The versatility and decentralised nature of blockchain is attracting an increasing number of businesses and governments across Southeast Asia.
Although crypto and payments are still the preferred uses for blockchain, startups are bringing new ideas and creativity to the table and thinking outside the box.
Here we have a list of the top 10 startups which are making the most innovative use of the digital ledger across ASEAN in 2019.
Hara jumped into stardom after featuring in the first episode of the new Amazon Web Services Services (AWS) Now Go Build series in November last year.
Founded in 2015, the Indonesian startup is a blockchain-based data exchange for the food and agriculture sector. Its aim is to improve the lives of the industry workers by providing farmers with valuable and hard-to-find data, such as land ownership or crop prices, in different provinces across Indonesia.
Farmers who input data into the blockchain (e.g. grain price or soil quality) are rewarded with HARA Tokens, which can then be exchanged for needed goods like fertilisers. This information also helps other farmers across the country who can know what’s happening in the agriculture sector in real time.
One of the main obstacles facing people in rural areas of Southeast Asia is lack of financial inclusion. Sometimes they resort to borrowing money from loan sharks at extortionate interest rates that can be as high as 60% per year. HARA is helping these farmers by generating the data that financial institutions need to help them disburse loans.
“We are collecting any ID that they have. There are 1.5 billion people who have no proper ID in this world. By making them visible, by giving them an identity that they can use to identify themselves, then we can provide access to a lot within the system,” said Imron Zuhri, HARA CTO.
HARA has successfully helped digitise loan administration and disbursement process of several financial institutions. Also, the data from HARA has been used in market research reports to provide reliable information on the rice production in Indonesia.
“With their tech they connect rural, smallholder farms with banks and distributors of goods, like seeds, fertilisers, and tools. It is simply the sharing of hard to obtain data that makes this possible. With this system, useful information is the basis for good credit and goodwill,” said Amazon VP & CTO Werner Vogels in the Now Go Build episode.
Launched last year in Malaysia, the DACSEE platform (‘Decentralised Alternative Cabs Serving & Empowering Everyone’) is the world’s first fully decentralised and autonomous social ride-sharing service.
DACSEE drivers can buy DACSEE tokens (a cryptocurrency token based on the Ethereum platform) but can also accept fares from passengers with the same token or conventional money.
When a fare is collected, almost all of it is returned to the platform stakeholders which consists of drivers, passengers and government authorities. This unique design enables DACSEE to expand without the need of corporate input.
Unlike its competitors, which typically charge anywhere between 20-25 percent in commission fees, the DACSEE digital wallet only takes 1-2 percent from a driver’s wallet.
The company affirms that the peer-to-peer system will redistribute its platform commissions to the drivers, passengers, and local authorities that make-up the DACSEE platform.
All commissions taken from a DACSEE fare will be deposited in a shared pool and then redistributed to stakeholders according to several metrics including community ranking, length of time on platform, number of rides taken or given on platform, and the size of their ‘Circle of Friends’.
The launch of DACSEE comes at a time when the ride-hailing industry is exploding in Southeast Asia, with market leader Grab becoming the first ‘decacorn’ in the region.
If you thought Bananaman was cool, wait until you hear about a new type of cryptocurrency based on what’s arguably the world’s favourite fruit: Bananacoin.
Co-founded by entrepreneurs Oleg Dobrovolsky and Alexander Bychkov, Bananacoin is a utility token based on Ethereum and pegged to the export price of 1kg of bananas. This means that the price of each Bananacoin token is protected by the cost of 1kg of the fruit.
Bananacoin’s mission is to grow an organic and healthy variety of bananas known as “Lady Finger” in their environmentally friendly plantation in Laos and to export them to China, where demand is greater than supply.
Lady Finger, albeit being the most expensive variety of banana, is also the most popular in the Chinese market. Despite an increase in consumption, the deficit of banana export to China is estimated at 30,000 hectares.
Although they have been doing business in Laos for 15 years, Bananacoin’s founders began their adventure into the agro-industrial business (the cultivation and export of bananas) only three years ago.
Their plantation is eco-friendly, doesn’t use pesticides and counts with the support of the governor of the Vientiane province, where the plantation is located.
The startup has a strong commitment to transparency: every person participating in the enterprise has the right to personally visit the plantation and see the work being done by themselves.
The sharing economy is not a new concept. Every day, people are letting out their houses on Airbnb, Uber drivers are giving people lifts in their personal cars and we sell off our unwanted possessions on eBay or the re-selling app Depop.
It’s this idea of sharing that sparked the creation of a blockchain startup, Bluzelle; a platform that sees users get paid to share the extra space on their computer that they don’t need.
Founded in 2014 and based in Singapore, Bluzelle is the brain child of Pavel Bains and Neeraj Murarka. Noticing the success blockchain was experiencing in the financial sector, they wanted to see if it would see the same triumphs in the world of storage.
Using blockchain technology, the company is building a decentralised data base that businesses can use to store their data – almost like a decentralised cloud service. Users of Bluzelle will be able to store their data on multiple computers, or nodes, eliminating the risk downtime and central points of failure as there will always be back up nodes, even if one goes down.
Additionally, by storing your data across multiple locations, it better protects against cyberattacks because, even if one node gets hacked, the small amount of information gained by attackers is virtually useless without the context of the wider data set.
The platform will operate using Bluzelle tokens (BLZ) which will be paid to someone offering up storage space on their computer. In January last year, the company has successfully completed its US$19.5 million initial coin offering (ICO), raising enough funds to build the decentralised database for app developers.
Unlike typical blockchain projects, Bluzelle operates on a database protocol system, meaning other blockchain projects can currently connect to it.
While the team is currently targeting blockchain developers, long term, the goal is to work with companies building both decentralised apps whilst simultaneously supporting non-blockchain projects.
In March 2018, a Singapore-based startup by the name of Electrify managed to raise US$30 million in less than 10 days via a token sale. Its aim? To replace its current operational model with a similar one powered by blockchain.
Founded in 2017 by Julius Tan and Martin Lim, Electrify is declaring a crusade on the regulated energy Asian markets and proposing a completely liberalised model instead. According to Tan and Lim, regulated electricity markets lack of transparency, are a barrier to clean energy and put consumers’ credit at risk.
Singapore’s government recent decision to deregulate its electricity market was obviously highly welcomed by the startup. In fact, it described it as “an excellent test bed for our solutions”.
Electrify’s current operations are based around a web application called ‘Energy Marketplace’, which produces retail electricity contracts. The way it works is quite straightforward: the client provides their consumption details and registers with an Electrify account, then chooses an energy plan, uploads some documents and pays a security deposit. Basically, it allows consumers to make the best option for their energy needs.
So where does blockchain play a role in all this? At the moment the company is looking to develop its current ‘Energy Marketplace’ model into what will be called ‘Marketplace 2.0’ – a web and mobile platform that will allow consumers to buy energy from electricity retailers or directly from their peers (P2P) with smart contracts and blockchain.
The introduction of the digital ledger will eliminate any middlemen fees, reduced the transaction costs and allow an automatic execution of the contracts – pure and simply blockchain. All energy data will be logged into the blockchain through ‘PowerPods’.
Electrify’s venture into the electricity market is already shaking the grounds of the energy market in Southeast Asia. The introduction of blockchain technology into its system is set to transform the way in which consumers and suppliers will deal with energy in the near future.
Another innovative use of blockchain comes from Tripio, the first travel booking marketplace based on the digital ledger technology to connect global customer with services providers.
Established in early 2018, the startup aims to use its travel services platform to restructure hotel booking protocol with blockchain technology and thus solving problems of high commission, inaccurate updates on room status or fake reviews.
On its white paper, Tripio describes the platform as a product based on Ethereum’s smart contracts: “By leveraging the full-fledged and Turing-complete programming language built into the Ethereum blockchain, Tripio redefines transaction models and state transition function rules, and hence construct various smart contracts to power travel services in new and innovative ways.”
Tripio uses the Ethereum distributed ledger to construct the credit system. It lets all participants
in the system accrue credit based on ‘good’ behaviour: everyone can view a person’s public records and determine whether they are credible.
The company claims that their credit system is global, transparent, automatic and decentralised, working in tandem with Tripio’s other decentralised systems.
Every time a transaction, compensation request, dispute or audit happens, smart contracts update the credit ratings for all participants involved based on their behaviour. The service provider and customer reputation score are also updated taking into account the service quality and results.
On the Tripio platform, there is no middleman fee if the transaction is completed using TRIO tokens. If a different payment method is used, Tripio charges a currency conversion fee. However, by eliminating the middleman layers, transactional overhead is greatly reduced.
Yojee is another blockchain startup based in Singapore. Logistics and supply-chain companies have been dealing with the impact of digital disruption for a long time, meaning it’s not surprising that one company in Singapore has developed a new way for ecommerce companies to work with logistics providers.
Yojee uses artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology to help logistics companies coordinate their fleets and optimise and manage tracking, pickup and delivery confirmation, invoicing, job management and driver rating all in real time.
Machine learning is used to automatically assign delivery jobs to drivers, removing the human middle-man and therefore reducing an organisation’s overall expenditure.
On top of the software, Yojee offers its users with the opportunity to join the world’s first collaborative cross border logistics network which connects shippers, carriers and freight containers.
As of 2017, Yojee already had 70 of Southeast Asia’s leading ecommerce sites using their platform. According to its CEO, Ed Clarke, companies using Yojee have been able to reduce their delivery times from three days to the same day, in some cases.
Not only does the company already employee blockchain and AI capabilities in its platform, its looking to take advantage of one of Singapore’s leading tech sectors – autonomous vehicles.
It’s already been rumoured that driverless trucks will be trailed on the streets of the city state before long and Clarke thinks combining autonomous vehicles with traditional, man-powered fleets will allow smaller logistics companies to keep pace with their bigger, more established rivals.
The majority of use cases for blockchain appear to exist within the financial services sector and Malaysian startup Xenchain is no exception. This company uses blockchain technology to tackle problems that exist within the identity verification sector – the biggest of which is manual document authentication.
By combining e-KYC (electronic-Know-Your-Customer) and facial recognition technology, it hopes to streamline the sometimes-convoluted process of verifying you are who you claim to be however, that’s not all Xenchain has its sights set on.
Long term, the company plans to build a platform where personal data and asset identification data can be accessed, managed and stored in a secured, impermeable and irrefutable distributed blockchain.
By decentralising the storage location of personal data, the security of any information held by a company would be enhanced. Furthermore, by using blockchain, it removes any centralised control that might be held by a single party, meaning each individual can control who has access to their private information.
Xenxhain launched their Initial Coin Offering, XENC, in August 2018 after staging campaigns in a number of different Southeast Asian countries. To date, they have sold 200,000,000 XENC.
LaLa World was established with a very ambitious vision in mind: “banking the unbanked”.
The startup’s product is a one-stop wallet based on Ethereum and hyperledger blockchains which allow investors to capitalise on the rise of blockchain as well as introduce the underbanked into the financial system.
With a LaLa ID, the “global wallet for everyone” lets users transfer money domestically and across borders, buy products and pay bills in 180 countries.
By bridging the gap between cash and the digital world, LaLa World’s ecosystem wants to support the inclusion of the unbanked, undocumented, micro-entrepreneurs, students and all those who are usually excluded from the finance world.
According to the World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2017, 1.7 billion adults around the world are unbanked, i.e. they do not hold a bank account.
Not only that, more than 20 percent of unbanked adults receive wages or government transfers in cash, and many people in developing countries pay bills and school fees in cash.
LaLa World is determined to put an end to this situation and allow everyone with a smartphone or access to the internet to easily receive and send money or pay their bills.
It’s meant to have a bigger impact on migrant communities and underdeveloped countries where producing identification papers and opening bank accounts is not always an easy option.
“It’s about bringing them into the society, not only including them financially but also creating a whole ecosystem for them,” says Sankalp Shangari, LaLa World’s founder and CEO.
“We have already built a proof of concept on ethereum and hyperledger blockchains, which we will be properly putting into place, starting with Malaysia, Bangladesh, UEA and India and rolling out into different countries,” he added.
On top of the obstacles faced at the time of presenting valid documentation to open bank accounts, underbanked individuals usually pay the highest charges and sometimes don’t have the facilities to settle their utility bills, having to take time off work to do simple admin which in the developed could be done instantly through an online banking app.
Prakash Somosundram, “the man behind all the strategy and corporate development of LaLa World” says that the blockchain platform aims to “bring fintech to the unbanked population” as currently they “are not getting enough access to financial products which are readily available for us in developed nations”.
Founded in 2016, LaLaWorld now has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, India, Dubai and UK. Their goal is to reach a global audience of 100 million by 2020 and presence in at least 50 countries.
How do you know if a luxury product is real if even authenticity certificates can be forged?
The team behind LuxTag, a Malaysia-based startup, has the answer to it – and their answer includes blockchain.
Using the digital ledger technology, LuxTag creates tamper-proof certificates of authenticity, adding another layer of security on top of certificates and serial numbers to luxury items such as watches or handbags.
LuxTag’s system can also tag items as stolen or lost: If the item is missing, users can also embed tracking details such as contact mobile numbers in case the object is found.
This not only helps reunite owners with their lost items but also helps clamping down on fraudulent insurance claims as in the case the insurance on the product is claimed, the ownership ID and item will go to the insurer instead.
With blockchain the information about the product is stored and distributed in the shared ledger and each time a change is made it has to be verified by the other servers before it’s accepted into the ledger, making tampering virtually impossible: again, basic blockchain mechanism.
Having a tamper-proof certificate of authenticity means that the luxury goods can have a better second-hand value, as interested buyers can verify the product’s history.
In addition to this, only the genuine owner will be able to hand over the ownership ID.
“This is very important for pawnshops and secondhand shops,” said Rene Bernard, LuxTag’s CEO, as “they can check the database and see if there’s a mismatch (which indicates the bag is fake or stolen)”.
Serey is a Cambodian social media platform which supports community building and rewards social interaction between readers and writers through the use of blockchain technology.
It follows the Steem model but it has been adjusted to suit the needs of the Cambodian public.
Its mission? “Encouraging and rewarding self-expression and creativity through technology”.
The founders are Chhay Lin Lim and Chhay Lem Lim, two Dutch Cambodian brothers heavily influenced by the philosophy of libertarian and free market thinkers like Murray Newton Rothbard and John Perry Barlow.
According to the team behind Serey, what it makes it different from other social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter is the decentralisation of the created content value.
Instead of channeling value to a small group of shareholders, the users of Serey are rewarded for their writing and proofreading skills with a cryptocurrency, also called Serey.
Serey, the native cryptocurrency of the platform, is a utility token and is distributed according to a set of rules determined by the Serey blockchain.
As soon as someone joins the platform they are given a small amount of the digital currency “which gives your voice weight in determining what content should be rewarded.”
The platform’s philosophy is not a light one.
In their 16-page white paper Serey states that “every Cambodian individual knows just a fraction of what is collectively known. Believing that the nature of our collective knowledge is therefore inherently decentralised, we [at Serey] would like to encourage sharing of the unique information that individuals possess through the Serey platform.”
It continues by saying that “understanding that we ourselves don’t know everything is an epistemologically modest position that we hold in every decision we take in building Serey”. Take that, Mark Zuckerberg!
The main feature of Serey is that all of the platform’s written content is stored on the Serey blockchain. Since it cannot be modified the owners and administrators of the platform can’t censor or remove the content.
Definitely not your usual social media platform!