Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways.
And so it is with Tribe Accelerator (TRIBE). Announced on Dec. 4 and set to begin work next year, the Singapore-based blockchain acceleration program – a joint venture between the ICON Foundation, Singaporean venture capital fund TRIVE and PwC – weds the tried and true methods of traditional venture capital to the emerging blockchain space, helping projects move beyond white papers to produce viable, real-world products. As the first blockchain accelerator to earn the support of the Singaporean government, TRIBE also ties together tech, enterprises, capital and regulators in a network of mutual benefit.
Old school tactics
TRIBE’s main operator, TRIVE is a traditional accelerator and venture capital that has incubated around 700-800 ventures since its founding seven years ago. Only recently did it begin exploring the potential of blockchain, when it was appointed by the Singaporean government to build an accelerator to help develop the country’s blockchain ecosystem.
The Singaporean government hopes that TRIBE will help startups take full advantage of the opportunities blockchain offers. Jonathan Lim, the director of the Start-up and Global Innovation Alliance at Enterprise Singapore, a government body for supporting startups, said when the project was announced, “By working with TRIBE Accelerator, we hope to create more innovative and disruptive blockchain start-ups to capture growth opportunities locally and overseas.”
Ryan Chew, a partner at TRIVE, says that TRIBE uses the traditional venture method. It begins with a minimum viable product, or MVP. Afterwards, there’s a proof of concept, or PoC. Only then do they begin fundraising. This sets it apart in the blockchain space, where projects sometimes launch ICOs with little more than a white paper and a dream. Investors often lose money as a result and give the industry a black eye.
“We all know the model is kind of flawed,” says Chew, referring to current blockchain funding methods. “You can’t go about simply writing a white paper and then try to fundraise, only to realize then that a lot of your white paper isn’t feasible. There’s no means of revenue, no business model. It’s just not sustainable.”
TRIBE will work directly with regulators and corporations to ensure that accelerated projects have actual use cases in the real world. The traditional way helps reduce the risk to investors. “This is the traditional route,” says Chew. “We’re just using a new technology on top of it”
Hyperconnecting the world, one industry at a time
ICON participants in TRIBE as a technology partner, providing technical support to help teams understand how to build on the ICON platform. This is critical for any accelerator, but especially for one like TRIBE, which is focused on helping startups deliver actual products.
“It’s widely known that it’s very easy for any startup to create a smart contract that generates a token, but in order to create actual applications on the platform, it gets a bit more complicated,” says Chew. “This complication requires dedicated technical support to help kickstart the project.”
Chew says TRIVE was drawn to ICON’s mission of hyperconnecting the world. He sees this as a way for the blockchain space to build the decentralized economy it originally set out to achieve. He says, “The reason why we thought of ICON as one of the main partners is because of their ability to hyperconnect different digital databases for connecting different industries.”
ICON, for its part, liked TRIVE’s old school approach and connections in not only Singapore, but throughout Southeast Asia. “TRIVE has a very strong relationship with the Singaporean government and since they’re a Southeast Asia focused venture capital firm, they have good relationships with enterprises and traditional startups,” says Stephanie Kim, the global business manager at ICON. “They know how startups grow and what they need. So we decided that they’re a very good partner, especially for this accelerator initiative.”
She adds, “I think it’s very meaningful that we’re participating as a technology partner of this government-backed initiative. It’s a very good sign for us, that we have a good position.”
Through TRIBE, ICON will operate its Singapore Launchpad, the newest in its global network of ICX_Station Launchpads.
This is not the first time ICON and TRIVE have worked together. The two announced in May that they had formed a strategic partnership to “educate, equip and empower” the Southeast Asian startup and blockchain community by, among other things, co-developing ICON-focused blockchain courses to be taught through THRIVE’s programming schools in Singapore and Vietnam.
No ordinary accelerator
TRIBE will be accepting applications in January, with acceleration for the first batch of accepted teams scheduled to begin in April. Programs will open twice a year, with each program lasting six months. They hope to nurture about 20 teams a year.
Kim says that the program will provide services that stand out in the crowd in terms of quality. She says, “Every accelerator offers a network, but through the TRIBE accelerator, you can connect with the Singaporean government and meet blockchain people through our network as well, so this allows our program to stand out from the others.”
Though at present, ICON is TRIBE’s only technology partner, TRIVE’s Chew says the accelerator is looking for more technology partners so that it may better help blockchain technology go mainstream, to produce “something that people can see, touch, feel and realize that [blockchain] is something that’s viable, as opposed to something that’s very cryptocurrency centric.”
Chew expresses his excitement about the initiative. “A lot of our partners have been getting an overwhelming response to our accelerator program,” he says. “We are unique because we are neutral, because we have the backing of the government, and because we care about the technology itself.”