Blockchain Startups Growing in Philippinesby Tom Noda February 12, 2018
A “new mode of collaboration” or “new business collaboration tool“. These are probably the most generic definitions given to blockchain, the technology behind the first decentralized cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Thanks to Harvard Business Review, and Computerworld for putting it into layman’s terms.
This simply means blockchain is not limited to financial technology but applicable across a variety of industries. It is even viewed by many as the “new Web” or “new Internet”.
In the Philippines, most firms who are taking the jump are fintech startups albeit local listed universal bank Unionbank of the Philippines recently became a partner of Visa to build a blockchain-based B2B payments system.
Only last January 25, international organizer Smile-Expo held the first conference dedicated to blockchain technologies in the country dubbed “Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Philippines“, where specialists in the cryptocurrency market and blockchain technologies from local and overseas, shared their experience in integrating the blockchain into the government control sector, banking system, trading, media, healthcare and other areas.
It was reported that rapid growth of cryptocurrency transactions within the country reached an average of over $8 million monthly in the first half of 2017, and at one point $6 million in just one day last October.
Such distributed electronic ledger technology is definitely in its infancy in the Philippines and only two companies are considered by industry experts as “blockchain startups”, while several fintech startups are using blockchain as a backend technology for their products and services.
The local startups identified as blockchain enablers are MergeCommit and Bloom Solutions, although fintech firm Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) claims to be a company “building the Blockchain ecosystem in the Philippines”.
In our exclusive interactions with some of these companies, they shared the same sentiment that application of blockchain technnology is definitely on the rise, but as to how real they are will remain to be seen.
Bloom makes money smarter by combining modern technologies like cryptocurrency with traditional infrastructure such as SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) and SMS. The company also educates remittance businesses and financial institutions on how to apply blockchain technology to their present business blockchain and figure out how to reduce cost or make the entire operation more efficient.
Bloom chief technology officer Luis Buenaventura said the company has active remittance corridors now from countries like Hong Kong, Australia, and South Korea, and is allowing both established remittance corporations and young fintech startups to take advantage of the discounts that cryptocurrencies enable.
“Over the last three years, we’ve seen more money pour into the blockchain space than anyone was expecting, fueling a meteoric rise that was probably a little too fast for its own good,”
“Now we’re going through a difficult market correction that is causing all that new enthusiasm to deflate somewhat. However, it’s an important lesson for all the new investors that entered the space in the fourth quarter of 2017, because crypto markets are not for the faint of heart.”
Buenaventura said compared to when Bloom was founded in 2015, the biggest difference today is that they no longer have to explain the nature of Bitcoin quite as often, because people in the payments and money transfer industry have grown more accustomed to blockchains and cryptocurrencies.
“There’s still some measure of hesitation, but there’s also genuine interest and curiosity from these traditional players now,”
MergeCommit is a software company that develops customized enterprise-grade blockchain-based solutions for companies around the world. The company claims it can help build and launch a crypto exchange, develop an ICO campaign, write smart contracts, or even prototype products through our Cerberus Program.
MergeCommit founder James Florentino said his blockchain company is more focused on the B2B aspect while most prominent local blockchain startups use cryptocurrency for financial technology purposes such as remittance, exchanges, payments, trading, among others.
“My vision is to see local businesses utilise blockchain to solve fraud and increase efficiency using smart contracts that use alternative consensus models other than mining or staking,” Florentino said.
At the moment, MergeCommit is completing the final phase of the multi-tenant version of its flagship-product, Andromeda – a distributed cryptocurrency exchange SaaS platform.
“Andromeda will allow us to simultaneously serve hundreds of businesses who want to setup their own cryptocurrency exchange from anywhere in the world,” Florentino said.
Founded in April 2017, MergeCommit envisions itself by 2025 to be the most successful and well-respected blockchain company in Southeast Asia serving millions of users and thousands of companies from different industries world-wide.
Florentino has always been at the forefront of the blockchain community in the Philippines since 2011. He co-founded in 2013 the first bitcoin exchange in the country BuyBitcoin.ph which was later on acquired by Satoshi Citadel Inc in April 2015.
Founded in 2014, SCI preaches to build the blockchain ecosystem in the Philippines. It has developed products across several financial services including remittance, payment processing, investments, and mobile money.
Founded in 2014 by Mark Vernon, a British serial entrepreneur, Tagcash is a micropayments platform which builds apps, websites and APIs (application program interface) for fintech, working with regulators to allow easy management of money and private currencies used for rewards and tokens in games and apps.
Tagcash uses open source software Multichain, forked from Bitcoin Core in 2015, to create and manage both Tagcash Fiat and Tagcash Token blockchains. Permissions include admin, consensus validation (mining), connect, issue, activate, send and receive.
Among the projects built and running on Tagcash blockchains are the multi currency/asset e-wallet Tagcash Wallet, supply chain and provenance app Tagbond, gamified loyalty digital scavenger app Tagwild, and also Tagcash NFC, an app that enables tokens to be taken offline and transferred to the Android mobile phone app, and then credited to NFC bands or cards, or back to mobile devices and back onto the chain.
Tagcash targets to raise $16 million in its upcoming Initial Coin Offering (ICO) where it will sell digital tokens under the “TAG” name.
Qwikwire is a cross-border payments platform for enterprises in the Philippines. It is currently developing AQwire, a blockchain powered platform for property developers. This platform is considered a DApp (decentralized application) as it will be built on top of the blockchain technology. AQwire will empower property developers to be able to sell their units to any customer in the world.
The startup’s founder Ray Refundo noted Qwikwire’s core business will remain and expressed confidence it will get strengthened by AQwire. Similar to Tagcash, Qwikwire has announced its ICO bid and is aiming to raise $9 million in the sale of its digital token “Qey”. Its pre-sale is planned to run from February 26, 2018 while the ICO is slated on March 26, 2018.
Salarium is a payments solution company serving mostly SMEs from various industries such as BPO, manufacturing, retail, IT, among others. Now on its fifth year, the fintech firm claims to be helping over 500 companies pay more than 10,000 employees monthly via its SALPay ecosystem which provides companies with automated timekeeping and payroll solutions combined with an e-wallet and debit Mastercard. Salarium is now adding a blockchain remittance service to help multi-national businesses pay employees across borders.
Salarium founder and CEO Judah Hirsch, however, stressed he “wouldn’t describe the company as a blockchain startup but just a fintech company that is adding a blockchian remittance company”. Salarium successfully raised $13.5 million in its recent ICO launch.
Appsolutely started as a digital customer loyalty startup.The company’s founder and CEO Patrick Palacios said in 2017 they saw how transformative blockchain is to industries like customer loyalty, so they created a flagship blockchain solution called LoyalCoin.
The company launched last October its LoyalPlatform, LoyalCoin (LYL) and LoyalWallet. The platform is the foundation for a new “Loyalty Economy,” a next generation ecosystem in which consumers can use a single currency (LYL) to redeem and exchange benefits from any participating brand, anytime and anywhere.
LoyalCoin announced last February 2 that it sold out over 4.750 billion LYL tokens in its TGE or token generation event. Palacios declined to translate the value in USD terms.
“We prefer to express it in terms of the amount of XEM, BTC, and ETH contributed. We got around 5.7 million XEM, 600 BTC, and 2,300 ETH during the TGE,”
“As people become more aware and knowledgable about blockchain and cryptocurrencies, we see more entrepreneurs go the blockchain route to kick-start their new companies. As to whether these companies will last is a different matter, but we’re hoping for the success of any company that executes blockchain well,”
Coins.ph is a blockchain-enabled crypto company and bitcoin platform. Its users can purchase and sell bitcoin through traditional methods such as bank deposits, bank wiring, and ATM deposits, and even through convenience stores, remittance outlets, and local brokers.
Also on the Coins.ph platform, users can settle credit card, settle utility bills like electricity, water, and rental fees using bitcoin, removing the need to visit each company to pay in cash. Founded in 2014, Coins.ph is backed by Naspers Ventures who led a $5 million series A extension round in the fintech company last May 2017.
Featured image via Pixabay