New fund gives S'pore-based start-ups a shot at Web 3.0 stardom

The scheme is aimed at Singapore-based start-ups that are able to solve real-world problems with tools in the Web 3.0 space. ST ILLUSTRATION: CEL GULAPA

SINGAPORE - The search has begun for the next tech giant with the launch of Asia's first funding and incubation scheme for Web 3.0 innovations.

Dubbed Moonshot Fellowship, the scheme is aimed at funding and mentoring Singapore-based start-ups that are able to solve real-world problems with tools in the Web 3.0 space, characterised by a decentralised Internet and artificial intelligence-driven services.

Singapore-based venture capitalist Insignia Ventures Partners and Seoul-based fintech firm Terraform Labs, which are behind the scheme, will inject US$200,000 (S$278,000) seed capital into each qualifying local start-up for a start. There are plans to seed up to 10 companies every three months.

Web 3.0 is billed as the future Internet that lets users, instead of governments or big tech firms, own and control their data.

In a typical Web 3.0 scenario, users perform financial transactions directly with one another using smart contracts - algorithms that take action according to the contractual terms without the need for financial intermediaries.

Internet users are already operating in this space, buying and selling cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum on blockchains, which store smart contracts.

"The rapid emergence of Web 3.0 adoption in South-east Asia, primarily through cryptocurrency ownership, presents a massive opportunity to expand the horizon of what Web 3.0 means for society," said Mr Tan Yinglan, founding managing partner of Insignia Ventures.

Wanted are start-ups with ideas, for instance, on how to detect cryptocurrency fraud and prevent the hacking of blockchains. Such hacks have already led to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crypto assets.

Also wanted are ideas that can unlock new digital interactions and spaces in the metaverse, a term to describe immersive virtual spaces.

The challenge today is that most Web 3.0 ideas revolve around the same use cases, said Mr Do Kwon, founder and chief executive officer of Terraform Labs, which runs one of the world's largest smart contract platforms.

A breakthrough looks like a long shot - hence the name "Moonshot" for the incubation programme.

But Mr Kwon said: "The Moonshot Fellowship will match the best talent with the most pressing ideas in Web 3.0, and help these 'moon-shots' become a reality."

Local start-ups without any ideas can also apply. They will then be paired with companies in Insignia's investment portfolio to work on existing ideas and projects, or sent to technical boot camps.

Insignia's portfolio includes Taiwan-based artificial intelligence marketing software firm Appier, Vietnam fintech start-up Finhay and Singapore-based automotive marketplace Carro.

Existing ideas include payment systems that can accept all kinds of traditional central bank-regulated currencies as well as cryptocurrencies, to be deployed at e-commerce platforms. These ideas need not be built on Terraform Labs' Terra blockchain network.

Supporting the move, Mr Leong Sing Chiong, deputy managing director of markets and development at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, urged start-ups to also use the authority's regulatory sandbox.

Its FinTech Regulatory Sandbox, first launched in 2016, allows start-ups to test new financial services in a live setting for a specified duration under relaxed regulatory requirements. Funding of up to $500,000 may also be provided in certain cases.

"Web 3.0 has the potential to shape the future of financial services and other sectors of the economy," said Mr Leong.

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