Douglas Gan 颜義东 is a serial technopreneur, investor, venture builder and a thought leader in smart city solution. He has launched and invested in IT startups since the 90s, now his GBCI Ventures invests in blockchain technologies. Digital Asset Live Editor-in-Chief talks with Mr Gan about advantages of investments in decentralized IT solutions today, in comparison with startups two decades ago, and his vision for the future returns on such investments:
Q1: Mr Gan, you are one of the world’s most experienced IT investors, you have been in it from the start, long before the dotcom boom, you invested in hosting, IT support, IRC, the most recent investment of your GBCI Ventures is $10M into Cailu, a Chinese blockchain startup. Why blockchain, what attracted you personally, if I may ask?
A1: One of my business acumen is future proofing the industry. I saw the potential of blockchain when bitcoin hit its all time high in 2016 but this technology is more than just cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain is currently being adopted at all levels of the business environment. Blockchain solutions turn up to have many applications in the fields of utilities, healthcare, payments, supply-chain management, government, agriculture, and more.
I believe in blockchain-based solutions to be the future of sustainability and efficiency. This opportunity is where we want to capitalize that’s why I built GBCI Ventures, a rising leader on venture capital fund and a venture builder in Asia with US$100m smart city fund dedicated to bring together a new generation of technology leaders, solutions providers and community that are key to building a dynamic and adaptive smart city ecosystem.
Q2: Cailu integrates industry information, content socialization and token mechanism to provide content and servers to users and creators. If we look back to OhGenki.com, a community forum website you founded almost 20 years ago, how would you describe developments in the ecosystem of forums since then?
A3: When I created OhGenki.com, the Internet technology was limited and still premature. Ohgenki.com was something personal and people were just enjoying looking at their pictures and complimenting each other. After 20 years, the possibilities are now endless.
More business opportunities are being integrated with the help of our advance technologies in robotics, IoT, big data and AI. From something personal, online forums evolved into something huge, it now become a platform for businesses to promote their products as well as to address national and global issues.
Q4: Further to prior question, what are in your opinion the latest trends in p2p communication with the arrival of DLT, big data and AI?
Nowadays, most of the market is focused around consumer and enterprise messaging bots. Bots are defined as software programs that execute repetitive tasks. One example is the Facebook AI messaging bot.
Q5: What new opportunities did blockchain technologies, tokenization, brings to communication between peers in a network? What about b2c and b2b?
A5: I think the current problem for the P2P lending sector is transparency. So for example, if we could put all the contract terms between a borrower and lender on the blockchain ledger, then it will not be altered.
Q6: What is your vision for the future in the p2p communication, once all these technologies find their place?
A6: I envision that blockchain will help drive down cost and promote compliance for all transaction between parties and intermediaries.
Q7: You are known as a driver in implementation of smart cities. Please elaborate on yours and your team’s efforts in this field. I know it is a large area to cover, perhaps you may outline a few examples.
A7: GBCI and our subsidiary company, BCB Blockchain is working with leading Technology Business Incubators across Asia to contribute towards the breakthrough of blockchain technology as a strategic platform to accelerate the development of the next generation of smart city applications and projects in emerging countries, with the vision to build eco-friendly cities.
We are working closely in critical areas including, co-incubation of projects, research and development, seminars and trainings, promotional activities, competitions, hackathons and collaborative endeavors for smart city or blockchain development.
The project collaboration includes promotional activities, development of tech communities, mentorship, funding of projects and access to global markets across variety of sectors upon successful commercialisation of the projects.
Q8: GBCI has recently announced that 70 per cent of its fund is dedicated to venture building and 30 percent to VC activities that will eventually be acquired by GBCI. Will you elaborate on these plans?
A8: Venture building is promising new business model that innovates methodology of entrepreneurship, and providing talent to the ventures. We want to get ahead of this trend.
We kicked off this project with our subsidiary, BCB Blockchain, where GBCI earmarked a minimum fund size of US$10m to invest in smart city projects developed on the BCB Blockchain. It was followed by our US$10m invested in China’s leading blockchain media platform Cailu with collaboration of Orka Capital.
Next in the pipeline is venture build towards commercialization of intellectual properties through our smart contract technology. The GBCI venture building team is now 1000 across 8 countries in Asia, including China, with 400 of them being engineers. GBCI focuses on innovative technology investments ranging from artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, robotics, big data, IoT, blockchain to virtual reality (VR).
Q9: There are several, mainly Luxembourg based projects to introduce tokenization into the VC industry. What is your view (plans if any) towards tokenization in this field?
We are happy to explore and we look forward to a successful model of tokenization in the VC industry that can resolve trust, security and accountability issues for companies, investors and regulators.