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泰国正悄悄成为东南亚区块链中心

虽然美国监管机构仍在试图弄清楚如何看待加密货币,但泰国政府已经在制定自己的央行数字货币了。

这只是泰国在2018年成为东南亚最有趣的加密货币以及区块链国家的众多例子之一。

自今年年初以来,泰国政府对加密货币项目和交易所的谈论越来越多,越来越公开,并表示出十分欢迎的态度。在短短几个月里,泰国监管机构从设立加密货币公司许可证到允许交易所和ICO方面取得了显著进展。更重要的是,他们也为外国区块链公司的运营提供了明确的指导方针,从而吸引了外国公司。这是我们在东南亚看到的一种模式,区块链和加密货币初创公司的创始人在考虑全球扩张时应该注意到这一点。

东南亚监管机构渴望了解加密货币和区块链

要了解像泰国这样的小国如何能在区块链领域如此迅速地行动,关键是要了解监管机构和当地企业的战略。与美国同行不同的是,多数亚洲区块链公司和交易所从一开始就与当地监管机构合作,即便它们刚刚开始打造自己的产品,发展自己的社区。这些团队利用正式和非正式的关系,从各自的地方政府那里得到支持,以增强他们的信誉。这种模式在泰国等东南亚国家尤其明显。

然而,不仅仅是初创公司试图与政府官员保持联系——这些关系对双方都起作用。以PundiX为例,该公司是一家科技公司,正在东南亚乃至全球建立一个区块链销售点解决方案。该公司首席执行官扎克·切亚(ZacCheah)是马来西亚人,也是东南亚地区的当地居民。对于监管机构如何与创业社区合作,他是这样理解的:

我认为政府正在改变,我们了解的许多政府并不是你们确切知道的我们所说的那种落后的政府。事实上,他们有这样的人,年轻的或者不年轻的,他们对现在发生的事情非常了解。所以事实上有时当我们去参加一些核心的区块链聚会时,我们会看到一些处于监管机构核心部门的人。他们知道这将改变很多,所以如果可以这样想,我认为他们是想通过“代币经济”的方法参与进来。

管制放宽,开放包容

这些类型的监管合作对该地区来说是令人鼓舞的迹象,尤其是对泰国来说,那里的监管机构一直在迅速工作,为区块链和加密货币技术提供一条法律途径。

今年6月,泰国政府将七种加密货币(比特币、以太坊、Bitcoincash、Ethereumclassic、Litecoin、Ripple和Stellar)合法化。它还允许有限数量的加密货币交易所和经纪自营商申请营业执照。然后在7月份,泰国证券交易委员会允许更多的数字代币发行商提交申请。同月,证券监管机构将ICO分为三类:投资代币、实用代币和加密货币。从这一时间表可以清楚地看出,这些监管机构执行决策的速度已经超过了西方多数国家以及亚洲其它国家。

这种快速决策的部分原因在于,泰国的监管机构对知识交换持开放态度。例如,泰国证券交易委员会最近与VitalikButerin和OmiseGo团队就交易所ICO的现状进行了对话。对于泰国来说,拥有一支像Omise这样的本地的、知识渊博、久负盛名的团队,对于为企业营造一个明确的监管环境非常有帮助。

事实上,我们看到外国公司已经开始被泰国的加密机会所吸引,西方和东方企业都在该国寻找机会。7月初,韩国第二大加密货币交易所Bithumb,在获得当地政府的监管批准后,宣布计划在泰国开业。IBM和Krungsri——泰国最大的金融机构之一,拥有860万张信用卡、销售融资和个人贷款账户——宣布了一项为期五年的1.4亿美元的合作计划,以建立数字银行业务,其中包括区块链技术。加密的势头可能会继续在泰国更盛,更多的公告和发展计划将在今年下半年公布。

不仅私人加密货币公司可以参与,泰国政府也在测试自己的区块链技术。例如,它允许泰国债券市场协会创建一种“债券币”,这是一种在私人区块链上定制的代币,获得允许的参与者包括发行者、投资者、监管机构和注册公司。

就在上周,泰国银行为其央行数字货币(CBDC)倡议的Inthanon项目勾勒了初步路线图。此前,加拿大央行、香港金融管理局和新加坡金融管理局等其他央行也启动了类似的项目。BoT计划与8家参与的银行合作,开始建立一个原型。Inthanon项目宣布:“BOT和参与的银行将合作设计和开发一个概念验证原型,通过发行中央银行数字货币进行批发资金转移。”

Inthanon项目的第一阶段将涉及开发和测试关键的支付功能,如流动性节约机制和风险管理。该项目预计将于2019年第一季度完工,其成果将非常能说明泰国在东南亚取得的进展。

建立稳固的本地关系?

对于进入该地区的新公司来说,进入该地区的难度可能会越来越大。传统上,要想在亚洲许多地区成功开展业务,很大一部分需要建立正确的关系和商业关系。随着区块链领域的发展,监管机构正在制定更严格的要求和更高的标准,以接受更多的代币和外汇进入中国。他们可能会被他们已经有关系的现有团队影响而改变他们的决策。这种动态是加密货币公司在亚洲建立社区时应该考虑的问题,因为最成熟的国家不一定提供最多的机会。

但有一点是令人乐观的,那就是东南亚地区对新公司的包容还处于相对较早的阶段,每个在区块链收容阶段的国家都处于不同的阶段。东南亚国家之间的良性竞争仍在酝酿之中,这可能对新来者有利。也就是说,要进入其中一个市场所采用的策略几乎肯定会发生变化,而且它们会变得成熟。

从长远角度来看,许多加密货币和区块链公司很可能与各自的地方政府建立相互依赖关系。这不仅适用于泰国和亚洲,也适用于世界其他地区。每个地区的监管机构都希望进一步推进自己的利益,并与当地象征性企业结成联盟。因此,对于一个放眼全球的项目来说,与一小部分监管机构建立过于密切的关系,可能会把公司带向一个不情愿的方向。

最后,对于一家进入任何外国市场的加密货币公司来说,以避免产生偏见,并受到一个地方政府的过度影响,团队有一个多国战略是很重要的。然而,要想在当地取得成功,实地团队还必须了解当地的商业文化和监管环境,具备非常深入的知识和经验。

正如泰国的区块链发展所证实的那样,哪些国家对区块链和加密货币业务最开放?在这个问题上,形势正在迅速变化,而适应这些不断变化的市场动态,对于在该领域初创企业和公司的成功至关重要。

While United States regulators are still trying to figure out how to think about cryptocurrencies, Thailand’s government is already mapping out its own central bank digital currency.

This is just one of numerous examples how Thailand has emerged as one the most interesting cryptocurrency and blockchain countries in Southeast Asia in 2018.

Since the start of the year, the Thai government has become increasingly outspoken and welcoming of cryptocurrency projects and exchanges. In just a few months, Thai regulators have made notable progress, from setting up cryptocurrency company licenses to permitting exchanges and ICOs. More importantly, the country has attracted foreign companies by providing clear and explicit guidelines for foreign blockchain companies to operate. It’s a pattern that we are seeing across Southeast Asia, and one that blockchain and cryptocurrency startup founders should take note as they think about global expansion.

Southeast Asia regulators are keen to understand cryptocurrency and blockchain

To understand how a small country like Thailand can move so quickly in the blockchain space, it’s crucial to understand the strategy of regulators and local companies. Unlike their U.S. peers, most Asian blockchain companies and exchanges work with local regulators right from the beginning, even as they are first building their products and growing their communities. These teams use formal and informal relationships to get buy-in from their respective local governments in order to bolster their credibility. This pattern is particularly true for Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand.

However, it isn’t just startups that are trying to curry ties with government officials – these relationships work in both directions. Take for example Pundi X, which is a technology company building out a blockchain-based point of sale solution in Southeast Asia and globally. Its CEO, Zac Cheah, is Malaysian and local to the Southeast Asia region, and discussed with me how regulators are engaging with the startup community:

I think government is morphing and changing and many governments that we know are not you know exactly the ones that we say that are lagging behind. They, in fact, have like people, young or not so young people, that are very knowledgeable about what is happening right now. So in fact sometimes when we go to core blockchain meetups, we actually see some very core people from the regulatory side […] they know that this will change the landscape a lot so I think they are trying to think through the, if I may, the ‘tokenomics’ of how they want to get involved.”

No longer Thaied up in regulation

These types of regulatory engagements are encouraging signs for the region and particularly for Thailand, where regulators have been working quickly to provide a legal path for blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies.

In June, Thailand’s government legalized seven cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin cash, Ethereum classic, Litecoin, Ripple, and Stellar). It has also permitted a limited number of cryptocurrency exchanges and broker-dealers to apply for operating licenses. Then in July, the Thailand SEC permitted additional digital token issuers to file for applications. In the same month, the securities regulator categorized ICOs into three types: investment tokens, utility tokens, and cryptocurrency. As should be clear from this timeline, the speed at which these regulators execute decisions has surpassed that of most countries in the West as well as the rest of Asia.

Part of that speed is that in Thailand, regulators have shown an openness to knowledge exchange. For example, recently the Thailand SEC held a dialogue with Vitalik Buterin and the OmiseGo team on the status of exchanges and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). For Thailand, having a local, knowledgeable, and well-established team such as Omise is very helpful to building a clear regulatory environment for companies.

In fact, we are seeing foreign companies already starting to gravitate towards Thailand’s crypto opportunity, with both Western and Eastern businesses seeking opportunities in the country. In early July, Bithumb, the second largest cryptocurrency exchange in Korea, announced that it plans to open in Thailand after receiving the required regulatory approval from the local government. IBM and Krungsri, one of Thailand’s largest financial institutions with 8.6mn credit cards, sales finance, and personal loan accounts, announced a five-year $140 million engagement to build out digital banking, including blockchain technology. The crypto momentum will likely continue in Thailand, and more announcements and developments should come in the second half of the year.

Not only has it become open to private cryptocurrency companies, but the Thailand government is also testing its own blockchain technologies. For example, it has allowed the Thai Bond Market Association to create a “BondCoin,” a custom token on a private blockchain between permissioned participants including issuers and investors alongside regulators and registered firms.

Then just last week, Bank of Thailand (BOT) outlined a preliminary roadmap for ‘Project Inthanon,’ its central bank digital currency (CBDC) initiative. This is following similar projects initiated by other central banks, including the Bank of Canada, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. BoT plans to work with eight participating banks to start building a prototype. The announcement of Project Inthanon says: “The BOT and the participating banks will collaboratively design and develop a proof-of-concept prototype for wholesale funds transfer by issuing wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency (Wholesale CBDC).”

Phase 1 of Project Inthanon will involve development and testing of key payment features such as a liquidity-saving mechanism and risk management. It is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2019, and its outcome will be very telling of Thailand’s progress in Southeast Asia.

Building strong local Thais?

For new companies going into the region, it may become increasingly more difficult to enter. Traditionally, a large part of doing business successfully in many parts of Asia requires forming the right connections and business relationships. As the blockchain space evolves, regulators are establishing more stringent requirements and higher standards to accept additional tokens and exchanges into the country. They’ll likely be influenced in their decisions by existing teams that they already have a relationship with. That dynamic is something cryptocurrency companies should think about as they build out their communities in Asia, as the most established countries may not necessarily provide the most opportunities.

One positive though is that we are still in the relatively early stage of adoption in Southeast Asia, and every country in the blockchain adoption phase is at different stages. A healthy competition between Southeast Asian nations is still brewing, which may benefit newcomers. That said, the strategies used to enter one of these markets will almost certainly change and mature compared to when these opportunities were very green.

In the long run, it’s very possible for many cryptocurrency and blockchain companies to develop a codependency with their respective local government. This doesn’t just apply to Thailand and Asia but to the rest of world too. Each region’s regulators will want to further advance their own interest and form allies with local token companies. So for a project that is thinking globally, forming too close of a relationship with a small set of regulators may pull the company in directions that it otherwise would not want to.

Ultimately, for a cryptocurrency company going into any foreign markets, it is important for one’s team to have a multi-country strategy to avoid developing biases and become overly influenced by one local government. However, to succeed locally, the teams on the ground will also have to be very deeply knowledgeable and experienced in understanding the business culture and regulatory environment there.

As Thailand proves, the ground is changing rapidly on which countries are most open for blockchain and cryptocurrency business, and adapting to these changing market dynamics is critical to the success of startups and companies in the space.


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