There’s a race going on in Asia. Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines are each trying to build the “Crypto Valley of Asia” within their own borders, and other countries in Asia Pacific will no doubt soon enter the fray with their own sponsored cities.
The goal of these countries is ambitious. Crypto Valley is supposed to be to crypto what Silicon Valley is to tech: The very best companies in the cryptocurrency space are supposed to congregate there, do business with one another, and elevate one another through both collaboration and competition. This thinking is sound. Even if the technologies we use are decentralized, it is still ideal for the cryptocurrency industry to be centralized to a particular city. Being able to have face-to-face meetings, work in-person, and even get the serendipitous encounters that happen regularly in Silicon Valley is crucial. The foundation of any company, even one on the bleeding edge of technology, is people.
While the impetus to build a Crypto Valley here in Asia is a blessing to the industry, I would encourage the public and private leaders responsible for these initiatives to be even more ambitious. Try to look at it this way: What would a successful Crypto Valley in Asia look like? In the very best scenario, it would have the regional offices of the top crypto companies from the west, along with branches from some homegrown companies. At the very beginning, this might amount to a few dozen companies.
The companies would create high value jobs for the local economy, patronize small businesses already in the area, and pump money back into the city via taxes. As these benefits would largely be confined to the host city of each country’s Crypto Valley, I think the country’s economic leaders can think even bigger.
Just what can the public and private leaders in these countries realistically aim for that’s even greater than a Crypto Valley? I have two words for them: crypto tourism. Right now, the phrase has a very specific connotation, referring usually to traditional tourist getaways, like resorts, that you can pay with cryptocurrency; trips with crypto high-rollers (i.e. people who struck it rich betting on the right digital currency); or in some cases both. Some of the companies in this crypto tourism space include Airbnb-like CryptoCribs and BlockChain Cruise.
But crypto tourism can be so much more, as some countries, like Switzerland, are also starting to realize. The best analogy is not Silicon Valley, but Hollywood. At the most immediate level, Hollywood is a hub, a collection of talent across acting, directing, editing, special effects, and other aspects of production unrivaled anywhere else in the world. But Hollywood is also an ideal, and it’s why so many people from all over the world flock to see the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame, and other landmarks in the area: They want to experience the place where dreams are made.
The countries gunning after the Crypto Valley of Asia should aim for something similar: They should try to attract domestic and international tourists with the promise of the future. Doing so will expand their reach from a handful of cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and professionals to anyone with a passing interest in what the world will bring, which is to say everyone. Attracting the wider public will hinge on the successful implementation of cryptocurrency tech across these hubs. It must be omnipresent. Fortunately, there are some notable tech companies in Asia whose products can populate a tourist-friendly Crypto Valley.
To begin, the Crypto Valleys can deploy Bitcoin ATMs courtesy of Bitcoin Exchange from Singapore, along with machines from other providers that dispense other currencies, much in the same way that every city is filled with normal ATMs from multiple banks. The feeling they would give is one of ubiquity: You can get any cryptocurrency everywhere you turn.
Crypto Valleys must of course also give you a place to spend your crypto. Pundi X from Indonesia gives us a handy solution in this regard: Their Pundi XPOS devices are already being rolled out in different parts of the world, and enable anyone to transact with crypto using the Pundi XPASS card.
While the company has deployed their tech at diverse locations, including the FAMA Group in Hong Kong and Ultra Taiwan 2018, the most striking deployment could be at a Crypto Valley. Imagine walking up to a street vendor or entering any small business in the area and being able to pay using crypto via a Pundi XPOS. The juxtaposition between cutting-edge technology and its adoption by everyone in the area is a tourist destination in of itself: You’re parachuting straight into the future.
I share what a tourist-friendly Crypto Valley might look like as a challenge to the public and private leaders currently building these hubs across Asia. Getting top crypto companies to locate their offices there is a great start, but we can do so much more. We can use them as a living example on how cryptocurrency will shape the world. This idea is one that I’m sure will draw people from all corners of the globe to see.
The writer is Manila-based cryptocurrency enthusiast, and works as a financial risk management analyst at Manulife. The views are personal.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.