/ Technology

Singapore for a Blockchain Hub?

I spent 4 years in Hong Kong before moving back to Singapore. The difference and why? It isn’t ALL about Blockchain.

  • Its bright, it’s connected — is this the Blockchain?
  • What is the eco-system like, what is the government doing.
  • What are the challenges in Blockchain? We all know the tech-challenges. But what are the non-tech challenges?

I’m the Founder of Soqqle, a Blockchain-powered Gamified Learning eco-system to put games into classrooms (and into real life) to get students out of their homes.

And here’s my view.

The Enterprise Blockchain

I was in J.P. Morgan and created a self-driven Blockchain POC team (with volunteer developers) in Hong Kong in 2016. However i spent more time speaking to people in Singapore where innovation teams were previously created. There was even a Hackathon where developers in Singapore dug their hands onto a Blockchain open-source kit.

And after i heard “It’s not my job” too many times, i knew that the culture wasn’t there. So then it started the journey.

Innovation is from people. People driven by their environment, their education, the language they speak, their experiences. It was clear Singapore was the place to come back to.

Why i moved back: Cost of Living

We all heard of the cost of living in Hong Kong — all about rent. As a startup trying to follow the right methods to build a Blockchain solution, It was difficult to remain competitive in Hong Kong.

So i moved back. And i get to meet my lovely 3 cats again (yay!), which is a bonus. Besides the astronomical cost of rent, the food wasn’t cheap either. An average meal for me in Hong Kong cost me almost $10 SGD. Compared to a hawker centre / food court of $4–5, this would half my living expenses!

Livability is key for for me as an entrepreneur, not just about Blockchain. And with this — available talent around me.

People and Advisors

I was lucky to met my Blockchain Advisor (Mathiannal Group) in Hong Kong when i did the MIT Fintech Course (Discontinued and now an Oxford course). We continued to meet every weekend with 4–5 others to brainstorm solutions (and eventually get me out of where i was).

But when i got back to Singapore a family started to emerge. From more Blockchain advisors with different objectives and focus, to affiliate partners who were beaming into Blockchain as a solution, they started to form.

Where did i meet them?

Blockchain events. There seems to be more in Singapore then in Hong Kong (or any other country in Asia for that matter). After being grabbed for multiple speaking opportunities, the network just grew. From Blockchain Summits to Blockshow, to De’centralize.

Also — i met them in Coffeeshops. Two of my partners (and one eventually my company advisor) were chance encounters in coffee-shops. I overheard them speaking about Blockchain, Tokenomics. I had to pounce to say hi.

There is however a crypto-cafe (Decatus) which i think i have to hang out alot more.
Incubators haven’t caught up

I haven’t been successful with incubators. Why?

Most are weary about Blockchain or Tokens. In one of my pitches, i spoke about Blockchain / tokenizing learning and the creation of a game system to create an eco-system to incentivize. Here’s what i got back: “It sounds like you are doing an ICO without a whitepaper!”

What? That’s an ill-informed wrong-context non-conclusive comment that could and probably gave negative-connotations to the project.

There is a philosophy and psychology element for ICO thats often mis-understood. And a whitepaper is good but not necessarily the right / best way for funding.

The pitches will get “it sounds cool and interesting” but it is often too difficult to drill into normal organizations as they are not ready or do not have sufficient due-diligence in it.

Light in Tunnel?

However i am in luck. I got to know an innovation head (you won’t believe it, but in a EDB Society event through a SPRING Singapore invitation) in a one of the largest local bank in Singapore. They were excited about how Blockchain could be used in the organization (not for monetization but for people / experience related functions). After passing the “Strategic Alliance” team review, i am going to go deep into the Business Unit to discuss and discover options.

To prepare for upcoming questions (like an FAQ) — these are the top hurdles we have to cross to deploy something on a big enterprise level. My advisors tell me they are not ready yet. My question is — how do we get people ready? We have to stop being afraid, and start solving real problems.

The below are the 8 key points that need to be solved. They are massive and will touch on many aspects of the bank. They could be solved — but is the ROI there?
If you (the reader) would like to participate in any of the points below, please reach out! talk@soqqle.com

Each of these are gargantuan — will i get the support to deliver?

Education Institutes

They are open. In fact Singapore University of Social Science (SUSS) is extremely open. With a Fintech team with the famous Prof Lee, they are spending a lot of effort for a conference this week. (I am invited to moderate / speak).

Temasek Poly is hosting one Xinfin.org and also supporting Soqqle in the venture. We have also had catchups with other educational institutions in Singapore to explore the use case with positive reviews. Somehow this was never as open or easy to approach in Hong Kong. It’s of course however chance encounters, and luck.

But educational institutions could dig deeper to help the community grasp the power of Blockchain. There are quantum computing labs — where are the Blockchain labs?

(below is just my opinion and the info i receive here and there).

What was helpful to me is something like what Estonia published. Whilst the last MAS published note was back in Nov 2017, i think there’s only been silence

Some others:

  • China the dragon is coming out in 2018?
  • India is unclear
  • Japan is legit
  • Swiss (Zug) is going backwards?? and Expensive. The queue for creating a foundation there is super long too.
  • Korea is cool
  • Thailand maybe?
  • What’s happening in Vietnam?

Upcoming in Europe: Belarus. No news since the last Bermuda update too.


  • “It feels like i knew you for years”
  • “Dude, it’s a few weeks”
  • “That’s how time passes in Blockchain.”

That’s one of my recent conversations. Not necessary just on the tech, but on developments on adoption and evolution. There are new trends around the token psychology, adoption methods.

But it’s a space race to who can get there first.

The threat is when startups start perceiving that the people, the government, physical space, the events are beginning to run dry and there is no fresh innovation in the space. It’s not just one thing, it’s the eco-system.

The market is big, the opportunities everywhere, my whatsapp groups buzz with constant content and updates — but can the community come closer together?

And where are the psychology, philosophy, economists for Blockchain? Can universities step up here?

The good news is:

The government is not sitting still. IMDA has launched a Blockchain challenge (i’m pondering whether i can subscribe given my existing grant commitments). SGInnovate is continually pushing growth by introducing Blockchain startups in the space. The CEO Steve Leonard is super open and supportive. He linked me up with Angeline Poh (Assistant CE) from IMDA after just one meeting which yielded positive reviews!

In De’Centralize event, i got in touch with people from GovTech, EDB and SGX who were there to explore and understand the tech. New connections made.

The space race has started. The winner will not be winners from tech. The winner will be the equivalent of Amazons of the dot-com era. The question is who is finding them, and are the people finding them singing the right tune?
Educating the evaluator is as important as the startup with the idea.

Economic Renewal

The last question is can Blockchain be the economic renewal needed to push the economy to the levels needed to sustain #industry4?

The power of Blockchain crosses many boundaries. It solves problem in sociology (consensus theory, conflict theory). It solves problems in psychology / economics (behavioral economics, game theory). It solves problems in tech (distributed consensus). It requires a lot more understanding and deeper-study into each of the domains to figure out how they come together and the underlying spider-web of inter-dependencies to create an eco-system that could spiral the economy into to the next level.

To do that, it requires an eco-system of support structures with right resources. Blockchain sounds all-powerful, but it also has it constraints — Non-Tech. Whilst the world is trying to solve the tech problems (eg. scaling), who is solving the non-tech problems?

Are you interested to find out more about the non-tech problems and understand them and contribute to solving them? Email me talk@soqqle.com

Singapore for a Blockchain Hub?
Share this

Subscribe to Soqqle - The Best Educational Game in 2018