Shaping Up to Become the Blockchain Center of the WorldNovember 19, 2016    By : Elena Mesropyan
Singapore is one of the gems of the global financial services industry ecosystem with ~200 banks with total assets of $2 trillion having operational headquarters in Singapore. Global financial institutions like Mastercard, UBS, DBS Bank, OCBC, Wells Fargo and Citigroup are launching (or have already launched) their innovation labs and accelerators in Singapore along with significant investments in the ecosystem.
Global financial services companies have their Asian satellites operating from Singapore including AmEx, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and numerous other international financial organizations. For a better understanding of the Singaporean FinTech industry, we previously have looked at some examples of FinTech startups, investors, accelerators and conferences taking place in Singapore, which have built an outstanding ecosystem by innovative solutions and opportunities.
A particular part of the ecosystem, however, deserves a special attention. Not only is Singapore known for its conductive business-friendly environment with extremely supportive government, but also for hosting some of the most interesting blockchain companies playing a vital role in global blockchain ecosystem.
In addition, Singapore recently has been under the spotlight for a series of blockchain-related events in the financial and tech world.
At the end of October, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) signed a FinTech Cooperation Agreement to promote innovation in financial services in their respective markets. Under the agreement, MAS and GoAP will explore joint innovation projects on technologies such as digital payments and blockchain, and collaborate on the development of education programs/curricula on FinTech. MAS and GoAP also agreed to discuss emerging FinTech trends and exchange views on regulatory issues related to innovations in financial services.
At the beginning of November, Senjō Group, a privately held investment firm, unveiled its new global headquarters in Singapore. The leading financial technology investor has leased the entire 56th floor of One Raffles Place in Singapore’s Central Business District. Established in 2015, Senjō Group was first set up as a holding company for a portfolio of payments and financial technology companies with operations spanning Asia, Europe, North America and Africa.
As Yoshio Tomiie, Head of Commerce at Senjō Group, commented in the official press release, “Singapore has established an enviable position as a leading Asian financial technology center with an exciting innovation ecosystem, a great talent pool and fantastic infrastructure. It also boasts a business-friendly environment so it was therefore an obvious winner when considering locations for new headquarters for our global operations.”
Just last Tuesday, financial innovation firm R3 has collaborated with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to launch its first dedicated distributed ledger technology (DLT) Center of Excellence in Asia as it continues to expand its presence in the region. The R3 Asia Lab will host a dedicated R&D center as well as a physical Center of Excellence to accommodate visiting specialist DLT technologists, innovators and business leaders. The lab will be established at Lattice80 in the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore and will have a number of senior staff members supported by a team of business and technology experts, including those seconded from member firms, academic interns and local technologists.
This Monday, during the Singapore FinTech Festival, IBM announced a blockchain project with Singapore FinTech startup KYCK! to help enable financial services providers to more rapidly onboard their customers in a secure environment. This and other KYC projects like it using IBM Blockchain can hold the promise to help reduce the time and expense required to onboard a new client.
Earlier, at the end of October, IBM also announced that it is working with Singapore startup FreshTurf in the Singapore location of its IBM Bluemix Garage network. Using IBM Cloud and Blockchain technologies, FreshTurf has been working with IBM Bluemix Garage developers and designers to build a distributed ledger platform prototype specifically designed to manage commercial transactions between merchants, logistic vendors, locker companies and consumers. This locker ledger network is designed to help improve the “last mile” of delivery services for consumers and businesses, or the final leg of a package’s journey to a customer’s home.
IBM Bluemix Garage serves as a hub where developers, product managers and designers can come together to build on Bluemix. The Singapore Bluemix Garage is one of the latest in IBM’s global network, which also includes locations in San Francisco, London, Toronto, Nice and Tokyo.
This Tuesday, OCBC Bank has become the first bank in Southeast Asia to use blockchain technology in its local and cross-border payment funds transfer services. The use of a payment blockchain solution will see increased efficiency, transparency and security as well as lower costs and a better customer experience. A successful pilot payment transaction between the bank and its subsidiaries, OCBC Malaysia and Bank of Singapore, was conducted on 8th of November 2016, using a payment blockchain solution jointly designed by OCBC Bank and local banking payment solutions company BCS Information Systems (BCSIS).
Blockchain startup ecosystem in Singapore
The blockchain startup community in Singapore is quite diverse and includes companies offering solutions for compliance and security, payments, enterprise-grade solutions, ID, trading, real estate, infrastructure, etc. Let’s look at some of those companies and products they built:
Acronis sets the standard for hybrid cloud data protection through its backup, disaster recovery, and secure file sync and share solutions. Powered by the Acronis AnyData Engine, Acronis delivers easy, complete and affordable data protection of all files, applications and operating systems across any environment – virtual, physical, cloud and mobile. Founded in 2003, Acronis protects the data of over 5 million consumers and 500,000 businesses in over 145 countries. With more than 100 patents, Acronis products cover a range of features, including migration, cloning and replication.
AgriLedger is a mobile application using distributed crypto ledger technology to provide farmers and cooperatives a way for secure record keeping. The app can help farmers plan distribution, prevent waste and know where the market is for their goods. AgriLedger was a part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) FinTech Hackcelerator.
Attores is a distributed app platform which provides Blockchain-Smart-Contracts-as-a-Service. Smart contracts are computer protocols that enforce the terms or performances of a given financial agreement.
BitX provides wallets for people to securely store their bitcoin, exchanges for people to buy and sell bitcoin, and merchant integration so that businesses can accept bitcoin.
Blockchain Foundry allows organizations in Asia to swiftly design, deploy and operate distributed ledgers. Startups and enterprises can also test-drive and build atop select pre-deployed blockchain applications. From a digital asset exchange to distributed content storage, organizations can experience the potential of blockchain technology first hand before taking the plunge with their own experiments.
CoinGecko is a data visualization and analytics company that collects all the data required to quantitatively and qualitatively rank the potential of an altcoin. The company also benchmarks the coins based on proprietary algorithm to determine how valuable a coin is compared to its peers.
CoinHako is a bitcoin wallet service for consumers to buy, sell and secure their bitcoins. Originally founded in Silicon Valley, the company is based in Singapore as its goal is to serve Asia.
CoinPip is a B2B blockchain-based payment service for businesses, helping them make cheaper and faster payments to vendors, suppliers and remote workers.
Coinut offers exchange-traded bitcoin options for users to make profit or hedge risk in both bullish or bearish markets. Coinut exchange is owned by COINUT Pte. Ltd., a Singapore company, backed by BoostVC and Bitmain.
Digital Billions is a technology company that helps corporations rocket ahead, innovate and be competitive. It has four arms: blockchain technology, venture capital investment, digital marketing and consulting. The company offers a range of products and solutions for solving trade finance, digital identities including KYC, digital wallets, digital signatures, asset exchanges and data integrity.
DigixGlobal has developed a system of proving asset existence and ownership on the blockchain. Every step of the way, records of proof are published permanently using Ethereum and IPFS.
Dragonfly Fintech is a Singapore-incorporated blockchain platform solution provider for a financial ecosystem, including for the payment, clearing, and settlement sector. The founder is Lon Wong, a serial technopreneur, and inventor of a patent-pending FinTech business method. Lon Wong is a core team member of the open source NEM blockchain technology project initiative.
DX Markets integrates blockchain technology into enterprise-based financial processes, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. The company supports the finance function to embed disruptive technology into its business cycle, increasing operating margins and generating new revenue streams.
GoCoin is a full-service payment processing provider. The company’s main focus is bitcoin processing, but it is constantly looking for new currencies or payment methods and integrates them without any hassle for participating merchants. GoCoin lets customers pay with the currencies they want to use, and pay out their merchants in the currencies they use to pay their bills.
Keychain provides a decentralized authentication platform that allows clients to solve concrete business problems related to authentication and access control in a way that enhances and integrates cleanly into existing systems and processes. Seamless integration, instead of replacement, is a key advantage to achieving wide adoption of this powerful innovation.
KYC-chain is a novel platform built over the convenience and security of blockchain and smart contracts technology, allowing banks and financial institutions to manage KYC data in a reliable and easy manner. KYC-Chain provides consensus on identity of individuals at the highest level of trust, bringing a new level of ease and simplicity to the process of onboarding new customers for businesses and financial institutions, while securing the verification of compliance standards.
Magnr (former BTC.sx) is offering bitcoin saving accounts with an interest rate. Magnr Savings accounts are a unique investment product. The blockchain public ledger is used to calculate daily interest and allows savers to independently and publicly verify deposited funds. Simply deposit your bitcoin to earn daily interest without any daily management and fees. Magnr Trading clients pay interest to borrow bitcoins for short term positions. As a result of this, the company is able to provide interest earnings to savers.
Nickel is a blockchain-powered mobile remittance app that enables migrants workers to send money to their family members. Using the mobile app, Nickel is working to build a system to help the region’s SMEs facilitate foreign exchange payments efficiently and at a low FX rate.
OTDocs reduces errors, bottlenecks and fraud risks in trade finance by creating digital, non-repudiable, original documents, and complementing paper originals with unique digital copies. Both digital-paper and paper-digital pairs have full lifecycle and audit trail. By using private blockchains, participants remain in control of all data and access rights instead of relying on a third party.
Otonomos is platform to maintain a blockchain-chartered company, in which to hold the shares in the same way as owning bitcoins in a digital wallet. It makes the company shares to be coded onto the blockchain and transferable with the same ease as making a bitcoin payment.
Quantified Assets is a Singapore-based private investment company offering tailored education and services for saving and trading in physical precious metals and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Among some of the platforms the company has in Singapore are bitcoin brokerage, bitcoin ATM, bitcoin bill payment platform, blockchain solutions, bitcoin POS, etc.
REIDAO is a real estate investment DAO. Based on the DAO model, real estates can be put up for sale in the form of DAO tokens, where token owners will vote on strategic issues regarding the real estate. With the rising prices of real estates it limits the ability of individual investor with limited fund to invest in a real estate. The company aims to solve this and opens up the market to everyone with the interest of investing in real estates. Participants are promised to be able to own a piece of real estate ownership with as little as $150.
Ripple Singapore is a Ripple gateway that uses the Ripple network to acquire, store and convert precious metals into any currency.
Tembusu Systems Pte Ltd. develops TRUST framework that is a high-tech global infrastructure that lets verified individuals transfer and manage assets instantly and securely. The company offers TRUST, a distributed blockchain technology for exchange and personal asset management that allows people to use it for various purposes, including a cryptocurrency, a shopper rewards program, an in-game economy, and anything that needs a record-keeping system. It provides its solution for businesses, governments, and people. Tembusu Systems Pte Ltd. was formerly known as Tembusu Terminals Pte Ltd. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Singapore.
Toast offers P2P money transfer service using blockchain technology. Money is instantly sent to anyone anywhere without using a bank for less than 0.5% and supports USD/SGD/HKD/THB/BTC via its P2P digital wallet app and Visa debit card.
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