Bitcoin.com wanted to get an inside look into the upcoming BlockFin Asia 2016 event in Ho Chi Minh City through the eyes of one of its organizers Dominik Weil of the broker exchange Bitcoin Vietnam. Weil explains how the event was conceived and how things are going within the Vietnam borders concerning financial technology and blockchain solutions.
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BlockFin Asia 2016: For the ‘Entrepreneurial’
On June 15-16 a new conference called BlockFin Asia 2016 will held in the beautiful city of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam that will showcase both Fintech and blockchain innovations. Day one will concentrate on blockchain technology discussions with innovators from the industry such as Bitcoin.com CEO Roger Ver, Brave New Coin’s Tone Vays, The Blockchain Heist Film Director Ham Tran, and additional guests speaking on the disruptive power of distributed ledgers.
Bitcoin.com (BC): How are things going in Vietnam in regards to Bitcoin and financial tech solutions?
Dominik Weil (DW): While Fintech is globally these days one of the hottest “buzzwords du jour”, we are in Vietnam still quite early in this development. Just since last year the topic is slowly gaining more awareness and recognition – a visit from the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and several UK-based Fintech startups (one of them was the only Bitcoin company in his entourage – Blockchain.info) had sparked an initiative with Standard Chartered Bank Vietnam and Dragon Capital to set up the “Fintech Club Vietnam” as a kind of interest group to enhance cooperation among the industry stakeholders and propose policy guidelines which allow the nascent Fintech sector in Vietnam to grow. We are happy that we as Bitcoin Vietnam were around as one of the founding members of the Fintech Club in order to bring the “Blockchain perspective of things” into the group. On the other hand – besides the more formal settings of the Fintech Club events – there also has been independent initiatives such as the Fintech Vietnam meetup group whose meetups have drawn huge interest at its past events.
Vietnam is an amazing country with a very young population (70% of the population is below 30 years old) which is very entrepreneurial and interested towards technological innovations – at the same time the legislative uncertainty is holding back entrepreneurs to take the plunge and investors to put serious money behind financial technology and especially blockchain-related startups in Vietnam.
Regarding actual Fintech business / startups: Currently a lot of the “Fintech innovations” are still coming from the incumbents who have the money, the resources, the customer base and the infrastructure to roll out their solutions on a wide scale without the usual uphill battles start-ups have to fight. The flagship Fintech startup in Vietnam is certainly MoMo – the first Mobile Money company to really gain significant traction in this market – which also just recently closed a $28m USD funding round led by Standard Chartered and Goldman Sachs, the first time that a Vietnam-based Fintech Startup made worldwide headlines. MoMo is especially focusing on bringing digital banking to the unbanked, rural population of Vietnam where the next physical bank branch can be kilometers away.
Another positive occurrence in this regard was that just recently the American Ambassador David H. Thorne recommended at a conference organized by the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology “to encourage the development of new financial technology or ‘FinTech’ innovations – blockchain and distributed ledgers, mobile banking, etc – which will provide a backbone to the e-commerce activity” – certainly an interesting assessment at an interesting point in time.
Regarding the situation of Bitcoin in Vietnam here we are still in nascent days; while there is a decent OTC volume and also an active miner community – these activities all remain more or less in the shadow. While we have nowadays a small active community in Saigon, which organized several meetups with foreign speakers from around the world, the community in Hanoi is at this point still relatively unorganized – even if the numbers of individuals interested in the technology is certainly not much smaller there than down here in the South.
Business-wise we remain at this point in time the only registered company directly building, developing and offering Bitcoin-related services to the Vietnamese market – which certainly has not always been an easy task for various reasons; but we firmly believe in the long-term mission. We are currently offering a broker exchange, a remittance platform and in cooperation with Blinktrade – a trading platform for the Vietnamese market; we also recently closed a partnership agreement with Coinify to offer Bitcoin merchant services to the Vietnamese market.
BC: Can you tell our readers about BlockFin Asia 2016?
DW: The very first idea to organize something bigger came up during the organization of the “Bitfilm Festival Saigon 2015” – which was a lot of stress, but also a lot of fun (greetings to Vienna to our amazing Charles Finney who has just been involved in the organization of “Coded Cultures” in the Austrian capital). Over the winter of 2015/2016, we gathered the community to discuss if and how we tackle such an event – and proceeded from there to bring this plan from idea to reality.
Vietnam can and should do better – we have a huge amount of raw talent in this country.
We felt that the time was ripe now to get more serious on this whole matter. Vietnam is an amazing country with a very young population (70% of the population is below 30 years old), which is very entrepreneurial and interested towards technological innovations – at the same time the legislative uncertainty is holding back entrepreneurs to take the plunge and investors to put serious money behind financial technology and especially blockchain-related startups in Vietnam. Vietnam can and should do better – we have a huge amount of raw talent in this country – and we would like to contribute our share to refine this talent and open up opportunities in this rising sector.
While we planned, in the beginning, to hold the event as a one-day seminar – as we moved onwards and we got more and more support from speakers as well as from people helping us on the ground locally with contacts, resources and advice – the concept grew beyond our original plans – so that BlockFin Asia became a full two-day conference.
BC: What kind of discussions will take place and who will be speaking at the event?
DW: BlockFin Asia is separated in two days with very specific target audiences – while the first day will mainly focus around Blockchain technology and various practical use cases ( e.g. crowdfunding, remittances, trading) tailored to attract and excite the local startup & techie folks; the second day will take on the Fintech landscape in Vietnam on a broader angle – and is catering towards an audience consisting of Vietnamese regulatory agencies, local banks & financial institutions, investors and other “established” stakeholders in the financial sector.
On the first day, we will have talks by Roger Ver, Simon Dixon, Anson Zeall and Tone Vays – all well-known faces in the global Bitcoin and blockchain community. As a special on Day 1, we have arranged a private screening of “Bitcoin Heist” for our conference attendees at the Bitexco tower – Saigon’s tallest building. This movie is the first Bitcoin mainstream action movie worldwide and ranked #2 in Vietnam’s cinema charts just behind “Deadpool” – and had well-known actors such as Vietnam’s Rap Queen Suboi playing central characters. Ham Tran – the award-winning movie director – will share the background story of the film with us on day one as well.
The second day will kick off with a talk of MoMo Executive Diep Nguyen about mobile banking and financial inclusion in Vietnam; before other well-known people from the Blockchain space such as Pavel Kravchenko who is doing amazing work in the Ukraine, or David Jerry will give their input on various possible use-cases of Blockchain technology. The afternoon session will see various panel discussion around regulatory issues; challenges and opportunities of digital payments; hurdles and possible solutions to increase investment in the local Fintech sector and an Asia panel with participants from Blockchain companies from Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Vietnam.
The full conference schedule can also be seen on our website www.blockfin.asia. We hope to see as many readers of Bitcoin.com as possible next month in Saigon!
What Bitcoin or Fintech events will you be attending this year? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of BlockFin Asia 2016, Dominik Weil, fintechnews.sg