Nikkei Asia reported that the government of Vietnam has assigned its central bank in the R&D of its very own blockchain-based digital currency. The policy came forth in Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s Decision 942, which outlined the government’s approach to digitalizing the country with virtual currency based on blockchain technology by 2030.
According to Nikkei, Binh Nguyen Thanh, a coordinator at RMIT University Vietnam’s FinTech-Crypto Hub, said that the government authorities will have more control over the virtual money than having it be left to decentralized software and private enterprises. Thanh quoted, “I think they will look at how the experiment in other countries goes.” As back in October 2020 last year, Cambodia launched a state-backed digital coin called “Bakong,” while neighboring countries like Cina and Thailand are reported to have similar thoughts.
He further explained that in Vietnam, cryptocurrency is as it is, will remain in the grey area of an obscured regulation. Dabbling in bitcoin and applying it as a means of payment is a violation of the law and may be subjected to administrative or criminal sanctions.
Alibaba subsidiary, Alibaba Cloud announced its plans to invest USD $1billion across several Asia Pacific countries in developing a digital talent pool and empower the growth of 100,000 startups in the technological field. Current disclosed countries to be involved in the investment plans are Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore.
The investment strategy is part of Alibaba Cloud’s AsiaForward core project, DigiTalents Forward with a focus on infrastructure, technological innovation, and talent development to help in the economic growth of the local arena. AsiaForward has two more projects under its wing being AI Forward, and DigiEntrepreneurs Forward.
Alibaba will partner with Handsprofit, Malaysia in developing its very first international innovation centre in the country. This will become an opportunity for Malaysian startups, and SMEs a platform for innovation opportunities. The platform will be offering various cloud technology, leadership training, and venture capital networking.
The data centre investment in Indonesia will be the third launch by Alibaba Cloud that offers database, security, network, machine learning, and data analytics services. It is mentioned that the new centre allows better support for local businesses in adopting cloud technology and encourages Indonesia’s push for a digital community.
As for development in the Philippines, the first data centre is estimated to be launched by end of 2021. Similar to the development plans of Malaysia and Indonesia, it will be a huge support for the digitalization of local businesses through services such as elastic compute service, database, global network solution, content delivery network, and storage services. This establishes Alibaba Cloud’s stand on prioritizing the country’s banking, fintech, retail, logistics, education sectors, and others.
In Singapore, Alibaba Cloud plans a kick-off of the DigiTalents Forward program. This is said to be a collaboration with Singapore’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, and NTU-Alibaba Singapore Joint Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University. Programs will include the focus of various AI courses under NTU’s MiniMasters program.
China’s President Xi Jinping, speaking during a group study session for members of the Politburo last Thursday, said that the country “must clarify the main direction, increase investment, focus on a number of key core technologies, and accelerate the development of blockchain technology and industrial innovation”. Additionally, he stressed that blockchain would play “an important role in the next round of technological innovation and industrial transformation”.
While certain Chinese government officials have made comments and statements on blockchain in the past, Xi’s comments are likely the highest-profile public endorsement of blockchain technology for China to date. As it turns out, even as Xi called for more adoption of blockchain technologies in China, there are already hundreds of enterprise blockchain projects being developed in the country, led by some of China’s biggest industry players.
According to the Cyberspace Administration of China, which requires every entity developing blockchain technologies in the country to register with it for oversight, there were 309 such blockchain projects listed for the month of October alone. Some of the information gleaned from the list is that those currently involved in blockchain projects include some of China’s largest banks and commercial tech conglomerates, alongside many public sectors and government projects.
All four of China’s tech titans, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and Huawei, are competing to see which one would be able to develop and provide China’s most advanced blockchain cloud services. According to registration data, all four tech giants have filed blockchain white papers that detail information about their blockchain cloud services as infrastructure providers for third parties.
Alibaba has been particularly busy in the field of blockchain, having filed 90 patent applications for projects that are focused on blockchain-related technologies. Tencent has been developing its own range of blockchain services as well, having filed registrations for its Tencent Blockchain and Tencent Cloud TBaaS Blockchain. As for Chinese search engine Baidu, some of its projects that were registered on the list include Token, which makes use of blockchain to protect intellectual property rights, and Baidu Blockchain Engine which is a cloud services provider. Baidu has also registered and patented its Super Chain, which is focused on providing foundational infrastructure for blockchain services.
On the trade finance and banking side, six banks including ICBC and Ping An Bank have registered a total of 14 blockchain projects. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which is one of China’s big four state-owned commercial banks and the largest bank in the world by total assets, has registered two blockchain projects: ICBC Financial Services and ICBCXi Blockchain Service, which are projects aimed at improving and facilitating transactions for its clients and customers. Ping An Bank has adopted FiMax, a blockchain network, to improve security and privacy and increase efficiency in transactions and supply chain financing.
The Chinese government is also applying blockchain technologies to a variety of services, such as tax collection, matters of legal arbitration and land development use cases. Blockchain is innovating the legal landscape in China with the introduction of Internet courts. These courts are authorized to deal with a number of internet-related cases such as small loan contract disputes, online intellectual property disputes, and online financing, with all legal processes being conducted online. Both the Beijing and Guangzhou Internet Courts have registered their respective blockchain-based platforms. Some other examples of blockchain projects being utilized by the government sector include Cross-Border Transactions Platform for the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and Blockchain Electronic Invoice for the State Administration of Taxation Shenzhen branch.
Looking forward the number of blockchain projects to be developed and implemented in China is only going to grow at a tremendous rate. Blockchain technologies will play an important and crucial role in China’s industrial and technological innovation and transformation.
When you think of the startup scene in Southeast Asia, you might think of regional leaders like Singapore and Indonesia which are home to six of eight unicorns.
However, a country in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is quickly following suit. Home to over 95 million people, the country is one of the region’s fastest-growing economies with an average GDP of US$68.78 billion from 1985 until 2017.
In fact, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Vietnam’s startup sector is growing at a rapid pace despite a global economic slump, and quickly closing its gap with the regional leaders.
The vibrant startup landscape can be attributed to the support fuelled by the government and accelerators as they aggressively promote entrepreneurship through legal and financial support. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, the country sees 39,580 startups entering the ecosystem.
And according to the joint research by Singapore’s Cento Ventures and Ho Chi Minh city-based venture capital ESP Capital, the first six months of 2019 has recorded the country’s startup investment to reach US$246 million this year through 56 deals.
Investment is also forecasted to exceed US$800 million by the end of the year, which would represent a rise of at least 80% over last year’s US$444 million.
When tracking the investments based on the destination country, Vietnam accounted for 17% of startup investments in the region, increasing 5% for all of 2018, behind Indonesia at 48% and Singapore at 25%.
As a matter of fact, the startup investment in Vietnam began to increase last year, with the online retail, payments and education sectors attracting huge capital injections.
Among startups that raised the lion’s share of funding last year was e-payment app Momo, which raised about US$100 million from American private equity company Warburg Pincus, making it one of the largest single rounds ever raised by a Vietnamese startup.
Other up-and-coming startups in Vietnam like ecommerce platform Tiki has also secured a large injection of funding. Based on ESP-Cento, the round raised US$75 million in March and was led by Singapore private equity firm Northstar Group.
Then, of course, there’s its home-grown unicorn VNG Corporation, which specializes in digital content, online entertainment, social networking, and ecommerce. The startup behind Zal, a communication application with more than 100 million, also recorded a US$29 million investment from Temasek.
Looking at these statistics and moving trends, it seems like Vietnam is in the bare minimum cash-ready and the bet of various investors as the region’s next leading startup ecosystem.
Hurun Research Institute, the firm which creates China’s wealthiest individual lists has released its country-wide unicorn index for the first quarter of 2019 on May 7.
The new report titled “Hurun Greater China Unicorn Index 2019 Q1” mentions that China added 21 new unicorns in the first quarter, that is twice as many unicorns as in Q4 2018.
Among these 21 new unicorns, fashion clothing ecommerce Shein, apartment management platform Danke Apartment, IoT solutions provider Tuya Smart, autonomous driving startup Pony.ai, and media company XinChao are leading with over US$10 billion valuations.
The report also notes that the unicorns mostly derived from both AI and logistics fields, such as autonomous driving startup Pony.ai and B2B logistics startup Lalamove.
Hurun, the Chairman and Chief Investigator of the institution noted that “the number of unicorns in China has surprising exceeded 200, which is almost ten times that of India. At this time, China should be the first place in the world in terms of the number of unicorns.”
Of course, this wouldn’t have been so successful without capital funding from investors. In terms of unicorns breeders, Sequoia Capital has been the most successful with 53 unicorns in its portfolio. This is followed by Tencent and IDG, with each having invested in 31 and 25 unicorns respectively.
In terms of exits, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Nasdaq board have also witnessed the most listings of China’s unicorns in the first quarter of this year.
A total of five unicorns listed successfully on the list, including Maoyan Entertainment, Futu Securities, CStone Pharmaceuticals, Tiger Broker, and Weimob.
The biggest news after all, is that China now has a total of 202 unicorns. Among the startups, the total valuation of internet services companies topped the list with over 1.6 trillion yuan (about US$232 billion).
From the 202 Chinese unicorns, 42 are involved in the internet services sector, including ecommerce giant Alibaba’s Ant Financial with a US$1+ trillion valuation, Bytendance with a US$500+ billion valuation, and Didi with US$300+ billion valuation.
But aside from the Unicorn Index, the startup has also published its first Hurun China Future Unicorns 2019 Q1 listing another 70 high-growth enterprises from emerging industries.
These seventy potential unicorns are most likely to be valued at US$1 billion in the next three years, with 66 percent of the startups coming from Beijing and Shanghai.
In 2018, Hurun reported that a new unicorn was minted approximately every 3.8 days in China, making for a total of 97 new startups worth US$1 billion.
Though everything is looking to be on a good start with the results from the Q1 2019 report, Hurun said not to be overly optimistic as he estimates that 20% of current unicorns could eventually fail.
Also, Hurun’s methods of calculating unicorns aren’t exactly undisputed. By contrast, China Money Network’s calculations noted the number of new unicorns in 2018 at just 25.
A March Credit Suisse report also warned that despite the prominence of tech unicorns in China, the percent of firms in advanced fields including AI, big data, and robotics still well lagged behind US figures.