Where to use bitcoin in Asia

Bitcoin in pocket

Inspired by Alexandra Talty’s excellent The Top 10 Bitcoin Cities in the World piece in Forbes, which looked at cities with the most bitcoin shops and businesses, I looked at doing the same in Asia.

Alexandra’s research showed that the leading 10 locations globally for bitcoin businesses were in Europe and the United States, followed by South America. There was no room in the top 10 for Asia, home to some of the world’s leading financial centres and fastest growing economies.

I used the same tool mentioned in the article, Coinmap, created by SatoshiLabs in the Czech Republic, to display ATMs, cafe, restaurants and other vendors in the form of a heatmap. The results were a little surprising.

The map clearly shows a concentration of services in East Asia, led by Korea, Japan and Taiwan, but bitcoin businesses are also clustered around digital nomad hotspots. Lit up heavily in red are Phuket and Krabi in Thailand, and Bali. Drilling deeper reveals hotels, bars, shops and transport companies, all taking bitcoin.

So yes, the big cities are there, but so are Asia’s holiday hotspots, or those locations traditionally associated with tourism.

It suggests that if you’re a digital nomad, or travelling widely within Asia, you could do worse than carry a few bitcoins in your pocket (virtually of course), which can of course be used irrespective of location.

Bitcoin venues in Asia, generated by Coinmap

However, we might not be seeing the full picture. As Alexandra also pointed out in her article, Coinmap relies on crowdsourcing – so there will almost certainly be gaps in places. There are also regulatory pressures – for example the currency in China.

Estonia considers launching a currency for e-Residency digital nomads

Tallinn skyline

It was only a matter of time.  Having launched a successful e-Residency programme, allowing anyone anywhere in the world to start a location-independent company,  trailblazing Estonia is looking at offering a digital currency to go with it. As expected for easily the most digitally ambitious state in the world, the tiny Baltic republic is inviting feedback on Medium.

The Medium post explains that the success of the e-Residency programme is such that more than 22,000 citizens have signed up from 138 countries. With the weekly application rate presently higher than the country’s weekly birth rate, Estonia’s digital nation could surpass the national population in size. Possibly.

Among those signing up for e-Residency are blockchain-based entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. This interest, and the fact that other countries are looking at cryptocurrencies, has led Estonia to consider the introduction of its own currency, supported by its advanced digital infrastructure: the “Estcoin”.

In theory, this will be made available to anyone in the world through the e-Residency programme and launched through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). While initially allowing e-Residents to invest in a country for the first time, future Estcoin opportunities look limitless:

estcoins could also be accepted as payment for both public and private services and eventually function as a viable currency used globally. By using our APIs, companies and even other countries could accept these same tokens as payment. It will also be possible to build more functions on top of the estcoins and use them for more purposes, such as smart contracts and notary services.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Estcoin, you can sign up for email updates here.

So that’s the citizenship and currency sorted. What else?  Of course, overseas citizens need embassies, so that they can appeal for help when they lose their digital passport while on a digital night out. Accordingly, Estonia will be opening a “data embassy” in Luxembourg (with the latter’s agreement of course), offering the same protection and immunity as traditional embassies.

Estonia’s vision – to create a new global digital nation powered by the Republic of Estonia – is remarkable. Go Est, young man and woman: this is the future!

Hong Kong aiming to woo post-Brexit businesses

Hong Kong Island skyline

It’s been a symbolic year for Hong Kong with the territory marking 20 years since the end of British rule. Much has happened in the two decades since the handover, a time when the likes of Hanson and Oasis dominated chart music and phones were dumb, with Asia – and China especially – now on the up.

With now clearly a good time to cash in on China, especially with whatever is happening with Brexit, Hong Kong is keen not to be overlooked by reminding people that it’s traditionally a way in.

Supported by more than 60 UK organisations, “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” will be a trade event held in London on 21 September with the aim of attracting companies to use Hong Kong as the starting point for expansion to Asia.

Speakers will include political heavyweights Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and Trade Secretary Liam Fox, among other bigwigs, and the main topics will include the things that have been buzzing in Asia in recent months, from Belt and Road to FinTech, as their press release  explains in more detail:

  • Doing Business in China and throughout Asia – the startup scene in Asia and the support available including fundraising;  middle-class consumers in Asia; the development of online shopping and cross-border ecommerce; and the new approach of marketing, branding and customer engagement using tech and new media
  • Hong Kong: Gateway to Belt and Road Opportunities – Infrastructure financing experts in this panel will share their insights on the Belt and Road Initiative means and how Hong Kong can help UK businesses connect with opportunities arising from this
  • FinTech –  Why global FinTech companies are attracted to Hong Kong, as well as sharing their vision for the future of Hong Kong

Registration is now closed for the main event (I know, I know, you’ve read this far), but you can register onsite for the seminars, apparently.