Digestible news on the latest developments across the fields of NFTs, blockchain and metaverse in China, compiled for you every week by Pandaily.
This week: HSBC joins metaverse race through partnership with The Sandbox, Beijing to launch China’s first metaverse-themed fund of funds, Binance leads seed round for social metaverse developer Ultiverse, and more.
HSBC Joins Metaverse Race Through Partnership With The Sandbox
British multinational investment bank HSBC, which holds almost $3 trillion in total assets, is looking to purchase a virtual plot within The Sandbox metaverse for an undisclosed amount, according to reports by Cointelegraph and CoinDesk. The partnership will make HSBC one of the first global financial institutions to make its foray into the metaverse.
- The Sandbox, a crypto-based virtual real estate and gaming platform owned by Hong Kong-based software and venture capital firm Animoca Brands, announced on Twitter this week that it will partner with HSBC to “[bring] a host of opportunities to engage with global financial services & sports communities.”
- According to HSBC’s Chief Marketing Officer, Suresh Balaji, the financial service provider will “work with our sports partners, brand ambassadors and Animoca Brands to co-create experiences that are educational, inclusive and accessible.”
- The metaverse sees new entrants in the financial sector as physical banking faces challenges from digital banking and the pandemic. A report by Reuters says HSBC is looking to shut down a further 69 branches in Britain as its customers move online.
- The Sandbox CEO, Mathieu Nouzareth, tells Cointelegraph in an interview “[f]inancial literacy is a major obstacle to building healthier, more equitable financial futures. The gaming component of The Sandbox is ideally suited for engaging customers and curious onlookers about important financial concepts in an interesting and novel way.” (Cointelegraph, CoinDesk, Reuters)
Binance Leads Seed Round for Socialverse Developer Ultiverse
Binance Labs, the venture capital arm of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, announced this week that it co-led the seed round for gaming metaverse Ultiverse, according to reports by Cointelegraph and CoinDesk.
- Singapore-based venture fund DeFiance co-led the seed round. Other investors include Three Arrows Capital and SkyVision Capital. Ultiverse closed the round at USD 4.5 million with a USD 50-million valuation.
- Ultiverse will use the proceeds to “develop its product, attract top talent, and expand its community, according to a Binance press release.
- Frank Ma, the CEO of Ultiverse, says, “I am confident that Ultiverse will be the proof-of-concept that both Web3 [proponents] and gamers have been clamoring for. We’ll do this by providing intricate virtual worlds and, more importantly, ways in which these worlds can be interacted with and affected in a truly collaborative way.”
- Nicole Zhang, investment director of Binance Labs, says, “We believe Ultiverse can bridge [the gap] between metaverse gaming and traditional gaming and bring more innovations to the community and industry.”
- A report by CoinDesk says the Ultiverse ecosystem not only allows players to import NFTs from other blockchains, but also supports NFT customization. (Cointelegraph, CoinDesk)
Chinese Social Media Platform Weibo Launches NFT marketplace
Chinese microblogging platform Weibo launched its NFT marketplace TopHolder this Thursday, allowing users to mint and sell their posts as NFTs, according to a report by Forkast.
- The report says users will need to pass a know-your-customer (KYC) verification in order to mint and sell NFTs on TopHolder.
- A TopHolder representative tells Forkast that the platform will penalize users who mint NFTs by plagiarizing the posts of other users, but a final decision is yet to be made as to how to handle such violations.
- In light of Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on crypto technology and state-backed media’s warnings against NFT speculation, TopHolder prevents users from trading and monetizing their NFTs. Instead, it only allows users to transfer their assets for free after a 180-day holding period.
- Other Chinese tech companies have also pledged to eliminate speculation on their respective NFT (known officially as digital collectibles in China) platforms, with Alibaba’s blockchain subsidiary AntChain imposing a 180-day transfer lock on its platform, and Tencent banning NFT trading outright. (Forkast)
Beijing to Launch China’s First Metaverse Fund of Funds
A report by Sina.com says Beijing’s Tongzhou District has issued a notice this week, specifying measures to develop the city’s blockchain and metaverse industries.
- The notice stipulates that a “fund covering the entire metaverse industry” be established, pooling capital from a variety of sources to invest in large-scale, early-stage metaverse projects.
- The notice also emphasizes that the industry fund will provide long-term financial support for early-stage metaverse projects, with the goal of building a complete, metaverse-based ecosystem.
- Venture capital and private equity firms interested in the space are also encouraged to invest in the fund and support new metaverse startups.
- The notice adds that it is of utmost importance for Tongzhou to develop its metaverse industry in tandem with its cultural tourism industry. A metaverse and VR pilot could be launched in the new Universal Beijing Resort in the near future.
- The Notice also touches on plans to build an industrial park for metaverse R&D, where metaverse and blockchain startups could qualify for subsidized housing for up to three years. (Sina.com, source in Chinese)
Rihanna to Take Fenty Beauty Into Metaverse
Nine-time Grammy winner Rihanna plans to take her Fenty Beauty brand into the metaverse, according to a report by Boardroom.
- The singer-turned-billionare entrepreneur has filed for a Fenty trademark through Roraj Trade LLC, according to the report, which sited a trademark attorney, Josh Gerben of Gerben Law.
- The trademark application indicates that Rihanna will offer “downloadable virtual goods,” including cosmetics, hair products, skincare accessories, and personal fragrances, “all of the foregoing for use in online virtual environments.”
- The trademark also covers retail store services that feature goods for use online and virtual merchandise, as well as mobile applications that feature NFTs and digital art.
- The filing comes as Bloomberg reported last week that “Rihanna is working with advisers” on an IPO for the lingerie brand Savage X Fenty.
- A report by Forbes says the IPO could happen as early as this year, valuing Rihanna’s body-inclusive company at more than $3 billion.
- Rihanna holds an estimated 30% stake in the Savage X Fenty lingerie brand, which is worth an estimated $270 million.
- Gary Young, CEO at Royalty Exchange, a royalty assets auction platform, says it is reasonable to assume that Rihanna’s 30% stake will transfer to 30% equity in the company if it does IPO at a $3 billion valuation. If this is the case, her stake in the company would be worth $990 million. (Boardroom, Forbes)
Stripe Is Eyeing Crypto Payment Business
Irish-American financial services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Stripe is launching crypto payments support to help customers access tools and APIs that will allow them to purchase and trade crypto tokens, according to reports by TechCrunch and Protocol.
- TechCrunch says the company is launching a suite of products “aiming to give customers access to tools and APIs that make it easier for customers to buy and store crypto tokens, cash out, trade NFTs and handle compliance workflows like Know Your Customer (KYC).”
- Stripe’s support page notes that the platform currently allows users to buy more than 135+ cryptocurrencies with fiat currencies in 180 countries.
- After initially supporting bitcoin in 2014, Stripe dropped the feature in 2018, claiming that bitcoin has “evolved to become better-suited to being an asset than being a means of exchange.”
- However, as crypto transaction costs went down, Stripe began to rebuild its crypto team in October 2021, and weeks later added crypto VC Matt Huang to its board.
- TechCrunch report says “the company’s re-entry to the space is a major threat to existing crypto payments processors that lack the company’s expansive reach.”
- Stripe is currently working with crpyto exchange FTX to improve its identity compliance features and fiat onboarding workflows for users. Protocol says the partnership comes at a time when complying with KYC, anti-money laundering, and other financial regulations “has become an increasing area of focus for the crypto industry this year, as regulators around the world seem determined to bring crypto operations under the same umbrella as other financial firms. (Protocol, TechCrunch)
That’s it for this week’s newsletter – thanks for reading! As always, I welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you all are doing great, and see you again next week!