Naval on trading money for time

I think Naval, tech investor and founder of AngelList, is one of the sharpest minds in tech. So it was a pleasure waking up this morning to see he did another Periscope chat answering random questions from his audience.

The quote that really resonated with me, especially since I’m no spring chicken anymore, was:

Anytime you can trade money for time, you should. You’ll run out of time first.

Give the Periscope a watch here.

The best places to setup a Crypto Company in 2018

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly – my weekly crypto newsletter covering the week’s must-read blockchain news.

One of the most important decisions founders will make when setting up a crypto company is deciding where to incorporate. It’s a simple decision with profound implications. One change in regulations or a simple change in taxation rules could provide serious complications for any new crypto venture, and as such, choosing the right city to incorporate in is critical.

The rise of cryptocurrencies is irreversible, and some cities are capitalizing on the massive opportunity this presents – both for the cities themselves and for the communities they support. A few in particular have actively embraced cryptocurrencies, and are turning themselves into magnets for crypto investment.

After hours of research, I’m excited to reveal the cities which I believe provide the best balance of opportunity, stability, and access to funding for founders:

  • Zug, Switzerland
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • San Francisco
  • Gibraltar
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Malta

Let’s get started.

Zug, Switzerland

Why Zug?

Commonly known as “Crypto Valley”, tiny Zug has quickly risen to become one of the top destinations for setting up a crypto company. A decentralized political system and a light-touch approach to crypto regulation have turned this sleepy town into a magnet for crypto companies, ICOs, and investors looking to benefit from the attractive climate for research and development here.

Zug has been on the forefront of crypto innovation for years (Ethereum was incorporated here all the way back in 2014), and the city is now home to dozens of crypto startups and blockchain accelerators – as well as the Crypto Valley Association, the city’s official blockchain community.

In addition, you can even pay bills and taxes here through Bitcoin, which is officially accepted as a currency – what’s not to love?


On account of the entrepreneurs that have already migrated to Zug, the city boasts a large talent pool for its size. With this talent, has come a significant amount of capital. Crypto founders will find that Zug is a place brimming with funding, and high-quality talent and mentorship to go along with it.

In addition, crypto founders will benefit from the huge community of crypto firms that have already set up shop in Zug (Ethereum, Tezos, Monetas, and many others have a presence in town).

The crypto community is vibrant, supportive, and growing – which is exactly what one needs when starting up a new venture. Part of this ecosystem is the Crypto Valley Association, a government-backed organization that’s dedicated to turning Switzerland into a world leader in the crypto and blockchain spheres. The CVA hosts a number of networking events each month and serves as a forum for crypto entrepreneurs to learn from one another.

Another significant benefit of setting one’s crypto company up in Zug is its tax rate, which is minimal for crypto companies (even in Switzerland, the canton boasts the 5th lowest tax rate among all others). As is true in the rest of Switzerland, this low-tax environment is ideal for most businesses.

Lastly, in a world of crypto markets where volatility reigns supreme, it should come as no surprise that crypto entrepreneurs are flocking to Zug (and Switzerland more generally) for its famed stability. The government’s opening-up to crypto has been slow but methodical, and its light-touch approach to crypto regulation lies in contrast to most other foreign governments, which have taken a haphazard approach to regulating cryptocurrencies.


The cons of incorporating in Zug are few and far between, but they do exist. Some crypto entrepreneurs may be put off by the canton’s high cost of living, which should be a consideration for anyone looking to start their venture here.

In addition, although Zug is a growing crypto hub, it doesn’t yet have the international profile of Singapore or Dubai, meaning one may still have to travel further afield to find high-quality blockchain talent or capital that isn’t already tied up.

What the experts say:

Ralf Glabischnig, partner at Zug-based Lakeside Partners, shares:

Crypto Startups should establish their business in the Crypto Valley because Switzerland has decentralization and consensus in their DNA! Already more than 350 companies with more than 3000 experts are working here in the blockchain field (see CryptoValley Directory)

Get involved:


Why Singapore?

After the US and Switzerland, Singapore was the third-largest destination for ICOs in 2017.

The tiny island city-state has long been a hub for international business, and recently Singapore’s central government has started making a concerted effort to attract crypto firms to its shores by setting up FinTech incubators and drafting clear regulations around cryptocurrencies. In particular, Singapore’s central bank alone has set aside a reported $166m for developing and investing in new crypto and FinTech projects.

The city-state also boasts a vibrant crypto ecosystem, with numerous crypto events and meetings happening around town every week. Finding an advisor here for one’s crypto company is easier than in most places, and there’s also a wealth of engineering talent in this cosmopolitan city.


Always critical for crypto companies, the taxes in Singapore are low, ranging from 0-20% for most businesses. In addition, the central government has so far taken a light-touch approach to crypto regulation – much of this is due to Singapore historical position as a global financial hub, but the government is open to and curious about experiencing with cryptocurrencies themselves.

With literally hundreds of banks and VC funds headquartered on just a few square kilometers of land, proximity to massive amounts of capital is probably better here than anywhere else in the world.

Founders will find it convenient and easy to line up meetings with investors here, which are more open to investing in crypto companies than in most other cities. In addition to all that capital, Singapore has a massive crypto ecosystem, with numerous crypto startups headquartered here.

In addition, it’ll soon be home to a dedicated cryptocurrency and ICO advisory center, which will act as a hub for crypto founders looking to locate talent and start up their own venture in the city-state.

In addition to capital, Singapore is also home to a wealth of engineering talent – both homegrown and from overseas. It’s home to several of the world’s top research universities (including the National University of Singapore) and is a magnet for engineering talent on the corporate front as well.

The ranks of blockchain engineers in Singapore are small still and slowly growing, but their numbers are likely to increase as more crypto firms set up shop in the city-state.


There remains a lack of regulatory clarity around the launch of ICOs in Singapore. Officially, Singapore’s stance has been to allow ICOs for the time being, and in the past, it has explicitly allowed any virtual currencies that do not engage in illegal activity, such as gambling or money laundering. Still, many investors and entrepreneurs remain cautious, as updated regulations have not been announced yet. As recently as several months ago, Singapore lawmakers met to discuss additional regulations around ICOs, but the results of those conversations are pending as of now.

What the experts say:

Bobby Ong, CEO of CoinGecko, shares:

CoinGecko is incorporated in Singapore because the regulators here have a very progressive attitude towards blockchain technology and are supportive of startups in this space. Also, for the first 3 years of incorporation, startups here are given full tax exemption on the first $100,000 of normal chargeable income and a further 50% exemption on the next $200,000 of normal chargeable income. This is a very attractive benefit for startups considering incorporation in Singapore.

Laurent Dedenis at Singapore based Acronis, shares:

Most people will agree that Singapore is regarded as one of the best ran countries in the world. Singapore is efficient, transparent with a sound and mature Legal system. The MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) has designed a flexible framework regulating Crypto Currency and ICOs locally but also adapted to change quickly so that it would support the fast pace of the blockchain economy.

Still, Singapore has got a limited number of real Blockchain experts and the size of the country makes it more difficult to hire talent, but it sure is set to become one of the main hubs for Blockchain projects in Asia – and possibly, in the world.

Get involved:

Hong Kong

Why Hong Kong?

Alongside, Singapore, Hong Kong is quickly developing to become the second-largest hub for cryptocurrencies in Asia. Like Singapore, Hong Kong’s status as a lightly-regulated banking hub means it has an abundance of capital, dealmakers, and advisors to ensure that a potential ICO goes smoothly.

As regulations on ICOs in the United States and China have become more restrictive, founders have increasingly been considering Hong Kong as a launchpad for their crypto companies.

Hong Kong has a thriving crypto community, and a number of blockchain accelerators (such as SuperCharger) and crypto VC funds have also sprouted up around the city-state.

In addition, recent crackdowns on cryptocurrencies in China have sent a number of entrepreneurs across the border to neighboring Hong Kong, contributing to a growing pool of blockchain engineering talent. Hong Kong is also home to one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world in Bitfinex, which is headquartered here and remains quite active in Hong Kong’s crypto community.


As a global financial hub, funding in Hong Kong is abundant and generally accessible to founders. A variety of funding options are available, from venture capital all the way down to seed funding from independent accelerators and advisors.

In addition to an ample supply of funding, Hong Kong also benefits from a collaborative and open crypto community. Organizations like the Hong Kong Bitcoin Association and major crypto exchanges like Binance have fostered a vibrant community of founders in Hong Kong, which also hosts a number of key industry conferences each year (such as TOKEN2049 and others).

Like Singapore, Hong Kong has a regulatory environment that’s generally favorable to cryptocurrency firms. That said, there are a couple of caveats here that I’ll elaborate upon in the following section. Guidelines for setting up a business are clearly-defined, and cryptocurrencies have historically been lightly-regulated (although this is starting to change – more on that below).


Despite having an open and collaborative business environment, Hong Kong is starting to crack down on token sales that look suspect in any way.

As recently as this year, the central government said that it would begin looking at and regulating token sales as conventional securities, saying that it would “continue to police” cryptocurrency exchanges and token sales launched within its jurisdiction.

Although the central government is appearing to take a middle-of-the-road approach (in contrast to China, which has essentially banned cryptocurrencies completely), this has caused some founders to be wary about starting their crypto company in Hong Kong in the near-term.

In addition, Hong Kong’s government recently launched a public awareness campaign (spanning print, television, and online) warning its citizens about the potential dangers of investing in ICOs and cryptocurrencies. The impact of this remains to be seen, but in the long run, such a position towards cryptocurrencies may lessen investor sentiment over time.

What the experts say:

Cyrus Wen, CEO of Plutux Labs, shares:

While Hong Kong positions itself to be a prominent financial center in Asia, its regulators are not known to be immediately adaptive to emerging technologies, and prefer to be a follower rather than a first mover. As such, neither overnight crackdown nor deregulation towards cryptocurrency is expected from the regulators at this point.

Due to regulatory concerns over tax issues and money transfers globally, obtaining a bank account has become increasingly difficult in Hong Kong. This has been the case for any businesses, but far more so for finance-related sub-segments such as remittance companies as well as technology startups dealing in cryptocurrency.

It is worth noting that most of the top cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volume involve Hong Kong-based entities. After all, Hong Kong provides world-class business infrastructures and talent pool enabling many businesses to advance into the blockchain space.

Get involved:

San Francisco, California, USA

Why San Francisco?

As the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, it’s perhaps no surprise that San Francisco makes our list of the top places in which to launch a crypto company. With an unmatched concentration of engineering talent, close proximity to the hundreds of VC firms dotting the Bay Area, a culture of creativity, and an active crypto community, this city has all the ingredients critical to a healthy startup ecosystem.

Like any city, though, San Francisco isn’t perfect – most notably, it faces regulatory challenges as a crypto hub on account of it being located in the US. But despite these uncertainties, it remains one of the best cities for founders to set up a crypto company, and this will likely continue to be the case for years to come.


San Francisco is home to some of the most influential blockchain-focused VC funds in the world (such as Blockchain Capital), making it perhaps the best place in the world for founders to search for funding from institutional investors who truly understand the transformative nature of cryptocurrencies.

Funding of all types is plentiful in Silicon Valley, but in San Francisco in particular, extensive networking is critical to getting access to key dealmakers.

In addition to a significant amount of available funding, San Francisco also has perhaps the largest concentration of blockchain engineering talent of anywhere in the world. According to a Forbes study, it also has the second-highest number of blockchain-related job openings in the US.

The numerous crypto firms that have already set up shop here act as a significant magnet for talent and the allure of Silicon Valley is often difficult for many engineers to ignore. Founders setting up shop in San Francisco (or the greater Bay Area, for that matter) will certainly benefit from the deep crypto and blockchain talent pool in the region.

As one might expect in Silicon Valley, San Francisco also has a thriving blockchain and crypto community, with numerous events and industry conferences happening throughout the year. As an added bonus, some of the top VCs and startup advisors in the world (like Spencer Bogart of Blockchain Capital) remain very active in the community, offering founders numerous networking opportunities.


For now, ICOs and crypto companies launched inside the US (and consequently in San Francisco) will be subject to a high level of scrutiny from regulatory authorities. The Securities and Exchange Commission is watching developments in the crypto industry closely, and in recent weeks has resorted to calling the heads of suspect ICOs, many of which discontinued their token sales shortly thereafter.

In addition, there appears to be disagreement within the US government around how ICOs and cryptocurrencies should be regulated. The head of the SEC was recently quoted as saying “every ICO I’ve seen is a security”, but some lawmakers disagree.

This uncertain political climate (and the threat of having one’s crypto operations shut down altogether) has forced some founders to pursue launching their crypto companies in more supportive jurisdictions like Switzerland or Gibraltar.

What the experts say:

Andrew Lee, CEO of Purse, shares:

SF is not the most convenient place to start a company, but it is the frontier of innovation in crypto. Top developers for every major project reside or spend a lot of time in SF, and as a result, it has the highest density of intellectual prowess.

However, the market is very global and the majority of crypto companies don’t need to be at the edge of innovation. The most successful crypto businesses are actually based outside the US in cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, or Seoul.

Get involved:


Why Gibraltar?

The UK overseas territory of Gibraltar is quickly becoming an attractive destination for crypto founders. Long a strategic outpost of the British Empire, this tiny territory sits astride the Strait of Gibraltar, which acts as the primary entrance for seaborne traffic in and out of the Mediterranean.

In recent years, its lenient regulations and low taxation have attracted entrepreneurs of all types, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon – particularly in crypto.

As the first territory to introduce and fully formalize government-sanctioned ICO regulations, Gibraltar is leading the way in normalizing the use of cryptocurrencies and ICOs within the global financial system. ICOs and token sales are completely legal here, with no ambiguity.

This guarantee of stability has emboldened crypto founders to set up shop in the territory, which now is home to the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange, the world’s first government-backed crypto exchange.


Gibraltar is a world leader in building a business-friendly environment for crypto companies. It’s taking a market-driven approach to drafting regulations around ICOs and cryptocurrencies, and the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) has said in the past that it would like to create a “self-regulating environment” for token sales.

On February 9th, the territory announced that it had drafted the world’s first regulations for ICOs and that it would soon be issuing clear regulations on how cryptocurrencies could be used in investment funds as well.

This clear-eyed approach to cryptocurrencies benefits would-be founders, as there will likely be no ambiguity around the legality or corporate structure of one’s company, should it be domiciled in Gibraltar.

In addition, Gibraltar recently announced the launch of the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), which aims to provide an institutional platform for token sales, ICOs, and crypto exchanges.

The exchange is operating with the backing of the GFSC, and will provide crypto founders with a fully legal, legitimate, and a government-approved way to launch their projects or token sales. In a world where uncertainty around crypto regulations is the norm, this is a huge benefit.


Unlike the other cities on this list, Gibraltar has a tiny population and a dearth of blockchain engineering talent. As many founders are apt to fly in and do a day’s worth of business before flying out in the evening, the crypto community here is more transient and less active than some other cities.

Despite Gibraltar being a mini-financial hub, there’s also a general lack of access to funding within the territory’s borders – especially when compared to financial powerhouses like Singapore and Hong Kong. That said, there are still some high-quality events held here on an irregular basis (such as its annual Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference).

In addition, early this year, some British banks (most notably RBS) began refusing any crypto transactions originating from Gibraltar. Many British banks see cryptocurrencies as a dangerous investment bubble and are reluctant to process transactions related to them.

As a true innovator in the crypto space, some of this friction is to be expected in Gibraltar, but time will tell whether this resistance is temporary or symptomatic of a more long-lasting opposition to cryptocurrencies by the British government.

What the experts say:

Dmitrij Pruglo, CEO of COVESTING, shares:

COVESTING is heavily focused on providing a secure, and compliant platform for cryptocurrency trading. Cryptocurrency business incorporated in Gibraltar has to comply with the strictest standards of risk management, client asset protection, corporate governance, IT systems and controls, and financial crime prevention. So, the registration in Gibraltar can be seen as a sign of reliability.

Marcus Killick, CEO of ISOLAS LLP, shares:

DLT is a financial wild west, many participants will fail and many individuals will lose money. This is the risk they take for the rewards they seek. If you are going to be in the wild west it is best to be somewhere with a decent sheriff. Gibraltar’s regulatory environment will make it one of the few places where there is a sheriff in town to provide a level of protection.

Get involved:

Dubai, UAE

Why Dubai?

In the past few decades, this former fishing village has risen to become one of the most prosperous cities, and one of the most well-connected transportation hubs in the world. Dubai has long been a hub for business in the Middle East, but it’s increasingly becoming a haven for crypto investors and founders as well.

The central government here is taking an openly experimental approach to crypto, and has already announced plans to roll out a national cryptocurrency and turn Dubai into the “world’s first blockchain-powered government”.

With its low tax structure, extensive access to capital, and an open-minded governmental approach to cryptocurrencies, Dubai has many of the critical ingredients for becoming a true global crypto hub.


As the Middle East’s most prominent business hub, Dubai is brimming with fresh capital and an investor community that’s increasingly interested in crypto. Several major crypto exchanges (such as AI-driven SaharaChain) are based here, and institutional investors are increasingly willing to invest in crypto and blockchain projects.

In addition to an active investor community, Dubai also houses a vibrant development community as well, with some of the brightest development talent in the region being based here.

Perhaps most promisingly for founders, Dubai’s government is prioritizing the adoption of blockchain technologies and is aiming to run its entire government on blockchain applications by 2020. The city government envisions blockchain underpinning every facet of daily life, including real estate transactions.

This initiative signals that the government is both willing and open to working with the right partners on crypto and blockchain applications, provided they’re relevant to the 2020 Initiative. Dubai, in particular, has taken a proactive approach to adopting emerging technologies and has entire accelerator programs set up to lure in promising tech talent (such as through the Dubai Future Accelerators Program, which is run by the Dubai Future Foundation).


For founders without proven and fully-funded crypto projects, cost of living is something to consider. Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live, which could give any entrepreneur bootstrapping their project significant challenges without any outside funding.

In addition, while Dubai has become more business-friendly in recent years, government regulations around incorporation can be byzantine and difficult to understand. Many regulations are not clear, and as such, setting up a business can be difficult without a local partner.

In addition, Emirati law generally requires at least one local partner be involved to establish a business – although there are sometimes ways around this depending on one’s unique circumstances by leveraging one of the many free trade zones.

What the experts say:

Luigi Menghini, founder of Dubai based DomusCoins, shares:

Dubai is for sure an interesting city in terms of business and growth possibilities. Taxes are almost zero. The approach towards cryptos is positive, but there is no legal framework yet and the UAE might implement strict regulations as it is already happening for banking and finance. In this case, established corporations will be advantaged compared to start-ups.

Last but not least, finding skilled software developers can be challenging, in fact, 90% of the employees is foreign and to be in the country they must have an occupation. This means that you’ll probably have to look abroad to set up a new team.

Get involved:

Tokyo, Japan

Why Tokyo?

Tokyo is the financial and business center of Japan, which is the world’s most active crypto trading market, with over 40% of the world’s crypto trading volume taking place in Japan last year. A number of the world’s largest crypto exchanges are based in Tokyo, and many blockchain firms also have regional headquarters located in town as well.

The world has long looked to Tokyo for first-mover innovations in the world of crypto, and its government has been more active than others in engaging with the technology.

After a spate of high-profile cryptocurrency thefts of some of the Japan’s largest crypto exchanges, the country has established a self-regulatory body focused on securing and regulating Japan’s largest crypto exchanges. This should boost both security and investor confidence in the markets while resolving the regulatory ambiguity that has long plagued the country.


Tokyo has one of the most active crypto communities in the world – in fact, researchers have estimated that over half of its adult population has purchased or traded cryptocurrency in the past two years. Many businesses and cafes accept crypto for payments, and the level of mainstream adoption here is on another level compared to the other crypto hubs on this list.

This is primarily due to crypto’s recently-minted status as a legal tender and its mass appeal in the Japanese market. There are a variety of meetups happening every night of the week for crypto entrepreneurs and investors from all walks of life, giving the city’s crypto community a more diverse makeup than other cities of a similar size.

As the largest city in what is arguably the world’s most crypto-friendly country, Tokyo is one of the best cities for crypto entrepreneurs to set up shop. In addition to a supportive regulatory environment, the country also has robust safeguards for both traders and investors, leading many to see the country as a “safe haven” for crypto (this was recently illustrated in Coincheck’s willingness to provide full refunds to its customers following an unprecedented $530m theft several months ago).

Tokyo has benefited from recent regulatory crackdowns on cryptocurrencies in China and South Korea, as many retail investors in those countries have transferred their crypto holdings (and the trading activity that goes with that capital) to crypto exchanges based in Tokyo.


Following the Mt Gox debacle, Japanese regulators have been extremely conservative about allowing crypto exchanges in the country, even banning them outright at one point.

Recently, the government allowed 11 of the country’s largest crypto exchanges to build a self-regulatory body, which seems to bode well for the future of crypto exchanges in Japan, but uncertainty remains around whether these regulations will be held up, or tightened up yet again if another Mt Gox-like event happens again. Given the past precedent for such actions, this is certainly a key consideration for founders thinking about setting up shop in Tokyo.

In addition, despite the high trading volume, Japan still is somewhat unfriendly to crypto investors due to its high-tax environment. This year, Japan’s government announced that it would be taxing proceeds from crypto at between 15 and 55%, depending on the amount of gains realized. This likely won’t impact crypto trading in the short-term, but the long-term impact of high taxation could dampen investor enthusiasm in the future.

What the experts say:

Gabriel Yang, COO of Tokyo based BeyondBlocks, shares:

Simply put, Japan is the “New Heart” of cryptocurrency. As of Jan. 15, Japanese yen accounts for 56.2% of bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, according to coin

Japan’s stronghold on No.1 position is owed to a solid legal system supporting the industry to build credibility among individual investors, as well as Japanese familiarity with securities trading, said Midori Kanemitsu, the CFO of Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchange operator, bitFlyer Inc.

Japan is also the first and only country to establish a proper legal system regulating cryptocurrency trading, eliminating the worry of what would happen to users’ money if an exchange were to crash or go bust. We also can’t ignore the Japanese familiarity and expertise in day trading, another reason why the nation is a driving force for cryptocurrency development.

Dennis Jarvis, VP of Product at Orb, Inc, shares:

While other countries have been tightening regulations lately, the Japanese government has done a very good job of taking a balanced approach to protecting consumers versus encouraging innovation. As a result, more and more startups are moving to Japan to take advantage of the friendly regulatory environment.

I believe this will, in turn, attract more developers and crypto talent in general to the marketplace. One thing to note though is that English is not as widely spoken in Japanese business environments as it is elsewhere. Managing a multi-national team requires a sustained effort in bridging cultural and linguistic divides. In the end, though, it is more than worthwhile to be part of such a vibrant crypto community.

Get involved:


Why Malta?

With the lowest corporate tax rates in the European Union, an innovation-friendly government, and a tropical climate, Malta is fast becoming a key hub for crypto firms. Recent crackdowns on crypto in China and Japan have left many firms looking for a new home base, and Malta is increasingly stepping in to fill that role.

Even Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, has moved its headquarters here on the heels of increased regulatory pressure in Japan and Hong Kong.

With its progressive attitude towards cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, Malta’s government is being proactive about adopting crypto entrepreneurs. It recently set up the Malta Digital Innovation Authority to certify blockchain platforms set up in the country, as well as verify all crypto transactions.

The authority is also set to issue formal regulations around ICOs, which is giving crypto entrepreneurs increased confidence in the viability of setting up their own businesses in Malta.


The creation of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority has given investors confidence that the central government is serious about becoming a magnet for crypto talent from around the world. This measure, aimed at giving crypto entrepreneurs “peace of mind”, will also involve defined regulations around ICOs and definition of the roles of intermediaries within the crypto markets.

In addition to a progressive regulatory environment, Malta also has the lowest corporate tax rate in the EU, with some individuals and corporations able to pay as little as 0% tax on their profits. As Maltese law is presently ambiguous regarding how its corporate tax rate applies to crypto firms, this tax rate is certainly subject to change – but for now, it remains a huge draw for the many crypto startups that have moved their operations here.

Malta’s crypto community is still nascent, but with significant players like Binance moving in, the diverse community here is quickly growing. Regular meetups take place within groups like the Malta Bitcoin Club, and one community of crypto entrepreneurs has even created ICO Malta, a turnkey service for founders looking to incorporate and launch their ICO within the country. After welcoming Binance into the country, it seems likely that Malta may begin looking for other prominent crypto firms to lure to its shores, although it remains to be seen if any additional incentives will be provided.


As of right now, the only true disadvantage of Malta is merely that it’s mostly unproven as a crypto hub, and despite having been a hub of offshore finance for years, its banking systems haven’t been stress-tested quite as much as in some other countries.

This leads some to believe that the country may run a risk of being caught off-guard by a black swan event (such as the notorious 2014 Mt Gox scandal) that would damage the country’s pristine reputation in the crypto community. Some long-timers in Malta’s finance sector also believe that the government’s openness to crypto is superficial at best, and hasn’t been truly thought through in-depth from a regulatory perspective.

In additional, cryptocurrencies are presently still classified as “unregulated digital instruments”, meaning that funds deposited by firms on Malta’s shores may or may not be insured by the government. Regulation isn’t yet clear on this point, and some entrepreneurs may opt to hold off on setting up shop until the finer points around insurance of funds have been cleared up by Malta’s Digital Innovation Authority.

That said, regulatory ambiguity is something that should clear up during the upcoming year, as the MDIA continues to ramp up its focus on making Malta an attractive place for crypto entrepreneurs to do business.

What the experts say:

Jan Sammut, CEO of ICO Launch Malta, shares:

Malta is shaping up to be the ground-zero of blockchain innovation in Europe. The strategic nexus between a highly skilled technical workforce, pro-business government and efficient tax structures whilst being a fully fledged EU and Eurozone member make it the obvious choice for blockchain start-ups. Also, never discount the advantage that the climate and lifestyle here offers when recruiting and relocating staff members from the northern countries.

Get involved:

In closing

As anyone involved in crypto already knows, the regulatory landscape is constantly changing, and any country that’s open to cryptocurrencies today could easily swing the other way at any given time.

Such regulatory uncertainty makes choosing the right place to incorporate one’s crypto company all the more important. At present, it’s impossible to completely eliminate regulatory risk when setting up a crypto company, but one can minimize it by choosing a jurisdiction with a stable government and an optimistic approach to cryptocurrencies.

At present, I believe the five cities on this list have the most stable environments for setting up a crypto company or launching an ICO. None of them are perfect, but the risk profiles of all five are much lower compared to other crypto hubs around the world where the regulatory uncertainty is a bit more pronounced.

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter covering the week’s must-read blockchain news.

The 25 Biggest eCommerce Startups in Asia

If you’re interested in tech and startups in Asia, be sure to check out AsiaTechList – my hand-researched list of 4,000+ fast-growing tech companies in Asia.

With its highly populated countries, dense cities and rapidly growing economies, Asia — and, in particular – Southeast Asia – is rapidly growing into one of the world’s most important regions for ecommerce businesses.

From hopeful “Amazon for Asia” startups to smaller, more specialized online retailers, we’ve put together a list of Asia’s 25 biggest eCommerce startups using factors such as investment, sales and potential for growth.


Founded in 2012 by Rocket Internet, Zalora is an online fashion store aimed at customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian markets. It also operates in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

One of Southeast Asia’s most established ecommerce startups, Zalora has gained investment from conventional retailers in many of its key markets, including Thailand’s Central Group and the Ayala Corporation of the Philippines.


Indonesian ecommerce startup Sociolla is a one-stop destination for anything related to beauty and wellbeing.

Aimed at the massive and rapidly growing Indonesian market, Sociolla is one of several large ecommerce startups to have popped up in Indonesia recently. The company has secured $12 million in investment in three separate funding rounds since it was founded in 2014.


Based in Kuala Lumpur, iPrice is an online shopping aggregator that lets consumers check and compare prices for electronics, cosmetics and beauty products, fashion and other items from a wide range of Southeast Asia-based retailers.

Built to tap into Asia’s ecommerce boom, iPrice provides its comparison services for customers in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand. As of 2017, the site featured foods from more than 1,000 retailers across its target countries.


One of Asia’s biggest and most ambitious ecommerce startups, Lazada was originally founded by Rocket Internet in 2011. Since then, it’s raised investment from numerous sources, including a 2016 partial acquisition by the Alibaba Group.

Aimed at becoming Southeast Asia’s version of Amazon, Lazada has grown massively over the last seven years. Recently, Alibaba invested an additional $2 billion into the company, with aims of tapping into the consumer spending Southeast Asia’s rapidly-growing middle class.


Based in South Korea, Althea is a cosmetics and skincare products retailers that hopes to grow into one of Asia’s top shopping destinations for aesthetic goods.

Although Althea is primarily aimed at the Korean market, it also operates throughout Asia, with websites serving markets such as Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and even the United States.

Founded in 2015, the company has raised $10.7 million in total investment over the last three years as part of its growth strategy.


Located in Indonesia and aimed at the country’s growing domestic market of online shoppers, Bhinneka is a marketplace for all things tech, from laptops and smartphones to digital camera equipment, tablets, TVs and more.

Although it was originally founded in 1993, Bhinneka didn’t enter into ecommerce startup mode until relatively recently, raising $22 million in a venture capital funding round in 2015 in order to grow the company’s online presence.

According to DealStreatAsia, Bhinneka could become one of Southeast Asia’s first ecommerce retailers to go public in 2018.


Headquartered in Singapore, Shopee is another ambitious ecommerce startup hoping to grow into the Amazon of Asia.

An online marketplace for buyers and sellers, Shopee allows sellers in countries like Thailand Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam to open their own online stores, competing for their own share of Southeast Asia’s growing online retail market.

Shopee is owned and operated by Garena, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest free-to-play online gaming companies.


Designed to provide “accessible luxury,” Reebonz is an online marketplace that lets people buy and sell new and pre-owned luxury items, from high-end wristwatches to handbags, designer clothing and accessories.

Launched in 2009 and headquartered in Singapore, Reebonz operates throughout Southeast Asia. As of 2018, the company operates throughout Southeast Asia and has a team of more than 300 full-time staff.


Run from Australia, the UK and the USA, MySale operates several discount deal websites for markets in Southeast Asia.

Particularly popular in Malaysia, MySale blends ecommerce with the daily deal offerings of sites like LivingSocial. The group behind MySale also operates several additional daily deal shopping sites throughout the Asia-Pacific area, including SingSale and OzSale.


An online shopping marketplace designed specifically for women, Orami offers products for women of all ages, from the latest must-have fashion items to products for mothers.

Orami is one of several ecommerce startups hoping to dominate Indonesia’s huge market for female beauty products — an industry that was recently valued at more than $2.2 billion by the Wall Street Journal.

Originally founded as “Moxy” by the Ardent Capital group in Thailand, Orami is the result of a merger deal with Indonesian ecommerce platform Bilna. Orami launched in 2013 and received funding from investors such as Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin.

Sale Stock

Another Indonesian ecommerce startup, Sale Stock sells mid-priced, modern clothing with free shipping throughout Indonesia. Unlike Orami and other gender-specific ecommerce companies, Sale Stock has a wide range of options for men, women and children.

Founded in 2014, Sale Stock is part of Indonesia’s current ecommerce boom. The company has raised $27 million in several funding rounds since its launch and is set to reach break-even in its third year of operations.

Matahari Mall

Also aimed at the Indonesian fashion market, Matahari Mall launched in 2015 as a competitor to other ecommerce startups such as Sale Stock and Orami.

Like Orami, Matahari Mall has a focus on women’s products, offering everything from cosmetics to women’s clothing. The marketplace isn’t gender specific and also offers clothing and products for men, often with significant discounts.

With $616 million in total funding and between 500 and 1,000 employees, Matahari Mall is one of Indonesia’s biggest ecommerce startups. The online side of the business is supported by the Matahari Department Store — one of Indonesia’s largest department store brands.


An online marketplace similar to Amazon, Elevenia is a fairly recent entrant into Indonesia’s increasingly crowded ecommerce industry. Founded in 2013, the company has taken part in several capital raises, with the most recent a $50 million venture capital investment.

Like Lazada, Shopee and other Southeast Asian ecommerce platforms, Elevenia gives sellers the opportunity to market their own goods online to a huge audience, offering everything from clothing to groceries, consumer electronics and home items.


Described as Taiwan’s answer to Fab and Gilt, Citiesocial is a Taiwanese ecommerce startup that sells mid-range and high-end consumer products through a curated catalog designed to give customers the experience of shopping in a department store.

Launched in 2011 as a simpler daily deals platform, Citiesocial changed its focus to its current business model in 2013, cutting back the size of its team and securing investment in the form of two venture capital rounds from investors such as the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.

With a membership of 90,000 as of 2015, Citiesocial boasts some impressive metrics — around 25% of the site’s users make repeat purchases on a 45 day basis.

Hot Deal

One of several relatively new ecommerce startups aimed at the Vietnamese market, Hot Deal offers a mix of Groupon-style daily deals and conventional ecommerce, selling everything from hotel vouchers to consumer products at discounted prices.

Founded in 2013, the site has a relatively limited public funding presence but boasts between 500 and 1,000 employees. In 2015, just two years after its launch in Vietnam, 30% of Hot Deal was acquired by Japanese outsourcing company Transcosmos for an undisclosed amount.


Aimed at the Singaporean market, ShopBack is a coupons, cashback and discounts startup that offers exclusive deals for a range of online retailers. Using ShopBack, customers earn cashback on any purchase made through a participating retailer that can be deposited into their account.

ShopBack launched in 2014 and took part in three funding rounds, raising $26.1 million to grow its user base and operations. Currently, the company offers coupon codes for more than 1,300 businesses, including local ecommerce giants such as Lazada and Taobao.


Another Southeast Asian startup, Singaporean fashion brand and ecommerce company Zilingo has grown massively since it first launched in Thailand in 2015. As of 2018, the company has raised more than $80 million through four venture capital funding rounds.

Based in Singapore, Zilingo offers affordable, high quality fashion sold online to customers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia — countries that include several of the world’s fastest growing ecommerce markets.

Giosis (Qoo10)

Aimed at becoming Asia’s largest online marketplace, Qoo10 is an ecommerce company that offers buyers and sellers the opportunity to trade directly in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.

Aimed at B2C ecommerce, Qoo10 looks and feels like a Southeast Asian equivalent of Chinese ecommerce marketplaces, such as Taobao and AliExpress, with everything from fast fashion to affordable home appliances available from a variety of merchants.


Vietnam is one of Asia’s fastest-growing ecommerce markets (and one of its fastest-growing economies in general), and ecommerce startup Tiki hopes to become its dominant shopping marketplace.

Competing with Shopee and Lazada, Tiki is a giant consumer marketplace offering a range of goods from a variety of independent sellers. Earlier this year, Chinese ecommerce firm led a Series C investment round in Tiki worth an estimated $50 million.


Honestbee is an online grocery shopping and delivery startup that wants to make one of every household’s biggest purchases — the weekly groceries — quicker, easier and more affordable.

Founded in 2013, the company provides personal shopping and delivery services in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Launched in 2015, Honestbee has also expanded into services like laundry collection, aiming to become a one-stop service provider for a variety of daily tasks. The company has raised several funding rounds, including a $15 million Series A investment in 2015.

Ninja Van

Focused specifically on ecommerce, Ninja Van is a last-mile delivery service that makes it easy for online merchants to track their shipments to consumers, receive updates on their status and stay on top of their ongoing deliveries.

Based in Singapore, Ninja Van also operates in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Earlier in 2018, the company raised one of the largest investment rounds for a Southeast Asian startup, bringing in $87 million from investors such as the DPDgroup.


Founded in 2014, HappyFresh is an Indonesian grocery shopping and food delivery startup that connects consumers with a range of brick-and-mortar supermarkets.

HappyFresh has more than 30 participating supermarket chains throughout Indonesia, giving it a great level of access to one of Asia’s fastest-growing markets. Through the HappyFresh app, users can order more than 100,000 different products delivered straight to their doors.

In addition to its home country of Indonesia, HappyFresh also operates its personal shopper and delivery service in Malaysia and Thailand. Since its launch, the company has taken part in three funding rounds, raising $10 million in a 2015 Series A investment round.

Pomelo Fashion

Pomelo Fashion is an online clothing retailer based in Bangkok, Thailand. Founded in 2013, the company sells stylish, affordable clothing with a variety of benefits for consumers, ranging from 365 day returns to fast, free deliver on first orders.

Aimed at competing with international fast fashion brands such as H&M and Zara, Pomelo runs frequent sales and offers delivery to several growing markets in Asia, ranging from Thailand to Singapore, Indonesia, and even Australia and the United States.


Headquartered in Jakarta, Elevenia is an ecommerce marketplace startup that offers everything from fashion to beauty products, consumer electronics, sporting goods, home items and more.

Aimed at becoming the Amazon or Taobao of Indonesia, Elevenia has grown rapidly since it first launched in 2013. In 2016, the company secured its second funding round, attracting $50 million from a group of investors including SK Planet and XL Axiata Tbk.


Malaysian fashion and beauty startup FashionValet launched in 2010 and has since grown into one of the Southeast Asian country’s top ecommerce companies in its field, operating a hugely popular online store in addition to four retail locations throughout the country.

Impressively, FashionValet has grown rapidly without huge outside investment — the company has taken part in several funding rounds, but fueled its fast, sustained initial growth with just $6.4 million in seed and Series A financing.

Meet PR300

Today I’m pleased to announce I’m launching – a tech news that provides just the key facts to today’s hottest tech news.

The aim is to help people understand what’s happening in tech in a fraction of the time it takes reading through articles on tech blogs that have horrible UX or by visiting multiple tech blogs.

I’ve been in the content world for a long time now, and it saddens me where tech news sites are headed. Many news sites are introducing paywalls and many have introduced new designs that are frankly, unusable. My hope is PR300 will solve a few of these problems.

It’ll be interesting to see how this project grows.

25 Transport Startups in Asia You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in tech and startups in Asia, be sure to check out AsiaTechList – my hand-researched list of 4,000+ fast-growing tech companies in Asia.

Asia is home to some of the world’s most rapidly developing countries, and that development has created a unique set of transportation challenges for urban designers and commuters alike.

Luckily, a new crop of startups has arrived to address some of the most pressing transportation issues in this part of the world, and the solutions they’ve come up with are already being implemented in other parts of the globe as well.

To better understand the future of transportation, it’s worth taking a look at the numerous Asia-based startups that are unlocking new markets and coming up with breakthrough innovations to make it all possible.

Let’s get started.

1. Grab

Grab started out its life in Singapore as a generic ride-sharing startup, but it’s since evolved into a major platform player in the region that now offers a truly diverse range of services (like its payment platform, Grab Pay, and GrabFood for food delivery). It recently landed $1B in funding in a financing round led by Toyota, and now has a market cap of more than $10B.

To help foster the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia, Grab recently launched Grab Ventures, a new venture fund that’s aimed at fostering a vibrant transportation and logistics sector in the region.


Just over a year old, Chinese startup is now one of the fastest-growing startups in the transportation sector, and for good reason. Earlier this year it raised $112M in a Series A round to help it continue developing its AI-based autonomous driving platform, and it also launched its first fleet of self-driving taxis on the streets of Guangzhou earlier this year.

With dual headquarters in Beijing and Silicon Valley, is a transport startup with global ambitions. It’s presently developing its own autonomous car, which it hopes to have driving on roads around the world in the next few years.

3. DiDi

Formed by the merger of two of China’s largest ride-sharing startups, DiDi is the largest ride-sharing startup in the Chinese market. Its acquisition of Uber last year helped
eliminate any excess competition, and now it’s seeking to expand globally, with expansion plans for Australia and other countries already in the pipeline.

The ride-sharing startup is also partnering with several of China’s largest auto manufacturers to make electric vehicles affordable to all, with a goal of having 10 million electric ride-sharing vehicles in operation by 2028.


After several years spent focusing on its home market in Indonesia, GO-JEK is finally giving Grab some serious competition in Southeast Asia. The ride-sharing startup recently was offered a $1B line of funding from some of the region’s largest investors – a lineup that includes heavyweights like Tencent, Warburg, and others. That funding is setting the stage for some massive growth that will likely put it on a collision course with other ride-sharing services in the region.

But GO-JEK isn’t just about ride-sharing either – the startup also offers food delivery services, a payment platform, and even on-demand massages to users on its platform.

5. Mobike

Some say that the global bike sharing revolution started in China – and if that notion is true, then Beijing-based Mobike is the startup leading the way. The bike-sharing service is now available in most major Asian cities, and it’s recently begun expansion abroad too, with rollouts in the UK and the US already underway.

In April of this year, Mobile was acquired by Chinese ecommerce giant Meituan-Dianping for nearly $3B in a move that will help complement Meituan’s recently rolled-out ride sharing services in the region.

6. Twenty Two Motors

Twenty Two Motors is an India-based startup that’s focused on bringing the next generation of electric scooters to the world. It launched its flagship Flow scooter earlier this year, which is the first electric scooter in the world to have an AI-powered driving system. With Twenty Two Motors’ proprietary OS, the Flow scooter is able to predict and identify potholes in the roads before they appear – a true competitive advantage in a market that’s notorious for its poorly-maintained roads.

The startup has raised nearly $2M in funding to date, and is already working on the next generation of its electric scooter, which may incorporate limited self-driving capabilities as well as additional AI-powered functionality.

7. Xpeng

Xpeng is China’s fastest-growing electric vehicle startup. Earlier this year, the company raised nearly $350M to help it invest further in the development of autonomous driving technology as it prepares to roll out its first production vehicle, the Xpeng G3, later this year. Although its first production model will be available this year, the startup isn’t planning to produce cars en masse until 2020.

That hasn’t sated the appetite of investors, though, and Xpeng is looking to capitalize on that interest by raising an additional $1.6B in funding by the end of the year.

8. JingChi

JingChi is a startup that’s fully focused on creating the world’s most advanced infrastructure for autonomous vehicles. Most notably, the startup recently joined Baidu’s Apollo program, an initiative that’s aimed at accelerating the development of autonomous driving platforms (70 other Chinese startups are already on board with the program).

JingChi’s technical offerings range from high-definition LIDAR mapping software to deep learning software that can be embedded in almost any vehicle, and the company most recently raised more than $50M in a Pre-A funding round late last year.

9. EHang

EHang is already the most innovative drone startup in Asia, but this year it boosted its credibility even further by unveiling the Ehang 184, an autonomous passenger drone that can carry two passengers and fly up to 80mph. The drone startup has already completed more than 1,000 successful test flights, and hopes to bring the drone to the commercial market in the coming years.

In addition to its transport-oriented drone, EHang also offers a full line of consumer-focused drones designed for everything from action photography to video surveillance.

10. Ofo

Four year-old Ofo was one of the first startups to bring bike-sharing to the Chinese market, and it’s now expanded globally, with a fleet of more than 15 million bikes in operation around the globe. Earlier this year, the startup raised $866M in a funding round led by Alibaba. The funding will reportedly be used to accelerate the bike-sharing platform’s expansion into additional markets in the months ahead.

Bike sharing vandalism is quickly become a significant problem for cities around the world, but Ofo is there to help. It recently announced a program to help combat bike vandalism, which will see it partner with city governments on better controls for bike-sharing platforms.

11. Huochebang

Often described as an “Uber for trucks”, Huochebang is an on-demand logistics platform for commercial trucks across China that matches commercial truckers with shippers that need help with transportation. The startup recently got even bigger late last year after merging with its largest rival, Yunmanman, and it’s raised more than $400M in funding from investors like Tencent and others to date. Huochebang now has more than 3.7 million trucks on its platform, with plans to add even more drivers across the region in the coming months.

12. Byton

Chinese startup Byton is quickly becoming a major player in Asia’s increasingly crowded electric vehicle startup market. It recently raised $500M in a Series B funding round led by FAW Group, one of China’s largest carmakers, and it’s now partnering with the auto manufacturer on producing a new line of electric vehicles.

The startup is working on building its own electric vehicles too, and is promising to unveil a prototype of its widely-anticipated electric sedan later this year.

13. Ola

Ola is India’s largest ride-sharing startup, and has managed to remain dominant in the market even after Uber’s entry into the market a couple of years ago. As of earlier this year, it’d already raised $3.9B from a worldwide coterie of investors, and last month it reported a record 70% revenue growth for its most recent financial year.

Though India is Ola’s home market, the startup is already seeking growth opportunities overseas, with a major expansion into Australia already underway.

14. NIO

Tencent-backed NIO is one of China’s fastest-growing electric vehicle startups, and it recently filed to go public in the US in what could end up being a $2B IPO. Along with its lineup of standard electric vehicles, NIO is also working on the next generation of its EP9 hypercar, which is said to boast around 1,350hp and fully autonomous driving capabilities.

The Shanghai-based startup already has 4,000 employees around the world, and is continuing to grow rapidly in Asia and abroad as it prepares for its upcoming IPO.

15. Xcharge

Xcharge is a Chinese startup that’s developing the next generation of high-powered charging systems for electric vehicles. While the its charging stations are commonplace across China, Xcharge recently embarked on an ambitious expansion into Europe, with a new network of chargers set up in Germany earlier this year.

The startup has around 20,000 charging stations in operation around the world, and payment for charging services is accepted through both credit cards and Xcharge’s proprietary app.

16. BlueSignal

Seoul-based BlueSignal is creating an innovative platform to help relieve traffic congestion around the world. Its app is able to predict the risk of heavy traffic for drivers days in advance, helping users to adjust their travel to time slots that have lighter traffic.

In addition to its consumer-facing technology, BlueSignal is working on enterprise-grade solutions as well. It recently announced a partnership with a major automaker to create predictive traffic management software for its next generation of vehicles, and is continuing to work on other applications for its technology as well.

17. VersaFleet

VersaFleet is a Singapore-based SaaS startup that’s building software to fuel the next generation of logistics and transportation startups. The startup raised nearly $3M in pre-Series A funding earlier this year, which will be used to expand its presence in Asia and further develop its enterprise SaaS offerings.

The VersaFleet platform helps transportation companies automate their logistics operations while streamlining their fleet planning in the process.

18. Katsana

Connected car startup Katsana has built one of the world’s most effective systems for quickly recovering stolen cars. With a 98% recovery rate, the Malaysia-based startup is tracking cars for numerous auto manufacturers, and stopping thefts before they start.

The startup has also developed software that helps auto manufacturers “score” drivers based on their driving habits, and encourage good driving behavior for reckless drivers.

19. Niu

Niu is a Chinese startup that wants to make high-quality electric scooters accessible to all. The company builds electric scooters that are designed short trips with a large urban center, and is looking to solve for the “last-mile” problem that plagues the urban cores of many Asian urban centers.

The company is looking to export its scooters abroad too, and it began selling its new flagship model in Europe after announcing it at the Urban Mobility Summit in Paris last month.

20. Delhivery

Indian logistics startup Delhivery has created a transportation platform to help Indian companies solve for the last mile of delivery. With a valuation of around $2B, the startup has already raised more than $250M in funding to date – and it’s reportedly planning to go public and raise at least $350M in its IPO later this year.

The Delhi-based startup presently operates in more than 1,200 locations across India, and is now embarking on an ambitious growth plan across India’s secondary cities.

21. FOMM

FOMM is a Japanese startup that’s developing a compact electric vehicle designed specifically for Southeast Asian and European cities, where roads tend to be smaller (and traffic tighter) than other parts of the world. The company is planning to begin producing 10,000 vehicles per year as soon as possible through its production facilities based in Thailand.

The most intriguing feature of FOMM’s car, though, is that it floats – literally. This could prove to be an attractive feature in countries like Thailand, which frequently experience massive floods that bring traffic to a standstill.

22. Rivigo

India-based logistics startup Rivigo is focused on solving for some of the country’s thorniest transportation problems using big data and AI. The startup has a fleet of more than 2,000 trucks scattered across India, and is looking to automate its entire operations as it moves to an on-demand shipping model.

Earlier this year, the startup raised $50M in Series D funding in a round led by Warburg Pincus, which values the startup at around $1B

23. Cainiao

Cainiao is a Chinese startup that’s seeking to streamline the process of conducting ecommerce deliveries. Earlier this year, the company was acquired by Chinese ecommerce behemoth Alibaba for $870M, and although now under the Alibaba umbrella, it continues to operate independently.

The startup recently announced that it will be setting up a $1.5B digital logistics center at Hong Kong’s international airport that will feature automated warehousing and cargo transport capabilities.

24. TuSimple

Beijing-based TuSimple is a startup that’s building the next generation of fully self-driving commercial trucks. The company is presently testing its self-driving technology on test tracks in both China and the US, and is also using the same technology to help automate port operations in some of China’s largest cities.

The startup has already raised more than $100M in funding to date, and is aiming to make its commercial trucks available to shipping companies around the world within the next 2-3 years.

25. Carro

Carro is a Singapore-based automotive marketplace that is revolutionize the way its users buy, sell, and rent out their cars. It recently raised $60M in Series B funding (led by Softbank Ventures) to expand its operations in Southeast Asia after announcing Genie Finance, its insurance underwriting and services business.

If you’re interested in tech and startups in Asia, be sure to check out AsiaTechList – my hand-researched list of 4,000+ fast-growing tech companies in Asia.

Cool stuff I’ve discovered recently

Here’s a list of cool stuff I’ve discovered recently:

20 Crypto Companies in Gibraltar you should get to know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto nnectmpanies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

Tiny Gibraltar is taking an outsized role in the crypto community these days. The British protectorate has partnered with crypto startups to launch a blockchain exchange on its shores, and has pushed aggressively to attract crypto startups to its shores.

The territory was also one of the first states to have successfully passed legislation around crypto – and this regulatory certainty is leading more entrepreneurs than ever to shift their crypto operations here.

1. Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange

Launched in partnership with the Gibraltar government, the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange is the British territory’s first digital asset exchange and token sale platform. Its native currency is the Rock Token (RKT), with 60 million tokens worth around $6m issued during GBX’s initial token sale. The exchange operates under the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) regulations set by Gibraltar’s government, and is a subsidiary of the Gibraltar Stock Exchange.

In late April, the exchange made headlines when it announced the ICO of TraceTo, the first token sale to be launched on the GBX platform. The GBX is also actively courting other crypto exchanges in a bid to become one of the leading token sale platforms in Europe.

2. Acorn Collective

Acorn Collective is a Gibraltar-based startup that’s looking to transform the world of crowdfunding using crypto and blockchain technology. Headed up by a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, the firm has built a platform that allows anyone to offer equity in their project or company in the form of tokens (transactions are generally conducted using ACOs, the platform’s native token).

The startup was founded in mid-2017, and is an active player in Gibraltar’s nascent crypto community. In addition to its crowdfunding platform, Acorn also offers legal and advisory services to any firms raising funding through its platform.

3. ConnectJob

Gibraltar-based ConnectJob is a startup that’s disrupting the global gig economy through its blockchain-powered labor platform, which allows users to earn cryptocurrency in exchange for performing various tasks. The Ethereum-based service launched in late 2017, and did its public ICO in February of this year, raising more than $7m to fund the accelerated development of its platform.

On the ConnectJob platform, every engagement is tied to a smart contract, which tracks the history of each job in a transparent and secure way. After successfully completing jobs, users are paid in CJT tokens, which can then be exchanged to fiat.

4. Current

Current is a blockchain-based media streaming startup that gives its users choices in how they want to pay for their streaming services. Current combines functionality from all major streaming platforms (including Spotify, YouTube, and others) all in one place, and rewards users for streaming content and data shared – the latter of which is shared with third parties, providing Current with dual income streams.

After streaming, users can earn CRNC tokens (the platform’s native currency), which can then be converted to other cryptocurrencies. The platform boasts a top-tier advisory board as well, ranging from entrepreneur Mark Cuban to VC investor Sten Laureyssens.

5. MediBloc

MediBloc is looking to disrupt the world of healthcare using a collaborative, blockchain-powered data sharing platform. The MediBlock platform enables users to sell their health data to researchers around the world, and get compensated in MED tokens (which are also already listed on a number of crypto exchanges globally). In addition, patients have full access and control over their data, and are able to dictate which pieces of their “healthcare identity” are shared with insurers and care providers.

Based in Gibraltar, the firm is presently targeting Asia for its first phase of growth, and has established partnerships with a number of medical institutions across the region to enable access to its platform data.


NKOR is a Gibraltar-based firm that’s built a blockchain platform for IP rights management. Intellectual property records can be uploaded to the NKOR platform, where they are securely encrypted and recorded on the blockchain. The NKOR team is aiming to launch its public ICO later this year, the funds of which will be used to accelerate its platform development and begin hiring for R&D roles.

The startup was launched in mid-2017, and is led by CEO Eric Klein (formerly CEO of television company High 4K). By transforming the way people track and are compensated for their intellectual property, NKOR hopes to create a thriving ecosystem of individuals that are securely tracking their inventions on the blockchain.

7. TraceTo

Originally founded in Singapore, TraceTo is now making inroads in Gibraltar by becoming the first firm to list its token (and launch its corresponding token sale) on the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange. After being approved to list on the GBX just last month, TraceTo is now in the final stages of preparing for its long-awaited token sale.

The TraceTo platform bills itself as a “decentralized Know Your Customer (KYC) network” that enables cryptocurrency organizations to implement KYC best practices at each step of the customer journey. Crypto companies can store their customer details on smart contracts, which can then be viewed inside TraceTo’s software layer.

8. Transact Payments

Transact Payments is a Gibraltar-based e-money platform servicing enterprise businesses and consumers around the world. It provides a wide range of payment solutions for enterprise clients, including several cryptocurrency options. As part of the payment platform, Transact Payments offers crypto wallet services to help customers secure their tokens as well.

The firm operates with full regulatory approval from the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and is a certified partner of both MasterCard and Visa. As part of its global footprint, Transact has a wide range of clients, ranging from large financial institutions to small tech startups.

9. Lendo

Lendo describes itself as “a fintech company enabling lenders to provide fiat loans for cryptocurrency collateral and a cryptobanking ecosystem”. After being founded in London late last year, the startup has since relocated to Gibraltar, and hopes to leverage the former British territory as an entry point into the European market.

The Lendo platform allows anyone to loan out fiat to would-be crypto investors, or vice-versa. As a result of all lender and customer data being stored on the blockchain, loan applications will be able to be processed nearly instantly, even when investors are using their crypto for collateral.

10. Dether

Dether is a Gibraltar-based, P2P network that allows anyone to buy and sell Ether instantly. The Dether app and platform matches crypto investors and buyers looking to trade their fiat for Ether, and vice versa. To appear as a buyer or seller on the Dether app, users can purchase DTH Tokens, which will put them on the “DTH Map” and make them eligible for matching with other users.

Earlier this year, Dether launched its public token sale, which raised nearly 4k in Ether to fund platform development and increased hiring. The firm has also received partial backing from ConsenSys, the decentralized application developer.

11. Siglo

Siglo is a Gibraltar-based startup headed up by brothers Joel and Isaac Phillips, both of whom are serial entrepreneurs in the mobile space. The firm’s platform runs on Ethereum, and is intended to help prepaid phone customers get free access to the internet and mobile services in emerging markets. Users are rewarded for airtime through their mobile subscriber, and are compensated in Siglo tokens, which can then be used to purchase digital content on the network.

In addition to being used directly in the Siglo app, tokens can also be used across the entire suite of Siglo apps (including

12. DLTA

Distributed Ledger Technology Advisors (better known as DLTA) was founded by Xchange Investments to help crypto entrepreneurs navigate the regulatory and legal nuances specific to crypto, while also providing advisory support around token offerings and the like. The Gibraltar-based firm is focused on helping clients successfully run their token sales, while working on other critical tasks like community-building and platform development.

Most recently, DLTA became the first Sponsor Firm of the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange. As part of the agreement, DLTA will help provide advisory support to the GBX, while also partnering with its listed companies and encouraging innovation in the local crypto community.

13. TrustedHealth

TrustedHealth is a Gibraltar-based blockchain startup that’s looking to transform the way healthcare providers and patients interact. Under the TrustedHealth platform, patients can use proprietary Health Tokens to gain access to qualified physicians around the world and purchase virtual or physical health services at the click of a button.

The firm recently enlisted the services of the Consilium Group to advise its leadership team on its upcoming ICO. By partnering with Consilium (a leader in blockchain technology advisory services), TrustedHealth hopes to lay the groundwork for a successful ICO and official product launch in the coming months.

14. WaveCrest

WaveCrest is a Gibraltar-based startup that’s quickly become a leader in the crypto payments space. The firm offers a wide number of global payment solutions, ranging from traditional ecommerce to digital currency payments.

The firm is also one of the largest providers of crypto-based debit cards, and has partnered with numerous startups (including Xapo and others) on creating their own crypto debit cards. In Europe, WaveCrest is also an official partner of MasterCard, with which it’s working closely on a number of electronic money initiatives. The firm is fully licensed and regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission.

15. Rockchain

Rockchain is a startup that’s presently in the process of creating a private data network on the Ethereum blockchain. The platform allows companies to share content with each other while having full control over their digital rights management. Each company’s privacy requirements are stored on the blockchain, and can be used in distributed applications outside of Rockchain as well.

In addition, Rockchain is an approved sponsor of the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange, and it’s highly active in the local crypto community, frequently participating at meetups and events within the territory.

16. Gimmer

Gimmer is a local Gibraltar startup that has built up a formidable crypto trading platform. Gimmer’s key differentiator, though, is that it’s fully automated and doesn’t require any programming experience to use. Users can select from a number of pre-programmed trading bots to begin trading cryptocurrencies – all bots are algorithmically based, and have been trained to trade aggressively or conservatively depending on the user’s preferences.

In Gibraltar, Gimmer is partnering with legal firm Insolas to ensure compliance with all regulatory laws (in particular, the territory’s recently-announced DLT regulations). It’s presently preparing for the launch of its token sale, which is slated to occur later this year.

17. Globitex

Globitex is a digital asset exchange that allows anyone to buy and sell cryptocurrencies and crypto derivatives using the GBX token. Through its subsidiary, NexPay, its also one of the few crypto exchanges that’s fully licensed to operate in the European Union.

Earlier this year, Globitex conducted its public token sale, raising over $10m to help it continue building out its trading platform. In the second half of this year, it plans to open up its crypto trading platform to the public and focus on further international expansion, particularly in Europe and Asia.

18. Tontine

Tontine (also known as TontineTrust) is building a community-driven retirement funding platform entirely on the blockchain. The Gibraltar-based company’s platform allows users to purchase decentralized annuities called “Tontines”, which are stored on the blockchain and act as a retirement pension, giving monthly payouts of TON (the platform’s native token) once a user reaches their desired retirement age.

TontineTrust sees its platform as ushering in a new generation of annuities that are decentralized, backed by cryptocurrency, and more secure than anything on the market today. The firm is headed up by former investment banker Dean McClelland.

19. Elite

Elite is a Gibraltar-based fintech firm that specializes in helping crypto companies find top executive talent for their projects. The company has recently ramped up hiring for its Gibraltar office, and is working on a number of projects with crypto clients in the territory.

The Elite team is quite active in the Gibraltar crypto community, and frequently appear at events and conferences around the region. The firm is headed up by Managing Director Penny Sommerfield, and its team is comprised of a diverse group of finance professionals – with experience ranging from crypto trading to institutional investing.

20. ConnectJob

Launched earlier this year, ConnectJob is a decentralized platform that allows its users to pay for a variety of services using cryptocurrencies. The Gibraltar-based startup is looking to tokenize the gig economy with a new platform that supports the purchase of services using CJT (the platform’s native token) or fiat currency.

The firm raised over $10m in its public ICO earlier this year, and will be using the funds to build out its platform infrastructure and digital wallet service. Presently, ConnectJob is being led by entrepreneur Ali Kassab, a prominent investor and advisor in the Middle East that is involved with a number of other blockchain startups as well.

20 Crypto Companies in Dubai You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto nnectmpanies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

Dubai is one of the world’s fastest-growing hubs for international trade, so it makes sense that it’s a big hub for crypto companies, too. It may not be immediately obvious, but some of the largest crypto companies in the world are now based here in this tiny emirate.

Crypto startups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are flocking to the city due primarily to its supportive regulatory environment, political stability, and low taxation rates.

Its government is all-in on crypto too, with the Dubai Future Foundation and other regulatory bodies putting their full support behind initiatives to integrate blockchain technology into every facet of society.

1. Telegram

With over 200m users, Telegram is one of the largest encrypted messaging services in the world. It recently started getting into crypto in a big way, and its long-anticipated ICO became the largest of all time this year with $1.7b raised to date in its private token sale. Telegram plans to use the proceeds from its token offering to develop what it calls the “Telegram Open Network” blockchain, which if successfully executed, will be even faster and more secure than both Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Although Telegram has a global presence, its headquarters is in Dubai primarily due to the UAE’s tax-free zone, which allows the organization to grow without being encumbered by tax regulations.

2. BitOasis

Founded in 2015, Dubai-based BitOasis is one of the largest crypto exchanges in the Middle East market. The firm is targeting its crypto wallet and exchange services towards emerging markets and is taking a mobile-first approach to product development.

This year, the company plans to work more closely with the Dubai government to develop regulations around crypto as well, with an eye towards becoming a fully-licensed exchange by the end of the year. The company is also preparing to embark on a massive growth spurt this year, with regional rollouts planned for Saudi Arabia and other new markets later in the year.

3. BitPado

BitPado is one of Dubai’s newest and fastest-growing crypto exchanges. Founded by serial entrepreneur Omar Kassim (founder of ecommerce network JadoPado) and backed by a number of prominent investors, BitPado is aiming to be the highest-volume crypto exchange in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The exchange is presently in private beta, but is slated to open up to more customers soon. For its exchange services, BitPado currently supports Ethereum, Bitcoin, Ripple, and a wide range of other major cryptocurrencies. In addition to BitPado, Kassim also heads up Esanjo, a blockchain-powered property administration service.

4. Emcredit

Emcredit is a subsidiary of the Dubai Government’s economic department, and it’s responsible for developing the country’s first official cryptocurrency, called emCash. The cryptocurrency was developed in partnership with the UK-based Object Tech Group in late 2017, and it’s now being piloted as an official currency within the country. The Dubai government is hopeful that emCash can become the primary currency layer for the country’s blockchain initiatives, and so far, results have been encouraging.

In addition to being a crypto firm, Emcredit also serves as the UAE’s official credit information agency, which gives it a unique ability to establish groundbreaking public-private partnerships in the crypto space.

5. Palmex

Palmex is one of the UAE’s newest crypto exchanges, and it’s the first digital asset exchange in the Middle East. Launched early this year by parent company Arabian Chain, the exchange allows users to trade in Bitcoin, Ethereum, DubaiCoin (Palmex’s native token), and other major cryptocurrencies.

In addition to crypto trading, Palmex also supports a number of trading pairs, including AED to Bitcoin. Palmex has only launched in the Middle East and North Africa market to date, but has plans to grow beyond these markets this year with additional backing from ArabianChain.

6. Adab Solutions

Adab runs the First Islamic Crypto Exchange (FICE), the world’s first Shariah-compliant crypto exchange.  Fully compliant with Islamic law, the Dubai-based company launched in August of this year and plans to launch its first public token sale later this year.

As part of the company’s token sale, it will be issuing Adab tokens, which will be used for all commission transactions on the platform. The company is poised to do big business in the Middle East region, as Dubai is now the region’s indisputable hub of Islamic finance.

7. Verify

Verify is a distributed reputation protocol that runs on the Ethereum blockchain. The startup raised $2.5m in its ICO last December, which sold out in less than 90 minutes. The Dubai-based startup plans to use this fresh injection of funds to develop its ecommerce payments platform and reputation tracking system for buyers and sellers.

The Verify platform allows the reputations of both buyers and sellers to be tracked over time, which enhances trust between both parties. Transactions conducted through the platform use CRED, Verify’s native token, and each transaction completed gives buyers and sellers additional points for successfully fulfilled transactions.

8. OneGram

The Dubai-based OneGram has developed the world’s first Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency backed by physical gold reserves. The startup achieved its Shariah certification from Al Maali Consulting, and is aiming to make its cryptocurrency the online payment system of choice throughout the Middle East.

The startup has also inked a number of partnerships with property and real estate groups across the UAE that allow customers to purchase real estate using OneGram’s gold-backed tokens. Adding the its list of partnerships, the firm also recently announced that it would be partnering with online gold trading platform GoldGuard to build one of the world’s largest gold vaults inside Dubai Airport’s free trade zone.

9. ArabianChain

ArabianChain is one of the largest crypto firms in the Middle East, with projects ranging from crypto exchanges to developer APIs already in flight. The firm is headed up by serial entrepreneur Mohammed Alsehli, and raised over $1.5m from private investors last year to help it further develop its platform.

ArabianChain’s vision is to create a decentralized, blockchain-based platform that anyone can run applications on top of. ArabianChain’s network is primarily designed for enterprises, and the team is already working on several commercial use cases for its platform. In line with its commercial vision, the firm is also partnering with the Dubai government to achieve its stated goal of securing all government documents on the blockchain by 2020.

10. Regal RA DMCC

Regal RA DMCC is the first company in the UAE to become a fully licensed and government-sanctioned crypto trading firm. The firm, which is also one of the most well-known gold dealers in Dubai, recently expanded into the crypto storage space, and now offers its clients cold storage vaults for their crypto holdings.

The vaults are located at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, one of the fastest-growing economic free zones in the UAE, and are open to all Regal RA clients. With an eye on the future, the firm is also working on building its own online gold-backed crypto exchange, which will be regulated and overseen by the Dubai government.

11. Evareium

Launched just last month, Evareium is a platform that allows anyone to make real estate investments using crypto. Users can invest in all or part of numerous properties across the Middle East, and then sell their holdings for tokens which are held on the platform. By solving the illiquidity problems of the real estate market, Evareium hopes to empower an entirely new generation of real estate investors.

Evareium’s ICO was launched last month, and runs through the end of April 2018. The firm is hoping to raise $150m in its first round of funding, and plans to use the capital to build out its platform, accelerate hiring, and expand further in the region.

12. UAE Exchange

UAE Exchange is one of the largest foreign exchange and remittances firms in the Middle East, and it’s recently started leveraging blockchain technology to improve its service offerings. In February of this year, it announced a landmark partnership with Ripple that will allow the exchange to use RippleNet to facilitate payments and remittances globally.

The exchange does not use Ripple’s native token (XRP) for transactions, but is instead opting to exclusively leverage the RippleNet technology stack. UAE Exchange is hoping that the partnership will give it a competitive advantage in the increasingly crowded payments space, and early adoption indicators have been positive so far.

13. Al Kasir Group

The Dubai-based Al Kasir Group offers publicly-traded crypto assets backed by IGI-certified diamonds. The project, which is a joint venture between an arm of the Dubai government and a local jewelry trading portal, launched earlier this year and is scheduled to make crypto assets available for trading later this month.

Crypto assets purchased through Al Kasir’s proprietary exchange are backed by diamonds, but can also be used to purchase other luxury goods on Al Kasir’s platform, ranging from precious stones to lifestyle products.

14. Loyyal

Loyyal is a Dubai-based startup that’s in the midst of rapidly growing its blockchain-based universal loyalty platform. The firm is focused on tokenizing the world of loyalty programs, and already counts a number of Fortune 500 firms (such as IBM and Deloitte) as clients.

Last year, Loyyal closed its Series A round of funding and partnered with Smart Dubai to develop the incentivization program for DubaiNOW, a mobile app that gives users access to a full suite of government services. The firm is also partnering with the Dubai government on several other blockchain-based initiatives aimed at improving the accessibility and security of government data.

15. Global Blockchain Council

The Global Blockchain Council is an arm of the Dubai Future Foundation, a government agency that seeks to use emerging technologies to prepare Dubai’s workforce and economy for the future. Launched in 2016, the GBC is a public-private partnership that’s already made significant progress towards solving some of the country’s most critical data-related problems.

Right now, the GBC is focused on bringing its experience to bear on seven key projects, ranging from digitizing its thriving diamond trade to incorporating new businesses on the blockchain. The council remains highly active in Dubai’s crypto community, and often hosts events in the area as well.

16. ArabCoin

Still in private beta, ArabCoin is looking to launch the first fully regulated crypto commodities exchange in the United Arab Emirates. The project was launched as a joint venture between a private group of Emirati investors, and several members of the royal family’s investment fund.

The gold-backed cryptocurrency will be traded on crypto exchanges throughout the region, and will be issued by DUCCX, “a fully licensed crypto commodities trader in Dubai”. The firm also has announced plans to partner with brick-and-mortar retailers across the UAE on rolling out crypto payments supported by the ArabCoin platform.

17. Etherty

Etherty is another one of the many Dubai startups looking to tokenize the world of real estate investment. The Etherty platform allows users to buy, sell, and trade property-backed cryptocurrency on a secure, decentralized real estate exchange. Properties can also be purchased outright through Etherty using the platform’s native tokens.

Etherty’s public token sale launched earlier this year, and is scheduled to run through April 30th of this year. The firm is targeting an initial funding round of $5.3m, the proceeds of which will be used to fund development of the platform.

18. Block Gemini

Block Gemini is the leading crypto and blockchain consultancy in the Middle East and North Africa region. Its team consists of a diverse team of crypto researchers, blockchain developers, and investors that are passionate about helping startups integrate blockchain technology into their business processes.

The consultancy offers clients a mix of both consulting services and bespoke software solutions, ranging from crypto wallets to digital asset exchanges. The firm is also quite active in Dubai’s crypto community, and frequently participates in the city’s event circuit (such as the Future Blockchain Summit, happening from May 2-3 later this year).

19. RightBTC

Headquartered in Dubai and founded in 2014, RightBTC is one of the world’s leading digital asset exchanges. A true pioneer in the Middle East’s crypto ecosystem, the exchange was the first to launch a coin-to-coin exchange in Dubai, and the firm remains active in the city’s crypto community.

The exchange allows users to trade amongst a basket of popular cryptocurrencies, which users can then store on the firm’s proprietary digital wallet. RightBTC distinguishes itself from other crypto exchanges by continuously performing risk control on all tradable assets to avoid fraud or unsavory trading activity on the platform.


The Dubai-based KEYRPTO is a blockchain-based ecommerce platform currently in private beta. The service, which bills itself as “crypto’s answer to eBay”, empowers buyers and sellers to exchange cryptocurrency for products – all through smart contracts, which are securely stored on the KEYRPTO platform.

25 Startups Disrupting Asia’s AI Landscape

If you’re interested in tech and startups in Asia, be sure to check out AsiaTechList – my hand-researched list of 4,000+ fast-growing tech companies in Asia.

With arguably the world’s largest and most active online population, Asia isn’t lacking for data nor scale. But with massive scale has come a number of complex problems that are difficult to solve for.

From rapidly aging populations to traffic congestion, there are numerous opportunities to use data to alleviate the pressures that are endemic to many parts of the world. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in.

Asia is also leading the world in research and development in the AI space – a fact that’s backed up by the numerous innovative startups that have come out of the region in recent years.

Read on to learn more about Asia’s fastest-growing artificial intelligence startups, all of which are already in the process of transforming the region. What’s more, many are already expanding internationally – meaning that these leaders of the AI space are poised to have a global impact as well.

1. SenseTime

SenseTime is one of the fastest-growing AI startups in the world, and is quickly becoming a global leader in the space. The company is focused on developing highly-advanced deep learning and AI capabilities that are being used in everything from autonomous vehicles to closed-circuit surveillance cameras. SenseTime has already raised more than $1.2B this year, valuing the startup at nearly $5B and making it the most valuable AI startup in the world.

SenseTime is perhaps best known for its AI-drive facial recognition technology, which is being used by China’s government to police its citizens and identify traffic offenders – but it’s also used for research and development by other institutions, such as some of Singapore’s top universities.

2. ByteDance

ByteDance is the little-known parent company that’s behind Toutiao, one of China’s most popular news apps. The company puts AI at the center of all of its software development efforts, and has established a formal partnership with Berkeley’s AI Research Lab to work on AI-related research efforts that will feed into ByteDance’s product roadmap.

Earlier this year, ByteDance announced that it would begin developing its own AI chips, which will be able to be used by partner businesses to interface with its cloud solutions and enterprise applications.

3. Appier

Appier is a Taipei-based startup which develops AI software to help companies improve their marketing efforts. The company has raised more than $80M to date (most recently a $33M Series C round late last year), and its AI solutions are primarily targeted towards enterprise-level marketing and data intelligence departments.

Earlier this year, Appier announced a landmark integration with LINE, which will see its AI-powered intelligence solution integrated into the analytics functionality for LINE Business Connect, its enterprise-grade service offering.

4. Insider

Singapore-based Insider bills itself as the world’s first AI-driven integrated growth management platform. Its solutions help digital marketers identify opportunities to generate additional demand across the funnel, as well as use AI to improve customer retention. Insider uses a proprietary AI algorithm to inform marketers of potential demand generation opportunities before they arise, and has already built a sizable customer base across the region.

Earlier this year, Insider raised $11M in Series B funding in an investment round led by Sequoia. It plans to use the additional funding to continue building out its growth management platform and further expand in Southeast Asia.


Sero is using AI technology to solve for what’s become a pressing problem in many parts of Asia – inefficient and undependable crop production. Its crop intelligence platform enables farmers to optimize their agricultural production using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

Founded just two years ago, the Vietnam-based startup currently runs off of seed funding and is testing its AI platform with agricultural producers throughout the region. It recently was a graduating member of Zeroth, an accelerator that focuses on developing artificial intelligence startups in Asia.

6. Mobvoi

Mobvoi is a Chinese startup that’s using AI to revolutionize the world of voice recognition and language processing. The company has raised more than $75M to date, and is currently based in Beijing. In addition to its AI hardware products, Mobvoi also has a partnership with Google’s Wear OS that will equip the operating system with AI capabilities specifically designed for use in the Chinese market.

Earlier this summer, Mobvoi released four new products that leverage its best in class AI technology, ranging from an AI-powered smart speaker to an AI voice chip that’s designed for use in smartphones, robots, and smart TVs.

7. Tricog

Singapore-based Tricog has developed the country’s first AI-powered heart care solution. Its cloud-based platform uses AI to predict a patient’s risk of heart disease, and is able to suggest personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s vital health indicators. The startup is now working to roll out its platform with a number of medical institutions in Singapore and across the region.

Earlier this year, Tricog landed $4M in funding in a Series B investment round led by the University of Tokyo’s venture arm. Tricog plans to use the funds to further develop its predictive heart care platform and refine its AI algorithms further.

8. LeapMind

LeapMind is a startup from Tokyo that’s using artificial intelligence to build out embedded neural networks that live on chips designed for home computers, as well as deep learning software solutions for large enterprises. Chips that leverage LeapMind’s technology are primarily designed for IoT devices that require a higher degree of computational power.

Last year, the startup raised $11B in funding in an investment round led by Intel Capital. LeapMind will be using the funding to continue developing its deep learning technology as it accelerates hiring for its international sales force.

9. APEX Technologies

APEX Technologies is an AI startup headquartered in Shanghai, with office throughout the greater China region. The company’s platform combines artificial intelligence with blockchain technology to help enterprises take their personalized marketing efforts to the next level.

Though still a startup, APEX already works with some of the largest brands in the world to integrate AI into their marketing efforts, ranging from carmakers like Volvo and McLaren to tech companies like DiDi and Wanda.

10. AIDA

AIDA is a Singapore-based artificial intelligence startup that’s using AI to make the insurance claims industry more efficient than ever. Its proprietary algorithm is able to identify potential inconsistencies in insurance claims and alert officials of potential fraud attempts before they cause significant damage. AIDA’s technology is already deployed at several of Singapore’s largest insurers, and the company has plans to expand further in the region over the coming months.

Last month, AIDA landed a strategic investment of undisclosed size from SG Innovate, a deep technology research firm owned by the Singapore government.

11. AdMov

AdMov is an in-vehicle advertising platform that uses AI to identify potential high-value riders, and then market to them. The technology is used by taxi and limo services to market to high net worth clients through advertising partnerships and branded content (Uber and Grab are also major customers in the Philippines, AdMov’s home market).

In addition to serving up advertisements, AdMov is able to tailor in-vehicle content to its users by using a combination of facial recognition and artificial intelligence.

12. Cambricon

Chinese startup Cambricon is quickly becoming a world leader in the growing AI chip industry. It recently raised $300M+ in a funding round led by a Chinese government investment fund, and at a valuation in excess of $2.5B, it’s now the highest-valued AI chipmaker in the world.

In May of this year, Cambricon unveiled the MLU100, its first AI-driven cloud computing chip. The chip is able to support even the most cutting-edge deep learning models, and it’s already being used in enterprise servers (like those of Lenovo, an early adopter of Cambricon’s technology).  

13. Preferred Networks

Japanese startup Preferred Networks is using artificial intelligence to transform the Internet of Things (IoT) industry. With a valuation at more than $2B, Preferred Networks is presently Japan’s most valuable startup, and its developing revolutionary algorithms that are being used in everything from smart appliances to driverless cars.

The startup recently received $110M in funding from Toyota to help it build an AI-based algorithm that the carmaker hopes will help it compete with Google in the autonomous vehicle space.

14. is a startup that’s leveraging artificial intelligence to build a new generation of autonomous driving software. This summer, the Shenzhen-based startup landed $128M in new funding from Shenzhen Capital and Wu Capital Group – the largest ever investment in an autonomous driving startup in China – to help it continue developing its AI-powered autonomous driving software. offers car manufacturers a software suite called Aries, which uses artificial intelligence to help a vehicle navigate roads while in adverse conditions (such as rain, sleet, or nighttime).

15. Datanest

Indonesian startup Datanest helps businesses harness the power of big data to improve their operations using artificial intelligence. Though the startup was only founded late last year, it’s already working with several partners in the fintech industry to offer customers enhanced services, like auto loan-matching programs and the like.

Datanest’s AI engine architecture supports most major cloud-based computing solutions, such as Amazon Web Services, and its planning to use these capabilities to plot a major expansion into the retail sector early next year.

16. Yitu

Yitu is a Chinese startup that specializes in using artificial intelligence to make sense of facial recognition data on a grand scale. Its proprietary facial recognition technology is already deployed in tens of thousands of ATMs across China, as well as surveillance cameras throughout the country.

The startup recently opened its first international office in Singapore, which it intends to use as a research and development testbed for the region. Yitu is now hiring aggressively to fuel the expansion, and is hoping to add an additional 50-60 staff to its team by the end of the year.

17. Seventh Sense

Seventh Sense is a small-but-growing Singaporean startup that aims to help governments and large businesses use AI to analyze facial recognition data more efficiently. The company is developing a visual intelligence platform that customers can use to parse vast amounts of facial recognition data with ease.

The Seventh Sense platform leverages advanced deep learning models to optimize data collection for any systems that require visual recognition data (such as surveillance systems, online user profiles, or ecommerce solutions)

18. DeePhi

DeePhi is a Chinese startup that’s developing AI chips designed for use in large data centers and surveillance systems. It recently landed an undisclosed investment from Korean tech giant Samsung, which it will be using to continue developing its Deep Neural Network Development Kit (DNNDK), which helps enterprises simplify the running of deep learning applications.

Though a relatively young startup, DeePhi already has a diverse range of technology partners, including China’s Alipay and Amazon Web Services.

19. ViSenze

Singapore-based startup ViSenze is a startup that’s creating cutting-edge technology which allows brands and retailers to use AI to transform the visual shopping experience. ViSenze’s proprietary technology uses advanced deep learning algorithms to surface shopping recommendations, customer reviews, and more to shoppers within a given app.

The startup has raised more than $14M in funding to date, and has a diversified client base across the region. It was founded in 2012, the product of a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Tsinghua University.

20. Dayli Financial Group

Dayli Financial Group is a startup that’s making a significant impact on Asia’s fintech industry with its patented AI technologies. The Seoul-headquartered company offers enterprise-grade analytics solutions for financial firms, and raised upwards of $30M in its ICO earlier this year.

Late last year, the startup inked a partnership with Ripple to bring its blockchain-based cross border payment solution to customers in Japan and Korea.

21. Westwell Lab

Westwell Lab is a Chinese startup that is developing an AI chip that interfaces with the human neural system. The company’s homegrown AI chips use neural processors that simulate the human brain by virtually stimulating “brain neurons” within the chip itself.

While it all sounds rather science fiction, the science itself is real – and so is the investment Westwell has received to date. Last year the startup raised its Series A funding round for an undisclosed amount (the funding round was led by Fosun Tunghao).

22. SmartPeep

SmartPeep is an AI-driven medtech startup based in Singapore. It’s developing a platform that uses artificial intelligence to help monitor Asia’s growing population of elderly while reducing the risk of falls or other unnecessary injuries. Its system can notify caregivers when high-risk activities are detected, as well as when a fall occurs.


Singapore-based UCARE is a healthcare startup that’s using artificial intelligence to streamline healthcare organizations and reduce unnecessary costs along the way. The startup leverages neural networks to predict health patterns in patients, as well as operational constraints within healthcare systems (such as a hospital network or even a specific surgery ward).

This May, UCARE raised $8M in Series A funding (the round was led by Walden International and Great Eastern) to accelerate hiring and continue its expansion throughout the region.

24. Face++

Face++ has quickly risen to become one of the world’s leading facial intelligence startups. Using the power of artificial intelligence, Face++ products are already being used across China in everything from surveillance cameras to “new retail” shopper marketing displays.

The startup has already raised more than $500M in funding (much of it from the Chinese government), as well as significant amounts of funding from Alibaba’s Ant Financial.

25. Sigtuple

India-based SigTuple is a relatively recent entrant to Asia’s increasingly crowded medtech industry. The startup uses artificial intelligence to make more accurate diagnoses of potential medical conditions, and specializes in analyzing blood tests.

Last year, SigTuple announced that it had raised $5.8 in Series A funding to help it scale its operations and further expand internationally, making it the best-funded AI startup ever to come out of India. The funding round was led by Accel Partners.

20 Crypto Companies in Tokyo You Should Get to Know

If you’re interested in crypto, be sure to check out CryptoList – my hand-researched list of crypto companies, and consider subscribing to CryptoWeekly, my weekly crypto newsletter.

The city of Tokyo has a long and storied history in the world of crypto. Many of the earliest crypto exchanges were based in the city, and even the doomed Mount Gox was for a time based here.

These days, the crypto ecosystem in Tokyo is more vibrant than ever. Recent improvements in the regulatory environment have opened the door for crypto startups once again, and the city is now home to more than two dozen crypto exchanges. Add to that a robust base of technical talent and capital, and Tokyo just might be one of the best places to start up a crypto company.

1. BitFlyer

Founded in 2014 and now the largest crypto exchange in Japan, BitFlyer has long been a true innovator in Tokyo’s crypto ecosystem. The platform is now looking to go global, though, as it recently received a payments license from EU regulatory authorities and plans to open up a Bitcoin-only exchange there.

In addition to its crypto exchange, BitFlyer also offers crypto developers an API that allows anyone to connect to the platform using third party software. Unlike many crypto exchanges, BitFlyer doesn’t support most alt coins, and instead has opted to only offer the highest-traded coins by market cap (including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin).

2. BTCBox

BTCBox is one of Japan’s leading crypto exchanges, and it distinguishes itself from the competition by specializing in Bitcoin to Japanese Yen trading. As a newly-minted member of Japan’s self-regulating consortium of crypto exchanges, BTCBox now has considerable influence over crypto regulations in Japan, and it actively participates in crypto events in the Tokyo area.

BTCBox sees its crypto exchange as just one piece of a multi-layered ecosystem, spanning from mobile payments to real estate. The firm is actively collaborating with some of Japan’s top cybersecurity platforms to ensure its exchange has best-in-class security infrastructure, while also consulting with Japanese authorities on future crypto regulations.

3. Bitbank

Tokyo-based BitBank, which initially started out as a crypto wallet service, is now one of Japan’s largest and longest-running crypto exchanges. The exchange is a charter member of the newly-established Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association, which is seeking to establish self-regulatory guidelines around crypto trading within the country.

Leveraging their proprietary platform, Bitbank also offers “Bitcoin for Brokers”, an API connector and software layer that provides financial institutions and banks with the ability to seamlessly connect with Bitbank’s crypto exchange and integrate it into their own financial products.

4. LINE Financial

The Japanese messaging giant recently announced a significant push into cryptocurrencies by establishing a subsidiary firm called Line Financial Corporation. Announced in January of this year, the independently-run organization will collaborate with its sister company, Line Pay, on a number of crypto-related initiatives – including a crypto exchange, and potentially a crypto mobile payments service.

The firm is presently applying for a crypto exchange license with Japanese regulatory authorities, and once it has been approved, plans to start operations immediately. LINE Pay envisions eventually integrating crypto into every corner of its business (including its messaging platform), and starting a crypto exchange is its first step on that journey.

5. BitArg

BitArg is one of the largest exchanges in Tokyo, and is primarily owned by parent company CMD Corporation. In recent years, it’s struggled against rising competition in the Japan market, but it recently received a lifeline via a 40% stake in the company purchased by Yahoo Japan (CMD Corporation will still own the majority of the crypto exchange, according to the deal terms).

The motivation behind the deal is unclear at the moment, but many in the industry are speculating that Yahoo Japan is preparing to leverage BitArg’s technology to launch its own crypto exchange sometime next year.

6. GMO Coin

GMO Coin is the cryptocurrency exchange subsidiary of Japanese internet behemoth GMO. The crypto exchange recently upgraded its system-wide security after updates were ordered by Japan’s chief financial regulator, and is now embarking on an ambitious business improvement strategy that will see it establish a “Group Information Security Audit Office” in order to better safeguard customers’ data.

The firm made waves in the crypto industry earlier this year when it announced that it would begin paying its staff in Bitcoin for a portion of their monthly salaries. In addition to its crypto exchange, GMO recently announced that it also plans to spin off a crypto mining unit of its business later this year.

7. BitPoint

Founded in 2016, Tokyo-based BitPoint is one of Japan’s most active crypto exchanges. The firm (formerly known as BITpoint) has made a significant push into the crypto payments space, and is presently in discussions with one of Japan’s largest retailers about bringing its crypto payments platform to thousands of retail locations around the country.

In March of this year, BitPoint announced that it would be partnering with Peach Aviation (one of Japan’s largest low-cost airlines) to roll out payment by Bitcoin as an option across its network. The move would make Peach one of the first airlines in the world to adopt BTC as a payment option, and solidify BitPoint’s role as one of Japan’s most innovative crypto exchanges.

8. SBI Virtual Currencies

SBI Virtual Currencies is the crypto-focused subsidiary of Japanese banking firm SBI Group. The firm is preparing to launch its long-anticipated crypto exchange later this year, which will exclusively be listing Ripple’s XRP at launch. The firm is also looking to join Ripple’s xRapid system, which is an enterprise-grade solution that helps financial institutions improve liquidity for cross-border transactions.

SBI Virtual Currencies holds the unique distinction of being Japan’s first exclusively bank-backed crypto exchange. As a result, more scrutiny has been placed upon the exchange prior to launch, and SBI’s founders have delayed the exchange’s launch to later this year as they make additional security upgrades to the platform prior to its public debut.

9. Soramitsu

Soramitsu is a fintech-focused company that’s passionate about bringing innovative blockchain solutions to the world of finance. The firm is working on developing a token-based digital identity platform that runs on the blockchain, and it’s already partnering with some of the biggest corporate names in Japan (including Odakyu, Glocom, and others).

The firm has also developed a proprietary distributed ledger technology that it’s licensing out to third-party organizations. Last year, it even announced a partnership with the National Bank of Cambodia to utilize its hyperledger technology for establishing a secure settlement infrastructure for the bank.

10. Credify

This Tokyo-based startup bills itself as a “decentralized counterparty credibility protocol and service”. Credify’s platform is targeted towards crypto companies that need a protocol-level, blockchain-based reputation tracker that need to verify transaction at scale.

That said, the firm sees applications for its platform beyond just the world of crypto, and it recently pitched its new platform at Slush Tokyo in March of this year. Credify is continuing to build out its platform and hasn’t launched its ICO yet, but it could turn out to be one of the most anticipated token offerings in Japan this year if it comes to fruition.

11. Ginco

Ginco is one of Tokyo’s newest startups, having launched just months ago, but it’s already making headlines for its streamlined multi-coin crypto wallet and crypto consulting services. The wallet, which presently only supports Ethereum, will also be expanding its support for other currencies (including Bitcoin) in the near future.

The startup recently closed its seed round of funding, and landed $1.5m in funding from VC investment firm Global Brain. The firm will be using the fresh injection of funding to continue developing the Ginco platform and accelerate hiring on the R&D front as it looks to scale globally in the upcoming year.

12. Tech Bureau

Tech Bureau was founded in Tokyo in 2015, and it initially started out as a crypto exchange provider (launching the Zaif Exchange was its first crypto project). After launching Zaif, Tech Bureau has diversified into other areas of crypto, and last year saw it launch COMSA blockchain and ICO platform for crypto startups looking to launch their own token offerings.

In November of last year, the firm landed nearly half a million dollars in investment from Japan’s Shinsei Bank,
the funds of which will be used to continue developing the COMSA platform. In addition to Shinsei Bank’s investment, Tech Bureau also recently raised $14.7m in funding from Japanese software firm Infoteria.

13. BitTrade

BitTrade is one of Japan’s largest crypto exchanges, and it’s also a founding member of the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association. The platform supports trading amongst most major coins (including Bitcoin, Ripple’s XRP, Ethereum, and others).

Notably, BitTrade is also one of just a handful of crypto exchanges licensed to do business by Japan’s chief financial regulator. The company is highly active in Tokyo’s crypto community, and frequently hosts and participates in crypto events throughout the year.

14. Fisco

Fisco has traditionally been known as one of Japan’s largest investment research firms, but now it’s making headlines for its recently-launched $2.66m crypto investment fund – reportedly the first of its kind in Japan. The firm also runs its own crypto exchange, which has been running since 2016, and regularly invests in other crypto startups in Tokyo.

While Fisco is fairly new to the world of crypto, its new investment fund marks its second foray into the space. Last year, the firm issued its first-ever Bitcoin bond, which also was one of the first of its kind in the country.

15. Nayuta

Nayuta is a Tokyo-based blockchain startup that’s building a Lightning Network solution for IoT devices. The firm recently began partnering with city governments in Japan to test its technology directly on the power grid, allowing customers to pay their utility bills using Bitcoin, with all transactions conducted through the Lightning Network.

Last year, the firm raised $1.3m in seed funding from Jafco, a Tokyo-based VC firm. Nayuta plans to use the fresh round of funding to continue developing its next layer of blockchain-based IoT technologies, while accelerating hiring in the coming year.


Tokyo-based COMSA bills itself as an “ICO solution for centralized businesses”. Its platform allows crypto founders to launch their ICO within the COMSA ecosystem (which includes listing coins on the Tech Bureau-owned Zaif Exchange). In addition to providing a platform for ICOs, COMSA also offers bespoke consulting solutions for crypto founders in Tokyo that are looking to get their projects off the ground.

In September of last year, COMSA landed $15m in VC funding to help it expand operations, led by Tokyo VC firm JAFCO. The firm is now focused on getting its ICO platform fully vetted and regulated under Japan’s Payment Services Act, which will give it full governmental approval to continue growing its operations.

17. ZBM

ZBM (also known as Zerobillbank) is a blockchain startup based in Tokyo that’s focused on providing best-in-class corporate blockchain solutions. The firm allows any company to issue its own digital tokens, and its platform incorporates advanced community management tools that are rarely found in most blockchain-based solutions.

ZBM recently partnered with Benefit One, one of Japan’s largest welfare services providers, on an initiative that will see the corporation integrate the ZBB Core platform into its employee incentives program. Employees will be able to earn corporate tokens based on performance, which they can then use to purchase rewards and earn recognition from their colleagues.

18. Yenom

Yenom is a Bitcoin Cash wallet app that was recently launched by Japanese software firm Mikan. Strangely enough, the firm started out as an English language translation platform before spinning off part of its company as a crypto startup.

The Yenom app is presently available for both iOS and Android, and the functionality is designed entirely around Bitcoin Cash’s use case as a currency, rather than an investment vehicle. Transactions can be conducted between users on a P2P basis, but the company is also looking into how it can leverage its technology for retail payments as well.

19. Coincheck

Coincheck is one of Japan’s largest crypto exchanges (and likely one of its most embattled), but after a high-profile hack that saw it lose over $500m in customer funds, it’s been given a new lease on life via an acquisition by financial services giant Monex Group. The firm was acquired by Monex for $34m in mid-April of this year, and will be operated as an independent entity under the Monex umbrella.

Along with making some adjustments to key executive personnel, Monex plans to transform the ailing crypto exchange by making it a key part of its financial services empire. The firm will retain its branding and continue to run independently, but will likely begin integrating some of its crypto functionality into other Monex products as time goes on.

20. Orb

Orb is a distributed ledger firm based in Tokyo that is currently developing a decentralized cryptocurrency management platform. The firm has a number of established enterprise customers using its technology already, and has raised over $5m in funding to date to help it build out its platform.

Orb’s decentralized crypto management system allows anyone to authentic the purchase and transfer of digital assets on the blockchain. The firm is led by serial entrepreneur Masa Nakatsu, formerly the founder of social lending platform Maneo (which has raised over $140m in funding to date)