Interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency has surged to new heights within the past year.
The rise in cryptocurrency acceptance from the public has been accompanied by increased institutional interest, including big names like DBS, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan.
Like the rest of the world, interest in cryptocurrencies in Singapore has also been growing.
PwC Singapore’s survey for the Singapore Blockchain Ecosystem Report 2020 assessed the developments of blockchain-related activities in Singapore, with blockchain emerging as one of the top three technology trends in Singapore for 2021.
Singapore has long been a financial hub and economic powerhouse, and with Asia’s two largest countries — India and China — banning or restricting access to crypto, Singapore has emerged as a haven for blockchain and crypto companies in the region.
Government initiatives and institutional support from banks like DBS has heightened cryptocurrency’s visibility, legitimacy and acceptance amongst Singaporean audiences as a valued asset class.
According to Global Macro Investor Raoul Pal, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings has been purchasing Bitcoin from miners.
This was revealed by Raoul during a recent podcast appearance. He also repeated the same claim on Twitter, though this information was not confirmed by Temasek Holdings.
However, Temasek Holdings has made 346 investments to date, which include portfolio companies that are in the blockchain or cryptocurrency space.
Meanwhile, GIC is one of the three investment entities in Singapore, alongside the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Temasek. It manages most of the government’s financial assets, investing for the long-term with an aim to preserve and enhance the international purchasing power of the funds placed in its care.
In recent years, GIC has also showed interest in the crypto and blockchain industry, and has backed various companies in the space.
Here’s a list of companies in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space that Temasek Holdings and GIC has invested in:
1. Temasek-backed Binance
Binance is one of the world’s largest exchanges in the crypto industry.
Its crypto exchange allows users to trade cryptocurrencies directly with each other. Binance offers a wide range of services to users across the globe, from crypto spot and derivatives trading to tokenised versions of stocks.
Last month, Binance’s trading volumes reached US$662 billion, up almost ten-fold from July last year, according to data from CryptoCompare. According to Glassdoor, the company has grown to hit an annual revenue of almost US$1 billion.
Binance launched its Singapore crypto exchange in 2019, enabling users to purchase and sell crypto assets like Bitcoin using the Singapore dollar through the fast and secure transfers (FAST) electronic funds transfer system.
Binance’s Singapore arm was launched officially in the same year. Called Binance Asia Services, it is backed by Temasek-unit Vertex Holdings.
According to a report by The Business Times, the amount of the investment by the Singapore state investment firm was not disclosed.
2. Temasek-backed Reebonz
Headquarted in Singapore and founded in 2009, Reebonz is a leading online luxury marketplace and platform in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region.
In January 2020, the firm announced that it implemented blockchain technology as “part of its ecosystem strategy to establish the provenance of products”.
All products sold by Reebonz from its inventory since January 2019 have a digital certificate. This digital certificate bears a QR code which contains information such as product details, transaction details, history, and provenance of ownership.
Products can be verified through the Reebonz mobile application, which will provide the digital certificate.
According to Reebonz founder CEO and co-founder Samuel Lim, the company hoped to provide the “first-of-its-lind tracking and authentication tools for luxury products in Asia.
A report by Deal Street Asia stated that in 2019, Vertex Ventures acquired US$5 million worth of common shares in Reebonz Holding Limited, the entity created after the merger of Reebonz with US-based Draper Oakwood Technology Acquisition.
Vertex Ventures is also listed as a key investor of Reebonz on Crunchbase, and invested in Reebonz’s Series C funding round.
Reebonz has raised a total of US$64 milion in funding over three rounds.
3. Temasek-backed PayPal
Most of us are no stranger to PayPal. It is a financial service company that provides online payment solutions to its users worldwide.
In 2020, PayPal announced the launch of a new service enabling its customers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency directly from their PayPal account. Cryptocurrency is available as a funding source for purchases at its 26 million merchants worldwide.
This year, it also announced that in the United States, customers who hold bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash and litecoin in PayPal digital wallets are able to convert their holdings into fiat currencies at checkouts to make purchases.
“This is the first time you can seamlessly use cryptocurrencies in the same way as a credit card or a debit card inside your PayPal wallet,” President and CEO Dan Schulman told Reuters.
4. Temasek-backed R3
R3 is an enterprise blockchain software firm working with an ecosystem of more than 300 members and partners across multiple industries to develop on Corda, its open-source blockchain platform.
The Corda platform is already being used in industries from financial services to healthcare, shipping, insurance and more. It records, manages, executes institutions’ financial agreements in synchrony with their peers, creating a world of frictionless commerce.
In April this year, R3 signed a Memorandum of Intent with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Tramés, a Singapore-based supply chain orchestration technology startup, to accelerate global trade and supply chain digitalisation.
The MOI will support the collaboration and adoption of a new digital solution built by Tramés using R3’s blockchain platform Corda Enterprise and IMDA’s TradeTrust digital utility.
5. Temasek-backed TrueLayer
TrueLayer is a fintech platform utilised to build financial apps that connect to bank data, verify accounts, and access transactions in real-time.
According to the firm, it has a team of crypto experts that work with its clients to “elevate the entire trading experience with instant deposits and withdrawals, all through a single integration”.
TrueLayer has raised a total of US$141.8 million in funding over seven rounds. Its latest funding was raised on April 8 this year, from a Series D round. One of its clients is MoonPay — a global payment solution for cryptocurrency.
Temasek Holdings, together with Tencent, was one of its lead investors in its Series C funding round in 2019, where it raised US$35 million in total.
6. Temasek-backed FNZ
FNZ is a fintech firm that partners with financial institutions to enable them to provide multi-channel wealth management services to their clients across direct, intermediated, and workplace channels.
It partners with banks, insurers and asset managers to help consumers better achieve their financial goals.
Last year, FNZ partnered with a consortium of global fund managers including Aberdeen Standard, Equity Trustees Fund Services, Kames Capital, Legg Mason and Merian Global Investors to launch the world’s first production blockchain-powered market infrastructure for asset management.
Called FNZ ChainClear, it leverages blockchain technology to replace the copies of transactions and holdings in the managed funds industry with a single, secure, verifiable source universally accessible by all parties.
It essentially eliminates the effort of reconciliations, enables real-time settlement of trades and real-time fund transfers.
In 2020, the firm announced that Temasek joined its existing investors Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Generation Investment Management LLP (Generation), in a deal that valued the company at nearly £1.7 billion (US$2.02 billion).
7. Temasek-backed Nium
Nium is a Singapore-based, advanced payments platform redefining the way consumers and businesses send, spend, and receive funds across borders.
The firm leverages upon Ripple’s advanced blockchain technology to process transactions in real-time for its customers.
Besides creating a faster, more reliable payments experience for its customers, being on the blockchain also amounted to significant offtake in the total volume of remittances.
Nium is the first in the region to offer corridors from North and South America into a number of destinations in Southeast Asia.
Nium has raised a total of US$80 million in funding over six rounds. Two of its six lead investors include Vertex Ventures and Temasek Holdings.
8. GIC-backed Coinbase
Coinbase is a digital currency exchange headquartered in San Francisco, California.
The firm was started in 2012 with the idea that anyone, anywhere, should be able to easily and securely send and receive Bitcoin. Today, it offers a trusted and easy-to-use platform for accessing the broader cryptoeconomy.
GIC was among investors who raised US$300 million for Coinbase in 2018.
In April this year, Coinbase became the first major cryptocurrency company to go public when it made its stock market debut.
9. GIC-backed OSL
OSL is a digital asset platform, and is a gateway to the digital asset capital markets. OSL Singapore is certified by the Singapore FinTech Association as a blockchain, digital asset and financial inclusion provider.
This June, GIC invested HK$543.19 million (US$70 million) in Hong Kong-listed BC Group, the parent company of regulated crypto exchange OSL.
10. GIC-backed Anchorage
Anchorage is a premier digital asset platform for institutions.
Founded in 2017 to meet the growing need for institutional custody that lets investors safely hold and use crypto, Anchorage has grown into a full-service financial platform and infrastructure provider for the digital asset space.
The company offers crypto-native financial products and services, such as staking, governance, financing and lending, trading, and DeFi (decentralised finance).
Anchorage is also a Founding Member of the Libra Association, an independent not-for-profit group responsible for the operation and governance of the Libra network.
In March, GIC has led a US$80 million Series C funding in the US-based digital asset platform.
What does this mean for Singapore?
Vertex is the oldest venture capital firm in Southeast Asia, and its aggressive investment in the crypto market is a nod to a relatively new industry that is starting to see institutional money slowly back projects.
Furthermore, Temasek’s investment philosophy has been underpinned by four investment themes — transforming economies, growing middle income populations, deepening comparative advantages, and emerging champions.
By investing in crypto or blockchain related companies, Temasek Holdings has signalled that it sees potential in these industries.
“We expect to increasingly shape our portfolio in line with such trends, including engaging our existing companies to transform their businesses where needed, and investing in companies that are developing innovative solutions to disrupt old business models or create new ones,” said Temasek Holdings.
To add on, the news of GIC funding Coinbase came as a surprise as CEO Lim Chow Kiat previously said that GIC would avoid crypto-related investments as it goes against GIC’s investment mandate.
However, GIC has been investing in the technology space since its founding, according to its ‘ODE to technology’ framework.
According to this framework, offence refers to gaining from technological disruption by investing in the winners of this shift, while defence refers to protecting its existing investments as they face disruption.
It can be interpreted that GIC has invested in crypto-related companies as it possibly sees them as a disruptor in the fintech space.
Indeed, most of Singapore’s sovereign wealth funds’ investments in cryptocurrency or blockchain-based companies have been made in recent years.
Even though the use of cryptocurrency is still in nascent stages in Singapore, there is still a lot of interest driven by both consumers, businesses and institutional investors.
The growing amount of use cases available in Singapore also points to its large growth potential, signalling that the crypto and blockchain industry in Singapore is only going to grow in the coming years.
Featured Image Credit: CNBC / Financial Times / Nasdaq