Bitspark is a bankless money transfer company that helps you convert cash to cryptocurrency, globally.
It’s an exciting time for crypto traders and innovators and if you’re in Asia, you’re arguably in one of the most exciting regions. Contrary to the conventional asset market, when it comes to crypto it is not the West, but Asia that exerts the dominant influence.
In the context of mining, for example, despite China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies and despite further restrictive regulations that loom on the horizon, Asia still hosts the most and some of the largest crypto mining farms in the world.
Furthermore, places like Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are among the top global hotspots for trade and crypto ventures. In fact, across the entire region a fierce race seems to be gathering pace to attract more investment and come out on top as the number 1 hub for crypto worldwide.
Let’s have a look at what’s happening in Asia around crypto and some of the top companies worth following.
For now, Japan is still ahead of the game. It features one of the world’s most progressive regulatory climates, recognises bitcoin and other digital currencies as legal property and is the world’s biggest market for bitcoin.
Although offering a favourable environment for exchanges, following last year’s hack of Coincheck, which saw a staggering $530 million disappear into thin air, there is a rising public demand for investor protections pushing the government to consider tightening regulations.
Already boasting two decades of experience in trading digital goods related to gaming and in spite of its government’s cautious stance, South Korea’s financial culture is well posed for crypto economics.
Recently, Jeju Gov. Won Hee-Ryong has formally sought government approval to designate Jeju island as a special zone for blockchain and crypto. Similarly, in Busan, South Korea’s second largest city following Seoul, plans are being developed in collaboration with Hyundai Pay to become, in the words of a Busan spokesperson, “a Mecca for blockchain and fintech.”
Compared to regional neighbours, Singapore has taken on a friendly approach towards crypto. It was one of the first countries to start regulating the usage of cryptocurrencies, is considering ways to offer better investor protections and it hosts some of the most innovative blockchain companies around.
In a similar effort to turn Hong Kong into a major trading centre for virtual currencies, late last year, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) unveiled a set of rules to better protect investors and make it more attractive for Chinese Mainlanders to trade cryptocurrencies in Hong Kong.
Since early 2018, Thailand has come to take on a more liberal and progressive stance on cryptocurrencies. It’s one of the first countries in South East Asia to enact cryptocurrency legislation, regulating the offering of digital assets, allowing issuers of currencies to offer up to $9,050 to retail investors.
The government is closely watching the industry, refining regulations along the way in an effort to entice fintech companies to invest in the country.
Echoing aspirations in South Korea to mimic Switzerland’s progressive Zug, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in northern Philippines is seeking to build the “Crypto Valley of Asia,” a $100 million blockchain hub.
It has already secured commitments from over 25 tech companies to assist in setting up the project which will include a blockchain academy, an internet data centre and a self-sustaining power production infrastructure.
Asia houses a number of large exchanges, such as OKEx (Malta, Hong Kong), Bithumb (South Korea), Bitfinex (Hong Kong) and BitMex (Hong Kong), and interesting blockchain ventures that are disrupting industries. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
Headquartered in Malta, Binance maintains a strong presence in Asia. It is one of the most popular exchanges, listing a wide variety of cryptocurrencies and actively seeking ways to make it easier to move between crypto and fiat. Late last year, Vertex Ventures in Singapore invested in Binance to develop a fiat-to-currency solution in the greater Asia region. Also, Binance recently introduced the possibility to buy into crypto with USD and EUR using a credit card. They are furthermore in the process of trialling stablecoins, although this is still in the very early stages.
Based in Hong Kong, Bitspark offers a comprehensive bankless money transfer system, catering to traders, businesses and unbanked populations. Leveraging stablecoins pegged to an expanding variety of fiat currencies including the HKD, PHP, JPY, USD, EUR and RUB, users are able to send money across borders instantly without having through go through expensive currency exchange mechanisms; traders are able to exchange BTC, ETH and BTS and stablecoins on Bitspark’s dedicated decentralised exchange SparkDex.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that BitSpark offers cash-in cash-out on and off ramps, at over 500,000 locations globally, enabling crypto traders to move in and out of crypto easily and fast.
Based in Singapore, Coinhako is an all-in-one cryptocurrency service as a wallet and exchange. Their aim is to make crypto more accessible to daily consumers in the greater Asia-Pacific region and serve as a gateway between fiat and crypto. They now offer 100 fiat-crypto trade pairings, linking SGD, MYR, IDR and VND to 25 cryptocurrencies, including a range of stablecoins pegged to the USD.
Founded in 2015, this Indonesian start-up is a blockchain-based data exchange for the food and agriculture sector. It works to provide farmers with valuable and hard-to-find data, such as land ownership or crop prices across Indonesia. Those who input data are rewarded with HARA tokens which can be traded for goods such as fertilisers. Hara assists farmers by generating the data financial institutions need to help them disburse loans, thereby fostering financial inclusion.
Launched in Malaysia, 2018, the Dacsee platform is a decentralised and autonomous social ride-sharing service built on the Ethereum blockchain. Fares can be paid with Dacsee tokens, or conventional money. When a fare is collected, most of it is returned to the platform stakeholders made up by drivers, passengers and government authorities. Commissions are redistributed on the basis of several metrics such as community ranking, length of time on the platform, the number of rides taken or given, and the size of ‘circle of friends’.
Building on the sharing economy, this Singapore based startup enables users to share extra space on their computers that they don’t need. Businesses are able to store data across multiple computers, or nodes, eliminating the risk of downtime and central points of failure. Bluzelle pays those offering up disk-space BLZ-tokens.
All in all, we can see that Asia is not just opening its doors to crypto, but taking the lead. As the crypto winter is coming to an end and more and more people are buying into crypto, it’ll be interesting to see how the regional regulatory climate evolves and where anticipated growth spurts will be taking place.
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Bitspark is a bankless money transfer ecosystem that enables businesses and people to cash in and cash out cryptocurrencies across Asia and Africa.