We ask the builders in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors for their thoughts on the industry … and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them busy!
This week our 6 questions go to Yat Siu, the co-founder, Group board member and managing director from Animoca Brands, who leads various NFT projects.
A seasoned technology entrepreneur and investor, Yat is Co-Founder, Group Executive Chairman and Managing Director of Animoca Brands – a global leader in blockchain and gaming with a mission to bring digital property rights to gamers and internet users around the world. Animoca is committed to creating a new asset class, profitable economies, and a fairer digital framework that will help build the open metaverse.
Yat started his career in 1990 at Atari Germany. In 1995 he moved to Hong Kong to found Hong Kong Cybercity / Freenation, the first free website and email provider in Asia. In 1998 he founded Outblaze, an award-winning pioneer of multilingual white label web services. In 2009, he sold Outblaze’s messaging unit to IBM, turning Outblaze into an incubator for projects and companies developing digital entertainment services and products. One of these start-up projects is Animoca Brands.
1 – From smart contracts to DApps, NFTs and DeFi, we’ve seen so many of the next “killer apps” from crypto, but none have really caught on. What will stick
The killer apps for crypto are already there, they just need further growth and penetration. Gaming is the killer app – GameFi to be precise. Games like Axie Infinity and The Sandbox have captured the imaginations of thousands and grown accordingly by allowing their users to own and materially benefit from their own in-game content. The top DApps tend to be games (DappRadar currently lists six games in the top 10 DApps), and I don’t expect that to change.
2 – If you were to invest in startup companies now, what kind of blockchain-based business opportunities would you spot?
In fact, we are actively investing in blockchain companies (startups and non-startups) around the world. We are particularly interested in projects that can drive mass adoption, viewing Metaverse-related businesses as critical to future growth. By this I mean not only Metaverse world builders, but also the companies that provide open assets that are used in the Metaverse – for example, virtual car makers as opposed to an entire racing game.
Another important quality we are looking for is openness. We invest in projects that expand the open metaverse and enable the delivery of true digital ownership based on assets that benefit from being open, interoperable and composable. This includes platforms and protocols (Flow, Polygon etc.) and marketplaces (OpenSea, Bitski, BNV etc.) as well as consumer goods such as games and worlds. Basically, the companies in which we invest must be open to openness.
My concern is that the big Web 1.0 and 2.0 companies, already enjoying massive user benefit, will seek to shape the metaverse into a series of closed systems that operate on their terms and under their complete control. These proprietary metaverses are likely not very democratic and will not have the openness and digital ownership that should rightly characterize the next iteration of our online experience.
I think tech giants like Facebook are unlikely to offer their Metaverse users any significant amount of ownership – or they may do so at face value, but then implement strict content and usage licenses like the ones we see today on social media. See services. Without digital property rights, it will not be possible to create a democratic, responsible and just metaverse.
3 – Which countries are doing the most to support blockchain – and which ones will be left behind?
The winners in this arena will be countries that have offered alternative and / or fast-growing financial products in the past and that strongly support the blockchain – such as Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland. Other winners include highly developed economies that have contributed to and promoted the blockchain industry – for example Germany, where Special funds Allow pension funds and insurers Hold up to 20% of the investment as cryptocurrencies, and where the stock exchange (Deutsche Börse) and a major bank (Commerzbank) already invested to support trading in NFTs.
Countries that experiment and invest in the blockchain space will attract growth and the best and brightest talent, and those that don’t will miss out on not only the benefits of the technology but the talent as well. One example of this is how Australian crypto companies are moving to places like Singapore, drastically reducing Australia’s competitiveness in this important, growing segment of technology and finance.
This warning of Australia’s missed opportunity is being issued not only by crypto experts and similar interested parties, but also by respected industry sources such as the CEO of National Australia Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the country.
Countries with an established culture of disruptive innovation, like the United States, continue to make advances on the blockchain despite the risks involved and the lack of clarity from regulators. I think that despite tighter regulation, the US will remain a key environment for blockchain-related businesses and related venture capital (global crypto growth is driven in large part by US venture capital and other capital). Regulation is important and I hope it can be achieved without inhibiting growth and innovation.
The biggest losers will be countries that reject blockchain (including crypto) applications, and especially countries that reject the entire digital asset space. The use of fungible and non-fungible tokens offers an open, transparent value system in which growth is driven by the network effect. The more people join this new open system, the stronger it becomes, while the old closed networks become more isolated and less attractive.
For one nation, rejecting blockchain and crypto is like refusing to join the World Trade Organization and saying no to global free trade.
4 – Which talent do you lack and which one do you wish for? How would you use it if you had it?
I’m a terrible singer, which is ironic because my mom is a former opera singer and director and I actually studied music. I had to sing for my music college entrance exam, and it was tough. If I could sing well I would probably be more musically active since singing is such an easily accessible expression of culture (it can be done anywhere, anytime, without equipment, alone or in company).
I would definitely appreciate being able to perform as a singer instead of just being a listener, especially because a lot of my work involves translating and conveying culture in various forms. However, due to a lack of singing talent, I leave this job to the rest of my family, especially my mother.
5 – If you didn’t need sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Right now, I would probably use most of my time to work more – there are so many important things to do and I really enjoy my job! But if I really didn’t have to sleep, I would try to divide the extra time evenly between more work, more family, and more private time. Family time sometimes involves buying NFTs and playing games with my kids (my oldest son is an active blockchain gamer and NFT collector) so some of the family time could also count as work time, which works for me!
6 – What was the most embarrassing moment of your life?
I love to hike. A few years ago I went hiking with a friend on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. In the end we fought our way through a thickly overgrown headland, where it was uncomfortably hot and humid. We’ve been scratched by sharp branches, attacked by swarms of insects, and gagged in the foul-smelling air – one of those situations where hiking just isn’t fun. A stone’s throw away, through the bushes and the haze, we saw the sea. We agreed that it would be much nicer to walk along the water and enjoy the fresh sea breeze, so we set off.
We left the tangled vegetation and reached the top of a sheer cliff that I now have to admit. Below the cliff, a strip of rock met the sea. My friend pointed out that there was no way for us to get down the cliff but at this point I just wanted to leave the insect infested bushes behind and the only other way was down the cliff.
It was a brutally hot day and I may have had heat stroke. I let Ibrahim El-Mouelhy, my hiking companion that day and our current Chief Communications Officer, describe the event:
“Yat has always been a risk taker and optimist, and that was particularly evident that day. He strode purposefully to the edge of the cliff and assured with great confidence that we could climb down to the beach. To me the cliff looked dangerously high and steep, and the “beach” was like a jumble of jagged rocks. Yat took off his backpack and flung him over the cliff. Then he casually turned and hopped backwards over the ledge.
“I stood paralyzed with shock and horror, convinced that this was the end of Yat Siu, the future captain of the industry, but now a tragic victim of sunstroke. Almost immediately, however, I heard his loud cries for help. I hurried to the edge of the precipice and looked down to see Yat struggling to cling to prickly grasses and frayed earth on what was no doubt a vertical slope. He had apparently changed his mind about the navigability of his route and was now simply trying to avoid his likely demise. Far below him the rocks looked particularly jagged and sharp.
“I braced myself, reached down, and grabbed Yat’s hand. I’m a big guy and used to lifting weights so I thought it would be easy to pull him up. Not correct. When I tried to pick it up, our combined mass resulted in my foot breaking right through the cliff edge, which turned out to be matted vegetation and earth, rather than the bedrock that would have been so much more appropriate for those Hollywood-style antics.
“I almost jumped over the cliff myself when its edge dissolved under our weight. The situation had quickly turned from an ordinary one-armed pull to a harrowing attempt to face death. Every time I took a step back from the edge of the cliff, the ground collapsed beneath me and I had to throw myself backwards while still pulling on Yat’s arm. In this way we got ourselves back to safety. It probably only took a few moments to pull Yat off this cliff, but there were some extremely tense moments. Fortunately, we made it alive and in one piece.
“After all that, we had to hike back into the hellish bushes and hike for over an hour to find a (conventional) way down to get Yat’s backpack.”
A wish to the blockchain community:
The blockchain community as a whole has the incredibly important job of building the open metaverse where users can own their assets and data. Owning your data means owning your future and being free. This future requires that our young people build (and incorporate) the open metaverse and create enough mass and relevance so that even closed systems have to accept openness – much like how open source changed closed source (the world would be very different today without open -Source movement of the last few decades.)
I would like all young ambitious entrepreneurs to prioritize openness, fairness, collaboration and interoperability in their work and strive to provide the best possible products not only for crypto enthusiasts but also (and especially) for the billions of users who haven’t got it yet Enter the world of cryptocurrencies.