Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to Julian Kwan, CEO and co-founder of InvestaCrowd, a capital markets services-licensed digital securities investment platform headquartered in Singapore, and the ICTX digital securities exchange. Kwan talked about being a leader in the proptech and blockchain space as well as the first mentor for the JLL/Lendlease proptech accelerator, Propell Asia, how blockchain is transforming capital markets, and his vision of the future of digital securities for businesses.
Asia Blockchain Review: How has your extensive experience in founding companies contributed to the establishment of InvestaCrowd? What is the vision behind InvestaCrowd?
Julian Kwan: The original vision behind InvestaCrowd was to solve real problems for issuers (raising funds) and investors (accessing quality institutional offerings). The vision has evolved, and now, we continue to build end-to-end solutions for the issuance, capital raising, and secondary trading of digital securities. What is a digital security?
A digital security is the digital representation of an asset that happens to be a security — an investment contract or ownership tied to, for example, real estate and private equity assets. In a digital security, ownership is verified and recorded on a distributed ledger. A distributed ledger is a consensus of replicated, shared, and synchronized digital data geographically spread across multiple sites or institutions.
The benefits of digital securities over traditional, paper-based securities include greater transparency, new investment products, and enhanced liquidity for illiquid assets.
ABR: You are recognized as one of the leaders in the proptech industry. In your opinion, what makes a successful proptech startup?
Solving a pain problem is key, but you also will need capital, founding team members, and the ability to take a lot of pain and persist through to the other side. Ultimately, you also need large partners who can increase the speed of adoption of your platform. I say this in relation to investment-related proptechs, as there are other business models that are strictly focused on the consumer, where the above is not necessarily relevant.
ABR: What can we expect to see in the proptech space in the near future?
We will see more startups launching. There were almost none 4-5 years ago, but how humans interact with buildings these days is changing, and with that, comes opportunities to create valuable business models. Real estate is also the largest asset class and one of the oldest and almost anti-technology industries, historically, so I think that is all starting to change now.
ABR: What goals and important milestones has InvestaCrowd achieved since its founding?
We have successfully funded 25+ investments with 12 exits. We have been highly selective with the projects we have worked on and obtained a capital markets license for dealing in securities from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, with 50% of our investors being repeat clients.
ABR: What are the benefits of Digital Securities Offerings (DSOs) compared to traditional paper security?
For issuers: we have the ability to create new investment vehicles and structures for offerings, create new markets, offer enhanced liquidity for their investors, remove administration and operating costs, etc.
For investors: Greater transparency and accessibility to institutional investments, ability to trade illiquid holdings at lower costs, access to new forms of debt/equity, great diversification without greater cost (in terms of both time and money), and many more.
ABR: Why were you chosen as the first mentor for the JLL/Lendlease proptech accelerator Propell Asia?
I never actually asked; I have been a real estate investor, developer, and proptech founder, so I guess it made sense. I am just happy to be able to share our experience and knowledge/contacts with new startups who have a lot of hard work ahead of them.
ABR: How is blockchain transforming capital markets?
Every security offering will evolve into a digital security offering. Digital money is better than cash, email is better than paper, digital shares are better than paper shares. Those that invest early will capture the most value in the new ecosystem.
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