For ICON Foundation Council Member Min Kim, the recently concluded Consensus Singapore 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. Admittedly, he was there for only the first day of the two day-event (Sep. 19-20), but what he saw didn’t exactly blow him away.
“Nothing stood out, and there needs to be more diversity or something. There needs to be more investment. I don’t know.”
More participation next time?
ICON did not participate in Consensus Singapore 2018 in an official capacity, preferring to observe the first ever Consensus event in the famously fastidious city-state, checking out the scene and how the summit was put together. And having already supported Consensus 2018 in New York in the summer, ICON wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We weren’t sure if it was worthwhile bringing a lot of people to the Singapore Consensus event,” says Kim. “We just wanted to lay low, enjoy the moment, go around, network, go to the networking events, gain a lot of the benefits that comes with Consensus without putting too much investment into it this time.”
What Kim found was “the complete opposite of the New York event.” If the New York summit was a sprawling affair, a gathering so well attended and – at least in Kim’s view – light on organization that it diluted the experience, the Singapore summit suffered from a conspicuous lack of participation.
“I think the venue and some of the programs were great, but honestly, I think just looking at the overall agenda of the speakers, the participants and the number of spaces available for the blockchain event, it was a lot smaller than we expected,” says Kim. “I think maybe our expectations were a little bit too high.”
Still, Kim leaves open the possibility of ICON participating in future Consensus Singapore events in a more official capacity.
“We evaluate each event and conference independently as well as a whole. We incorporate conferences into our budget every year and weight which events will be good for us, which ones do we want to spend some more money on. We evaluate all that,” he says. “This time, because we did not know what to expect, we couldn’t justify the Consensus event, but next year, depending on the sponsorship package and what type of events are around it and the state of the blockchain industry, yes, we might support it.”
Keeping it positive
Kim notes that the current downturn in the crypto market might have depressed participation in Consensus Singapore. But that doesn’t mean the participants themselves were depressed. “I think the vibe was very positive from the people that I talked to,” says Kim. “It was more positive than I would have expected.”
He says that people in the blockchain industry are trying to keep a positive attitude, a glass-half-full mentality, focusing their thoughts and energies on the long run, on the things that really matter. “It was good that we still have a lot of intelligent, like-minded people still believing in the industry in the long run,” he says. “So we had some fruitful discussion with a lot of good people.”
At any rate, a burst bubble can be a good thing, a cleansing fire that reveals who’s serious about the industry, the true believers in it for the long haul. “I think it’s good for the industry in the long run,” he says.
“I think it’s good for people who are more focused on the technology because it erases a lot of the noise and we could probably get more quality discussions around the technology.”
Closed door discussions
Kim wasn’t in Singapore for the Consensus alone. Indeed, his primary reason for visiting the city was to attend the inaugural Cumberland Top 100 Global Crypto Influencers Summit. Hosted by leading crypto asset trading firm Cumberland, the three-day, invitation-only event (Sept. 14-16) featured lunches, panels, discussions and one-on-one meetings by and between the world’s biggest movers and shakers in the blockchain industry. The discussions were held behind closed doors and sans cameras, allowing participants the peace of mind to speak frankly about delicate issues affecting the crypto space. Indeed, Kim is hesitant to say much about the summit, from which we should expect little in the way of official pronouncements. He does, however, concede that his discussions there were very “worthwhile.”
Kim also met with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city-state’s central bank and financial regulatory authority. He found them supportive of the FinTech and blockchain industries. “Of course, there are lots of things that need to be ironed out on their regulatory side, but they are very open to having good conversations and trying to work out ways to bring innovation into Singapore,” he says. “When I have to decide which countries, which cities I have to focus on strategically, it makes it a lot easier for us to make that kind of decision when you get that sort of response from the regulators.”
What Korea could learn from Singapore
Compared to some other countries, including Korea, Singapore provides a more conducive environment to the development of the blockchain industry. Singaporean regulators are already familiar with the technology and its potential, a crucial first step, says Kim. He notes that the MAS has concluded agreements with the likes of Hyperledger and R3, the kind of initiatives, he says, that are very good for the blockchain industry as a whole.
Korean regulators, on the other hand, have only just begun wrapping their noggins around blockchain. “There have been a lot of questions – what is an ICO, how is it done, what are the benefits?,” he says. “The Singaporean government has already studied that, so they are definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to the educational aspect of it. When you have a conversation with the Singapore government, it’s very easy because they understand the technology and the full benefit of it.”
Kim thinks it will take at least another six months for Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service, the country’s financial regulatory body, to understand what ICOs are and how they are done. Though Korean regulators are still doing their homework, the country’s long-term prospects remain bright. “I still have a very positive long term outlook of Korea’s blockchain industry because I think Korea needs something like this,” he says. “It’s creating a lot of jobs for a lot of young people. It’s creating a lot of positive energy in the economy.”
Moreover, if Korea’s development as a global ICT power has demonstrated anything, it’s that Koreans can recover from fumbles.
“Korea, when it comes to information technology and the Internet, has made some mistakes in the past, but at the same time, Korea is the No. 1 ICT country in the world,” he says. “I would have to say that history has shown that Korea has stumbled upon mistakes, but they’ve been very good at correcting them and putting all their energy into what matters, keeping the focus, taking control over a certain industry, and I think blockchain is one industry they will realize is way too important for them not to support.”