2021 大東南亞 Web3 生態系速覽,即將邁入大規模商業化

Antony Lee, Communications Master (李欣岳 / 媒體公關總監)

負責媒體與社群溝通相關輔導。加入 AppWorks 前有 18 年媒體經驗,是台灣第一批主跑網路產業的記者,先後任職《數位時代》副總編輯、《Cheers 快樂工作人》資深主編、SmartM 網站總編輯。畢業於交大管科系,長期關注媒體產業變化,熱愛閱讀商業與科技趨勢、企業與人物故事,樂於與人交流分享,期許自己當個「Internet 傳教士」。

自從 2009 年 AppWorks 創立、2010 年啟動每年兩屆的 AppWorks Accelerator 以來,我們便致力在大東南亞地區  (東協 + 台灣) 協助下世代的創業者,抓住數位革命的成長機會,嚴選本區域最具潛力的新創團隊進駐,輔導新創團隊尋找 Product-Market Fit、幫助成長期團隊建立 Sustainable / Scalable Business Models。建構在加速器的基礎之上,AppWorks 進一步打造新創社群、成為創投機構。

在 2018 年之後,區塊鏈、Web3 成為我們重點經營的領域,因為我們相信區塊鏈、Web3 帶來的巨大典範轉移,將為下世代的創業者,開啟大量的顛覆與創新機會。

2021 年,區塊鏈進入最高速成長的一年。在 DeFi、NFT、Gaming、Metaverse 等豐沛的創新應用下,吸引大量新資金、新用戶投入,區塊鏈的創業者們,正逐步建立起 Web3 各項重要的基礎建設,並即將邁入大規模商業化。

「在去中心化的 Web3 世界中,是否會呈現出不同的區域發展特色?」一直是多年來,我們持續思辨的問題。在 2021 年,Web3 獲得大幅加速發展後,這個問題的輪廓逐漸顯現,我們發現,在大東南亞的主要市場中,來自長期截然不同的歷史、經濟、產業、社會、文化累積發展之下,正浮現出多元化的特色,驅動整個大東南亞的 Web3 生態系,展現出更精彩、更深化、更讓人期待的風貌。以下是我們對各主要市場在 2021 年的觀察與分析: 

印尼:投資加密貨幣,比投資股票更具吸引力

人口規模全球第四、大東南亞第一的印尼,估計仍有 66% 的人口,處於沒有銀行帳戶 (Unbanked) 的狀態,但也正因為如此,為印尼的 Web3 與區塊鏈發展,提供了絕佳的發展契機,印尼正進入由區塊鏈、加密貨幣推動的金融典範轉移,整體發展呈現出指數型、蛙跳式 (Leapfrogging) 成長的態勢。根據印尼貿易部 (Ministry of Trade) 統計,在 2021 年前五個月,印尼共有超過 650 萬人曾交易過加密貨幣,遠超過交易股票的 220 萬人,加密貨幣交易量從 2020 年的 44 億美元,成長至 2021 年前五個月的 250 億美元,成長率達 470%,加密貨幣已成為最受印尼民眾歡迎的投資類別。

相較於其他國家,印尼政府對於加密貨幣也相對開放。自 2018 年九月以來,陸續制定了一系列相關法律,皆象徵印尼政府的開放態度。包括加密貨幣、資產在印尼具有合法地位,可被視為商品 (Commodity) 來交易,由商品期貨交易監管機構 (The Futures Exchange Supervisory Board,簡稱 BAPPEBTI ) 作為主責的監管單位,交易所需取得合法執照,可合法交易共 229 種加密資產。

種種獨特的條件,讓印尼在交易所、錢包、資產管理以及其他 DeFi 領域上,發展快速。例如,2014 年成立的 Indodax,是印尼位居領先的交易所,用戶規模超過 470 萬。此外,隨著一般民眾對投資加密資產的接受度越來越高,像 NOBI 這類提供資產管理服務的新創,將是下一波值得留意的領域。

菲律賓:大量 End Users 推動產業成長

2021 年,Yield Guild Games 無疑是菲律賓最受矚目的 Web3 新創之一。從最初協助 Axie Infinity 招募、培訓玩家,累積到現在整個菲律賓有超過 1,500 個以上的 NFT 遊戲公會,共同進行數位資產管理,或為玩家提供遊戲獎學金等,Yield Guild Games 一路成為全球規模最大的 NFT 遊戲公會。蓬勃發展的產業生態,根據 Playercounter 統計,目前有超過四成的 Axie Infinity 玩家,來自菲律賓,是最大的單一國家,Play to Earn 能為玩家帶來實質收入,有效地緩解了 COVID-19 帶來的經濟與社會問題。

這種由大量新用戶加入,推動整體生態系成長的模式,是菲律賓發展 Web3 的特色。可以預期,在資金與用戶都蓬勃發展的帶動下,將會有更多不同領域的創業者,在這樣的基礎上推動各種創新應用,不論在 NFT 或是遊戲領域,都可看到更多元的成長潛力,例如,在今年推出菲律賓第一個 NFT Marketplace 的 Vention,或是建立遊戲公會管理與數據平台的 BlockchainSpace

新加坡:延續亞洲金融中心的優勢

向來有「亞洲金融中心」美譽的新加坡,長年以來,藉由政府開明的政策引導,逐步建立起區域內的地位。在 Web3 發展上,也可看到類似的發展軌跡,新加坡金融管理局 (MAS) 就是主導發展的單位,長期以來,對區塊鏈以及加密貨幣的發展,擁有相對開放與友善的立場。

早在 2017 年,MAS 就發布了「數位代幣發行指南」(A Guide to Digital Token Offering),確立了新加坡政府對於 ICO 的基本立場與政策,對於新創透過 ICO 募資的發行者以及相關平台,確立適用「證券暨期貨法」(Securities and Futures Act,簡稱 SFA) 監管。到了 2021 年 1 月,「支付服務法案」(Payment Service Act,簡稱 PSA) 相應推出,監管新加坡境內的所有加密貨幣、交易所以及數位支付等業務。

也因此,我們可看到各種與金融相關的 Web3 應用,正出現代表性的新創。例如,為 Web3 應用構建交易基礎建設、優化跨鏈交易體驗的 Biconomy;開發金融電子支付的 Xfers;提供加密貨幣交易、借貸、錢包等服務的 Vauld。未來在加密貨幣相關的資產證券化、證照合規、國際匯兌業務上,預期將可看到更多重要的進展。

台灣:龐大的數位市場、IT 工程師推動整體發展

在 Web3 生態系的發展上,相較於區域內的其他市場,台灣有兩大特色與優勢。第一,龐大的數位遊戲與娛樂市場。根據 App Annie 統計,2020 年,台灣民眾在 App Store 總共消費 24.4 億美元,約相當於印尼、泰國、越南、菲律賓、馬來西亞五國總和的 24.6 億美元;第二個,則是台灣長久在科技製造、軟硬體整合上,累積而來的 IT 工程師文化,優秀的軟體工程師,一直是台灣推動區塊鏈發展的核心。

在 2021 年,台灣也搭上全球的 NFT 熱潮,進入早期發展階段。在龐大的數位遊戲與娛樂市場基礎上,越來越多的台灣區塊鏈新創,開始以 NFT 打造產品、服務以及商業模式,而歌手、藝術家、遊戲商、文創商品平台,以及多位 YouTuber,也先後開始推廣 NFT,使得 NFT 在這一年快速獲取大眾的關注,未來極具發展潛力。

自 Ethereum 問世開始,就不斷有台灣本地的優秀工程師,展開各種在區塊鏈領域的探索,成為驅動產業推進的關鍵力量。2021 年,已有新創在全球區塊鏈產業中嶄露頭角。例如,團隊擁有超過 10 年、多次創業經驗的 Perpetual Protocol,提供虛擬做市商 (vAMM) 實現永續合約解決方案;開發智能合約錢包的 Blocto,隨著 Flow 躍居一線公鏈而崛起,超過 80% Flow 鏈上的用戶,都使用 Blocto 進行 FLOW Token 質押,在跨鏈應用上,也已支援包括 Ethereum、BSC、Solana、Avalanche (c-chain)、Polygon 等一線公鏈。

泰國:後發先至的蛙跳式成長

雖然整體產業仍在發展早期,但 2021 年泰國整體 Web3 發展,可用蛙跳式成長 (Leapfrogging) 來形容。6 月,完成 E 輪融資的電商物流供應商 Flash Express,才正式成為泰國第一隻獨角獸,在 11 月,泰國第一隻 Web3 獨角獸,緊接著誕生,交易所 Bitkub 將 51% 的股份,以 5.35 億美元出售給擁有百年歷史、泰國第一家本土銀行 Siam Commercial Bank,等於在 5 個月的極短時間內,泰國連續跨越 Internet 與 Web3 時代的里程碑。

在 Bitkub 這樣的指標案例出現後,泰國 Web3 發展的後勢,值得讓人期待。包括 Bitkub Mafia (前員工)、Web 2.0 時代的成功創業者,都將陸續加入 Web3 的創業浪潮中,一如其他國家正在上演的故事。

事實上,已經可以看到更成熟、更進階的 Web3 應用出現。例如,開發跨鏈資料預言機 (Oracle) 的 Band Protocol,以及 Metaverse 遊戲公會 GuildFi,都是在既有產業生態系上的基礎上,繼續創新與整合。此外,也出現了像 Knowhere.art 這樣的 NFT Marketplace,相信不久後,將會在 NFT 領域看到更突破性的進展,因為長年以來,曼谷就是亞洲時尚與設計之都,擁有發展 NFT 創作者經濟的絕佳土壤。

越南:Axie Infinity 帶來的巨大效應

提到越南的 Web3 產業,知名度最高的,莫過於 NFT 遊戲 Axie Infinity 開發商 Sky Mavis。根據 CryptoSlam 統計,自 2018 年上線以來,Axie Infinity 上的 NFT 交易總金額超過 37 億美元,日活躍用戶超過 200 萬,並在近期完成 1.52 億美元的 B 輪融資。

Sky Mavis 寫下的成就,對越南的影響,可從兩個面向觀察。第一,帶動越南本地的 NFT 遊戲生態系成長,並吸引國際資金投資更多新創,進而成為生態系更加成長的能量,例如,Sipher 在 10 月,就從美國、韓國投資人手中獲得 680 萬美元的種子輪融資。另外像 My DeFi PetThetan Arena 等,也都是值得留意的 NFT 遊戲新創。

第二個,則是越南民眾對於區塊鏈以及加密貨幣的高接受度。根據 Chainalysis 2021 年「全球加密貨幣接受度指數」(Global Crypto Adoption Index) 的調查,越南排名高居第一,在 On-chain value received、On-chain retail value received、P2P exchange trade volume 三大指標中,皆位居全球前五名,可以預期,各種 DeFi、錢包、資產管理的創新模式,例如提供 DeFi 流動性中心 (Liquidity Hub) 的 Kyber Network 等新創,將會是下一波值得觀察的重點。 

結論:

回顧 2021 年,Web3 生態系在大東亞獲得全面性地推展。印尼在投資加密貨幣的開戶人數,超越股票而躍居投資主流;菲律賓則正由 End User 帶動生態系成長;新加坡持續將「亞洲金融中心」的優勢,延續至 Web3 領域;台灣正由優秀的軟體工程師推動創新應用;泰國在出現第一隻 Web3 獨角獸後,預期將吸引更多優秀創業者投入這塊領域;越南則有讓人眼睛一亮的 NFT 遊戲生態系。

儘管加密貨幣的價格總是變化劇烈,但在這樣的基礎上,我們相信 Web3 的長期價值。展望 2022 年,大東南亞整體 Web3 產業更大規模的商業化,非常讓人期待。 

web3.GSEA Snapshot  2021 由 AppWorks 製作,有任何指教與建議,請 email 至 a@appworks.tw。感謝以下 AppWorks 的朋友,在過程中提供的協助:Peter Ing (Co-Founder of BlockchainSpace)、Leo Pham (Manager of Access Ventures)、Hung Nguyen (CEO of Spores)、Tri Pham (CEO of Kardiachain)、Ben Minh Le (CRO of M3TA)、TN Lee (Co-Founder of Pendle Finance)、Lawrence Samantha (Founder of NOBI)、Eagle Su (Marketing Specialist of Zombit)

製作協力:Asosiasi Blockchain Indonesia

【歡迎所有NFT、Blockchain / DeFi、AI / IoT 以及目標 Southeast Asia 的創業者,加入專為你們服務的 AppWorks Accelerator

web3.GSEA: 2021 Greater Southeast Asia Web3 Ecosystem Map

Original file for download: web3.GSEA Snapshot 2021

Jun Wakabayashi, Analyst (若林純 / 分析師)

Jun is an Analyst covering both AppWorks Accelerator and Greater Southeast Asia. Born and bred in America, Jun brings a wealth of international experience to AppWorks. He spent the last several years before joining AppWorks working for Focus Reports, where he conducted sector-based market research and interviewed high-level government leaders and industry executives across the globe. He’s now lived in 7 countries outside US and Taiwan, while traveling to upwards of 50 for leisure, collectively highlighting his unique propensity for cross-cultural immersion and international business. Jun received his Bachelors in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Founded in 2009, AppWorks is a leading startup community and venture capital firm built by founders, for founders. We are committed to backing the next generation of entrepreneurs in Greater Southeast Asia (ASEAN+Taiwan) and helping them to facilitate the region’s transition into the digital age. Building off the firm’s decade-plus of experience, AppWorks works closely with early-stage founders to achieve product-market fit, while helping growth-stage companies establish sustainable business models at scale.

Starting in 2018, blockchain was incorporated in the firm’s core mandate. We believe that the technology is currently driving a massive paradigm shift, opening up new disruptive and innovative opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs as the world transitions into the web3 era.

In 2021, blockchain entered a mass adoption phase. With the emergence of new innovative applications such as DeFi, NFTs, GameFi, and web3 infrastructure, an unprecedented number of new funds, retail investors, and users have flocked to the crypto world, creating a flywheel effect that has facilitated the formation of key web3 infrastructure that we believe will usher in a new era of large-scale commercialization.

“As the world decentralizes, will development vary between different countries and regions?” This is a question that we’ve mulled over years. With the accelerated development of blockchain, we recognize that, in fact, regional dynamics have become more pronounced. We found that in Greater Southeast Asia’s major markets, the confluence of different historical, economic, industrial, societal, and cultural contexts has resulted in crypto adoption taking different forms. The emergence of diversified crypto markets is driving growth in the region to meet different market conditions and leading to new business models and approaches in the industry that can be applied globally.

The following is an overview of our analysis and views on each major market in the region:

Indonesia: Crypto Investment Outstripping Public Equities

Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest population and the largest in GSEA, is estimated to have an unbanked population of 66%. Based on market size alone, Indonesia has become an important market for the development of blockchain. Indonesia is entering a financial paradigm shift driven by blockchain and cryptoassets, and overall development is trending towards exponential growth. According to statistics from Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade, during the first five months of 2021, more than 6.5 million people in Indonesia traded cryptocurrencies—far exceeding the 2.2 million who traded public equities—totaling US$25 billion in cryptocurrency transactions, compared to US$4.4 billion over the same period in 2020, representing year-on-year growth of 470%. With statistics like these, it comes as no surprise that cryptocurrency has become the most popular investment category among Indonesian retail traders.

Compared with other countries, the Indonesian government is relatively positive towards crypto. Since September 2018, a series of laws have been enacted, signaling the open attitude of the Indonesian government. The Commodity Futures Exchange Supervisory Board (BAPPEBTI) oversees cryptocurrency-related issues and has provided legal frameworks for licensing and trading. Currently, Indonesians can legally own and trade a total 229 different cryptocurrencies.

Indonesia’s crypto landscape is underlined by the rapid development and adoption of exchanges, wallets, asset management tools, and other DeFi applications. For example, Indodax, established in 2014, is Indonesia’s leading exchange with more than 4.7 million users. With increasing acceptance of investment in cryptocurrencies by the general public, new areas of development, such as investment platform NOBI, that provide asset management services that cater to crypto users will mark the next wave of growth.

Philippines: Massive User-Driven Growth

In 2021, Yield Guild Games (YGG) broke out in the Philippines and became a global phenomenon. Evolving from its initial function of assisting Axie Infinity in recruiting and training players, YGG is now home to more than 1,500 NFT game guilds based in the Philippines. YGG provides players with digital asset management, game scholarships, and community support—becoming the world’s largest NFT gaming guild.

According to Playercounter, more than 40% of Axie Infinity players hail from the Philippines alone. Play-to-earn has proven to provide meaningful income to users, effectively alleviating economic pressure caused by the pandemic for many users.

This model of massive user acquisition to drive ecosystem growth is a unique characteristic of blockchain development in the Philippines. We anticipate that with the mass inflow of capital and users, there will be a corresponding entrepreneurial response that will lead to the creation of new and innovative applications in the Philippines. We have seen this trend emerge with projects like NFT marketplace Vention and gaming guild management and data platform BlockchainSpace.

Singapore: Leveraging the Strength of Asia’s Financial Center

Singapore has always been known as Asia’s financial center, building off the government’s proactive policies over the past several decades. A similar trajectory is also taking shape in the country’s blockchain development. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the leading regulatory body overseeing cryptoassets, and has long demonstrated a relatively open and friendly stance on the development of blockchain and cryptoassets within the city-state.

As early as 2017, MAS issued “A Guide to Digital Token Offering” which established the Singapore government’s policy framework for ICOs, issuers and related platforms, under the purview of the Securities and Futures Act (SFA). In January 2021, the “Payment Service Act” (PSA) was launched, regulating all cryptocurrencies, exchanges, and digital payment services in Singapore.

As a result, there has been an emergence of several new blockchain-related applications. For example, Biconomy, which builds transaction infrastructure for blockchain applications and optimizes cross-chain transaction experience; Xfers, a developer of financial electronic payments; and Vauld, a service provider covering cryptocurrency transactions, lending, and wallets. In the future, we expect more projects coming out of Singapore in cryptocurrency-related asset securitization, license compliance, and international exchanges.

Thailand: From Late Mover to Frontrunner

While Thailand’s blockchain ecosystem can be considered quite early, 2021 marked an acceleration point with several milestones. In November, Thailand’s first blockchain unicorn was born as crypto exchange Bitkub sold a 51% stake worth US$535 million to Siam Commercial Bank. Paired together with logistics provider Flash Express’s newly minted billion-dollar valuation, Thailand welcomed its first unicorns of the internet and Web3 era respectively within a five-month period.

Bitkub’s success is galvanizing the Thai blockchain ecosystem, demonstrating that Thailand can develop scalable blockchain infrastructure. Bitkub alumni and seasoned Web2 entrepreneurs are diving into Thailand’s blockchain space, just as we’ve witnessed in other markets.

In fact, we can already see the emergence of more mature and advanced Web3 applications. For example, the emergence of cross-chain data oracle platform Band Protocol and metaverse gaming guild GuildFi show the level of innovation and reiteration happening in the market. We believe that in the near future, we will see more projects in the NFT space, building off Bangkok’s rich fashion and design industry and the country’s active NFT artist community.

Vietnam: The Axie Infinity Effect

When it comes to Vietnam, the most well-known player is Sky Mavis, the developer behind the killer NFT-based game Axie Infinity. According to CryptoSlam statistics, since its launch in 2018, the total amount of NFT transactions on Axie Infinity reached more than US$3.7 billion, with more than two million daily active users, culminating in Sky Mavis’s recently completed US$152 million Series B round of financing.

The impact of Sky Mavis’s success on Vietnam can be observed from two perspectives. First, it is driving the growth of Vietnam’s local NFT gaming ecosystem and attracting international capital to accelerate development and adoption.  For example, in October, Sipher raised US$6.8 million in seed financing from major global investors. In addition, there’s been a surge in casual and semi-casual GameFi projects coming out of the woodwork including My DeFi Pet, Mytheria, Thetan Arena, and Faraland

Second, Vietnamese users have demonstrated high levels of acceptance for blockchain and cryptoassets. According to the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index survey conducted by Chainalysis, Vietnam ranked first globally in terms of overall adoption. Among three indicators, on-chain value received, on-chain retail value received, and P2P exchange trade volume, Vietnam ranked in the top five in the world. We anticipate that new applications in DeFi, wallets, and asset management like we see with Kyber Network’s Liquidity Hub will highlight the next wave of blockchain innovation in Vietnam.

Taiwan: A Huge Digital Market Driven by Engineering Talent

Compared with other markets in the GSEA region, Taiwan has two notable characteristics and advantages in blockchain development. First, Taiwan is home to a massive digital gaming and entertainment market. To illustrate this market size, according to App Annie, in 2020, Taiwanese consumers spent US$2.44 billion in the App Store, equal to total spending from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia combined. Second, Taiwan has accumulated a wealth of engineering talent across manufacturing, software, and hardware integration. This talent pool has formed the core of Taiwan’s blockchain industry.

In 2021, Taiwan also joined the global NFT wave with early-stage activity. Leveraging the island’s fertile digital gaming and entertainment market, Taiwanese founders are adopting NFTs to create products, services, and new business models. Musicians, artists, game publishers, and influencers have embraced NFTs to build public awareness and tap into this new digital format of ownership, demonstrating immense promise for large-scale commercial adoption of NFTs. 

Since the advent of Ethereum, Taiwan’s local engineers have continued to explore the frontiers of blockchain development, becoming a key driving force in the crypto world. Taiwan is home to several notable projects led by seasoned teams, including Perpetual Protocol, which provides Virtual Automated Market Maker (vAMM) to implement perpetual contract solutions; smart contract wallet Blocto has become the go-to wallet for Flow—with more than 80% of Flow users trusting Blocto for Flow Token pledges. In cross-chain applications, Blocto also supports Ethereum, BSC, Solana, Avalanche (c-chain), and Polygon, among other mainstream public chains.

Bright Days Ahead

Just a few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find the words web3, blockchain, DeFi, or NFTs uttered anywhere outside of niche crypto spheres in this part of the world. Now, sentiment from founders and investors across the region have evidently shifted from “why web3?” to “how do I get a piece of it?”—largely in this past year alone. 

Taiwan is at the forefront from a technical perspective, with an unparalleled engineering pool in terms of cost and performance; Indonesia is emerging as massive market for web3 consumers, now with crypto traders outnumbering stock traders by severalfold; Philippines is in a close second, with everyday users showing an uncanny demand for GameFi to make ends meet; Thailand’s historically nascent ecosystem is expected to garner significantly more attention now with their first crypto unicorn; Vietnam, given Axie’s success, is quickly distinguishing itself as a the world’s NFT gaming hub; and lastly, Singapore’s position as the region’s financial and management hub will likely extend into the web3 era.

Any doubts of whether or not web3 is here to stay were certainly eroded by the massive strides that the regional ecosystem has taken in 2021. Looking forward, the development and adoption of web3 is looking especially bright. Although crypto markets will likely ebb and flow in the coming months and years, with the occasional bears and dips, many stakeholders across the value chain have already gotten taste, and will likely only want more. 

The 2021 Greater Southeast Asia Blockchain Ecosystem Map is authored by AppWorks. For inquiries, please write to a@appworks.tw. For this survey, thanks for several friends’ assistance: Peter Ing (Co-Founder of BlockchainSpace), Leo Pham (Manager of Access Ventures), Hung Nguyen (CEO of Spores), Tri Pham (CEO of Kardiachain), Ben Minh Le (CRO of M3TA), Rémy Perettieny (CEO of Reminiscense), TN Lee (Co-Founder of Pendle Finance), Lawrence Samantha (Founder of NOBI), and Eagle Su (Marketing Specialist of Zombit)

In partnership with: Asosiasi Blockchain Indonesia

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI, Blockchain, and NFT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】

專訪 Blocto 李玄、顏維佐,關於共同創辦人的格局、分工、溝通與成就彼此這一堂課

Antony Lee, Communications Master (李欣岳 / 媒體公關總監)

負責媒體與社群溝通相關輔導。加入 AppWorks 前有 18 年媒體經驗,是台灣第一批主跑網路產業的記者,先後任職《數位時代》副總編輯、《Cheers 快樂工作人》資深主編、SmartM 網站總編輯。畢業於交大管科系,長期關注媒體產業變化,熱愛閱讀商業與科技趨勢、企業與人物故事,樂於與人交流分享,期許自己當個「Internet 傳教士」。

2019 年成立的 Blocto,是台灣這一波區塊鏈創業風潮中,最具代表性的新創之一。以智能合約錢包作為創業起點,致力打造成為人們「進入區塊鏈世界的入口」,Blocto 除了是明星公鏈 Flow 上最多用戶使用的錢包,超過 80% Flow 鏈上的用戶,都使用 Blocto 進行 FLOW Token 質押外,在跨鏈應用上,也已支援包括 Ethereum、BSC、Solana、Avalanche (c-chain)、Polygon 等其他一線公鏈,以持續優化用戶體驗為目標,期待能提供用戶在跨鏈資產轉移、交易時,有更趨一致的體驗,得以更順暢地在不同鏈上切換。

隨著在加密貨幣錢包上累積的基礎,Blocto 也將產品觸角延伸至 DEX (去中心化交易所) 以及 NFT Marketplace 等應用,並在今年發行生態系的功能和治理通證代幣  Blocto token ($BLT),在位居全球前三大的加密貨幣現貨交易所 FTX 上架。優異的技術實力以及商業佈局,更在近期獲得 NBA 達拉斯獨行俠隊老闆 Mark Cuban 的青睞,成為策略投資人

Blocto 是 AppWorks Accelerator #19 的校友,也在找到 Product-Market Fit、進入加速成長期的 2021 年,進一步獲得 AppWorks 的注資。Blocto 創業兩年能快速展現戰果,兩位共同創辦人:擔任 CEO 的 Hsuan 李玄 (圖左)、擔任 COO 的 Edwin 顏維佐 (圖右) 是關鍵人物。兩人從前區塊鏈新創 COBINHOOD 的同事,到成為攜手創業的夥伴,這一路上,他們是如何分工、商討發展方向、擬定策略,以及在變化快速的區塊鏈產業中,彼此互相成就、互相扶持,進而殺出一條成長之路,在創業維艱、合夥不易,總是有人默唱「可惜不是你,陪我到最後」的新創世界中,都很值得創業者參考。AppWorks 特別訪問到兩位,並且幫大家整理出重點:

Q: 區塊鏈這個領域,最吸引你們投入其中創業的原因是什麼? 

Hsuan: 當我們決定創業時,很明確就是要做區塊鏈的題目。這其中,有很大的原因是我們創業前就已經是同事了,當初會加入的原因,就是因為這個產業很吸引我們。

我是 Computer Science 的背景,在區塊鏈領域,另外要將 Computer Science 結合密碼學、分散式系統等技術,整合出一整套有實際用途的系統,可以具體去解決金融、商業、娛樂面向上,或是某些應用過度中心化這些問題,對我來說,將各種理論整合進入實際的商品化、產業化,這個過程非常迷人,我也非常堅信區塊鏈是可以改變世界的,再過幾年,就可以更大幅度走入人們的日常生活,這當中還有很多關鍵問題需要解決,但也因此會有很多新創的機會。

Edwin: Blocto 已經是我個人第三次創業了。前兩次都是比較傳統的做生意、貿易這類,我也待過 Fortune 500 這種規模的大企業。相較過去的經驗,區塊鏈最大的特色,就是整個產業技術、應用疊代的速度非常快,可能幾個月、甚至幾週就發生一次,我過去比較少有這種感覺,這非常激勵人心。

優化使用者體驗,是區塊鏈創業最大的機會之一

Q: 為什麼 Blocto 一開始就選擇切入錢包?創業前有討論過其他選項嗎?

Hsuan: 在 2019 年準備創業的那個時間點,我們放眼望去,覺得這個產業若要對更多人產生影響力,使用者體驗是最大的問題,也是最大的機會之一,而錢包是所有人進入區塊鏈、使用加密貨幣的主要入口。

區塊鏈應用的使用者體驗一直是產業的一大痛點。從下載錢包、創建錢包、私鑰管理,到理解應用並成功與其互動,用戶需要花費大量的時間與成本去完成,這也是目前區塊鏈應用還無法被大規模採用的原因之一。

事實上,我們還有更大方向的討論,就是我們要選擇 To B (面對企業用戶的服務) 或 To C (面對個人用戶的服務) 的商業模式。我們覺得 To B 的模式比較不容易 Scale up,一次做一個案子,也許可以賺到一些錢,初期現金流可能比較穩,但如果要做兩倍大的案子,可能團隊規模也需要等比放大到兩倍。另一方面,To B 要配合客戶的需求,對我們來說,也比較不自由、不那麼有趣。

若是走 To C 的模式,如果我們可以做出一個夠好、我們自己也喜歡的產品或服務,用戶數的成長空間將非常寬闊,真的可以看到因此為人們帶來更大的影響力。當時,已經有不少高效能的公鏈出來,各種交易所更是比比皆是,反而比較大的問題在使用者體驗,因此選擇 To C 模式、切入錢包這個題目,這倒是有很高的共識。

Q: 實際做 To C 以及錢包後,有嚐到什麼苦頭嗎?

Hsuan: 一開始確實比較辛苦,不過應該說這是在預期內。2019 年相對是區塊鏈的寒冬 (編按:比特幣從 2018 年每顆約 2 萬美元,一路跌到 4,000 美元以下),幣圈內想賺錢、想炒幣的人那時比較失去興趣,遊戲或是其他應用,當時也都還很陽春,其實並不好玩、不容易吸引人,都還是比較小眾的市場,在當時要做錢包,吸引一般大眾來使用,推廣上的確比較辛苦。

Edwin: 從另外一個面向來說,To B 比較像是企業客戶出考題,跟對方聊完,就會知道他要與不要什麼,我們需要解決哪些問題。To C 則完全相反,就是要從市場反應中快速調整,逐漸做出現在的樣子,我們在過程中也做過一些市場調查,但做出來的成果,就是會有一些人喜歡、一些人不喜歡,比較像是我們自己要去發掘問題,出考題給自己去解決。

但也正因為這樣,我自己覺得做 To C 有一種比較浪漫的感覺,尤其是在區塊鏈產業。就有一種眾志成城的感覺,看著用戶數量慢慢累積起來的過程,很有趣也很有成就感。

Q: 現在整個區塊鏈產業的氛圍,和你們創業當時非常不同,整體上樂觀許多。不少稍具知名度、規模的項目,都能更快地拿到更多的資源與支持,創業的選項也很多。在這樣截然不同的大環境中,你們在堆疊或累積競爭優勢,去發展未來產品與服務時,背後的思考脈絡為何?

Hsuan: 其實我們的目標一直沒變,希望可以成為人們進入區塊鏈世界的入口。錢包要滿足用戶身份識別以及存放、交易資產的需求,不管是加密貨幣、NFT,或是最近很受關注的 Metaverse、區塊鏈遊戲等,我們希望能持續累積競爭優勢,成為用戶進入區塊鏈,或是未來進入 Metaverse 的入口。

這是我們一直專注在做的事情。其中,最重要的考量,就是要讓用戶的技術感降低。因為對用戶來說,他就是想來玩遊戲、收藏 NFT,並不在意底層技術怎麼運作,到底在哪一條公鏈上來運行,用戶在乎的,是能否在這當中獲得一致的體驗。我相信未來幾年內,整個產業都會處於多鏈並行的狀態,這也是我們正在解決,下一個成長的契機,我們跟比較多這類的跨鏈應用合作,讓我們可以建構起一個跨鏈的生態系,進而使我們可以成為各種區塊鏈應用的入口。

Edwin: 這應該也算是我們創業初期至今的特色。因為我們一開始就決定要切入錢包,所以我們不要和既有的 Player 競爭,因為這個產業先行者優勢還滿明顯的,在 2019 年那時,可能只有千分之一、萬分之五的人用過區塊鏈,如果和其他對手競爭這樣規模的市場,將會非常辛苦,我們要做這些人以外的市場,能夠帶來可能是從千分之一成長為百分之一這樣的新用戶,我們今年也確實在幾個合作案例上,看到成功帶入大量新用戶,算是有實現創業的目標。

在跨鏈應用上體驗一致、資產互通

Q: 如何帶來這些從沒使用過區塊鏈的新用戶?

Hsuan: 這應該跟我們在這個產業滿久了有關,對各種技術都還算熟悉,反而讓我們不會單純從技術角度去思考問題。我們一直努力讓用戶在不同公鏈的應用上,能夠體驗一致、資產互通。例如,解決 Ethereum、Solana、Polygon、Flow 這些不同 Layer 1、Layer 2 公鏈之間資訊互通的問題,需要做哪些事情,才能讓用戶可以很無感地在不同公鏈之間切換,這比較是我們思考問題的方式。

Edwin: 這某種程度來說,這也是我們堆疊起的護城河。在產品陸續改版時,我們會刻意把鏈跟鏈之間的距離感消除,從我們創業第一天就是這樣。但確實有一些產業基礎發展上,是我們當下無法解決的關卡,所以有些部分快,有些部分慢,但只要能從我們這邊解決的問題,我們會儘量讓使用者在我們的產品上,使用不同公鏈的體驗是一致的。

Q: 你們曾一起當過同事,然後一起創業,在創業的過程中,身為 Co-founder,兩位如何分工?決策如何產生?如何化解意見分歧?

Hsuan: 我們第一次見面時,是在前公司一起出差到柏林時認識的,應該對彼此的第一印象都不錯。當時我負責技術,Edwin 負責 BD,其實相距還滿遠的,但就覺得有一些共通點,Edwin 其實也是技術背景出身的,所以在溝通時,其實還滿容易互相理解。

創業後的分工,我主要負責技術與產品,他負責 Marketing 與 Operation,其他像 BD、募資或是公司方向策略,則是一起討論、一起負責。在各部門的執行上,就依據這樣的分工各自運作。印象中,我們創業至今,好像還沒有吵過架吧,我們都還滿⋯⋯

Edwin: 激烈地溝通。

Hsuan: 或是到講話比較大聲。

Edwin: 真的都還好、都還好⋯⋯

Hsuan: 對!甚至連激烈地溝通都沒有很激烈。我們 EQ 還算高,也都滿理性的,遇到意見或想法不同時,就是努力說服對方,或是說有一些喬事情的方式,在各自負責的部門策略或戰術上,就互相尊重、相信對方。

例如,在經營社群上,我覺得既然我們希望打造注重用戶體驗的錢包或生態系,用戶有任何疑難雜症,我們都應該要盡量協助。但 Edwin 並不認同,他認為這樣會花費太多時間與人力,去照顧所有人的需求,可能會造成極少數的用戶,不先自己動手找答案,只要有問題就想要問,會讓我們要花很多資源去照顧極少數用戶,他認為應該把資源花在優先解決用戶的重要問題上。因為這是 Marketing 的範圍,我也就尊重他的決定。 

營收成長還是用戶成長優先?

Q: 這樣的分工可以理解。但在更關乎公司長遠發展的方向上,你們如何化解意見分歧?

Edwin: 公司剛成立時,其實沒什麼錢,我們有看到一個眼前立刻就可以 Catch 的機會。也不是說要賺什麼快錢,而是我覺得既然我們要提供服務,就應該做營收,能賺的錢就要賺。但 Hsuan 的想法不同,他認為還是應該要繼續把用戶做起來,把用戶做好,營收自然會跟著來,我們比較常在溝通這類的事情。

很多時候,我覺得比較像是兩人在鬥智。我們都知道對方會怎麼想、會怎麼說,然後想能不能提出更好的說法說服對方。這某種程度也有一些樂趣,感覺很好玩。但在創業前,我們也有討論到,萬一真的無法說服對方時怎麼辦?我們的 Agreement 是就聽 Hsuan 的,創業至今,也就只用過兩次。

Q: 等於平均一年用不到一次!聽起來,你們在創業之前的 Smart Contract 寫得不錯,各種溝通上可能發生的情況,都有對應的自動執行機制?

Hsuan: 這是最後不得已的手段,我真的非常謹慎保守在使用它,不會動不動就覺得「我們當初不是就決定我說了算嗎?」總的來說,我比較偏夢想一點,例如想做 Ecosystem Building,去帶動更大的用戶成長;Edwin 比較偏實際一點,例如在不同階段,公司現在有多少現金、該賺多少錢。

Q: 創業至今,有沒有發生錢不夠用的時候?你們通常會怎麼解決?

Hsuan: 我們之前的確遇到過,創業資金快燒光了。當然我們還是儘量維持原本在做的事情,希望以比較小幅度的調整,能夠產生更多營收,或是先募一筆資金。我們當時其實有把各套劇本準備好,例如,資金還剩六個月時,要做哪些事情,萬一只剩兩個月,資金水位還是沒有起色,又要做哪些事情。比如說,是不是要接一些案子,先賺一點錢進來,讓大家多撐三個月,雖然對長遠發展來說比較不理想,但至少可以讓我們撐過去。

差不多就是 Flow 準備上線時。成為支援 Flow 的錢包,是我們很相信的路線,也相信這個合作會很有收穫、會很成功。但問題在於這需要比較長的時間去等待,而我們投入了很多 Effort 在這上面,但 Flow 整體生態系的發展,終究無法只取決於我們自己,我們也有想好,如果 Flow 成功或不成功,或是沒有那麼快成功,我們要怎麼樣才可以繼續支撐下去。

Edwin: 更早一次發生在我們剛創業時。剛創業時,我們都有去當過講師,Hsuan 教區塊鏈的技術,我教區塊鏈的 BD,努力先賺點零用錢養公司。後來真正更吃緊的時候,我們也想過是否能跟誰先借錢,或是我們兩人暫時不要拿薪水,各種選項都討論過。

當然,還算幸運,這些挑戰我們都順利度過了。儘管再怎麼缺錢,我們自始至終都沒想過要賺一點快錢 (編按:割韭菜),始終都還是想著,怎麼把這個系統建立起來,也許當下變慢一些,但不要背離我們的方向。

各種創業會遇到的挑戰,除了理性溝通外,我覺得我們兩人都滿重感情的,會支持彼此,也許這次你辛苦一點,下次就換我辛苦一點,我們都會覺得說「OK,彼此彼此」。

Q: 這真的有一種工程師才懂的志氣與浪漫!在你們的心中,希望 Blocto 成為怎樣的公司?

Hsuan: 希望公司能繼續維持新創思維,並成為全體目標一致的團隊。這類似 OKR 的精神,就是所有人對代表目標的 O (Objectives) 都能看得更清楚。我們知道,當團隊正在成長,規模正在變大,所有溝通與訊息傳遞會變得更困難,但我們還是希望大家都能知道公司目前的方向是什麼。

我們每週會有一個一小時,所有人都必須參與的會議。在會議上,我們會分享觀察到的市場狀況,公司之前做了哪些嘗試與調整,從中學習到什麼,接下來要往哪個方向發展。希望讓所有同事都能清楚知道,公司未來大約三個月的整體目標是什麼,我們最在意的事情是什麼,讓每位同事都能從自己的工作與角色中,去思考一些可以做到、符合公司整體目標的事情。

在這過程中,我們會有試錯的新創思維。也許會錯,然後可能會放棄或是修正,在這過程中,一起找出更好的方向一起前進。希望能熱愛自己做的產品,大家互相 Cover,而不只是把自己份內的事情做好,比較像是除了自己負責的部分外,盡可能在其他任何可以貢獻、Cover 的地方,把每個小縫都能補得很滿。

我還滿驕傲的,現在我們有二十多位同事,還能維持住這樣的文化。有個小故事讓我很有感觸。今年初,我們有一個被併購的機會,對方開得條件不錯,因為我們所有員工也都是公司股東,如果接受這個併購,所有人應該都能獲得不錯的報酬,等於提早出場,然後幫別人打工。我們有在會議上跟大家分析這當中利弊得失,能賺到一筆錢,但未來公司技術、產品與發展方向,未必能全部由自己控制。後來我請大家閉起眼睛投票,想或不想被併購的舉手,結果所有人都舉手不想被併購,沒有任何一個人舉手想要被併購,大家都想要繼續打拼下去,那個畫面真的很感動我。

Q: 要讓所有節點都產生共識,這真的是很難得的經驗。其實 Blocto 與 AppWorks 也很有緣,你們在 2019 年創業那一年就加入 AppWorks Acclerator 成為校友,畢業後又成為 AppWorks 的投資案。你們覺得加入 AppWorks 為創業者校友所打造的社群,對你們往後的創業有哪些幫助?

Edwin: 我覺得有兩個面向。第一個,就是 Networking,比如說,我們跟 Flow 團隊第一次正式的會議,就是 AppWorks 介紹的 (編按:AppWorks 是 FLOW token 在 IEO 時,全球第二大的機構投資人),隨後以此開展出深度的策略合作。AppWorks 有 Accelerator、VC,還有培養軟體人才的 School,這一整套體系很不錯,等於方方面面的人都會碰到,創業者不管要找創業與商業合作夥伴,甚至是找人才,在 AppWorks 的體系中都有機會遇到。

第二個,是在各自的創業旅程中,彼此一起交流與學習的創業者同儕。當然,我們一直很努力做出一些東西出來,但其實也會很害怕做錯方向,而自己並不知道,把資源和心力消耗在一些無法產出成果的地方。在 AppWorks,有非常多和其他創業者交流的機會,不論是私下或是 AppWorks 主辦的活動,因為區塊鏈還是非常新的產業,許多事物都正在發生,需要不斷去探索,我們不會期待別人告訴我們該怎麼做,但至少會有其他創業者跟我說「欸!你不要浪費時間在這裡了,你應該去做其他事情,我試過了,在這裡是不會成功的。」我覺得對我們來說,這非常受用。

Hsuan: 作為一位創業者,要經營一家新創事業,有非常多知識需要學習。AppWorks 的 Master Team,會提供一些課程與輔導,比如說人才招募、法務、財務上的知識架構,當然創業者本身要努力做功課,但 AppWorks 可以幫助我們更快入門,知道要先從哪邊著手,再從此延伸更深入的學習。另一個收穫,是我在 AppWorks 認識了不同國家在區塊鏈產業的創業者、或是其他領域的學長姐,這是非常有幫助的 Connection。

Q: 很高興聽到加入 AppWorks 的創業者社群,真的對你們的創業有幫助。展望未來半年到一年,Blocto 有哪些新計畫?

Hsuan: 我們會繼續發展跨鏈的應用,希望能吸引更多現在還在幣圈、鏈圈以外的用戶加入。例如,我們現在發展最成熟的公鏈合作,就是 Flow,希望在這個基礎上,開啟更多的跨鏈應用的合作,把我們的優勢擴展到例如 Solana、Polygon、BSC 上,這已經慢慢在發生。

在應用上,會從純 NFT 和 Gaming 再往外擴一點,例如 GameFi,或是稍微結合一些 Finance、交易或是買賣加密貨幣等服務。如果大家對於 Metaverse 的想像更明確、更清楚,或是整個產業體系更加成熟,我們也會在此佈局。

Edwin: 除了產品與技術層面外,我們一開始就是想做幣圈、鏈圈外的市場。這其實滿好玩的,我們一直在進攻這個市場,比如說,未來一段時間內,區塊鏈的使用人數,從總人口的千分之一增加到百分之一,別人可能會覺得不過就是百分之一的小市場,但對我們來說,就是水漲船高、十倍成長紅利的可能,其實我們一直關心那些準備但尚未進入區塊鏈世界的潛在用戶,一直在思考,是否有做出真的滿足這群人需求的產品或服務。

Blocto 經驗給創業者的 Takeaways:

1. 找到明確的北極星 (創業的長期目標):創業是一趟充滿各種未知變數和挑戰的旅程,找到明確的北極星,才能持續朝同一個目標打磨產品、服務與商業模式。

2. Co-Founders 間不可能總是會產生共識:感情、默契再好的朋友或同事一起創業,都有可能發生想法不同、溝通不順的時候,創業前,對於各種可能阻礙「凝聚共識」的情況,以及如何解決的討論越清楚越好。

3. 信任是點點滴滴累積而來:不論對創業夥伴、員工來說,建立信任或向心力都不是容易的事情,透明與開放的溝通,則是逐步累積信任的重要過程。

【歡迎所有NFT、Blockchain / DeFi、AI / IoT 以及目標 Southeast Asia 的創業者,加入專為你們服務的 AppWorks Accelerator

Entrepreneurs: the Highly Capable, Under-appreciated

David Wu, Associate (吳戴文 / 投資經理)

David is an Associate mainly focused on investments. He previously lived in the US, but was drawn to the Greater Southeast Asia region by the growth opportunities and the wonderful people here. He spent the first five years of his career as a consultant at IBM, where he became intimately familiar with the enterprise software and services needs of Fortune 500 companies. Later, he focused on building predictive models and solving optimization problems for large companies, and gained an appreciation for the role of data and algorithms in our lives. He joined AppWorks in 2020 after receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School, and also has a B.S. in Mathematics from the Ohio State University. In his free time, he tries to stay active and is always looking for opportunities to hike or trek, often seeking the trail less traveled.

In “The Market for Lemons,” George Akerlof described frustrated sellers of high-quality used cars not fetching a fair price because the prospective buyers were unable to distinguish between high-quality used cars and low-quality ones (known as “lemons”), that on the surface looked identical. Sellers could only find takers at a discounted price taking into account the possibility they were buying a lemon. Those who have experienced swift price depreciation upon driving a new car off the lot know this well intuitively. Eventually, sellers of high-quality used cars leave the market, as they cannot be fairly compensated due to the market’s inability to appraise their vehicles fairly.

A new study suggests that the same applies broadly to entrepreneurs. It is impossible for companies to 100% accurately appraise the capability of job applicants and current employees. Hiring managers tend to assess talent based on traditional credentials, such as educational background and work experience at prestigious schools and companies. And managers tend to assess current employees through a combination of perceived signals, personal bias, and company politics. Those who may be highly capable but lack traditional credentials or particular signals sought by senior management (akin to the frustrated sellers of high-quality used cars) withdraw from the labor market and ultimately choose entrepreneurship instead, a path to earnings not constrained by uninformed buyers of labor on the market.

Going from unhireable to startup founder may sound fanciful, but there are some high profile examples. Brian Acton’s capabilities were not accurately assessed by Facebook and Twitter, where he failed to pass the interviews in the summer of 2009. By November, he joined San Jose State University dropout Jan Koum in starting WhatsApp, which the duo later sold to Facebook for US$19 billion. 

Many immigrant entrepreneurs face the same choice when they arrive in a new country that does not recognize their foreign degrees or accomplishments. They can either work low-level jobs not requiring any credentials, or they can start small businesses and capture more of the value of their talents. 

More precisely, the study finds that entrepreneurs tend to be those whose talents are better than the credentials and abilities readily observed by outsiders. When we choose to go work for someone, the company retains our productivity minus our wage, which is based on the company’s assessment of our “market value”, or the cost of replacing us with another worker who shares similar backgrounds and experiences. Those who feel that the gap between their productivity and their market wage is too wide can take the entrepreneurial plunge and, if everything works out, capture the entire value of their productivity.

A separate but related finding was that “entrepreneurs have higher cognitive ability than employees with comparable education.” If those with comparable educations exhibit comparable signals and end up at similar jobs and companies, it suggests that many entrepreneurs decide they’re out of place, “cognitively” speaking, even when surrounded by similarly credentialed peers at their job. Their boss might see them as just another employee, but the would-be entrepreneur believes this is wrong, and that they should be several titles up, running entire departments or even the whole company. They can’t fathom how the ship is being run, and since the company can’t evaluate their true value and compensate accordingly with much higher responsibilities and pay, they decide to run their own ship.

On the flip side, those underperforming yet well-credentialed workers that exhibit positive observable signals can’t believe they’re getting paid so much to add so little value. They would thrive in a large corporation that is blind or apathetic to the fact that the worker is capturing the gap between their high wage and their scant contributions. These lucky workers would find no incentive to pursue entrepreneurship, where the market would discover their true value. 

Intuitively, I think this makes sense and matches what I have observed at AppWorks. A lot of great founders have elite degrees and prestigious work experience, but they look around at their workplace and think: “This is a great gig but I’m capable of so much more in this life.” Other great founders went to average schools or were late bloomers stuck at middling companies and didn’t have any luck applying to elite companies and jobs, perhaps due to their lack of pedigree. They couldn’t bear delaying greatness any longer and took matters into their own hands.

I asked a couple of our portfolio companies’ founders for their take, including Wayne Huang, co-founder and CEO of Taiwan-based XREX (AW#17), a neo-fintech that solves dollar shortage issues for cross-border merchants in emerging economies that recently announced a US$17 million financing.

“I can quite relate to this,” the second-time founder said. “It was just obvious to me that I wouldn’t be happy with the employment opportunities that I had when I graduated. I was just not going to be happy. That part I understood very well.” 

Indah Maryani, co-founder of InfraDigital, a company digitizing Indonesian schools’ data and billing, had frustrations as an employee at a previous startup. “You’re not an owner or an investor. You don’t own the vision; others are driving it. We said it should be done another way, but it was hard to convince the others. So my co-founder and I said, let’s create another company and build it ourselves,” she says. So they did.

Of course, this is an academic study. It would be presumptuous to suggest that an entrepreneur’s or employee’s motivations are purely financial (though the study did control for several correlates of entrepreneurial choice, such as worker wealth, risk-taking, locus of control, and other demographic features). I would also argue that the capability to add economic value is not the same as the capability to add entrepreneurial value. 

But it does shed light on some of the common thoughts and fundamental drivers of entrepreneurs. “I’m more capable than this.” “I feel out of place among my coworkers.” “Is this all the impact I’m going to make in this life?” “My work is useless or misguided, and I can’t believe my boss can’t see it.” “Why am I working so hard for these wages?” “I’m not getting the respect I deserve—let me prove that I’m way more capable than this.”

After simmering in these types of thoughts, entrepreneurs of all colors make the jump, despite how scary, lonely, and risky the journey is. They move toward the entrepreneurial abyss, despite skepticism by their peers, doubts by observers, and mockery by salaried workers, all things that exist in today’s society which values so much name brands, stability, and validation by others. Despite risking being viewed as overconfident, egotistical, or doing it because they can’t find a good job, they set out on the journey anyway. They have a special drive that enables them to do this, and perhaps part of that drive for some entrepreneurs is the information asymmetry between actual talent and perceived talent.

I suppose you could say we’re lucky that this information asymmetry exists. Without it, some founders would instead find high-level jobs, having his or her hands on the wheel while adding great value at great companies, getting richly compensated, and perhaps even being able to spin their divisions off while having significant equity ownership. Instead, they embark on the difficult road of entrepreneurship, and in the process create massive value that only a startup founder could possibly create — more value than they ever could have imagined. Making lemonade out of lemons.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI, Blockchain, and NFT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】

Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map 21H1: a Pivotal Moment towards Mass Adoption

Original file for download: Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2021

Jack An, Analyst (安良方 / 分析師)

Jack is an Analyst covering AppWorks Accelerator. Before joining the team, he was a co-founder and early team member at two InsurTech startups, where he developed a passion in user experience and product development. Previous to his startup journey he worked as a commercial property underwriter at Chubb Insurance in New Zealand. Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Waikato University where he studied classical piano. He loves to cook, read and is a practicing stoic.

During the first half of 2021, public interest in blockchain reached an all-time high. Towards the end of last year, we saw an upswing in the number of organizations and enterprises buying and holding cryptocurrencies, causing the price of Bitcoin to cross US$60,000 for the very first time in March. Talk of crypto quickly made its way into dinner table conversations, and it seemed as if everybody on the block was eager to dive into the world of blockchain.

For those that have been in crypto for a while, this bull run finally let them exit many of their alt-coin investments from the 2017 ICO wave, as the wider market price sentiment rallied alongside the mainstream coins to reach an all time high. The other worthwhile trend over the past six months has been the mainstream adoption of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), a technology that provides true ownership capabilities and authenticity over digital assets. We saw hoards of multinational brands, intellectual property owners, celebrities, and individual creators quickly embrace this new technology and flock to various platforms to either buy NFTs or mint some of their own. 

It’s certainly been an exciting ride since AppWorks Accelerator started publishing Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map two years ago. In line with previous editions, we’ve observed several notable trends that have defined the blockchain industry this past half year. 

1. Branded drops accelerated end-user adoption of NFTs

The NFT standard was formulated in 2017, so why did it only catch on this past year? It really came down to two key driving forces. First, mainstream brands and IPs started employing NFTs as a vehicle to interact with their fans, such as the NBA through NBA Topshot, Taco Bell, and even the band Kings of Leon. By creating a virtual experience through NFTs, brands were able to engage and create a unique bond with their loyal fans despite physical restrictions under COVID-19, allowing them to also generate alternative revenue streams from the sales of NFTs.

Second, NFTs are becoming an alternative asset class for yield-driven crypto holders and investors. During the ICO era in 2017, most developers and investors were either busy issuing coins or trying to find the next cryptocurrency with hundred-fold growth potential; it wasn’t long until this model became monotonous and out of fashion. Fast forward to 2021, decentralized finance (DeFi) hit a US$100B market cap and drove crypto prices to all-time highs. As NFTs started emerging, crypto holders were naturally drawn to their consumer appeal and accretive potential, propelling NFTs into the limelight for mass adoption. Much of this adoption is supported by advancements in the underlying infrastructure, including a growing ecosystem of protocols, marketplaces, games, developers, creators, and of course, buyers. 

Evidently, a lot of moving parts have come together in the last few years to catapult NFTs into stardom. In Taiwan, the NFT landscape has also evolved significantly compared to the second half of 2020. For example, Lootex, an alumnus of AW#20, and Oursong, a subsidiary of KKBox, both established NFT products long before the recent bull run. All the effort they put in during previous cycles are now bearing fruit, with both companies receiving an influx of new partnerships and commercial opportunities. During this time, we also saw a proliferation of new NFT players, such as JCard and Fansi, effectively creating a diverse selection of platforms for creators to choose from.

With Beeple’s First 5000 Days selling for US$69 million, celebrity engagement, and primetime media including even SNL releasing NFT coverage, all the major signs of a bubble were there. And surely enough, monthly transaction volume experienced a significant decline of 90% shortly after its record high in May. Nevertheless, as witnessed with previous blockchain hype cycles, where there is money, there will be talent, and where there is talent, there will be development. Ultimately, NFTs are still in the early innings, and while collectibles have served as the primary use case so far, this new technology will eventually extend across any product, service, or application that needs to use a digital ID. 

2. Taiwan’s regulation catching up to the world 

Up to recently in Taiwan, the laws and regulations related to cryptocurrency have been very vague. And for those trying to stay compliant, they could only follow the existing but outdated mandate, or hope for the best by following foreign regulations. This was changed in April this year, as the Executive Yuan aligned their stance with the rest of the world by implementing strict AML/KYC requirements when dealing with cryptocurrencies. 

Existing players like MaiCoin—the primary fiat-to-crypto exchange in Taiwan—faced minimal impact as stern KYC controls were already in place. However, teams working on DeFi, lending, and investing may face greater obstacles, as it is challenging to design a user experience in a decentralized manner that complies with regulations while still adhering to the spirit of decentralization—a faux pas that many blockchain founders and evangelists are becoming increasingly critical of. Going forward, we expect decision makers to implement more comprehensive and tailored regulations for DeFi to prevent bad actors from gaming the system and taking advantage of everyday consumers; this will ultimately encourage more users and wider adoption, benefitting the ecosystem as a whole. 

3. Influx of funding and talent set to accelerate development

With the price of bitcoin hitting an all-time high in H1 2021, investors around the world are taking note of the industry’s activities. For example, in May this year, DApp Pocket (AW#19) announced that they had been acquired by Turn Capital, a family office run by 17LIVE co-founder Joseph Phua. It also merged its two products, DApp Pocket & Cappuu, into Coinomo, with the aim of bringing crypto to mainstream users in Southeast Asia. 

At the same time, another blockchain wallet developer in Taiwan Portto (AW#19, AppWorks is an investor), whose product Blocto serves as one of the earliest wallets supporting Flow and the largest delegated node by user count to stake Flow tokens, recently announced the completion of a US$8.8 million fundraising round. Primary investors include top blockchain VCs from Silicon Valley and Taiwan, as well as participation from a notable crypto exchange, public chain foundations, NBA players, and well-known American entrepreneurs, among others. 

Despite a significant price correction in cryptocurrencies since May, the momentum that has been brewing over the past six months will likely pay off in the second half of the year, whether through DeFi, NFT, or blockchain applications at both the consumer and enterprise level. We’ve also started to observe more international companies such as Animoca Brands (AppWorks is an investor) enter Taiwan to recruit top-tier blockchain talent, which is expected to further accelerate the development of the country’s blockchain ecosystem. 

Taiwan’s Blockchain Ecosystem Map First Half 2021 is created by AppWorks, Co-produced by Blockchain Media – Blockcast (AW#14), BlockTempo (AW#16), Zombit (AW#21). This map is updated every six months, if you have any comments or suggestions don’t hesitate to contact us at a@appworks.tw.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with AI, Blockchain, and NFT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】