It is no question that the advent and proliferation of blockchain technology has huge implications for many established industries, such as finance, shipping, etcetera.
Transactions that could take weeks to process can now be shortened and verified within days because of decentralised applications (dapps) developed on blockchain’s immutable ledger system; also powered by the blockchain are cryptocurrencies that have the potential to be an alternative to traditional currencies and has been widely used to raise funding (aka ICOs).
But while developers of these blockchain applications may offer grand promises, translating their vision to real-world enterprise applications is quite the hurdle. After all, blockchain usage has not achieved widespread adoption and many companies are still struggling to wrap their heads around the concept and the practicality of its real-world use cases.
Now, thanks to a new crypto accelerator called #Chain (hashtagchain), these companies may now have an easier time raising awareness about their applications, marketing their solutions to businesses, and building the right product fit for their intended market.
Co-founded by Singaporean entrepreneur Spencer Yang, #Chain is a spin-off of his blockchain and cryptocurrency advisory firm CoinUsage.
Yang is the former CEO of US- and Singapore-based AI startup KeyReply, which built the Singapore government’s first Facebook chatbot in February last year. In August, however, he left to pursue work in the blockchain industry.Yang spent 6 months building an early stage cryptocurrency wallet startup in Beijing with the founder of f2pool, the world’s largest cryptocurrency mining pool.
Early this year, Yang launched CoinUsage, advising crypto companies such as Ethereum-powered cat-collecting game CryptoKitties, crypto price tracker CoinMarketCap and cryptocurrency investment portal Olympus Labs.
Then, drawing from his and his partners’ experience at American seed-stage startup incubator AngelPad, as well as feedback from various funds dabbling in the crypto and blockchain space, Yang decided to pool together the experience, network and knowledge from stakeholders in the blockchain community to launch a crypto accelerator.
On the problems many crypto/blockchain companies face in the market, Yang told e27: “Some projects that are very strong in engineering and research may have difficulty with product marketing and positioning. Other projects who have a strong understanding of their industry may not understand the unique aspects of the crypto and blockchain industry.”
Thus, there is a critical need to help these companies develop their go-to-market strategies and connect them with the right industry mentors.
“Our aim is to cut out the noise that the market has and really focus with the startups on what’s most important for them … [we] want to roll up our sleeves and dive right into the trenches with the startups. We feel that #Chain can provide support to startups of all stages in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry,” he said.
Yang said his team has experience scaling consumer and enterprise businesses globally, and understand both the traditional Internet and blockchain industries. Hence, they are well positioned to help accelerate and advice on the various aspects of a company, for example, sales.
“The blockchain industry is still maturing. On one hand, the industry functions similarly to the finance industry with speculation and exchanges, the other side is very similar to frontier technology sectors such as AI with research and product. A healthy balance and consideration of every aspect is key to long-term growth of projects,” said Yang.
#Chain is a 3-month programme, and the team has already been shortlisting candidates since June — many of whom came through referrals and introductions. Yang said that startups that wish to apply need to resonate with the accelerator’s core mission of “expanding blockchain utility globally”.
For the first batch, #Chain will be accepting a total of 8 companies, and each company will be assigned to one mentor. Yang declined to name the mentors but said many of them have been working in the cryptocurrency space since 2012. The accelerator will also have members from Southeast Asia funds come on board as advisors.
And while the accelerator is open to startups from all countries, its focus is on Asia and the US — specifically New York, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
“We feel that there’s no need to confine the program or members by location and we’ll employ tools like Mattermost to the maximum potential. [But] we do see many startups and projects spending a significant amount of time in key hubs like Singapore,” said Yang.
“We’ll be hosting dinners and mentoring sessions with the startups remotely or physically in Singapore and Hong Kong.”
Advisors in the accelerator will conduct deep dive sessions into key business topics such as legal, cryptoeconomics, enterprise sales, consumer marketing, and community development.
“The first month will largely be about context and goal setting where we will rip apart all the assumptions and dive into what’s core for the companies. The second month will be focused on delivering and growing on those key initiatives. For the third month, we will start reviewing the plans for the continued growth of the companies up to demo day,” said Yang.
Citing how established tech companies such as Facebook and Korean conglomerates have already launched their own blockchain division or built blockchain apps, Yang said he was optimistic about the technology’s future.
“New cryptography methods are being tested, new cryptoeconomic models are validated. Many of these breakthroughs by various companies can lead to a tsunami of adoption,” he said.
“We [at #Chain] hope to have helped form 8 of the next generation of cryptocurrency and blockchain startups in the world. #Chain should set the standard for what a crypto accelerator should look like.”
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