Author: Wang Yanhua
Top investors and venture capitalists gathered in Singapore on 27 May for a private meeting organised by Huobi, one of the top two digital asset trading platforms in world. In the exclusive meeting, only 24 invitations were sent out worldwide.
Four blockchain projects presented at the meeting, with a panel of judges including early Bitcoin investor Jeffrey Wernick commenting on their projects and asking questions. Tense exchanges of words between Wernick and the projects became the event’s highlight. Event organiser Hong Yun called the meeting the “most exciting” one that she has seen.
Wernick is known for speaking his mind and voicing his controversial beliefs. He takes pride in being an anarchist and free market fundamentalist, and famously believes that there are only two kinds of coins: Bitcoin and shitcoins. (He stays true to his beliefs—he told Block Asia that he has never sold any Bitcoin and has never purchased any other coins.)
After the four blockchain projects presented, Wernick did not seem impressed. He candidly told Block Asia, “They’re all shitcoins. Some of them might actually make money, but I won’t be investing in them. I think most people are just using blockchain as a fund raising mechanism.”
As an anarchist who believes that all regulation is bad, Wernick wants blockchain projects to be all about empowering people to have more bargaining power against governments and big corporations, so they do not need to be subject to their whims.
“I’m not interested in any of the projects. I don’t like their reward systems, I don’t like who they are really benefitting. They don’t disrupt the way businesses are organised. The way businesses are organised today produces a lot of bad outcomes. They are all very evil. I’m only interested in genuine peer to peer solutions,” he added.
Block Asia attended the exclusive event so you are not missing out on the exciting clash of words and ideas that transpired.
The first project was Peer Mountain presented by CEO Jed Grant, a project that aims to let people be in full control of their data with blockchain.
Grant said, “What we are doing is tokenising trust. Currently, compliance costs are a major headache and we want to fix that. In Peer Mountain, people create a digital persona and can have control of all their data. For example, they can send the same set of data to banks worldwide anywhere they go.”
Peer Mountain created Peerchain, a patent-pending innovation.
After Grant’s presentation, Wernick has sharp questions and criticisms.
He said, “You’re not helping consumers to monetise their data, you’re helping big companies to get their data. The people are getting no compensation for their data because you don’t care about them. You made the decision to not reward the customers.
“You’re helping businesses save money. The biggest beneficiary will be the big institutions. Please don’t call this decentralisation, it’s anti-decentralisation.”
Grant answered, “Users get control of their own data. We are not rewarding consumers in the first release, but we will reward them later on.”
Afterwards, Grant told Block Asia, “Jeffrey and I have some different opinions. I think we share the same idealism about decentralisation, but I’m not as idealistic as him. I’m more pragmatic and I want to develop things that we can use. If you’re too idealistic, you don’t get things done.”
Paul Sloyan, co-founder of Job.com, shared about his company’s plans to disrupt the recruitment industry.
Sloyan said, “Recruitment is broken. Job.com is 20 years old already as a job board, and we have 60 million registered users in USA. Now we’re innovating and utilising smart contracts, so we can remove the middlemen in job recruitment and help everyone save money.
“With correct feedback loops, a candidate can be put directly to the person that’s hiring them. This is great because the recruiters usually charge 20% of the candidate’s salary if successful, but we are just going to charge 6%.
“We reward job seekers every step of the way as well with tokens.”
One of the investors was not bought over. Immediately after the presentation, she asked, “Have you changed the recruitment business model at all, except for the incentives part?”
Wernick also grilled Sloyan with a slew of questions, “The reasons why employers hire intermediaries is because they want to filter the job seekers first. How is your machine learning more effective as a filter? Is the job seeker aware of how you’re filtering them and shortlisting them?”
An investor from Temasek Holdings also questioned Sloyan on the necessity of Job.com using blockchain and moving from centralised information to decentralised information
Alan Lee, co-founder and CEO/CTO of Honour Network, presented next. Honour Network was incubated by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and aims to build a platform for asset-backed tokens and encourage transparent investing.
Lee said, “Asset owners want to know: how to legally tokenise real world assets on the blockchain?
“Investors want to know: do I really own the underlying assets?
“Most platforms just let people tokenise and sell their assets. But we go further. We emphasise on transparency and ensure that everything’s legal. We openly query and inspect all the transactions and documents on the blockchain. Investors can receive public feedback on their investment decisions too.”
He also prepared two demos for the audience—one on how investors get public feedback from the greater community, and another on how blockchain distributes income.
Li Xi of Liaode Capital questioned Lee on how Honour Network verifies that assets are real, and Wernick criticised the project for not changing anything.
Lee replied, “No other fundraiser is using blockchain to provide transparency. We are changing the game. If you want to join crypto, play by crypto rules.”
The last to take the hot seat was Ella Song, co-founder and CEO of Smart Trade. It aims to build a trustworthy funding community for good algorithms, so developers and engineers have a more efficient way to get funding.
Pang Huadong of Global Sigma Group asked, “If you’re a developer who created very good algorithms, why would you want to leak it onto the platform?”
Wernick also noted that there is a conflict of interest. “This is not a good contract design. You’re just making the conflict of interest legal,” he said.
Song later told Block Asia, “What Jeffrey was trying to say is, we have collected so many algorithms, and if we know how other people will trade, we will trade according to that.
“In the stock market, this problem has been here for so many years. The problems exist, but that doesn’t mean business cannot be done.
“Our business model is not to make money based on others’ algorithms. We want to make a community that connects investors and developers. This is just the role that we are playing.”
Block Asia sampled investors’ opinions after the presentations.
Jason Yeo, an investor in the Fintech industry, said, “I like the way that the projects looked at decentralisation. They tried their best, but I think there’s still a bit of distance before their concepts become real.”
When asked whether he will be investing in any of them, Yeo said, “Not for now.”
Pang of Global Sigma Group said, “This event is very good, opinions are very straightforward. People just go straight to the point.
“This is very rare. In a lot of meetings, people just talk about how good everything is but that won’t help much. This really helps the teams to rethink all their projects.”