July 21, 2024
Ex-Meta employees' Aptos tests Hong Kong's crypto appetite

Ever since Hong Kong legalized cryptocurrency trading last June, blockchain projects from the West have been paying more attention to the Asian financial hub. Aptos, the a16z-backed blockchain network developed by a group of former Meta employees, is one of them.

Started by some of the original creators of Meta’s abandoned crypto payment project Diem, Aptos is set to host a DeFi event in Hong Kong this April. Decentralized finance, or DeFi, which tries to replace traditional banking intermediaries with decentralized technology, has been a prominent use case in the blockchain space so far.

“I was in Hong Kong twice last year in a span of three months,” said Mo Shaikh, co-founder and CEO of Aptos, which is a Layer 1 blockchain, meaning it doesn’t rely on existing decentralized networks like Ethereum or Solana.

“And what I noticed was there is an incredible amount of resurgence when it comes to the appetite to build, to disrupt, and a massive focus on web3, whether it was meeting folks like Alibaba or Tencent, to even meeting with other financial institutions like HSBC and incubators out there. So when we see that level of activity, that level of interest in Aptos, we obviously have to make sure we can’t ignore it,” he added.

Indeed, an X/Twitter Space Aptos hosted in Mandarin Chinese this week attracted over 45,000 listeners.

While mainland China bans all forms of cryptocurrency trading, the government leaves the option open in Hong Kong, a move seen by many industry watchers as a sandbox for Beijing to toy with web3 without potentially incurring financial volatility for the rest of the country.

Aptos already works with Alibaba to reach web3 developers in Asia. In November, the two partners announced they planned to co-host hackathons that used Move, the open source programming language developed by Meta.

On the Aptos chain, Move is used to write smart contracts, which are lines of code that automatically execute predetermined terms of agreements. Solidity is the primary language used to program smart contracts on Ethereum, the largest blockchain by developer activity.

Aptos has its eye on all emerging markets. One of its most ambitious endeavors is the JamboPhone, a joint effort between the blockchain and Jambo, a Congo-based startup aiming to be the “web3 super app” of Africa. Priced at $99, the phone comes preinstalled with the Aptos-compatible wallet Petra and is selling in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Layer 1 blockchain Solana’s Saga phone is clearly targeting a different demographic with its $1,000 price tag.

“The cool thing about [JamboPhone] is, imagine you had new forms of digital money, a stablecoin, the eHKD or even the Singaporean dollar, that money can now be available instantly on these devices, and expand into creating real value for people that often are left out of the financial system,” Shaikh suggested.

When asked when users in Hong Kong will get access to Aptos-based DeFi services, the founder said he cannot speculate on regulation.

“I do think Hong Kong regulators are moving things in the right direction and forward and providing clarity for entrepreneurs to build. And I think that is a very healthy sign for us to continue to lean into,” he added.

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