Is Southeast Asia the Next Hotspot for Web3? Exploring the Feasibility of Web3 in Thailand
Author: Yu-Hsuan Chang
Editor: Yueh-Ju Hsu
As the Web3 industry continues to grow, Southeast Asia has emerged as a major player on the global stage. With a vast population and a growing openness to digital assets, numerous web3 teams and individuals are considering moving to the region. Countries such as Thailand and Vietnam have developed thriving local ecosystems, attracting digital nomads and remote workers from around the world.
Thailand, in particular, has long been a haven for digital nomads due to its relaxed visa policies, but does this apply to the web3 industry as well? According to The 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index by Chainalysis, Thailand ranks 8th across the globe and it is only behind Vietnam and Philippine in the SEA region.
Is it feasible to pursue web3 projects in Thailand? Matters Lab participated in Thailand Blockchain Genesis 2022, and in this blog post, we will explore the Web3 industry in Southeast Asia.
The Growing Web3 Industry in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is home to a rapidly growing Web3 industry, with countries such as Thailand and Vietnam leading the way. Moreover, Web3 projects is very diverse, with each country having its unique characteristics. Vietnam has many developers and traders, Singapore has more venture capital firms, and Indonesia has flourishing NFT artists, with cryptocurrency penetration rate over 5% and a population of 70 million, Thailand is worth exploring in the future.
Southeast Asia is an interesting choice for those who want to develop in the cryptocurrency field, the low cost of living and high demand for Web3 services make Southeast Asia an attractive location for digital nomads.
Yu-Hsuan Chang, the Business Manager of Matters Lab attended a Bitcoin meetup in Chiang Mai, where he met a diverse group of people, including a pilot preparing to work in Dubai, a professional trader in Switzerland, and an NFT trader who had just escaped from his home country. One of the core organizers of China’s Dali Web3 Summer Fest Hydao radio also set up a co-working space in Chiang Mai, gathering numerous Web3 developers and builders. In their Digital Nomad Report from the Indochinese Peninsula, Southeast Asia was voted as the most popular region among digital nomads with 34% of the votes, followed by Central America with 16%, and South America with 13%.
What is Blockchain Genesis?
In 26-27 November, 2022, Matters Lab attended the 5th Blockchain Thailand Genesis, one of the largest crypto events in Thailand hosted by Cryptomind. Matters Lab also participated the official meetup side event.
With this year’s theme being ‘Road to Web 3’. Matters Lab’s Business Development Manager attended the event and gained valuable insights into Thailand’s Web3 ecosystem.
With the theme of ‘Road to Web 3’, which covers from cryptocurrency, DeFi, NFTs, GameFi and Metaverse. Important speakers include Suppakrit Boonsat of Thai Digital Asset Association Founder; Kavin Phongpandecha, Co-Founder of Bitazza; Jarindr Thitadilaka, Founder of GuildFi; and Arpit Sharma, vice president of Polygon.
Major Players in Thailand’s Web3 Ecosystem
Matters Lab by participating in multiple sessions and more than 10 side events, Matters Lab gets the opportunity to explore Thailand’s web3 ecosystem closely.
In a nutshell, crypto trading remains the most popular field in Thailand’s crypto ecosystem. Many local crypto people told Matters Lab: “Thai people love trading”.
Currently, there are 6 local crypto exchanges, and major players build their own ecosystem. Notably, three of them are active in Blockchain genesis.
The most ambitious one is Bitkub, the largest crypto exchange in Thailand, and its business extends beyond just crypto trading. It set up its own metaverse, layer 1 chain (Bitkub chain), Fan tokens, NFT market and webpage wallet. Bitkub shows ambition of dominating the market.
The comprehensive solutions Bitkub provide is double-edged for Thailand’s Web3 ecosystem. The clear benefit is onboarding more people to Web3 with local user friendly applications. However, the possibility of expanding Bitkub system to other SEA countries is doubtable, because other countries have their own local chains.
The second major player is SCBX, a traditional bank in Thailand. Under Thai regulation, traditional banks are allowed into crypto business as long as they operate under satellite companies. SCBX has SCB10X, it is one of the most successful crypto VC in Thailand. It also set up TokenX, a web3 project incubator.
Matters Lab was able to meet people from SCB10X this time in Thailand, learning that they have a strong portfolio and are well-connected to various projects in Thailand.
We also met Collex, a project incubated by TokenX. This line-based NFT management system, has potential to onboard millions of users to web3 without memorizing seed phrase. It shows Thailand’s project has a strong market originated strategy.
The third major player is Kasikornbank, another traditional bank in Thailand. It set up a crypto VC KX and built two crypto applications. One is NFT market ‘‘Coral NFT’’, allowing customers to purchase NFT with Thai fiat currency only. The other one is crypto on-chain wealth management Bigfin, it supports multichain, including the local Bitkub chain.
Besides these big cooperatives, Matters Lab also met many local projects and built different levels of partnership with them. For example, earthdefire, a popular content creator in Thailand, Alpha venture DAO, a DAO based VC and Block Mountain, a Chiang Mai based crypto event organizer. NFT Thailand, one of the biggest NFT communities in Thailand.
During Blockchain Genesis, Matters Lab attended a demo day event organized by AC Capital. A number of international teams showcase their projects, including SocialFi projects like NEXTID and Phaver.
Both big cooperatives and traditional banks have a large share in Thailand’s market, and they deliver good localized services. This creates benefits and challenges for Thailand’s web3 ecosystem.
Business Developer Yu-Hsuan says, “with the vibrant local community, business-friendly environment, Thailand positions itself as the key Web3 place in the SEA region, attracting talents and experts overseas. Thailand will be a great place to meet crypto people internationally”
The Blockchain Genesis 2022 was a great opportunity to observe the web3 ecosystem in Thailand, and there are expected to be more events in the future. Matters Lab will visit Thailand again for sure.
Challenges of Web3 Development in Southeast Asia
One of the defining characteristics of the Web3 industry in Southeast Asia is its focus on local markets. In Thailand, for example, there are three local banks offering services on a local chain called BeatsCup.
Many local projects choose to launch on this chain due to the availability of resources and services in the local language. While this has created a thriving local ecosystem, some developers have expressed concerns that the chain is not truly decentralized and may be controlled by centralized exchanges. This could hinder the growth of the Web3 industry in Thailand and limit its potential impact on the global stage.
Thailand’s Blockchain Genesis event is just one example of the growing significance of Web3 in Southeast Asia, attracting international and local participants.
In conclusion, the Web3 industry in Southeast Asia is still in the early stages of development, but it has the potential to become a major player on the global stage. The focus on local markets has created a unique and thriving local ecosystem, but there are concerns that this may lead to isolation from the international Web3 community. As the industry continues to grow, it will be important for developers and industry leaders in Southeast Asia to find a balance between local and global perspectives.